The “Trouble in Paradise” is Trouble with the Truth

And be not afraid of their fear, and be not troubled.” —1 Peter 3:14-15

A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” —Vladimir Lenin

Lie not one to another.” —Col. 3:9

We warned in our Pentecost Letter that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) had a second article on Saint Benedict Center in the works. The piece is now published in the Summer issue of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report. It’s called “Trouble in Paradise.” I predicted in May that the article was “virtually guaranteed to portray us as Jonestown with Rosaries.” I was wrong. We were portrayed as Waco with Rosaries.

Written by Susy Buchanan, an SPLC senior writer, this piece is more polished than the earlier work. The calculated falsehoods are there, of course, but the spelling errors, confusion over people’s identity, and mislabeled graphics are nowhere to be seen. The article represents a much more professional packaging of the same underhanded techniques that have become the SPLC’s trademark.

Besides its improved narrative, the major novelty in this article is its focus. Our local situation in Richmond, New Hampshire, is the reporter’s angle. She begins by gently placing the reader in our locale. After three paragraphs drawing the reader into the idyllic rural atmosphere of our southern New Hampshire town — with its “rolling hills and thick, verdant forests…” — suddenly a dissonant chord is sounded: “But Richmond has changed lately … and not for the better.”

That discordant note prepares the reader for what follows.

And what follows is a tissue of non-factual statements, innuendo, rumor, unfounded suspicion, and red-hot buzz words all skillfully woven together. Although I hate to give this organization more attention than it deserves, I feel a prudent rejoinder is warranted. In replying to Ms. Buchanan’s reportage, I will go out of the article’s own sequence to categorize its absurd claims under several headings.

1. Unsubstantiated suspicions, fears, and rumors presented as if they have factual value.

For the last two years, SBC has appeared before our Town Planning Board to gain approval to build a 10,300 square foot chapel-school building. There have been over twenty meetings about this project, six of them being public hearings. The issue is essentially one of land use, zoning ordinances, and the like, as well as civil and religious rights. The matter was complicated when local critics of ours began to circulate false and damaging rumors regarding our religious and the faithful who attend our chapel. This was done in person, on blogs, and in interviews with journalists. I replied to some of these rumors on a blog of our own.

In that response, I answered a host of spurious accusations circulated against us. One polite critic of our building project publicly thanked me for clarifying these misrepresentations, some of which he had believed. As will soon be apparent, among those Ms. Buchanan interviewed for her article were people circulating damaging falsehoods about us.

Presenting one groundless suspicion, Ms. Buchanan cites the words of a Richmond resident who opposes our building project:

“Along with a number of other locals, she feels that the SBC has begun to threaten her formerly idyllic way of life. At issue are both the beliefs and the practices of the SBC, which is home to a little-known order called the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. ”

There was no effort to state why this particular Richmond resident found that her idyllic way of life was threatened. The supposition is, apparently, that a 10,300-square-foot building will bring in hordes of traffic. But this is mixed in with the eerie suspicion that our “beliefs and practices” threaten her way of life. Just why this is so was never disclosed in the article. Later it is stated that this married woman heard a lay person affiliated with SBC speak disparagingly of homosexuals. Still, no “threat” is specified.

One would assume that, if they could get their hands on them, the SPLC would have disclosed any real threats.

Richmond is a peaceful and idyllic town. It was when we moved here and it still is. That may not please the SPLC’s marketing department, but it’s true. Ken Silverstein, a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine, reported SPLC-chief Morris Dees’ profiteering-from-hysteria techniques in his article, The Church of Morris Dees. Mr. Silverstein quotes Mr. Dees on his own marketing skills: “I learned everything I know about hustling from the Baptist Church. Spending Sundays on those hard benches listening to the preacher pitch salvation-why, it was like getting a Ph.D. in selling.”

Manufacturing strife in print, then fund raising to combat the “hate groups” behind the strife. Not nice, but it makes lots of money.

If it were alleged against us that there was a heated atmosphere at the public hearings regarding our project, the argument would backfire. None of the religious and few lay folk affiliated with SBC showed up at those meetings. We had professional representation from our architect, engineer, and lawyer. The high-handed denunciations and shouting that took place were on the side of those opposing our project. Ms. Buchanan describes an “atmosphere that [one neighbor] likens to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” This is rather inflated hyperbole, but, again, any change in the town’s placid atmosphere was the product of a handful of our detractors, who did and still do spread falsehoods about us. A few of them have been working hard to injure our livelihood, as well as that of our benefactors, by way of boycotts and threats to those who do business with us.

Another baseless “fear”:

“Some [residents] even fear that the Slaves really intend to draw children away from public schools in favor of their own, possibly crippling secular public schools by de-funding them in the process.”

Some residents fear. What precisely is their fear grounded upon? The article does not say. Given the fact that the new building would limit our school enrollment to ninety students (under optimum conditions and in many years), it would seem that our alleged strategy to hurt the local public school, with its enrollment of about nine hundred, would be doomed to failure from the start. No proof was offered to substantiate this utterly baseless “fear.”

But proof isn’t necessary in this genre. It’s the accusation that counts. If you make enough of them, drowning your opponent in a flood of disparaging claims, some people will believe the evil reports. Here, we see that there are “concerns”:

“There are also concerns about damage to wetlands, the potability of wells on the SBC property, and local residential zoning laws that appear to prohibit private schools from operating in the area.”

There are concerns. Are any of them substantiated? No, but again, that’s not necessary. To portray someone in a false light, all one has to do is accuse and defame. As in a Stalinist or Maoist kangaroo court, the accused is found guilty simply because he’s accused.

Questioning the potability of our wells is a fairly serious issue in this town with no city water. All the religious who live here drink out of our wells. And because some of our buildings are public facilities, we have a public water system subject to intense scrutiny by the state. Brother Maximilian Maria is a certified water systems operator and regularly submits testing samples so that we can comply with the stringent standards of the NH DES. If our water were not potable, we would be poisoning ourselves and all those who attend our school and chapel. (You see? Jonestown without the Flavor Aid mix!)

In addition to our potable wells, we have a state-classified “irrigation well.” We don’t drink out of it; it’s for watering plants. Yet, some party or parties accuse us of having “polluted wells,” going so far as to report this to the DES. But to no avail — we’re still legal.

Not only are we accused of a taste for non-potable water, it is also claimed that we want to chase our neighbors out of town:

“According to these neighbors, Richmond welcomed the SBC initially, especially because it represented itself as a Catholic organization. ‘When they came we were excited,’ said John Boccalini, whose property abuts the SBC compound. ‘They gave a good sales pitch about how it would be good financially for the town. They wouldn’t send their kids to public school, [and they] would build nice houses and pay their taxes.’”

“But those attitudes have changed, at least among some residents. More and more of them say that they feel the SBC wants them out.”

The neighbors in question were those who either contacted the SPLC or were contacted by them (I don’t know which). As the article says, “On a brisk spring evening, more than a dozen residents of Richmond made their way up a muddy, rutted road to a hilltop home. They gathered with their neighbors and a reporter to discuss the biggest issue to hit their town in recent memory, and the mood among the group was tense.”

There was apparently no effort to interview neighbors with different opinions or to invite them or our religious to this closed meeting. So much for “diversity.”

What’s curious about the above passage is that the statements attributed to Dr. Boccalini have no logical follow up in the article. Did our faithful stop paying the promised taxes? Are their houses not nice? Have we swarmed the public school? None of this is answered. All we are told is that “attitudes have changed.” Whose attitudes? Ours? Or those of our neighbors who don’t like our building project? It’s not clear.

And there is no explanation why Ms. Buchanan’s informants “feel the SBC wants them out.” Has anybody been asked to leave? Anyone forced to sell? Any threats? None were stated because there were none. Again, if this kind of information could have been ferreted out, one would suppose it would have been. All we know is that attitudes changed among some and that more and more feel a certain way. This doesn’t look too well grounded in town demographics, or any other factual basis for that matter.

In another gratuitous charge, one critic proffers that “The [SBC’s] goal was to have people get wind of this expansion and then move out.”

There is not a single shred of proof to substantiate this statement. It is a suspicion, and a false one at that.

But for non-factual information, this next one wins the award for most ridiculous:

“The group discussed but was unable to substantiate rumors that SBC members have rifles equipped with night vision scopes. Several claimed that they had heard the sound of automatic weapon fire at SBC on a regular basis.”

People “discussed” but were “unable to substantiate rumors” of illegal and dangerous activity. Two questions come to mind at this point in the Intelligence Report: Why is this news? How is this “Intelligence”?

Assuming that the “several” who stated this don’t know what automatic weapons sound like, I will not accuse the reporter of printing a lie, but if there were automatic weapons being fired here “on a regular basis” surely I would know about it. So, too, would the local police, the FBI, and probably the BATF — and in very short order.

There has never been an automatic weapon fired on our property. Anyone who says otherwise either doesn’t know what he is talking about or is trying to deceive his audience. This is a monastery, not a shooting range.

2. False claims from questionable sources (Paul Melanson).

But it gets worse. A “Catholic writer” is cited as something of an expert on SBC and our Order. Some background information is necessary before discussing his contributions to the article.

On April 14 of 2004, Mr. Paul Anthony Melanson sent a letter to Brother Francis petitioning to join our Order as a brother. I interviewed him, telling him about the Order’s goals and charism. He affirmed to me that he believed exactly what we believe regarding “no salvation outside the Church.” All the cards were on the table. He provided me with letters of recommendation from various superiors of his in the Air Force. As the Order’s Prior, I instructed him to provide me with a list of certain documents of a routine nature, such as his baptismal certificate. I also asked him to include his honorable discharge papers from the Air Force (his DD 214).

During the few weeks before and during this process, both Paul and his mother came here regularly for Sunday Mass and the Rosary.

When his paperwork arrived, everything was there except the DD 214. In a letter, I noted the omission and said that we could proceed as soon as I got that document.

Things got strange.

Another letter from Paul came, dated May 2 and addressed to me. He suddenly withdrew his petition to join. In that same letter, by the way, he accused a reputable seminary of having a homosexuality problem on campus, thus causing his departure from that institute. Paul had already informed me of this in person. Years before, I had met one of the priests he accused of negligence in this matter and knew of his good reputation. Mr. Melanson’s story did not ring true. For that reason, I had every intention of telephoning the priest to discuss the matter, but when Paul’s May 2 letter arrived, I no longer had to make that call.

Just over a month later, Paul even accused this seminary in a letter to the editor of The Keene Sentinel. The seminary is in Nebraska. It is unlikely that they even knew they were being maligned in a New Hampshire newspaper. In the same letter in which he told his seminary story, he spoke of something much closer to home. This is from the Sunday, June 6, 2004 Keene Sentinel, page D-3, under the heading “Suppressing truth is not right”:

In an article titled “Catholic downsize: West Swanzey’s St. Anthony’s set to close” (May 22), The Sentinel reported that the Diocese of Manchester has formed a task force to examine the reasons behind the priest shortage.

But a task force isn’t needed to uncover what almost every serious Catholic already knows. Namely, that most seminaries are empty because vice has penetrated them, and those seminarians who refuse to accept or condone vice are excluded. True vocations are persecuted and, in most cases, rooted out and disqualified.

Many of those who hold positions of authority in the church refuse to acknowledge this truth. For them, it is much more convenient to lay the blame elsewhere. This would appear to be the case with [our local Bishop].

No proof was offered to substantiate this assertion regarding the Bishop.

In less than a year after these events, Paul began to attack us on his blog.

This background seems to have qualified Mr. Melanson for a scurrilous feature role in “Trouble in Paradise,” where he gets to use his favorite word: “cult.”

“Paul Anthony Melanson, a Catholic writer who lives in nearby Manchester, has been warning of the SBC’s extremist rhetoric on his blog for years. In an interview with the Intelligence Report, Melanson said he first became aware of the SBC in 1990.”

Indeed, Paul had heard of us in the 1990’s. It became known to me long after his ill-fated attempt to join our religious community that he had produced a newsletter critical of us in 1998. That said, Paul’s letter to Brother Francisan application to join our Order — seems a bit disingenuous, to put it mildly. Why would he write, “I would like to humbly submit my request for acceptance into the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that I may test my vocation to follow the Lord more closely…” if he had already been writing against us, and would continue his career in calumny not long after? Similarly curious is the claim in his letter to me that he was “saddened” that an obstacle prevented him from joining our Order.

When the local controversy over our building project was escalating, The Keene Sentinel started two discussion forums about it on their web site. Because excerpts from Mr. Melanson’s blog were cited as evidence against our community, I posted a brief account of his history with us. A man purporting to be Paul’s friend accused me of lying, at which point I posted a defense of my statements. Eventually, The Keene Sentinel removed that forum from its web site, because it had caused such a furor. I then moved my statement to a blog we had started to protect our reputation from these calumnies.

Here is Paul’s testimony, as related by Ms. Buchanan:

“‘The Saint Benedict Center cult is a house built on sand,’ he said. ‘Its philosophy is rooted in hatred. And this hate, which is anything but holy, will eventually consume those who embrace it.’ Melanson says he has visited the SBC compound several times over the years. On one such visit about a year and a half ago, he says he was told that SBC members were training in the use of firearms and Tae Kwon Do. ‘The fact that a religious community would be training in martial arts and weapons struck me as odd,’ he said, adding that he worries even more now as the situation heats up.

“In a recent blog posting, the writer referred to his ultimate fear. ‘I just hope that we don’t have to experience another Waco,” he said, referring to the 1993 Texas standoff that left some 80 people dead, ‘before most people come to realize that something is radically wrong in Richmond, N.H.’”

The “hatred” accusation is off base. We want to convince people of the truth of the Catholic religion so that they can be holy, receive the same sacraments we receive, and save their souls. Paul’s patron, St. Paul the Apostle, had similar ideas about converting people.

The repeated references in the article to firearms would seem to bolster the mythology that our community is some kind of paramilitary cult. Anybody who has spent time here knows the patent silliness of this straw-man technique. Numerous friendly visits from the New Hampshire State Police (e.g., several K-9 demonstrations for our school students), gives a lie to Paul’s “ultimate fear” of an anti-government armed cult about to fight it out with the law.

The reference to Tae Kwon Do is very curious. None of the religious here know Tae Kwon Do. There are a few lay people who take martial arts instruction at a studio in Keene, but I should hardly think that Mr. Melanson would find this objectionable. He boasts a black belt in that art himself.

As for firearms, some of the gentleman who come to our chapel are hunters. I believe that’s still legal in rural New Hampshire.

The SPLC’s article is not the full extent of Mr. Melanson’s malign statements against us. On his blog, he once falsely accused me of making postings on an overtly racist web site, the Vanguard News Network. I had never even heard of the site before. Claiming that I put it there, Mr. Melanson linked to a message a man named “alex” posted. The posting was an item from our web site that “alex” pasted to the Vanguard site. But I have never posted to that site, as I do not frequent white supremacist web sites. Anybody who has experience with on-line forums knows that people often post articles from one site on another site’s discussion board. Such postings are commonplace, for instance, on Free Republic, a site I do occasionally browse.

Ironically, the statement of mine posted on the Vanguard site was a stark criticism of the anti-Semitic and racist statements of a man who was fraudulently using the name of Father Feeney. This man, who lives in the UK, is not affiliated with us. He is not even professedly a Catholic.

In perpetrating this calumny, Mr. Melanson showed aplomb at a standard dirty trick of yellow journalists: guilt by association or “political profiling.” John Vennari called it “Politician’s Logic.”

Mr. Melanson portrays himself as a Catholic faithful to the Church’s moral magisterium: pro-life, pro-family, etc. It’s odd that he would be so helpful to the SPLC, who are clearly pro-homosexual and are pro-abortion. Their agenda is antithetical to the Social Reign our Lord Jesus Christ the King. In only slightly different circumstances, he could easily find himself vilified by the organization. But in this case, he proved useful to them.

Ms. Buchanan perpetrated a gross misrepresentation of fact herself when she wrote that Mr. Doug Bersaw, a layman who comes to our chapel, said “that Jews should be dealt with using ‘blood and terror if it’s required.’”

This is a patent falsehood. Ms. Buchanan did quite a bit of editing to manufacture that quote. Mr. Bersaw was describing persecutions which will come upon the Church by an apocalyptic “One World Government.” What he actually said was that those who oppose the false religion of this government will be “tyrannized beyond imagination; psychological warfare, physical warfare, blood and terror if it’s required.” He was speaking of a persecution against faithful Catholics; he was not advocating violence against Jewish people or anyone else.

If the crudity Mr. Bersaw was falsely accused of making were ever uttered by someone affiliated with SBC, I would be first in line to correct the individual firmly. That we do not think or speak this way is a fact to which Mr. Robert Cohen has already testified.

If we are so “anti-Semitic” (as Mr. Melanson and the SPLC allege), why do we bemoan the lack of serious effort to convert Jews to the Catholic Faith? That’s not hatred; it’s charity. Among those Father Feeney was instrumental in bringing into the Catholic Church were over a dozen Jewish converts.

3. Misleading statements and missing numbers.

The article gives the reader no grounding in precisely how many people in the town feel, suspect, or otherwise have concerns in our regard. “More than a dozen” of Richmond’s 1200 or so residents were in that house with the reporter. (How many more than a dozen? Surely this is a verifiable statistic.) Based on the statements of a little over one percent of Richmond residents, we are assured that:

“A growing number of townspeople are up in arms about the nearby Saint Benedict Center (SBC), home to a group of ‘radical traditionalist Catholics’…”.

And that:

“Along with a number of other locals, she feels that the SBC has begun to threaten her formerly idyllic way of life.”


Many residents argue that the building is too large for Richmond, that traffic on the road is already too high and doubling the school’s capacity would require serious improvements at the town’s expense.”

The statistics, it appears, are lacking. The reader is led to draw his own inferences. Given the whole tone of the article, those inferences could easily be exaggerated.

Other statements are more overtly misleading:

“SBC officials declined to speak to the Intelligence Report, which published an earlier, critical article about the group.”

That’s tricky. The way this sentence is written, one would have the idea that the Intelligence Report actually contacted us for a statement or an interview for “Trouble in Paradise.” They did not. We did not return the call when Heidi Beirich called for the previous article, and for good reasons. (Read Mr. Michael Matt’s account, to get an idea of these reasons.)

Elsewhere, I am targeted for my comments on Jewish people:

“SBC also offered its own official commentary on the Jews in a March newsletter. ‘Our Lord goes on to warn the Jews that they cannot remain bystanders,’ the newsletter said in part. “[T]heir lackadaisical attitude, their unwillingness to commit, and their damnable complacency will soon have a price.’”

This was not from “a March newsletter.” It was a weekly commentary I send out on the Internet. The statement was commenting on a passage from the Gospel of that Sunday: Luke 11:14-28 . In other words, I was citing our Lord’s words to His Jewish interlocutors in first-century Palestine. I went on to make the point that the failure of the unbelieving Jews to accept Our Lord is a lesson for us Catholics, one the Church constantly puts before our eyes. I cited the words of St. Paul in this regard:

“Thou wilt say then: The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well: because of unbelief they were broken off. But thou standest by faith: be not highminded, but fear. For if God hath not spared the natural branches, fear lest perhaps he also spare not thee. See then the goodness and the severity of God: towards them indeed that are fallen, the severity; but towards thee, the goodness of God, if thou abide in goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” (Rom. 11:19-24)

4. Presenting innocuous facts as if they were incriminating.

If you were told that Mr. Smith is a thief and a murderer, you may be reticent to join his circle of friends. You may, in fact, look at everything he does with a jaundiced eye. If the report you were given were false, but you had not discovered that it was, you may still treat his most innocent activities as potentially dangerous.

Having transformed us into “Mr. Smith,” it is not hard for Ms. Buchanan to make every act of ours, or of our friends, to appear malignant. Case in point: Until the last few words of the next paragraph, there is nothing wrong with what we and our associated lay folk are accused of.

“Already, three of Richmond’s key official posts — town moderator, tax collector, and one seat on the local planning board — are held by SBC members. [Note: “SBC members” here is a reference to lay people who come here for Mass, not our religious brothers or sisters.] At town meetings, local critics of the Slaves say, SBC members turn out in large numbers and vote in a hard-to-defeat bloc. Increasingly, folks here are objecting to the SBC’s desire to outlaw divorce, abortion, birth control, pornography, sodomy, public education and even, some fear, government in general.”

In the context, where we are distorted to appear as hateful militants, such civic involvement is made to appear frightening. For that reason, it appears that people like us are not worthy to exercise our constitutional rights to vote. Neither should we make known our views on public morals. And “some fear” that we will “outlaw … government in general.” How, pray tell, will we do that? As I understand it, it isn’t possible for anybody to “outlaw government” in these United States. How can there be a law to outlaw something if there is no government to enforce the law?

The fear is baseless and, not surprisingly, unproven. But it’s useful for an agenda, and that is what counts here — utility. The accusation is outrageous enough to fit well into the caricature that Ms. Buchanan has crafted.

The anarchist theme comes up elsewhere in the article:

“‘I believe in schools, the police department, all the things that make our society run,’ Jose says wearily. ‘Then I see SBC members voting aggressively against everything. They want to destroy our public institutions so they can make their own little town.’ She pauses to think. ‘I’m not saying they don’t belong here. Just don’t impose your beliefs on everyone else and don’t do weird or sketchy things — like try and take over our town government.’”

People affiliated with SBC vote in lawful elections. Some of them run for office. Presumably those things that “SBC members [are] voting aggressively against” show up on a ballot drawn up by one duly authorized to do so. However, religious and lay folk affiliated with SBC should not do “weird or sketchy things” like exercising our right to vote in a democratic process.

Why? Because of our religious beliefs?

These anti-government, or government-takeover statements, as crazy as they are, are not a thing to be dismissed. The SPLC sends the Intelligence Report to local, state, and federal law enforcement officials. Besides influencing the media with their yellow journalism, they also act as informants to governmental agencies.

Another false light cast upon us comes by way of a reference to me:

“…prior Louis Villarrubia, who goes by the name of Brother Andre Marie…”

“Who goes by the name of?” Are they unaware of the fact that Catholic religious often take religious names which differ from their baptismal names? In the article’s generally suspicious, boogie-man word smithing, that jumps out like an a.k.a. on a gangster’s rap sheet.

5. Incendiary Buzz Words and Inflated Rhetoric.

Some of the color words Ms. Buchanan employs lend a certain fiery hue to her mendacious tapestry. Here is an example:

“A growing number of townspeople are up in arms about the nearby Saint Benedict Center (SBC), home to a group of ‘radical traditionalist Catholics’….”

One would guess from the quotes around “radical traditionalist Catholics” that the phrase were either a moniker we had appropriated for ourselves or else a recognized term of art in theological circles. Google seems to reveal that the term is of the SPLC’s own coinage. Search their site; “radical” is one of their favorite words.

But we’re not only radical, we’re also “angry,” for our beliefs include “angry opposition to homosexuality,” and we have made “angry statements to the press” in which we “hotly denied” accusations against us. Further, we employ “extremist rhetoric.” “Extreme” and its derivatives gets top billing in the SPLC lexicon.

And where do angry, hot, extreme radicals live? The attentive reader will know the answer: a “compound.” That word makes its way twice in the article. Our twenty-plus acres feature a monastery, convent, and school, but these innocent-sounding words don’t quite do the job that “compound” does.

If an uncritical reader knew nothing of the people being described here, he may easily picture paramilitary religious zealots. If he thought this he would not be picturing us.

What is left out of the puffed-up rhetoric is what we actually do, such as visiting the elderly in nursing homes, taking care of our old chaplain and religious, distributing Rosaries and Marian medals by the thousands to those we meet (Catholic and non-Catholic), sponsoring a Boy Scout troop, teaching children in our school, training altar boys to serve the Latin Mass, publishing books on philosophy written by our ninety-four-year-old Superior, entertaining our community with wholesome, family fun, and teaching the solid spiritual doctrine of St. Louis Marie de Montfort, St. Francis de Sales, and other approved masters of the spiritual life.

We are not aloof from our local community. As a service to the town, we typeset and helped publish two books on Richmond’s history: The Town in the Forest: Life Story of Richmond, New Hampshire, by Neith Boyce and The Only Mill in Town: The Story of the Pail-Making Industry in Richmond, New Hampshire, by Richard A Martin. We rendered these services for free. Ironically, Neith Boyce’s The Town in the Forest was cited in “Trouble in Paradise,” even though that book’s Preface expresses the publisher’s gratitude for our assistance!1 This good deed went unnoticed by the SPLC.

Neither is it mentioned that the false charges of anti-Semitism have been answered by Mr. Robert Cohen, a Catholic Jew whose Jewish father converted at the Center. It was the SPLC’s Heidi Beirich who defined anti-Semitism as “hating Jews.” As Mr. Cohen said, “Well, neither this Jew nor his Jewish father ever experienced Jew hating in many long years of association with the Center. Brother Francis Maluf, the aged Superior in Richmond (and an Arab!) was very friendly with my family and his kindness was instrumental in my dear father’s conversion.”

But these facts militating in our favor do not appear to be in the SPLC’s interest.

Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.” —John 14:27

The article ends on a somewhat pacific note:

“What I see that group being accused of, I don’t want to do to them,” she says with a sigh. “We don’t have the right to tell them to go away. But we do have the right to exercise our civil liberties.”

This frank statement by our neighbor is appreciated. To her and to all our neighbors, I say we respect your liberties and we always have. We, too, have our civil and religious liberties and will exercise them in peace and tranquility, following our Catholic consciences and “doing the truth in charity” (Eph. 4:15).

We bear no grudge against our fellow Richmond residents quoted in the article. We want to be their good neighbors, practicing kindness, civility, and friendliness toward them. If we try to interest them in our Catholic religion, it is out of Christian charity, not out of hatred. Numerous inhabitants of this region know these things full well. They have visited here and met us, or they know families who worship here. They know Ms. Buchanan’s representation is fraudulent.

Far from merely reporting it, the SPLC has done a lot to stir up “Trouble in Paradise.”

1 From the book’s Preface, by Beatrix Faust (Neith Boyce’s daughter, and a Richmond resident): “A copy of the manuscript was placed with the Richmond Archives and several attempts were made to publish it in book form. Many publishers expressed interest, but seeing only a ‘local interest’ returned the manuscript and it lay dormant for some twenty years. With the advent of ‘desktop publishing,’ however, the completion of this book became a reality.

“Bud Jacobson, the owner of the Four Corners Store, who had heard the same type of answers from publishing houses, happened to be speaking to Bob Cohen, a life-long printer and editor, who had recently retired to Richmond’s Saint Benedict Center community. Brother Francis, the superior of the Saint Benedict Center Monastery, volunteered the use of the publishing facilities immediately upon hearing about the project. At that point, Bob Cohen and Tim Harron, a recent graduate of the Center’s High School, began to labor the many hours it took to typeset and lay out the book. First, Bob and Tim, and later Norma Thibodeau, Robert Weekes, and Bud Jacobson, then met with me many times to select the pictures and do other ‘layout’ tasks.” (Emphasis ours.)