Doctrinal Warfare, the CIA, and the Colonizing of the Catholic Mind

Catholic journalist, Bree Dail, recently interviewed an expert in “Information Operations” (IO) on propaganda and the strategic use of “fake news.” Daniel P. Gabriel is now employed in the private sector, but was previously an Officer in the CIA, where his knowledge of communications and journalism served the Agency’s Information Operations. What he explains about “PSYOP” (psychological operations), “black propaganda,” “false flag” operations, and other such intelligence conventions comes from a former government operative who is expert in these things not simply because foreign governments, NGOs, and terrorists use them, but also because the U.S. government does and has done for a long time. They are simply tools of the trade for intelligence agencies, including our own.

One question and answer from the interview will help me launch into the subject at hand:

BD: What are the basic definitions of IO?

DG: IO is often referred to as PSYOP, propaganda, active measures or covert influence. The terminology — and the methodology — tends to depend on the sponsoring organization or government agency [bold emphasis mine]. However, it proceeds from a general principle that the intent is to “inform” with the goal of affecting behavior — or in some cases preventing behavior. In this sense, it’s really as simple as marketing or advertising, where the strategic objective is to change behavior. What’s different — and in some cases can seem sinister — is when the hand of the sponsoring agent is concealed. In government circles, this spectrum is defined between “white” propaganda (attributed), to “black” propaganda (non-attributed, or, in some cases — attributed to a third party actor (aka “false flag”).

With that in mind, I would like to share some of what I have learned from an amazing book by David A. Wemhoff: John Courtney Murray, Time/Life, and the American Proposition, which is provocatively subtitled, “How the CIA’s Doctrinal Warfare Program Changed the Catholic Church.”

Just as “fake news” (much of which is PSYOPS) is a timely issue in American life, so too is the “deep state.” The pages of Wemhoff’s volume tell us about the beginnings of this deep state by going into the history of our intelligence agencies during and, in a more developed form, just after the Second World War. Included in this historical narration are copious citations from primary sources on psychological operations and what was called — by its own practitioners within these agencies — “doctrinal warfare.”

The book’s cast of characters includes Henry Luce, founder of the Time, Life, and Fortune media empire; his wife (and Catholic convert), Clare Boothe Luce; the anti-Catholic zealot, Paul Blanshard (author of the hysterical American Freedom and Catholic Power); C.D. Jackson, government propagandist, PSYOP specialist, and Time, Inc., senior executive; Edward P. Lilly, Catholic historian, intellectual, and PSYOP specialist who taught at the Catholic University of America; William “Wild Bill” Donovan, one of the founders of the CIA; John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, and the father of Cardinal Avery Dulles; John Courtney Murray, the liberal Jesuit theologian who wanted to change Church teaching on matters concerning Church-State relations. The preceding are the villains of the book. There are a couple of “white hats” who get prominent mention, chief among them being the theologian and editor of the American Ecclesiastical Review, Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton; and the Redemptorist moral theologian, Father Francis Connell.

Painstakingly documented with hundreds of references to the actual words of the key figures, their autobiographies, biographies, and, more revealingly, their personal correspondences researched in a variety of archives to which the author had access, the book narrates Henry Luce’s partnership with the emerging “deep state” both during and after World War II, showing how Luce wanted to advance the cause of FDR’s “four freedoms” by advancing the so-called “American Proposition,” that modern political and economic ideology enshrining all that the Church has condemned in one word: Liberalism. In order to succeed at making all Americans accept these views, Luce and his confederates needed to alter the way Catholics thought; so, rather than taking the openly hostile approach of a Paul Blanshard, Luce took a more subtle approach, one involving the cooperation of respected Catholics themselves. Edward P. Lilly was of use, but much more so was the liberal Jesuit, Father John Courtney Murray, who was close to Luce’s wife, Clare Boothe Luce, and who would be championed in the pages of Luce’s magazines as a martyr for the cause of Americanism within the Catholic Church.

Part of that championing of Murray was the demonizing of his critics, including the officials of the Holy See (e.g., Cardinal Ottaviani), who had condemned Murray’s work, and those competent American Catholic theologians, Monsignor Fenton and Father Connell, who dared to criticize Murray in the name of authentic Catholic tradition. Luce’s frequent lionizing of Murray and demonizing of his Catholic critics was a successful exercise in psychological warfare.

As for “doctrinal warfare,” the label preferred by C.D. Jackson, the agenda was quite simply to change the way Catholics thought about the Church, America, pluralism, the relationship between religions, and other issues which touched upon the question of Church and State relations. This would inevitably have a profound effect on how American Catholics thought of themselves — and not only American Catholics, for the agenda of promoting the American Proposition was much more ambitious than that. Catholic nations must be changed, too, in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. The U.S.A. had just emerged victorious after World War II and was becoming an Empire, replacing the British one destroyed by WWII. This was the “American Century” (a term coined by Luce), and messianic democracy would spread to the ends of the earth! Luce’s international publications, working in tandem with networks of U.S. intelligence operatives abroad, would be the engine driving that Americanist evangelism. Lest I be accused of inflated rhetoric here for using the word “evangelism,” I note that C.D. Jackson and Henry Luce termed their cause, “the gospel of democracy.”

I mentioned Luce’s companies working “in tandem” with the emerging intelligence agencies. Their cooperation was not occasional or incidental, but very close. There was a revolving door between Luce’s magazines and U.S. intelligence agencies so that many writers for Time, Life, and Fortune were CIA veterans. By 1953, C.D. Jackson — who already had one foot in government and the other in Time, Inc. — had successfully networked the Eisenhower administration, the CIA, and, through Henry Luce, the American press. An amazing accomplishment.

Without getting into the involved doctrinal questions in any detail here, it must be borne in mind that Pope Leo XIII had, in his 1895 Longinqua, plainly stated that the Church-State situation in the United States of America could not be held up as the ideal. This was in perfect continuity with perennial Church teaching on social questions. After this measure had little effect, Leo wrote Testem Benevolentiae, addressing it to the de-facto American Primate, James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore. The error was pejoratively labeled “Americanism” by Leo himself, and its adherents, “Americanists” — of whom Gibbons was the chief! John Courtney Murray was essentially an Americanist who sought to justify his adherence to papally condemned errors with recourse to a neo-modernist concept of doctrinal development, as opposed to the authentic notion of development of doctrine. It would make this piece too long to go into Murray’s role at Vatican II, his polemics with Monsignor Fenton, and his ultimate apotheosis as the (apparent) bearer of victory for the cause of Americanism.

The CIA’s doctrinal warfare program brought its tremendous resources to bear on this mission. We are talking about a covert operation, using Henry Luce’s international media empire, to change the way Catholics think, first in America, then abroad. This was nothing short of an effort by Anglo-Protestant oligarchs to colonize the Catholic mind. Its effects are still very much with us.

The CIA even had a University in Rome, the Pro Deo University, run by the Belgian CIA agent and Dominican priest, Father Felix Morlion. Its work was to indoctrinate Latin American clergy in the American Proposition.  In Spain, Luce’s network did a great deal to oppose the traditional Catholic social order maintained there by General Franco, who — in Luce’s updated contribution to the Anglo-Protestant “Black Legend” — was thoroughly vilified in the American press.

One of the ways that Catholics were corralled into accepting the cause of the American Proposition was the anti-Communist crusade. To point this out is not to sympathize with Communism, which the Church herself roundly condemned, and which we must decry as the evil that it is. That said, part of doctrinal warfare was to convince Catholics that they had to drop their exclusive claims and join in the great cause of American exceptionalism in this existential battle against the Red Menace. At the very least, the anti-Communist crusade distracted American Catholics from their divine vocation to bring their non-Catholic countrymen into the Church, or at least to try. Too, the atmosphere of “forget that, fight this,” lured Catholics into a form of indifferentism regarding the practitioners of other religions (a similar thing is currently going on in the pro-life movement). In light of this, Sister Catherine’s words in Chapter Twelve of The Loyolas and the Cabots are significant:

We have been accused, at times, of being Communists because of the dissension among Catholics which has resulted from our insistence on professing the doctrine of the Church on salvation as it was defined… . This is no time to bring about divisions, we were told; it is, rather, a time to forget everything else in the need to present a united front against Communism. We replied that, horrible though Communism is, there is an even greater danger to man. Our Lord says (Matt. 10-28): “And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” It would be no conquest at all if we united together against Communism, only, through the neglect of what God has commanded, to lose the spiritual battle, and go to hell. We have to win both — the battle against Communism so that we may live in freedom here on earth, and the war against the Prince of Darkness, the devil, so that we may live in beatitude with God for all eternity.

There are two passages in Mr. Wemhoff’s book that mention Father Leonard Feeney. In the first, the author favorably quotes something Father wrote about Henry Luce in The Point, a piece called “Our Thirty-Third Degree Enemies.” While Father Feeney did not know all Mr. Wemhoff reveals, he was nonetheless generally aware of Luce’s powerful and malign influence:

The combined circulation of the Luce publications is reported to be around seven million copies. But actually they have many times that number of readers. Life, for instance, is read, or looked-at, by practically everyone in America who gets his hair cut or his teeth filled. Time, which claims a circulation of a million and a half, is read mainly by those who fancy themselves as belonging to the social, financial, or intellectual elite. Unless they were to undergo their weekly ordeal of reading Time, they would not feel they could honestly give an affirmative answer to the crucial question, “Are you well-informed?”

Fortune has a comparatively small circulation, and is used less for control purposes than the other two, being read almost exclusively by the Thirty-third Degree Masons possessed of the commodity indicated in the magazine’s title.

Luce pretends that the purpose of his magazines, particularly Time and Life, is to give unbiased, informative reports of news and events. But this is clearly not so. News for Luce is merely a vehicle to be used in conveying his messages. Every article, every picture, every squib and caption that he prints has some definite job of indoctrination to do, some point that he means for his readers to get.

The second mention of Father Feeney comes much later in the book, when Vatican II is happening and when Murray’s enemy, Monsignor Fenton, is in Rome as a peritus. Quoting from Fenton’s diary, Mr. Wemhoff showed that one of the great concerns the great theologian came to Rome with was that the Father Feeney case had been botched, and that,

[T]hanks to the mishandling of the entire case, many if not most of our American Catholic people are honestly convicted that the Church has in some way abandoned the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church.

Monsignor Fenton stated to a Holy Office official that “[T]he cause of Christ in the world will be harmed rather than advanced if the council does not come out forcefully on the necessity of the Church for salvation.”

It would make this piece too long to detail what happened at Vatican II, but a phrase of Pope Benedict XVI comes to mind, where he speaks of “the council of the media,” which was, in Ratzinger’s mind, a distinct reality from the actual council, that “of the Fathers.” Henry Luce’s media empire was part of that, armed to the teeth as it was with its doctrinal-warfare munitions, including the continued lionizing of John Courtney Murray and its accompanying demonizing of his adversaries at the Council.

Once Luce and the Americanists successfully colonized the Catholic mind, they could further manipulate it, as was the case not only with indifferentism and Church-State relations, but, after the Council, with contraception, divorce, and other moral matters of no trifling importance.

The value of Mr. Wemhoff’s book is to inform us of this sad and tragic history of psychological manipulation and distraction from the Church’s true mission. If we accept it as a cautionary tale, we will better understand what we are up against, for we still confront “doctrinal warfare” and other forms of PSYOP on a daily basis. More importantly, the book can strongly motivate modern Catholic counterrevolutionaries to recognize and oppose these evils in the name of perennial Catholic doctrine and practice, and to get to the serious business of evangelizing our fellow Americans, all of whom need the Catholic Faith.