Bella Dodd & the Communist Infiltration of the Catholic Church (Guest: Paul Kengor)

Bella Dodd is one of those mysterious figures who often comes up in discussions of Catholic conspiracy theories. But who was Bella Dodd and why should Catholics care?

Crisis Point
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Bella Dodd & the Communist Infiltration of the Catholic Church (Guest: Paul Kengor)
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Eric Sammons:

Bella Dodd is one of those mysterious figures who often comes up in discussions of Catholic conspiracy theories, but who actually was Bella Dodd and why should Catholics care? That’s what we’re going to talk about today on Crisis Point.

Hello, I’m Eric Sammons your host and editor-in-Chief of Crisis Magazine. Before we get started, just encourage people to like and subscribe to the channel, let other people know about it. We always appreciate that. Follow us on social media @CrisisMag.

Okay, let’s get into it. We have Paul Kengor with us returning with us today. He is professor of Political Science at Grove City College, the author of a number of books, but he’s the co-author of the book, The Devil and Bella Dodd: One Woman’s Struggle Against Communism and Her Redemption. Welcome to the program, Paul.

Paul Kengor:

Hey, thanks, Eric. Always going to be with you. One of my favorite magazines.

Eric Sammons:

Oh, thank you very much. Yes, you’re a contributing editor to Crisis Magazine as well, and we always love anything you can do. And also I wanted to mention you’re the editor of American Spectator, and so people can check that out as well.

Paul Kengor:

That’s where I am right now, and I must commend you as the outstanding editor of Crisis Magazine. You didn’t ask me to say that, but it’s absolutely true. And I think you succeeded Michael Warren Davis, right?

Eric Sammons:

That’s correct. That’s correct, exactly.

Paul Kengor:

And then there was John Vela before him, and so you are keeping alive this outstanding tradition of great editors. And I mean it, you’re really doing a great job.

Eric Sammons:

Oh, thank you.

Paul Kengor:

Publication is so good.

Eric Sammons:

I appreciate that, and I will pay you after we’re off the air. I’ll Venmo you later. So Bella Dodd. Okay, so I remember when I first became Catholic, I was living with a Catholic family for a little bit, and I think they subscribed to The Wanderer. This is the 1990s. And I would hear Bella Dodd’s name come up. And over the years her name just seems to pop up and it always seems to be associated somewhat with fringe conversations, fringe ideas.

And honestly, I didn’t know much about her other than that people who, and just to be clear, we’ve all know today we should know that conspiracy theories are often conspiracy facts we find out later because we’ve seen that numerous times in the recent years, so I’m not trying to dismiss this, but it did seem that her name would always come up in kind of fringe conversations about infiltration in the Catholic Church and communist influence, things like that. So I was very happy when I saw that you had written a book along with, I should mention, you’re the co-author with Mary Nicholas. She’s also the other author. And so the question is for I think all of us is just, first of all, just who is, who was Bella Dodd?

Paul Kengor:

Yeah. And I should maybe start off here by noting that there was a piece in Crisis Magazine and I quote it in the book, and this was before you were editor. And it was on Catholic conspiracy theories and it mentioned Bella Dodd and the infiltration of the Catholic Church. And Alice von Hildebrand fired back with a kind of fiery letter to the editor and we quote it in the book and she said, “I want you to know that the so-called conspiracy theory about Bella Dodd and the church infiltration is no conspiracy theory.” And in fact, we interviewed Alice for the book. Alice died I think last January. She was maybe 98 years old. So Mary Nicholas, my co-author, interviewed Alice. And Alice was directly told by Bella Dodd in the 1960s, now, Bella Dodd died in 1969. It was Alice and Dietrich, her famous husband, right? They were sitting there with Bella Dodd and they were talking to her.

And at this point Bella Dodd’s already famous. She’s kind of like the female version of Whittaker Chambers. I mean, she was a really big deal, the most famous, most frequently testifying before Congress and the Senate under sworn testimony, female ex-communist in the United States. So she’s sitting there with Dietrich and Alice, and Dietrich said, “You know, I just have this feeling like the church has been infiltrated.” And Bella Dodd said, “You feel it? I know it.” And he said, “What do you mean?” And then she told them, she said, “When I was organizing for the Communist Party back in the 1930s, I helped place over a thousand communist men in Catholic seminaries.” So she said that to Alice and to Dietrich and Alice is on the record, Eric, over and over again. By the way, I’m being meticulous here, kind of like a historian giving you all the documentation, because I had the same suspicions of this.

And I would look up this claim on the internet, and it was so sloppy. I mean people have memes out there saying that Bella said this and this. She never said it in testimony. They’d cite her book, School of Darkness. It is not in her book, School of Darkness. We could talk about why it’s not in there in a few minutes. But she told Alice, Alice wrote about it in Alice’s memoirs. In the letter to the editor to Crisis, in several other articles. There is a Michael Voris of Church Militant interviewed Alice in a video that’s on YouTube where she talks about this. And she’s a historian. She was a scholar, she was an intellectual. Alice is absolutely verbatim consistent every time she talked about this. We interviewed for the book, there’s a couple from California, Paul and Johnine Leininger who Kevin Symonds, my friend Kevin Symonds, tracked them down and got them to sign a sworn affidavit when they heard her say it in the 60s. [Editor’s Note: They actually signed it in 2002, about five years before Symonds met with them. Symonds received a copy in 2015.]

We found with, again, Kevin’s a great help, a woman named Sherry Finn, who’s alive today, I think she’s 82 years old in Redondo Beach, California, who had a small dinner group with Bella Dodd near Plano, Texas. I think there were five of them. It was Sherry and her husband and another couple and Bella Dodd. Bella told it to her. So there’s a bunch of different examples of this, and let me give you a really good one. I think this’ll really make everybody, including any skeptics, perk up. Bella Dodd, I’m jumping ahead, but she was received into the Catholic Church, baptized at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on April 7th, 1952. All right, brought in by Fulton Sheen. He heard her confession that day. Three weeks later on the cover of The New York Times, it was April 28th, 1952, there’s an article on the front page of The New York Times, which says, “Fulton Sheen speaking from church in Rome,” which it was Santa Susanna church in Rome, “Speaks of red infiltration of the priesthood.”

And Sheen said the call went out in 1936 in a large American city. This would’ve been New York City to infiltrate the Catholic priesthood. And you could tell, Eric, he got this directly from Bella Dodd. I mean, there’s just no way. He hears her confession on April 7th, April 27th, he’s in Rome, I don’t know, by plane, by boat, train across Europe. And then he says what she said, but without citing her. And Sheen never said that publicly again. Bella Dodd never said it with exception of maybe I think the one occasion publicly again. And why didn’t Bella Dodd talk about it publicly? Alice von Hildebrand said, Bishop Sheen forbade her from speaking about it in public because he thought it would cause an enormous scandal in the church. And Bella Dodd said, “Bishop Sheen, I feel like I should order the most penitential order on the planet and spend the rest of my life on my knees making reparation for what I did.”

And he said, “No, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to go warn the world about the dangers of communism.” But he didn’t want her talking about the infiltration of the church and so publicly at least, she didn’t. And she didn’t write about it in her memoirs either, but she told a number of people. And if anybody out there right now that’s watching this, I know there’ve got to be people still alive, if anybody out here met with her when she was in Texas, when she was in New York, if you’re like Sherry Finn, if you’re like the Leininger’s, and she told you this privately, reach out to me. Because at the very least we’d like to further document that Bella Dodd, at the very least said this. Now whether or not they succeeded in doing it-

Eric Sammons:

I think the question is, okay, so I think it’s pretty well established because she definitely said this, because I don’t know how you could doubt Alice Von Hildebrand. I mean, honestly, if you doubt her, you just don’t believe anybody.

Paul Kengor:

And Fulton Sheen.

Eric Sammons:

Right, yeah and Fulton Sheen. And so she said this, but the question is why should we believe that she was telling the truth when she said this? What in her background makes that a credible statement that she made? Because I mean, a thousand men, seminarians, I mean even when seminarians, there was a lot more seminarians in this country, even in 1930s, something like that, that still is a pretty outlandish claim on its face. So why should we believe that she actually did that?

Paul Kengor:

Yeah. It’s a great question. And this is actually easy. By Vatican II, we give the data in the book, there were 60,000 priests in the United States at that point. Now, Bella Dodd came into the party as an organizer. She organized the teachers union in New York. So her role with the party was the education front. And she did such a good job on education that she also organized the longshoreman and the number of other groups. Bella Dodd testified under Congress to Congress under oath and this is also established in a Senate report, FBI reports and others, the New York State Teachers Union had 10,000 members. Bella put 1,000 to 1,500 Communist Party members in the New York Teachers Union. Now, this is according to an FBI report from 1948. I as a historian of the American Communist Party for years, we’ve all have tried to figure out just how many people were members of Communist Party USA.

At the height of membership we usually say 50,000 to a 100,000 in the 1930s. Well, an FBI report in 1948 said that there were 60,000 Communist Party USA members, and it said that half of them, 30,000 lived in New York City alone. All right, so New York was just absolute sickening hotbed of communism. Well, which is how Bella Dodd became a communist. That’s where she was, Hunter College, at Columbia University. So anyway, so there’s 10,000 members of the New York State teachers union. She infiltrates it with 1,000 of 1,500. She had 500 communist teachers marching in the 1936 Mayday Parade in New York City. So she was a master organizer. All right, now let me add to that. The Communist Party was already infiltrating the mainline denominations. Now, this is very clearly established congressional testimony by Ben Gitlow, Louis Budenz, Herb Philbrick, Manning Johnson, all of them under oath. Earl Browder speaking to the head of Communist Party USA, speaking to Union Theological Seminary in December 1935.

He said to them, “You may be surprised to know that we have preachers, preachers active in churches who are actual Communist Party USA members.” So they had thoroughly penetrated Protestant churches, thoroughly, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian and Methodist Church, United Methodist Church. So of course they were going to go after the Catholic Church too. Of course, they were doing it. The Russian Orthodox Church was so penetrated that Carol over there today is Putin’s buddy. I shouldn’t even go into all of that. Behind the Iron Curtain the churches were all infiltrated. They were trying to infiltrate the church in Poland, right? So of course they were going to at least try. Now, who would they go to? Bella Dodd, ex-Catholic, born in Picerno, Italy, master organizer for the party. So they would’ve easily turned to Bella Dodd and said, “Can you help us infiltrate seminaries?”

And she would’ve saluted the flag, “Yes, comrade.” Now, whether or not she actually pulled it off and placed these thousand men in there, and how many of them got through? That’s the more kind of baffling question that I don’t think we can answer. One more source of evidence, we quote in the book, Blessed Solanus Casey, who talks about, you know, you may have heard of so-called red Infiltration of the seminaries. I’ve witnessed it myself. These seminarians, they’re very disciplined and very intelligent young men, but they’re not very faithful. And I would hasten to add this, the Protestant churches I think were more easily penetrated because unlike the Catholic Church, they didn’t have the leadership from Rome that was opposing communism. They didn’t have all the encyclicals. And also, it’s hard to become a Catholic priest. I mean the rector at your seminary has got to push you through the different hoops. You go through different processes of discernment. So of these thousand, I’d be surprised if a hundred even got through.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, that’s what I was thinking it’s not like you can just jump through a seminary. It takes years. And I mean there’s a lot of discipline, a lot of sacrifice. But yeah, so she might have recruited a thousand who entered, but who knows? But I was going to mention the testimony from Solanus Casey, because obviously he’s a Blessed. I read a great book by about him and he’s awesome, but obviously he thought that was the case. Now when it comes to this though, okay, so in Russia, the communist just took over, a revolution, and they were vicious. Again, if you look at the stories, I mean, they ended up taking over large parts of the Russian Orthodox Church, but they also killed lots of Russian Orthodox faithful priests, bishops, because they wouldn’t go along. So their methodology in Russia was basically the hammer, hammer and sickle, the hammer. But it looks like that’s not what they were doing here in America. Now, can you talk about what the methodology was of the Communist Party when it comes to basically taking to institutions in America, including the Catholic Church?

Paul Kengor:

Another great question. And they in America, their first approach by Communist Party USA was to ridicule religion as the opiate of the masses. And I quote at length in the book, and I also did in The Devil and Karl Marx. The Devil and Karl Marx, the book I did before the Bella Dodd book, people were surprised to see that the largest section of the book was not on Karl Marx, but on the infiltration of churches. And in that book I had just one chapter on Bella Dodd, but I quote William Z. Foster at length testifying before Congress, I think it’s 1930. And they’re asking him, “And so what do you think of religion, Mr. Foster?” He’s like, “Well, we believe that it’s superstition and the opiate of the masses.” And he is asked by Congressman Hamilton Fish, “Could somebody be a member of a church and joined the Communist Party?” And Foster kind of scoffs, right? “I don’t know why you would want to be a member of a religion and join the Communist Party, but I suppose if somebody had religious scruples, they could come into the party, but they would need to be in the process of liquidating those superstitious beliefs.”

So that’s how they viewed it. And then they do a complete about face in the 1930s when they realize that that approach ain’t going to work in America. And in fact, Stalin was realizing that it wasn’t even working in the USSR. Stalin lightens up on religion like he did on abortion, even after World War II. You could only, it’s like Mussolini, right? He was a Marxist. Mussolini’s like, “Don’t repress the church. It’s going to cause you too many problems. Why do you want to do this?” But a guy like Vladimir Lenin was hell bent on it because he just hated religion so much.

So in the United States, which has freedom of religion and has a constitution, first Amendment, freedom of religion, the comrades in the United States realized they needed a different approach. And so they did what Earl Browder in the 1930s, the successor to Williams Z. Foster, Communist Party USA called the outstretched hand. And the outstretched hand was like an olive branch to religious people in the United States. And really, Eric, the goal there was to dupe kind of religious left Christians. Blessed are the peacemakers. Well, Marx, just like Jesus talks about redistributing wealth. He talks about sharing. And it’s kind of funny today, you get religious left Christians who will say the same thing. It’s just extraordinary. But this is what they tried.

We quote in the book, God bless them, the editors of Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker, writing a beautiful editorial saying, “We support the worker, yes, like you do, communists, but we cannot join common ground with the communists.” Communism is a materialistic philosophy that denies God. It calls religion the opiate of the masses and just lays out with beautiful sophistication why even though the Catholic Worker people were on the left, they couldn’t be communists. Kind of the same thing that Woodrow Wilson said. And they could all do some teaching today to America Magazine, which in July 2019 published a piece called The Catholic Case for Communism, a piece that is just pure sophistry with arguments that are just not sophisticated or convincing in any way. And that the people of the Catholic Worker would’ve chewed up in the 1930s and just said, “This is lame.”

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, you have to have such a surface level understanding of Catholicism. You really have to understand of Catholicism as a social movement, rather than religion, because to think that it’s compatible with communism, because communism is essentially a religion, I mean in effect, it’s a faith at the very least. I know a lot of people, we’ve had a lot of problems in the Catholic Church over the past 60 years, let’s just say that. And there is some that would claim a lot of it has to do with this infiltration of the Catholic Church.

And one area I wanted to bring up specifically was, I know in my own studies of Vatican II that there was sent out when after John XXIII announced we’re going to have a council, there was sent out a questionnaire, like a survey to bishops. And the number one topic that came back that they wanted to address was communism, specifically to condemn it. And yet that was dropped. And the story is it has to do with the fact that they wanted to have Orthodox there and the Russian Orthodox wouldn’t be able to come if they’re going to condemn communism, all that. Do we have any evidence that perhaps it was more than that, that behind the scenes there was actually infiltration of communist officials at high levels in the church that put a kibosh on any condemnation of communism at the council?

Paul Kengor:

Now we speculate that if there was indeed an infiltration of what would’ve been some of the ramifications, implications, ripple effects, that perhaps that might have been one of them, right? Because they were scandalously silent on communism in the schemas for Vatican II that were published on communism, they were basically unpublished. They were relegated to footnotes. It’s outrageous what they did. This church, which was phenomenal, I’d say supernatural in its wisdom on communism, going back to Pope Pius IX Qui pluribus, published in 1846, two years before the Communist Manifesto was even published, Leo XIII, with all these different statements, Pius X, the XI. Divini Redemptoris published in 1937, calling communism a satanic scourge right out of the pit of hell, orchestrated by the sons of darkness. The 1949 Papal Decree Against Communism, which would’ve excommunicated America Magazine for what it had published in 2019.

So you had all of this, and then all of a sudden, Vatican II, at height of The Cold War, Khrushchev, Kennedy, Cuban Missile Crisis 1962, right? They are expecting consistently following this pattern, a strong condemnation of communism. You get nothing of the sort. And I don’t think it was just to somehow assuage whoever was in Moscow and what was going on there. Although Pope Paul VI did a kind of ostpolitik détente late 60s and early 1970s. But they just totally, totally, totally blew it at Vatican II on communism. And we quote in the book different people who think that that might have been the result of just a sort of general softness in the church by some cardinals and other prelates who were rising up at that point, exerted their influence. Maybe even some of the more liberal prelates surrounding Pope Francis today. Sometimes it depends on who’s in charge and the influence that they’re having.

I would add here too, look at liberation theology, man. I mean, that is clearly Marxist influenced. And this could have been too. Life is so much more complicated. It could have been that maybe some of these seminarians did get through, and they became just sort of general left wing, socialistically inclined priests. Maybe some of them even became believers, I don’t know. But they were kind of men of the left, and then they got in and they got into seminaries and everything else, and they kind of spread their influence and pushed a kind of religious left, social justice gospel.

I should add Manning Johnson who testified before Congress, he said under oath, he said, “If we had an organization of 10,000 people,” and he talked about the infiltration of Protestant churches and seminaries, he said, “If we had an organization of 10,000 people,” we meaning the communists, “all we needed was 60 to 70 hard and disciplined party members and we could hijack that organization.” He said it is an axiom of communist organizing that you don’t need even more than 1% to control an organization. And I’ve seen this. I mean I’ve seen organizations completely taken over and hijacked and yanked to the left by a small board or group of people, and against the entirety of what the membership and rank and file even want. And communists were very shrewd at this, very, very good at recognizing it and exploiting it.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, that’s something I wanted to bring up, was just that I’ve seen this too, very much so that it only takes a small number of people in an organization to really take over the organization if they’re militant, if they’re hardcore, and you maybe have some sympathizers as well with them, that’s enough to really do it, because most people aren’t militant enough in anything to fight it and you see that. So I know one of the things that, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t tell Bella Dodd tell Dietrich Von Hildebrand that there were four cardinals? Like she said there’s four cardinals and he wanted names and she wouldn’t give them to them.

But four cardinals in the 1960s at the Vatican, depending on their position, who they were, that could have a huge influence, because if you’re a cardinal you’re already pretty high ranking. And there’s certain cardinals that even have more influence if they’re Secretary of State or something like that. I’m not saying the Secretary of State back then was a communist. I don’t even know who it was. But the point is, is that it doesn’t mean saying the church was infiltrated by communists doesn’t mean you’re saying that the majority of bishops of Vatican II were communist. In fact, I’d be very willing to bet that the majority of bishops at Vatican II were anti-communists.

Paul Kengor:

Sure. Oh, no question.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. Yeah. But the fact is, is we know for a fact, I mean this is something that’s indisputable, is that the church starting around that time, 1960s or so, particularly in politics, became softer on communism, became much more dominated by the Catholic left, so to speak, by Christian left social justice, things like that. That’s just what happened. And so you do have to ask yourselves the question, if the communists really did infiltrate, how would it be different than what actually happened? So I mean, that actually did happen. And today we have, I mean, I’ll be blunt, our current Pope seems to be very soft on communism. He’s had a number of things that he’s said and done that make it clear that, I mean, the way he deals with China and some other things he’s said, and definitely higher ranking people.

Paul Kengor:

By the way, that’s the perfect example. And you and I both, without beating up on Pope Francis, which we don’t, right, but he has said, it was in 2013, he said, “The Marxist ideology is wrong.” And by the way, that’s the only thing he’s ever said on Marxist. He doesn’t say anything else. Nothing else. And then the remainder of that quote is, “But I have a lot of close friends who are Marxist,” okay? So let’s say that he’s not a Marxist. He’s not even pro-Marxist, but he’s soft on the issue, which he clearly is. He clearly is. How would that manifest itself? And by the way, if he was influenced by Marxist friends, some of them may be being Catholics, right? So here they can influence the guy. You see how this works? They can influence him. And how would they influence him? Well, look at what he’s done with China.

He’s terrible on China. He’s terrible on China. Look at his silence on Nicaragua. Right? So that’s a perfect example right there. So people are today looking at Pope Francis and saying there’s been no condemnation of communism at all from this guy, almost in a 10-year pontificate almost. Why? Well, he doesn’t have to be a Communist Party member, but if he’s soft on the issue, and if he’s been influenced on the issue by people around him, that’s how this works. And the communists were really good at understanding you didn’t need to make somebody a party member. But if you could just mislead that person, if you could get people who are more like agents of influence, you could really have an effect there. Look at the undue influence that someone like Father James Martin has. Look at what the Germans are doing right now, and they’re a small, not even minority, like a clique within this massive church of a billion people.

But look at the influence they’re having. So sometimes you just have to get a few and you can just wreak havoc. And most people don’t wake up in the morning wanting to go to war fighting the LGBTQ movement over whether or not there’s a rainbow flag at the county courthouse, right? Most people in the Boy Scouts don’t want to fight the people who want the Boy Scouts … Most people just want to be left alone. But you get these kind of hardcore hellbent people who treat their ideology indeed like a religion, and they are motivated and they are militant, and they could cause enormous damage.

Eric Sammons:

And I think ultimately, I think the things we can say for sure is the Communist Party at least attempted to infiltrate the Catholic Church.

Paul Kengor:

Oh, no question. Yeah.

Eric Sammons:

And we also know, I think there’s no question that communism influenced the Catholic Church because we see that very clearly. Because as you’ve document in the book very well, and you mentioned it here briefly, the Catholic Church, I don’t think people realize this today, how anti-communist the Catholic Church was before the 1960s. Fulton Sheen of course was an anti-communist crusader, but it’s not like he was like a lone crusader, the only Catholic bishop in the world doing this. The popes were condemning it. I mean, they were explicitly condemning it. They weren’t just saying, “Oh, it’s just not the greatest thing, maybe.” No, they were explicitly condemning it as evil and the church was. So the fact that that stopped happening around the 1960s or so, I mean clearly then there’s an influence. And just the idea of a so-called Catholic magazine saying the Catholic taste for communism, it just, I mean even under JP II, who of course was obviously one of the great anti-communists of the world, but it was underneath him, a lie that was still going on.

Paul Kengor:

By the way, the author of that piece for American Magazine is I believe a member of the Canadian Communist Party. And he’s writing, I mean what are they going to publish next? The Catholic case for atheism? But I had one interviewer said, “I don’t understand why Sheen though would’ve thought it was so scandalous that he would’ve told Bella not to talk about it.”

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, I wanted to ask about that.

Paul Kengor:

This isn’t like pedophile priest or something. But I said, “Well, let me answer that.” And you’ve already made the case, Eric, when you consider where the church was in the 1930s, all right? Now, 1930s, it was Stalin Soviet Union. It was the Communist Party movement. That was the enemy on the world stage. It’s before World War II, right? Communism is the evil ideology. The church had been condemning it since 1846. In 1937, the church in a official and cyclical Divini Redemptoris calls it a satanic scourge. The church says, “What is communism? It’s evil. It’s from the pit of hell, it’s demonic.” The church called it demonic. So given that, and communism was theism out there, that the church was opposing to, if someone like Fulton Sheen had come out and said to the country, “I’ve got somebody who’s converted to the church who’s told me that guess what? The church has been infiltrated. There are communists in the seminaries.” I mean that would’ve been a nuclear bomb at the time. That would’ve been really scandalous. And so Sheen’s response was, let’s just fight it. Let’s just counter it. Let’s go out and fight it.

Eric Sammons:

I just read an article this week actually at Crisis about JP II and the potential of a coverup of sex abuse when he was archbishop of Krakow. And I don’t think there’s really evidence for it, but just I do think people need to understand it was a very different time in the Catholic Church, particularly before the 1960s in how church prelates perceived the church and the importance of the reputation. We think today when a bishop covers something up today, they’re just trying to save their own skin and they probably are. That’s exactly what they are doing.

But back then, there was really the equation of the calculation of, okay, souls are what matter the most. So somebody obviously JP II, and somebody like Bishop Sheen, that was the most important thing. And so their calculation is, okay, how will souls be best served to bring them to salvation with this information? And Fulton Sheen made the calculation, which I think hindsight, we can criticize, we can say, yeah, and that’s fine. It’s a little bit of Monday morning quarterbacking. But the idea is I think his equation was simply, okay, if these names get named it’s going to do more damage to souls than if they don’t and we just fight communism. And I think in hindsight we want all those names. I mean we wish we knew who were the actual cardinals, for example, the four Cardinals that Bella Dodd mentioned.

Paul Kengor:

By the way, look, think about the prudence of Fulton Sheen here. Could you imagine if they went public with it, they would’ve had a call for a crusade to cleanse the seminaries, right? And this would’ve been, the left would’ve said, “This is McCarthyism,” right? This is Hollywood with the blacklist, right? Red under every bed, red under every bed of every seminary. They would’ve so ridiculed us. And the Communist Party would’ve been like, “Fulton Sheen thinks there’s a communist under every bed.” And you would’ve had the Duke religious left pastors would’ve joined in the chorus, “Paranoia. Paranoia.”

Eric Sammons:

I mean you get that today.

Paul Kengor:

They would have ridiculed it.

Eric Sammons:

I mean people today ridicule us for even saying this.

Paul Kengor:

Right? They’ll make fun of us for talking about. They won’t either read the book. They’ll just say, “This crackpot’s got out his book about this infiltration to the church.” Yeah, they won’t even read it. And so much of this information, again, especially on the Protestant infiltration, is under sworn oath. I quote in the book too, Louis Budenz who said, “The communist plan to wage a war in the Catholic Church is the basis for obliterating all religion.” That’s almost verbatim.

Who was Louis Budenz? He was the editor of The Daily Worker. And he said that to Congress, and this is beautiful. Fulton Sheen brought Louis Budenz back into the Catholic Church while Louis Budenz name was still on the masthead of The Daily Worker as the editor. I mean, you just can’t beat that. But Louis Budenz said that, right, war on the Catholic Church is a basis for obliterating all religion. So it was going on. There’s no question about it. Was it a conspiracy? Yeah, it actually was a conspiracy. These were evil, bad dudes.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. Two more things I want to bring up here. One is that your two books, recent books are The Devil and Karl Marx, and The Devil and Bella Dodd. Now, we can’t forget the headliner of both those books, which is The Devil. And so I still think today a lot of people think communism, yeah, it wasn’t so great. It was bad. Stalin did some terrible things, whatever. But I still feel like, I don’t think people see the connection that you are definitely making between communism and the devil. I mean, basically Satan himself. Can you talk about what is the connection there between these two movements of the devil? What’s the devil’s involvement, I should say, with the communist movement?

Paul Kengor:

Yeah, even people like Ronald Reagan said in a speech to the Irish Parliament 1984, as president, this isn’t just a battle about economics and rockets and missiles. This is a spiritual battle. The church even called it again, called communism, demonic, satanic. And I should note here, big, big, big difference in the title and focus of those two books. Karl Marx wrote poetry about the devil. The stuff that Marx wrote about the devil is chilling. And to the end of his life, he was a miserable, angry atheist. Now, Bella Dodd, who described communism, her battle against communism and to extricate herself from communism as a battle with the devil.

And in fact, she said, I was asked, I’ve been asked, who’s the head of this international communist conspiracy? She said, “That’s easy. I’d have to say it’s Lucifer. Rather than Stalin, rather than the Comintern, it’s Lucifer.” I mean she came to the point where she believed that the real answer here is less political and ideological than it is spiritual. And in her case, unlike Marx, there’s a happy ending with Bella Dodd. She pulls away from the devil of communism and finds redemption and is brought into the church through Fulton Sheen. But that’s the key difference. But yeah, it’s a spiritual battle. Not just political. Not just economic. It’s deeper than that, which is probably why it’s still going on.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. Well, yeah, absolutely. And I think though that is the difference between the two books is that unfortunately The Devil and Karl Marx has a sad ending because Karl Marx never repented.

Paul Kengor:

This has a happy ending.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, this one has a happy ending. Well, let’s talk about that a little bit. So what was it that brought, I mean, Bella Dodd, like you said, she’s like the Whittaker Chambers. I mean, she was hardcore communist, a top leader, and yet she found Christ in the Catholic Church. What were the factors that brought her into the Catholic Church?

Paul Kengor:

Well, there’s so many. I got to be careful. I could probably spend a lot of time going through all of them. But one thing that’s really clear, she wanted to have a family. She really longed for a family, A communist manifesto literally says, people won’t believe this. You could look it up. Abolition of the family, exclamation mark. Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the communists. So they’re not just talking about abolishing private property and capital and entire societies and human nature, but they even want to abolish the family on top of religion.

And she said, “I wanted to have a family, but the comrades dissuaded me.” She longed for children. She came from a family of like 10 children in Italy, but they told her no. That was one thing. Hitler-Stalin Pact. Everything else, she just came to really see so many of these communists did what the party was really all about, which is why so many of them eventually broke away. So rather than her leaving, the party expelled her in 1948, and we quoted the start of the first or second chapter, a phone call that she gets from an AP reporter. And the AP reporter says, “Dr. Dodd, we have a message here from the Communist Party. It says that you are anti-negro, anti-Puerto Rican, anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi, pro-fascist,” just the same thing they always say.

Eric Sammons:

That’s what they’re saying today to anybody.

Paul Kengor:

That’s what they’re saying today. They’ve been doing this for a hundred years. All right, when they want to smear you, they just say, “Let me see, where’s the playbook? Okay, page one, huh, racist. Yeah, there it is,” right? It’s just what they do. And she said, “I have no comment.” And I mean, the idea that she was anti-Semitic, all of her closest friends were Jewish. When she got married, they were like four people at the ceremony. They were all Jewish, her bridesmaid, it wasn’t a bridesmaid because it wasn’t in a church, but it was Jewish. And it’s absurd. Here it is, 75 years later, and I’m defending whether or not Bella Dodd is anti-Semitic. This is what they do. They do this to everybody. So they tried to cancel her. They tried to smear her. She’s being followed by the KGB and the FBI. Her life is threatened.

One of her friends, Juliet Poyntz, who used to be on the party, she was killed by the party. Whittaker Chambers talked about that. That’s kind of a famous incident. But she goes in 1951, she goes to Congress to talk to her friend Congressman McGrath, who’s a congressman from New York. And he said, “Bella, you just looked wiped out. Isn’t there anything I can do for you?” And she said, “No, I’m being followed by the KGB, the FBI. I’m just trying to get along.” And he said, “Would you like to see a priest?” And she said from the depth of her soul, she just said, “Yes, yes, I’d like to see a priest.”

And so Congressman McGrath said to his secretary, Rose, “Rose, why don’t you call Monsignor Sheen at Catholic University and see if he’s available?” So they called him up and he said, “Yeah, bring her over.” So that night, that evening, she went to Sheen’s apartment in Chevy Chase, Maryland. She writes about this in her memoir, School of Darkness. She said, “I opened the door and he looked just like you did on TV with a giant pectoral cross. I walk in,” and she said, “My communist friends would’ve said, you old Bolshevik bag, you old hag, get out of here, you know, you racist, anti-Semite.”

But she said, “He looked at me and smiled and said, I’m so glad you’ve come. Come on in.” And she came inside. And unlike the brutes in the Communist Party, he was all mercy. And he put his hand on her shoulder and she just started to weep. And he said, “There, there. It’s okay. It’s okay.” And he said, “I could see that you’re hurting.” She said, “How can you tell?” He said, “Well, we priests are doctors of the soul and we could just sort of look at a patient and tell when he’s hurting.”

So she said after about 15 minutes she doesn’t even know how she got there, but she just found herself on her knees with Sheen in front of a statue of the Blessed Mother in his private chapel. By the way, her original name is Maria Assunta Isabella Visono. Maria meaning Mary. Assunta meaning the assumption in Italian. And they’re there in front of a statue of the Blessed Mother. He gives her a rosary and he said, “I’m going to be going to New York in the spring. Why don’t you come see me for private instruction into the church?” And she said, “Okay.” So she saw him for private instruction throughout the winter and spring of 1952, and he baptized her at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I actually think he figured she had already been baptized in her youth, but brought her into the church on April 7th, 1952.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, that’s wonderful. And it is a good reminder. This is a great way to end this because communism is probably the most … It was the most dominant force of the 20th century. It’s still with us today. It’s a huge dominant force. It is incredibly evil, yet it is so anti-human and so anti-natural and so anti-God that it has no real power over God. God can, I mean, touch a heart like Bella Dodd’s because he is more powerful. And so we can get distressed. We can get upset about the influence of communism on the Catholic Church and we should be upset about that and distressed at times. But ultimately it has no real power because the devil has no real power other than what God allows him to do. And so the same thing with communism. And ultimately God does win in the end. I have that on high authority that God wins in the end.

Paul Kengor:

Amen.

Eric Sammons:

So, okay, I’m going to wrap it up here. Paul, this is great. I’m going to put a link to the book. It’s from TAN, right?

Paul Kengor:

It is from TAN Books.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, TAN Books.

Paul Kengor:

TAN Books.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah. They do some great work. I will put a link to that, the new book, because it’s just new. I mean, it just came out last month, I believe.

Paul Kengor:

Came out in November. And by the way, TAN Books has just reissued Fulton Sheen’s great 1948 book, Communism and the Conscience of the West.

Eric Sammons:

Oh, good.

Paul Kengor:

And so yes, people should go there to the TAN website and buy that book for somebody for Christmas. It’s an amazing book.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, definitely. I’m going to write that down to link on the shownotes. I’ll put a link to that one as well. I’m glad to hear that. That’s awesome.

Paul Kengor:

Yeah.

Eric Sammons:

Okay. Well, thanks again, Paul. I really appreciate it.

Paul Kengor:

Thanks, Eric. Good to be with you anytime. And thanks for all you do for Crisis Magazine.

Eric Sammons:

Thanks. Okay, everybody, until next time, God love you.

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