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Jesse Russell, Ph.D. | Remnant Columnist

“It was real grease ball [stuff]”...

In one of the best of many aesthetically excellent scenes in his classic (but deeply immoral and therefore unwatchable) 1990 Goodfellas, the sadly lapsed Catholic Martin Scorsese depicts the death of the mobster Tommy DeVito, superbly played by Joe Pesci.

Tommy, thinking that he was on his way to “being made” and initiated into the inner sanctum of the Sicilian Mafia, dresses and prepares for his big moment while the actor Ray Liotta provides a wise guy history of the process of “being made.”

The viewer eagerly anticipates the moment when Tommy is going to be made but is violently shocked to see Joe Pesci’s character shot in the back of the head while looking into an empty room.

Part I: War and Rumors of War...

rods mirrors

Former head of CIA counterintelligence and infamous spymaster, James Jesus Angleton, once described the Cold War world of espionage and intrigue as a “wilderness of mirrors.”

As more and more of the clerical abuse scandal is revealed, and layers of conspiracy and confusion are peeled away, many Catholics may feel as though they are walking around in their own wilderness of mirrors, a mess of doubt and confusion in which no one can be trusted.

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
 – Fred Rogers

It is been a bad year in Fr. James Martin SJ (aka “Uncle Jim”)’s neighborhood, as almost all of Uncle Jim’s neighborly neighbors have run afoul of scandal.

Things have gone from bad to worse for Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, NJ, who had endorsed Fr. Martin’s 2017 manifesto of the new and improved Lavender mafia, Building a Bridge, as “brave, prophetic and inspiring.”

Charles Dickens famously begins his 1859 classic, A Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

This sentiment encapsulates the drunken, heady optimism mixed with feelings of doubt and concern that marked the John Paul II era of the Catholic Church in America, which had crested at the turn of the third millennium. 

“Just as the unity of human society cannot be founded on an opposition of classes, so also the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching.” Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno (1931)

Although largely unnoticed in the Catholic press, there has been an odd shakeup at First Things magazine. Once the grand old dame of Catholic neoconservativism, First Things has, over the past two years, dared to question one of the sacrosanct tenets of Catholic neoconservativism: free market economics.

In the midst of trying to distance themselves from fallout from the Cardinal Theodore “Uncle Teddy” McCarrick scandals--one of the most influential, well connected, and well known figures of the post-Cardinal Bernardin American hierarchy--the Catholic left has, in recent weeks, vomited forth a stream of leftist propaganda.

In July of 1984, the then Lutheran pastor Richard John Neuhaus, previously known across America for his Civil Rights activism and his leadership of Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam, was brought to Bohemian Grove, the exclusive and scandalous northern California retreat of wealthy Republicans, by John Howard, president of the conservative think tank, the Rockford Institute. While visiting Bohemian, Neuhaus met with Edwin Meese III, who would later serve as Attorney General of the United States during Ronald Reagan’s second term. In between a little R & R, Meese and Pastor Neuhaus hashed a plan for Neuhaus to visit Reagan’s White House later that year in order to give a briefing on “Religion and Politics.” This briefing was, in effect, one of the most important events of Pastor Neuhaus’s life and would come to cast a shadow over the Catholic Church in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, for it was, at heart, the wedding ceremony between social conservativism and the Republican Party.

On November 14, 1996, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin passed from this world into the next. The loss of Cardinal Bernardin in the mid-90s, as John Paul II’s popularity was reaching its zenith, marked not simply the end of a powerful man, but the end of an era. As the more politically conservative New York Cardinal Francis Spellman was the generation before, Cardinal Bernardin was the most powerful man during the heyday of the Vatican II aggiornamento in the Catholic Church in America.

In many ways, in addition to being the rainmaker for American bishops in the 1980s, Joseph Bernardin was a brilliant manipulator of public opinion, who was able to overcome a lifetime of accusations of misconduct--directed both against His imminence and a slew of personal friends and priests under Bernardin’s care.

“And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”  - Mark 3:25

Over at First Things, one of the last redoubts of Catholic neoconservativism, John Waters has a curious article, “How U2 betrayed Rock and Roll,” arguing that the Irish quartet of aging rockers’ recent support of the “yes” vote in the Irish referendum on abortion is the unfortunate culmination of the band’s spiritual and musical degeneration throughout the 90s and 2000s.

However, Waters’ critique is followed by an odd affirmation that the Dubliner rockers, who had identified with Christianity off and on in their careers, were once a “sincere and thoughtful group,” concerned with the noble task of “truth-telling.”

In fact, Waters even argues further that rock and roll is at least rooted in the authentic, nay even Christian spirituality of the singing of black slaves in the antebellum American South—although Waters does admit that the “relationship between Christ and rock ’n’ roll is paradoxical at best.”

While Waters is correct in his deserved praise of the aesthetic quality of U2’s music, he errs in his assessment of rock and roll’s allegedly noble roots.

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Despite obvious precedence in Gospel-infused songs sung by slaves as well as in European ballads possibly dating back to the Paleolithic period, rock and roll has always been evil. At risk of reviving the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, it must be noted that there is no more relation between Christ and rock and roll than there is between Christ and Satan.

Since its first conjuring by bluesman Robert Johnson who claimed to have received his musical abilities from the devil himself at the crossroads near Clarksdale, Mississippi, the lyrics, rhythm and harmony, and iconography of rock and roll has drawn from the murky, Stygian world of the occult.

The greatest rock musicians, from early acts like Elvis and the Rolling Stones and 70s psychedelic and hard rock giants like the Doors and Led Zeppelin to more recent artists like Pearl Jam, and, of course U2--not to mention Luciferan hip hop artists like Jay-Z--have been overtly and proudly Satanic.

The immediate reaction to these statements from guilty-as-charged Christian fans of these musical groups is one of disbelief, dismissal, and (perhaps even spastic) anger. The actual practice of Crowleyan Satanism, the chanting of spells in songs, and mimicking of the rhythm of pagan ritual in music is pooh poohed as merely the eccentric and odd behavior characteristic of rock and roll, and Christian fans of pop and rock usually dismiss the ability for this satanic influence to affect devoted and mature fans like themselves.

Despite the resistance such an analysis might trigger, to understand the essentially diabolical nature of rock and roll, we must focus on the rock and roll band par excellence, the group that on February 9, 1964, just three months after the public execution of the first Catholic president in United States history, appeared on the Ed Sullivan show to choreographed screaming of the newly invented American teenager, the Beatles.

Landing upon American shores in the wake of the budding trauma of the Vietnam War, the Beatles showed up just in time for the Kulchurkampf against the old Christian order. As has oft been remarked by Beatles fans themselves, the quartet from Liverpool changed everything from American hairstyles and clothing apparel to religious and sexual norms--lapsed Catholic Sinead O’Connor even once referred to the Fab Four as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” because of the radical cultural sea-change they affected in the Western world. Humming the songs of the Beatles, no longer would the youth follow the traditions of their ancestors; the newly minted teenager excited on free love and LSD would lead the way in culture creation.

The Beatles were, in fact, outspoken in their desire to be rid of Christianity.

John Lennon famously stated in a London Evening Standard interview published in March of 1966, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I know I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now. I don't know which will go first – rock & roll or Christianity.” While Lennon’s words prompted fierce backlash from Christians around the world, his words proved to be prophetic, as the rock and roll culture spawned by the Beatles that packaged together sexual license, rebellion, and psychedelic tinged occultism became not merely the vanguard of “progress,” but the modus operandi of the everyday lives of people the world over. As a visibly nervous Lennon in a televised interview matter of factly defended his statement by noting that the Beatles were having “more influence on kids and things than anyone else, including Jesus.”

Since Vatican II’s “auto-demolition of the faith” was well under way and Protestantism was itself dissolving as a cultural force in the West, there was no longer a strong enough cultural resistance in the West to this new pagan assault.

As if a potent and seductive reply to their Christian critics, in 1967, the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a veritable circus of sex, drugs, and occultism.


Taking aim at the “stiff upper lip,” post-war Britain and the remnants of Eisenhower’s America, the album contained such anti-Christian songs as “All the Lonely People,” deriding the pious Eleanor Rigby and the Catholic priest, Fr. Mckenzie. The implication was that Christianity was boring, but the hip new Hinduism peddled in songs like “Within You Without You” would provide an authentic, guilt-free and loving faith to supplement the ancient Christian faith of the West.

While the Beatles battled back against Christian resistance with promises of free love, progress, and psychedelic drugs in their music, Sgt. Peppers album cover has been the subject of intense speculation among Beatle fans as well as conspiracy-minded Christian critics. Some have argued that the seeming hodge podge of characters on the album cover consists of alleged “fans” (both living and dead) of the Beatles. However, interviews with those involved with the album’s creation reveal that these figures were, for the most part, chosen personally by the Beatles and represent influences on the band.

It is curious to note that virtually every figure on the album cover is either a pioneer of the unholy trinity of sex drugs and rock and roll and/or was heavily involved in the occult.

The album includes a number of “Venus” characters who helped further the sexual revolution in the early and mid-twentieth century. In addition to the degenerate actress Diana Dors, there is, of course, the tragic Marilyn Monroe as well as Mae West, the first major Hollywood icon of impurity, who was, among other things, heavily involved in séances, a participant in the first on screen lesbian kiss, and a star of an early film, Drag, in which cross-dressing men were featured. As an added bonus, there is Shirley Temple, one of Hollywood’s first attempts at the sexualization of children.

Very interestingly for a radical band, there also are a number of architects of modern totalitarianism who combined the use of technology, drug use, and eugenics for their vision of a New World Order such as Karl Marx, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells Aldous Huxley.

And then there are the three “wild card” figures of the Sgt. Pepper’s cover. The first is Aleister Crowley, the founder of modern Satanism personally chosen by John Lennon to be the album cover. In fact, when asked to summarize the message or spirit of the Beatles, Lennon would later quote Aleister Crowley’s maxim, “Do What Thou Wilt.”

There are two figures who, very interestingly, did not make it on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ. Both figures were chosen by Beatles’ front man, John Lennon, but Christ was not included as it would be considered too irreverent, and Hitler was scrapped for obvious reasons.

The presence of Christ is interesting, for there are many quotes from Lennon blaspheming Christ and mocking Christianity. However, in the New Age movement of which the Beatles were devotees, a dethroned Christ as rabbi and guru is endorsed.

As Adolf Hitler was a rabid occultist and advocate of eugenics and the New Age version of Nietzsche’s ubermensch or the god-like man above men, it is no surprise that Lennon would have tried to place the cruel Austrian painter turned dictator on the cover of one of the most influential rock albums of all time.

Sgt. Pepper’s was released only one year before the “Summer of Love,” which initiated the Aquarian Age of sex, drugs, and rock and roll as well as the 68 student revolutions that accelerated the process of colonizing the Western university for the cause of cultural Marxism.

The psychedelic drug peddling, occult infused, and Christ-mocking message of Sgt. Pepper’s was thus enough not simply to push back against Christianity, but to initiate an eruption of Eastern Mysticism and poisonous New Age spirituality into the West.

As part of their efforts to midwife Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism to the West, the Beatles even made a pilgrimage East, not to the Holy Cities of Rome or Jerusalem as their English ancestors might have, but to Rishikes,h India in February of 1968 to study under the famous Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who is credited with bringing transcendental meditation to the West.

If, dear reader, transcendental meditation or “T.M.” rings a bell, it should because Katy Perry, apparently an acquaintance of good Pope Francis, recently taught transcendental meditation to attendees at the Vatican sponsored Unite to Cure conference.

Charged with a mission of bringing a new spiritual teaching to the world via rock and roll, the Beatles took a journey to the East, but as many have noted, the Beatles, in fact, brought the West with them on their journey, and helped to inaugurate the New Age movement, which has become the religion of choice for so many former Christians.

Perhaps the most emblematic song of this deliberate replacement of Christianity by Hinduism and the New Age was recorded by “the Quiet Beatle,” George Harrison. Harrison’s 1970 hit “My Sweet Lord” begins as seeming prayer to Christ and a longing to “see” him but quickly turns into prayers to Hindu gods. Fully aware of his attempts at initiated the youth of the West into Eastern mysticism, Harrison specifically stated that it was his goal to get children to think they were praising Christ at first and then transition them to praying to Hare Krishna:

“My ideas in ‘My Sweet Lord,’ because it sounded like a ‘pop song,’ was to sneak up on them a bit. The point was to have the people not offended by ‘Halleluja,’ and by the time it gets to ‘Hare Krishna,’ they’re already hooked, and their foot’s taping and they’re already singing along ‘Hallelujah,’ to kind of lull them into this sense of false security. And then suddenly it turns into ‘Hare Krishna,’ and they will all be singing that before they know what’s happened, and they think, ‘Hey, I thought I wasn’t supposed to like Hare Krishna!’”  

The struggle between rock and roll and Christianity even factored into the murder of John Lennon in front of the Dakota apartment building in New York on December 8, 1980. The killer, Mark David Chapman, was a born again Christian who supposedly was angry about Lennon’s 1966 comment about the Beatles being “more popular than Jesus.” The apparently deranged Chapman further claimed to have been triggered by something about John Lennon’s picture on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s.

It is further tragically ironically that both Chapman and Lennon were both tormented by voices and spiritual presences as if they same demons that inspired rock and roll also infused the 1970s charismatic evangelical revival, a movement that often manifests itself in more intoxicating and Dionysian forms than even the most Bacchanalian rock concert.

After Lennon’s death, the remaining Beatles went on to produce even more bizarre and occult laden music and collect royalties from their music while spending their Golden Years dealing with the effects of psychedelic drugs, debauchery, and devil-worship.

However, the new religion of rock and roll initiated by the Beatles grew to become the dominant religion of the West, largely pushing Christianity out of the way.

In the struggle between Christianity and rock and roll, rock and roll has won—for now. The Beatles are, in fact, “bigger than Jesus” in the hearts and minds of many people of the world in this year of Our Lord 2018, and it should be no surprise that the faux Christian band U2, one of the innumerable spiritual heirs of the Beatles, should lend their support to the most horrific modern manifestations of Satanic ritual: abortion.

As Catholics, we will only be able to overcome the “culture of death” by rooting out all of its manifestations in our lives—including the presence of rock and roll music—and replacing the rock roll culture with a truly Catholic “civilization of love.”


A Remnant 70s Retro Special...

Michael Novak, the grandfather of the Catholic neocons, is best known for his 1982 tome The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, with which the son of Slovak peasants was able to craft a lucrative career as a salesman of free market economics to American Catholics. However, prior to The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, Novak was largely known in American culture as the feisty working class Catholic Democrat who authored The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics: The New Political Force of the 1970s.

This work, written ten years before The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, more than an argument for ethnic Catholic political power, was an attack on the WASP establishment that had ruled America since the 17th century, which Novak lampooned as a boorish, desiccated, and arrogant ruling class that was at the end of its tether.

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