Edited Under Fr. Leonard Feeney M.I.C.M. — Saint Benedict Center
IN MEMORY OF WILLIAM THOMAS WALSH
Who Tried To Warn Us Before It Was Too Late
Ten years ago last month, at Saint Agnes Hospital, White Plains, New York, William Thomas Walsh died at the age of fifty-seven. His death was remarked upon, with varying degrees of sympathy, in the principal Catholic papers. Even The New York Times ran a sizeable obituary, exceptional for the mellow tone in which it summarized the life of a man whose books and beliefs had gone so unappreciated in the Times’ past.
The biographical information in all the accounts was impeccably truthful. Born in Connecticut, educated at Yale, William Thomas Walsh had been a newspaperman, teacher, historian, something of a dramatist and poet, and had retired as Professor of English at Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart several months before his death. He had been awarded Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal. Twice he had been decorated by the government of Spain. In 1944, he had won the Catholic Literary Award of the Gallery of Living Catholic Authors. Death had come after a long illness.
It was all true. Yet, in not one of the accounts did the real importance of William Thomas Walsh break through the barrier of statistics. No one credited him with this: that in an age when Catholics were so generally ignorant of, and indisposed to learn of, the great dangers that face the Church from without, he understood those dangers and how they arose, and left us a record of his understanding.
If he had done no more than reassert the truth that the Church does have enemies, William Thomas Walsh would be deserving of grateful remembrance by American Catholics. But he did many times better than that. With the patience of a thorough scholar, and the zeal of a thorough Catholic, Dr. Walsh traced in several historical studies the mainstreams of present opposition to the Church, from the headwaters of the late Renaissance and the Reformation.
He showed there was continuity and purpose in the plans of the Church’s enemies, who, among themselves, maintained hierarchy and chain of command. He said that if Catholics were to protect their Faith, they must acknowledge these enemies, learning from the Church’s experience with them in the past. He said that we must do this despite the inimical atmosphere in which the Church moves today, the atmosphere created by her enemies’ successes. He championed those methods by which the Church had for so many centuries held off her enemies, methods that historical critics have maliciously misrepresented, or ridiculed as “witch hunts.” He took on these critics, too — the exalted Protestant historians — and resoundingly showed them up, from Prescott and Hume to Merriman and Lea.
William Thomas Walsh’s record of the fortunes of the Faith over the past five centuries is wisely centered in Spain. In a series of books entitled Philip II, Isabella of Spain, Characters of the Inquisition, and Saint Teresa of Avila, Walsh exposes and examines every major assault that has been made against the Church since the end of the late middle ages. Spain, he points out, is the one Catholic nation that has faced all these assaults and has survived, still Catholic, to boast of it.
Spain was the first of the modern European countries to bear the full weight of the Jewish problem. Her decisive solution was the famous expulsion of the Spanish Jews in 1492. This was the same year that she overthrew the last of the Mohammedan strongholds within her boundaries, thus ending an eight-hundred-year battle with the Church’s Islamic enemies. Similarly, the recurrent threats of Freemasonry and Protestantism were put down by the staunchly Catholic policies of the government and by the dedicated persistence of the Spanish clergy.
Dr. Walsh is at his best in re-creating the atmosphere of intrigue that accompanied the religious warfare of the sixteenth century. In the pages of Philip II, he leaves an unforgettable picture of the Protestant Revolt: the fanatic ex-Catholics, the slippery university men, the avaricious upstart Protestant nobility, the ubiquitous Jewish merchants, the Marrano priests, and the expanding centers of Antwerp and Geneva and London all astir with the “new doctrines,” and restless with the plottings of an international and secret fraternity. For even in the 1500s, Freemasonry is clearly at work in the battle against the Church, and it is fixed in much of its present-day identity. There is the Talmudic symbolism, the pagan ritual, the bitter hatred of the Faith, and everywhere the influence of the Jews.
Walsh gives details of King Philip’s suppression of the Masonic Illuminati. (They were operating in Spain two centuries before their reorganization under Adam Weishaupt, their “illuminization” of the French lodges, and their bloody, blasphemous triumphs in the French Revolution.) And while Philip, the last of Europe’s strong Catholic kings, was stamping out Masonry in Spain, Elizabeth I of England was opening the way for its spread to all of the Protestant North. Building an English empire to rival and finally wreck the Catholic empire of Spain became a top Judaeo-Masonic objective, and it was not long in the achievement. It has remained for our own day to see England’s abandonment by these same international forces. And this abandonment (in favor of the New York and Moscow two-party world system) has put England back in the ranks of the second-rate powers.
Necessarily, in uncovering the origins of our present anti-Christian society, William Thomas Walsh’s books touch on a number of themes that gain new significance when studied in relation to the root issues of Judaeo-Masonry, the Protestant Revolt, and the principles of the French Revolution. Philip II contains, among so many other things, a unique study of the role of a Catholic ruler, his chances for true patriotism, for service and sacrifice in the cause of the Faith, and, contrarily, his abundant chances for falling short. In Saint Teresa of Avila, there is the forgotten lesson of the power of holiness, and Walsh’s unfeigned judgment that one woman of Catholic courage can preserve the Faith of a whole people.
Jewish ritual murders and the virtues of several Spanish Inquisitors are two of the more provocative side-studies proposed by Walsh in Isabella of Spain and Characters of the Inquisition. He tells the story of the Holy Child of Sepulveda and devotes a full chapter to the Holy Child of La Guardia. These two young victims suffered torture and crucifixion at the hands of the Jews during Queen Isabella’s reign. And following up his definition of the Inquisition as Spain’s “declaration of independence against the domination of Jews and Moors,” Walsh gives detailed accounts of the treacheries of the Marranos (the pretended converts from Judaism) as exposed by the Dominican Inquisitors.
Most exceptional of all is the discussion of the Jewish Talmud in Characters of the Inquisition. Walsh tells plainly why the Talmud became the most-burned book in Christendom, and why its commentaries were the first books to be placed on the Church’s Index. He makes a clear distinction between the divine law of the inspired Old Testament and the diabolical law of the Talmudic rabbis — quoting from both Jewish and Catholic authorities to indicate the extent of the Talmud’s blasphemous and obscene attacks on Our Lord and His Virginal Mother.
Though obliged to dig deep into the past in his search for long-buried historical truths, William Thomas Walsh never lost sight of the present scene. By scrutinizing the enemies that the Church had faced in former times, he sharpened his vision to recognize the perils confronting her today. Thus, in the summer of 1936, as he worked on the final chapters of Philip II, Walsh was painfully conscious of the news coming from contemporary Spain — news of churches being burned, convents wrecked, priests and nuns murdered. When the Spanish army, led by General Franco, rose up against the Masonic-Communistic government that had fostered these outrages, Walsh eagerly assumed the role of advocate for the insurrectionists. Whatever Franco’s defects, he and his men were defending the Mystical Body of Christ, and William Thomas Walsh, a grateful member of that Body, was willing to defend them.
When victory finally came for the Spanish Catholic forces, in 1939, William Thomas Walsh was strangely solemn. True, the three-year job of trying to make himself heard above the anti-Franco clamor of America’s Jewish and Masonic press had been exhausting. Yet, that was the sort of hard, satisfying work he would usually have thrived on. In the brooding, prophetic final chapter of Characters of the Inquisition (published in 1940), Walsh revealed what was troubling him. He had been thinking not about the victory that the Church had just secured in Spain, but about the possible defeat looming before it in America. “Here on the last edge and in the twilight of the world,” he wrote, “the stage is set for the reenactment of an ancient tragedy … Here we have most of the Freemasons of the world, many of the world’s Jews, most of the gold and its masters … and among them heirs of all the isms and heresies that the Catholic Church has denounced throughout the centuries, and some millions of good bewildered folk who have ceased to believe much in anything … The real test of our republican experiment here must ultimately be whether it accepts or opposes the Church of Christ … it must become either a Catholic state, or a slave state.”
And Walsh can point to plenty of evidence, even in the year 1940, that America is fast slipping into slavery: “Just now, there seems to be a deadly strife between international capitalism, entrenched in the United States and gradually leading this country toward a State Socialism … and, on the other side, the seemingly more godless and goldless forms of Socialism beyond the seas.” But, he asks, what is to prevent this American Socialism, “now in the making and already accepted and propagated by the dominant educational forces in this country,” from arriving at “mutually agreeable arrangements” with even the Socialism of Soviet Russia? And with clear insight, in those pre-UN days, he concludes, “As the world grows smaller in time, may not all the forms of Socialism be gathered together by skillful hands into a World State, such as many Masonic writers have advocated … ? It is not only conceivable, but probable.”
And how are American Catholics meeting this dark challenge? It is William Thomas Walsh’s great distress that, in the words of the Gospel figure, they are hiding the light of their Faith under a bushel. Unwilling to preach the strong, sundering truths of the Faith, that will make converts but will also make enemies, American Catholics have settled down to a stagnant complacency. The strong voices raised among them are those of the liberals, protesting their loyalties to the principles of Interfaith, and thus piping the listless faithful to destruction.
“Now all these gentlemen, these liberal broad-minded Catholics,” Walsh writes, “many of whom are teaching the next generation of American Catholics, no doubt think they are doing a service to God in smoothing out our differences with others, and neglecting to utter the challenge which Christianity has uttered everywhere else in the world … But if the history of Christianity teaches anything, it fairly cries out from the stones of desecrated and forsaken and stolen churches, that if they have their way … they will lead us, if we are foolish enough to follow them, to that abyss over which the English Catholics fell, one by one and family by family, in the sixteenth century. … Our one hope of winning, for their own good, the millions of unbelievers who surround us … is to speak boldly the truth God has given us, in season and out of season … This will inevitably bring persecution upon us … If we are suspected, ostracized, insulted, starved, beaten, imprisoned, misrepresented, neglected, put to death in a thousand new ways — that is what we have to expect as Christians; and it is a method that will prove as irresistible in the twentieth century as it was in the first and second. Or does anyone imagine that here in America, as an unique exception, the servant shall be greater than his Lord?”
At the end of World War II, William Thomas Walsh journeyed to the tiny village of Fatima in Portugal. He had come to learn at first hand the terrible, beautiful story of what had happened there in 1917: when the Queen of Heaven appeared to three shepherd children and entrusted them with the knowledge that unless the world were converted to her Immaculate Heart, every nation, without exception, would feel the wrath of her Divine Son.
When Walsh returned to the United States, it was with the conviction, “that nothing is so important as making known what the Mother of God asked in those apparitions of 1917, which for some reason have been so neglected, so distorted, so misunderstood.” In 1947, he saw the publication of Our Lady of Fatima, the most popular of his books, and the most popular account in English of the Fatima apparitions.
Our Lady of Fatima was no pious supplement to William Thomas Walsh’s lifework, but its logical climax. Those anti-Church movements that he had traced through five centuries to our present evil day led inexorably to Our Lady’s warnings of divine vengeance about to fall upon the world. And Walsh had even foreseen the shape of this vengeance. He had predicted One World united in Socialism, in opposition to the catholic unity of the Church. Our Lady of Fatima warned that the Communism of Russia would assuredly dominate the entire world, devastating the Church at the same time, unless her demands were heeded.
It would be false to suggest that one can read every page of William Thomas Walsh without ever encountering any weaknesses. What can be affirmed is that the back-tracking, compromising statements, though present, are not essential to his arguments, nor do they follow from them. It is as though he had descended, momentarily, from the heights of militant Catholic utterance out of sheer dismay at finding himself there all alone.
Thus, in any appreciation of William Thomas Walsh, there is inevitably bound up a contrary and stern indictment of those who by vocation and the grace of their office should have joined him — indeed, should have led him — in the battle against the Church’s enemies. That these leaders failed in their obligation is the central reality, and tragedy, of our times. It is a tragedy in which all American Catholics have accepted a role, and which seems to be moving rapidly toward its climax.