Few activist groups have been more powerful or influential than the Southern Poverty Law Center. Established in 1971, the SPLC was founded with the noble desire—at least on the surface—to combat the violence being perpetrated by groups that were resisting the federally mandated forced integration of blacks and whites in the American South.
As many if not most of these groups expounded ideology that generally was repugnant to most Christians, such as neo-Nazism or the Klu Klux Klan’s white Protestant nationalism, the SPLC was generally given accolades for its good work—even if they employed methods that were unethical or, as some have claimed, illegal.
However, the SPLC then began to attack Christian pro-life and pro-family groups that did not adhere to the establishment narrative regarding the normalization of homosexuality and transgenderism. At the same time, it became increasingly clear—even to many on the left—that the SPLC was accumulating a lavish financial war chest that was being used more to enrich the SPLC administration and board members than it was to combat illegal activity among alleged hate groups.
Moreover, with a lull in interest in groups like the Klan, many of the SPLC’s sympathizers began wondering what the Center was doing with all that money.
In recent years, the SPLC was (ironically) beset with allegations of racism and mistreatment of its black American members who were largely kept on as props while the administration of the SPLC was dominated by individuals who were white. Finally, as the #metoo scandal gained traction, many in the SPLC’s leadership were accused of sexual abuse and harassment of female employees. Moreover, the SPLC’s founder, Morris Dees, was revealed to be a sexual predator who had preyed on his own stepdaughter.
Finally, the SPLC has been accused of influencing terrorist attacks on Christian organizations—most notably left-wing terrorist Floyd Lee Corkins’s attempted mass shooting at the Family Research Council’s offices. In the official court documents of Corkins’s trial, he explicitly confessed to the FBI that he received his impression that the Family Research Council was an “anti-gay hate group” from the Southern Poverty Center’s “Hate Watch” database.
With all of this financial malfeasance, racism, sexual abuse, and terrorism linked to the SPLC, one would think that the organization would be completely discredited and abandoned by the establishment media.
Yet the SPLC not only refuses to cease its operations, it continues to seek out new enemies—most recently, traditional Catholics.
In their recently updated entry on “Radical Traditional Catholicism,” the SPLC refers to Catholics who adhere to the Church’s traditional magisterium as possibly the “largest single group of serious antisemites in America.”
Bundling together as a group traditional Catholic newspapers and organizations, many of which are strongly critical of one another, and which differ from one another very strongly on a host of theological and political issues, the SPLC claims these groups
routinely pillory Jews as “the perpetual enemy of Christ” and worse, reject the ecumenical efforts of the Vatican, and sometimes even assert that recent popes have all been illegitimate. These groups are incensed by the liberalizing reforms of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, which condemned hatred for the Jews and rejected the accusation that Jews are collectively responsible for deicide in the form of the crucifixion of Christ.
In one sense, Catholics who strive to remain faithful to the Church’s traditional teaching should not even dignify this malicious slander with a response. Moreover, one might ask why a non-Catholic and non-Christian organization has any right regulating what Catholics and other Christians believe.
As Michael Matt of The Remnant argued in a 2013 lecture for The Fatima Center, the SPLC’s accusations of Catholics as anti-Semites belie an “ignorance of history, scripture, and theology.” Mr. Matt’s Remnant is among the oldest and most widely-read traditional Catholic publications in the United States. It is also one of the organizations the SPLC identifies as adhering to “Radical Traditionalist Catholicism.” Thus, the SPLC’s attack strikes at the very heart of traditional Catholic life in America.
After interviewing Mr. Matt and consulting with other left-wing journalists, Cory Zurowski of City Pages was forced to admit—albeit somewhat subtly and with a few jabs at the size of Michael Matt’s family as well as his love for down-home Midwestern cooking—that Michael Matt had very little in common with the swastika-tattooed motor cycle and prison gangs with whom he was lumped in the SPLC’s “hate” list.
While even left-wing journalists will admit that the personal character as well the legal records of traditional Catholics like Michael Matt are both pristine, organizations such as the SPLC cannot let go of their unjust and cartoonish depictions of homeschooling Minnesotans and kind-hearted Latin Mass priests as being akin to SS officers and Gestapo prison guards.
As Crisis’s own Michael Warren Davis noted in a November 2018 Catholic Herald piece, the primary reason for this slander is the fact that traditional Catholics, although flawed and sinful people like everyone else, have a sincere charity for the members of the human race—whether these people are fellow Catholics, Jews, or anyone else. With this sincere charity, we desire the greatest good for others: salvation through Jesus Christ.
As St. Thomas Aquinas notes in Question 27 of the Second Part of the Summa Theologiae, true charity includes goodwill or benevolence, and the highest good that we can will our neighbor is his salvation and union with God Himself.
A progressive or neoconservative Catholic who does not will the salvation of others—whether they be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or neo-pagan—is not exercising tolerance, but rather a lack of charity and, in a certain sense, a lack of faith.
Despite its arguably strong language, the traditional Good Friday prayer for the Jews is not a curse, but rather a prayer motivated by love that the Jews might acknowledge “the light of …Truth, which is Christ…”
Ultimately, as conservative and traditional Catholics we should make a few key points clear regarding our inclusion on a “hate watch” list.
First of all, Catholics must respond to the SPLC that Catholics, in toto, condemn any form of hatred, including racial hatred.
Secondly, we as Catholics condemn any sort of unscientific, unreasonable, and simply untrue approach to studying and documenting human formation and human behavior—whether that approach is called “racist” or even “anti-racist.”
Finally, as Catholics we should consider it a badge of honor that an organization that is decadent, corrupt, and replete with sexism and racism and which thinks it has the right and moral duty to regulate what white, black, Muslim, and Christian Americans think and do should consider our Church its enemy.