Catholic Power Today
By Avro Manhattan
Lyle Stuart, 1967, 288 pp.
The first Gospel-preaching church my wife and I attended after we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior had an information table in the lobby that was stocked with tracts, including tracts from Chick Publications. I was a naive baby Christian who didn’t know any better at the time, so I ordered many books and pamphlets from Chick. Much of the material from Chick that focused on Roman Catholicism dealt in half-truths and conspiracy theories. I wasted a lot of time and money on Chick’s “yellow journalism.”
Included in Chick’s offerings were several books on Catholicism by Avro Manhattan (né Teofilo Lucifero Gardini, 1914-1990). Manhattan was born in Milan, Italy but emigrated to England at the time of the Second World War. The author was a professional anti-Catholic gadfly, penning fifteen books between 1946 and 1988 that were critical of Catholicism. It was clear from his books that Manhattan was not a born-again Christian, but rather, his objections to Catholicism stemmed from his support of secular libertarianism. By publishing books from unbeliever, Manhattan, Chick was following the ancient maxim, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In marked contrast to Chick, secularist Manhattan dealt in verifiable facts.
I stumbled across Manhattan’s “Catholic Power Today” (1967) in our library’s catalog and decided to give it a spin for old time’s sake. The first 192 pages describe many examples of the RCC’s political and cultural domination in nations where it was able legislate its advantages. In nations outside the sphere of Catholic hegemony, the church used various means to influence and intimidate officials and political leaders. Manhattan documents the RCC’s ability to block publications critical of Catholicism, even in “Protestant countries” such as the U.K. and the U.S.A.
“Catholic Power Today” becomes really interesting in the final 96 pages. Manhattan devotes the final three chapters to the Catholic hierarchy’s political interference in the British colony of Malta from the late-1950s into the early-1960s, in South Vietnam during the disastrous Diem dictatorship from 1955 until 1963, and in Croatia during the Second World War. Manhattan would later flesh out the last two cases in detail in subsequent books. Catholicism’s strong support of the murderous Ustaša in Croatia is shocking almost beyond description.*
This book was written fifty-two years ago and many of Manhattan’s warnings regarding the dangers of Catholic hegemony are no longer pertinent. At the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the RCC changed its official approach to Protestants and non-Catholic religions from militant confrontation to accommodation and collegiality, although it would take several decades for intolerance to cease in many countries. Even today, in some rural regions of Latin America, persecution of Protestants is still in evidence. However, the reality is that the RCC has lost much of its political influence in the West since this book was published. These days, beleaguered by scandal and threats of schism, the church is having great trouble convincing its members to attend obligatory mass on Sunday let alone strong-arming civic leaders and politicians. The danger today is Rome’s appeal to Protestants in the cause of ecumenical false unity. Sadly, many evangelical pastors and para-church leaders are ignoring irreconcilable doctrinal differences and embracing the Catholic church with it’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit as a Christian entity.
This book is valuable, though, for reminding us of the RCC’s historical penchant for authoritarian control and deadly intolerance.
*See Manhattan’s “The Vatican’s Holocaust” (Chick Publications, 1986) for a detailed account of the RCC’s support of the Croatian Ustaša’s genocidal crusade against Eastern Orthodox Serbs during World War II. Few people are aware of this neglected chapter of history (850,000 Serbian civilians were slaughtered by the Catholic-sanctioned, fascist Ustaša). See the Wiki article on the Ustaša here.