The Jesuits and Me: FBI Zinn Files Article Triggers Comments.

The blog, Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit, has been previously praised for its elevation of the technical aspects of my article and the utilisation of links. I have also critiqued it for its reactionary politics and lack of catholicity: small “c.” There have been quite a few comments on my article which, as one would expect on a Jesuit-inspired laity weblog, are noteworthy for their civility. They are responding to the  “The People’s Historian and the F.B.I. Zinn Files.” The article mentions the joint humanitarian mission of Dr Howard Zinn and Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan to Hanoi in 1968 that freed three airpersons shot down in this genocidal conflict in which two to three million Vietnamese were ruthlessly slaughtered by American imperialist forces.

St Ignatius of Loyola: a Spaniard and founder of the Jesuits and warrior for Jesus. I prefer a different approach than his but recognise his importance in founding the greatest order in terms of Catholic academic excellence in this country if not throughout the Roman Catholic world.

I went to Saint Louis University for graduate school, a top-tier Roman Catholic university, yes there are some, which is run by the Jesuits. It was my favourite institution. I also taught there and enjoyed my greatest amount of academic freedom. I liked it more than grade school, high school, college. The Jesuits are a class act and the academic leaders in Roman Catholic higher education. They take education very seriously and are amazingly good at fund raising or as the patois of the day refers to it as institutional advancement. Why don’t they just speak truth to power, “begging for bread for buildings.”


Henry said…

Isn’t it funny how the peace movement is always associated with the Communists? Maybe because the peace movement is really not about peace, but communism.

August 9, 2010 8:47 AM

TonyD said…

I saw Howard Zinn speak about a half dozen times.

At this point, I’m never surprised when I hear someone dismiss important Biblical values with “that’s just someone religious speaking”. And, on other occasions, when I’ve heard good policy dismissed with “that’s just a conservative Republican speaking”.

I’m not quite sure how God’s values have come to be associated with Communism, Democracy, Republicans, or Democrats. All of those organizations reflect a very non-omniscient perspective.

Why do we keep mistaking God’s values for our judgment?

August 9, 2010 12:46 PM

Marc said…

No question Fr. Berrigan got carried away back in those heady days with his admiration of communists and the communist ideal. As far as this trip goes, is this the one where he had the experience of carrying the bodies of napalmed vietnamese children in small boxes that effected him so?

I suppose peace movements associate with communists because it is closer to the Christian ideal -sharing things in common and eschewing wealth and so on – at least in theory, than free-market capitalism.

Zinn was always one-sided and arrogant in his approach I thought – which lionized him on the left but relegated him to fringe off the mainstream.

Old Dan certainly led Hoover on a merry chase for awhile there didn’t he? On the FBI’s most wanted – like old Bin Laden – funny how they can’t catch that guy with all their technology and $ and all….

I agree TonyD – God does not belong to a political party but…isn’t that where the rubber meets the road with the strength of say the fundamentalists or the catholic workers? What they share in common is a refusal to compartmentalize their religion.

August 9, 2010 4:24 PM

Anonymous said…

Your title for this entry is a howler–like one of the those sensational 1950s McCarthyite movies or books. Please note: Zinn was NOT a commie. Do you actually read the article for which you provided the links?

I never much liked Zinn’s kind of advocacy history writing but I don’t think the William Bennett/Lynn Cheney celebratory approach is valid either. That’s not real history.

I am grateful for Fr. Berrigan’s faithful service to the Faith and the cause of peace,

August 9, 2010 6:11 PM

TonyD said…


I’ve spent a fair amount of time around Fundamentalists (none around Catholic Workers.) They were very Republican. As a result, their judgment was distorted. Somehow the Republican values became equated to Christian values. Very disappointing.

There was a similar issue a few days back on this blog. Some Jesuits were concerned about changes to the “credit hour” laws. We tend to confuse societal laws with God’s laws – and take a position.

August 9, 2010 8:35 PM

Anonymous said…

I believe the most telling “communist ideal” co-terminus with the 1968 Tet offensive was the USMC troops’ unearthing of mass graves of 500 Vietnamese civilian beneficiaries of the communist ideal as represented by the NVA and VC.

There were at least 10,000 other such communist ideal incidents, not counting the tens of thousands they murdered after they broke the Paris Peace Accords and the US vietcongress aided and abetted the rape and murder several hundred thousand in Vietnam, Republic of.

August 10, 2010 5:15 PM

Anonymous said…

It is said that the minister of Berrigan’s community had to keep huge quantities of cash in the safe in order to bail him out after his many arrests. What a liability to community life.

August 11, 2010 6:52 AM

Anonymous said…

Yeah, I heard MLK Jr. was quite a liability to freedom and justice as well–all that bail $ and trouble.


August 11, 2010 7:57 PM

Peter N. Kirstein said…

I am struck with the sense that many of the comments fall into the stereotypical trap of condemning one for being communist and then adding to that a general description of antiwar activists as communist. Perhaps if one studied communism, one might have a more nuanced approach and if one was truly religious, whatever that means, one would admire those clergy and laypersons who courageously sought social justice and peace. One should not require obedience to the state or to accept the criminal actions and immoral racist conduct of a state where they exist. One should be less concerned about ideology and more concerned about actions: such as the heroic ones taken by Dr Zinn and Fr. Berrigan.

August 12, 2010 1:14 PM

Joseph Fromm said…

Dear Peter,
Thank for the illuminating article linking Communism, Liberation Theology and the Pacifist Movement.


August 14, 2010 7:12 AM

Joseph Fromm said…

Peter N. Kirstein in his latest post has outlined a few questions for me.

1.Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit gratuitously and disgracefully refers to the late Dr Zinn in its title as a “Notorious Communist” and deliberately omits that portion of my article in which that affiliation is denied.

Answer: I use the term notorious, because Dr. Zinn fits the definition
1. widely and unfavorably known:
2. publicly or generally known, as for a particular trait:

2.It also altered my article by changing “communist” to “communist.” It is customary to indicate when an emphasis is added to a quoted document. Mr Joseph Fromm changed plain test to italicized text to emphasize his disapproval of communism which he has perhaps never studied or analyzed.

Answer: I always italicize any word in quotes as a way for people to more easy read my posts.
I have studied Communism my whole life. I reject every bit of its disastrous premise and out comes.
It is at its very core is anti-reason, anti-human and most importantly anti-God.

Read Peter’s full post at

Jesus, Mary and Joseph


August 16, 2010 9:52 PM

TonyD said…


1. This is your blog. You can call someone notorious, italicize text, and disapprove of communism if you feel so inclined.

2. Dr. Zinn joked about being called a communist – he was quite clear that he was not a communist. I heard him criticize communism and communist states. Would you be surprised to hear that a person or organization can be attacked and mischaracterized for saying things that go against powerful interests?

As for Communism — a group of Catholics who understood God’s values could create an effective Communist society. Or an effective Socialist society. Or an effective Democratic society. Our souls do not depend on our society’s organization.

August 18, 2010 1:21 PM

Joseph Fromm said…

Tony D.
Thanks for your comment. You are correct a person Salvation is independent of the governmental structure one finds oneself in. However, the Communist reign of terror over the past 100 years at all points around the globe is demonic. Socialism support of abortion and its war against the family is also demonic, both forms of government seek to deny the sacraments to the faithful, in effect erasing the results of Christian charity and the civilization of Christendom.

Tony we may have to agree to disagree.


August 19, 2010 10:35 PM

TonyD said…


I don’t think we particularly disagree.

On the religious issue, which is the important one, we seem to have a similar perspective.

I’m not too worried about perspectives on Communism – except to the extent that they displace real Church teaching.

August 20, 2010 6:53 PM

TonyD said…


Now that the readers have become a very small group, I’d like to add a few observations. These observations are not specific to Communism.

Communism may be called good. Communism may be called evil. Communism may be called both good and evil. Communism may be called neither good nor evil. Communism may be called any blend of those characteristics.

Communism must be categorized in these ways – depending on the observer, the aspects observed, and the will of God. That is, all those seemingly contradictory categorizations are correct for specific people.

So the categorization of the categorization made by a person may be good. Or may be evil. Or may be some blend of those characteristics. This categorization, too, depends on the particular person and God’s judgment.

Thus, the search for “truth” and “facts” is often misguided. This loss of “certain knowledge” is more than offset by an understanding of “higher things”.

August 21, 2010 3:57 PM

TonyD said…


I’d like to add an additional thought. On one hand, my explanation above was deliberately abstruse. But there is one implication worth clarifying.

The “golden rule” can be used to measure ones understanding of God’s laws. To the extent that a person interprets the “golden rule” to be exclusively about their own values (eg. “the truth”) they are misunderstanding God’s law. Conversely, to the extent that they interpret the “golden rule” to be about others’ values, they are understanding God’s law. (And sometimes one must adopt others’ values. Judgment is involved. I hope that no one reading this was hoping for simple rules to follow.)

Further, as one becomes more of a “vessel” one becomes more open to receiving divine revelation.

I should add that this is not a recipe for any short-term happiness. Or any “improvement” in society. In fact, the “loss of self” is a very real cost — and hard to understand until it is experienced.

August 22, 2010 2:31 PM

Peter N. Kirstein said…

Communism is good. In fact it is an ideal system because it opposes capitalism which is the true “demonic” system. I do refer principally to its devolution as theory as opposed to its excesses as state capitalism after 1917. However even “communist” nations had some positive virtues: they contained American military power and its monstrous imperialism for roughly fifty years and defeated German national socialism in the 1940s.

Abortion is a tragedy but very much ingrained as part of women’s search for equal justice. To deny a woman the right to terminate her pregnancy would be offensive to the notion of justice, the right to privacy, and the right to be left alone. Women cannot be forced to give birth against their will. It is unseemly to demand this but I recognise the competing moral visions here. I care more about the post-birth person as opposed to the pre-birth fetus as controlling the fate or actions of an individual. I teach at a Roman Catholic university but will not hestitate to maintain my sense of dignity, morality and academic freedom.

August 30, 2010 5:34 PM

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