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Book Reviews 127 The Coughlin-Fahey Connection: Father Charles E. Coughlin, Father Denis Fahey, C.S.Sp., and Religious AJiti-Semitism in the United States, 1938-1954, by Mary Christine Athans. New York: Peter Lang, 1991. 265 pp. $43.95. Mary Christine Athans purports to give us a new insight into the thought-world of America's most notorious antisemite of the thirties, the famed Radio Priest Charles E. Coughlin. It is certainly a legitimate task, in that other biographers of Coughlin, Charles Tull, Sheldon Marcus, and Alan Brinkley, gave little attention to the larger context of Catholic antisemitism in explaining their subject. Athans undertook a daunting task made doubly difficult by the unwillingness of the Radio Priest to speak with her before his death in 1979 and even more discouraging by the fact that apparently he destroyed many of his papers. But Athans seems to have finessed this problem by stumbling on a cache of papers of a relatively obscure Irish seminary professor, Father Denis Fahey, who carried on a lively correspondence with the Radio Priest and whose ideas and books on the Jewish question Coughlin quoted from and made available to an American audience. Denis Fahey, of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost (the same group that gave the world dissident traditionalist Marcel LeFebvre), Athans argues, provided intellectual substance to Coughlin's antisemitism. She was able to draw on 2700 pages of fresh archival material for this study, in addition to numerous interviews with those who remembered and worked with Fahey, including those who disagreed with him. Athans' book succeeds in opening up a window into the ideological substance ofCatholic antisemitism. The reader received a mental road map of the unique twists and turns Catholic social teaching took in the mind of this Irish seminary professor. His main ideas were set out in a small book, The Kingship of Christ According to the Principles of St. Thomas Aquinas, which appeared in 1931. At the risk of oversimplifying Fahey's rather complex thought, the main outlines of his writing drew heavily on the paradigm of the Mystical Body of Christ, which Catholics of the thirties, forties, and fifties used as their model for social order. All society, according to this model, was to be configured and ordered in relationship to Christ who as "first-born of all creation" was the head of the human family and the integrator of the social order. Naturally Christ's headship of the human family proved problematic to the Jews (as it did for all other non-Christians) since they did not accept the Messianic claims ofJesus of Nazareth. As such, to the extent that they resisted God's plan for the 128 SHOFAR Spring 1994 Vol. 12, No.3 world, the Jews were a stumbling block to proper social order. Moreover, Jewish involvement in Bolshevism and in other international conspiracies found ready acceptance in the thought-world of Denis Fahey. Fahey, for example, utilized The Protocols of the Elders ofZion in his work. Athans stresses that Fahey's interpretations were distinctive, yet he was not completely removed from the mainstream of Catholic social thinking and drew on other Catholic intellectuals to bolster his claims. Moreover, he continued to publish on these issues long after his American disciple Coughlin had faded from the scene. Athans is at her best when she is giving an intellectual tour of Fahey's mind, although she goes a bit too much into the man's personality and family life. Yet this book fails to drive home its main point, namely that Fahey provided the intellectual infrastructure for Coughlin's antisemitism. As Athans admits, the first contact between Fahey and Coughlin occurred in 1938, late in the Radio Priest's career. While the timing does indeed dovetail with the antisemitic phase of Coughlin's public career, no convincing evidence is brought forth that Coughlin was pushed in this direction by reading or consulting Fahey. That the two met and collaborated seemed more out of an attempt on the part of the Radio Priest to give intellectual respectability to his plainly outrageous public behavior and to fend off the queries of Roman and archdiocesan authorities as well as accusations of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 127-128
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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