The New York Times Mistakenly Equates Catholics With Anarchist Radicals

A New York Times piece purporting to defend Catholics and Muslims, actually smears Catholics in the process.

Here’s the line in question “In the years after World War I, Catholic radicals carried out a deadly wave of terrorist attacks in the United States“.

I wrote the author:

Can you tell me what you mean by “Catholic radicals” ? Any sources, links, etc would be appreciated. – Jose

Jose, I’m referring to the 1920 Wall Street bombing — – which was the largest act of domestic terrorism until Oklahoma City – – and to the 1919 bombing campaign, in which at least 42 targets were bombed. And I could add the assassination of president William McKinley. These acts were all committed by immigrants from Roman Catholic countries. (emphasis mine – Jose) Of course, their radicalism had nothing to do with the everyday beliefs of Catholic immigrants…. but that’s exactly the point, then as now.


Thanks for the response!
In your piece you refer to them as “Catholic radicals”, are you redefining Catholic to mean “from a Catholic country” ? Respectfully, that’s a bit of a stretch considering there are Coptic Christians living in Muslim nations. Are we to refer to them as Muslims too?

their radicalism had nothing to do with the everyday beliefs of Catholic immigrants”

Their radicalism had nothing to do with Catholicism, period! A tenuous connection to national origin does not equal theological terror on par with current events in Libya and Egypt.
Thanking you in advance for removing the line of “Catholic radicals” from your piece.



He still hasn’t written me back, and I harbor no illusions of him editing his piece at the behest of one man writing him, but more Catholics and intellectually honest people of all faiths need to stop smears and lies when the opportunity arises.
I checked in with my friends on FB familiar with anarchist history and the modern anarchist movement . Yes you read that correctly, I really do champion diversity!

Two people responded, both agreed that anarchism at the time was atheistic and secular, both agreed that Catholicism didn’t appear until far later in United States history with the introduction of Ammon Hennacy and Dorothy Day. A quick google search for “anarchism and atheism” also yields evidence supporting their claims.

Bottom line, his piece should read “In the years after World War I, immigrant radicals carried out a deadly wave of terrorist attacks in the United States.” because the common thread wasn’t their Catholic faith, but rather their immigrant status nor was their faith their motivation!  There are more inaccuracies in the piece but this one was just the most glaring. I couldn’t sit idly by and not do a thing, I sat idly by and typed up a blog post! So dear readers, please join me in asking Mr. Saunders and the NYT to edit his piece. It’s the intellectually honest thing to do.

Update: 9/19/2012 My friend @SooperMexican points out “even immigrant is not accurate – the dude who killed McKinley was a native born American!”
I’ve edited my blog entry to reflect this.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Politics, Religion
3 comments on “The New York Times Mistakenly Equates Catholics With Anarchist Radicals
  1. Mike says:

    Thank you for identifying this and calling out the author. I hope he retracts. I also get very frustrated with bad factual references. There simply isn’t a logical comparison to the Muslim Jihadist movement and any other significant movement of the modern world that is connected with a major world religion, Christian, Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or otherwise that I’m aware of. Unless you go back to the Crusades there simply isn’t a good connection to be found that has either the scope or content comparisons that are relevant.

    The Crusades, it can be argued, were inspired by attacks done by Muslims and their intent to keep Christians and others from being able to access Jerusalem (the Holy city) and they came at a time when the church was heavily involved in politics as well as religion and you could also argue that this played a heavy role in why the church of the time was sought out to sponsor or bless a war. However you could at least make a reasonable argument that the wars were connected with one religion’s attempt to use force to subdue another people in order to accomplish their religious goals and still keep your intellectual integrity. That’s not the case with modern comparisons of other religions to violent Jihadist Islam.

    Other “terror” attacks that can legitimately be associated with Christians might be the 10 or so people killed in connection with abortion clinics, and the fires associated with the same. However, comparing a handful of wacko Christians to a global network of terror is just not meaningful or helpful. Most often, I see this kind of rhetoric when it seems the are either trying to attach Christianity to the guilt of Muslim violence by association (attempting to make Christians look as bad as them) or when in reverse it is an attempt to placate people about the veracity of Muslim Jihadism by comparing it to the relatively inconsequential connection of the Christian church to acts of terror. On either side it’s scandalously misleading.

    The simple fact is, Muslim Jihadism is a widespread global network of violent Islam that has training camps, weapons stockpiles, organized covert operations with sleeper cells, and a specifically religious mantra written in their Holy Book that gives them a CURRENT sense of authority to kill anyone not of their own system (including all of the western ‘infidels’) Part of why we are all aware of this is because they have a CONTEMPORARY kill record in the thousands and thousands spanning many countries and several continents.

    Go to any airport in a developed nation and you will find they have security specifically in place because of the legitimized fears of this widespread organization. Sure that security protects us from other plausible threats, but how legitimized are they in factual events? What are the majority of violence oriented airport security breaches connected with? When was the last random non-Muslim plane hijacker? Find me the airport security measures that can be thoughtfully connected with the actions of Christians, or Jews, or Hindus, or Buddhists or even Democrats or Republicans. Then make sure that it was specifically in the practice of their opinions beliefs or opinions.

    While there is at least one distinctive and verbally harsh Christian church out there (the infamous Westboro Baptist) Even they don’t have a kill record, a history of physical violence, or known global covert ops network planning effective terror plots on anything that can be meaningfully compared to Jihad (which has made strategic attacks on our financial structure, our government, our security, and our culture.)

    Yet people want to make comparisons to Christianity and Islam… why? What useful purpose does that comparison have? None, besides to serve a side-line agenda to either legitimize or minimize Violent Islam OR to malign Christian faiths by attaching them to Islam’s modern evils. I don’t know any Christians who defend the Crusades, but Violent Jihadist Muslims we know have attended the same mosques as the non-violent Muslims people are so quick to bring up every time there is the mention of the association between terror and Islam.

    This last thing bothers me most. What is the relevance of non-violent Islam to the discussion? I ask this: Are people less hurt by Westboro Baptist’s hate speech because other Christians don’t do it? Is it any less worry-some that they call it Christianity or that they picket our troops funerals? Yet Westboro is a single isolated church with a small membership that is ostracized by the Christian community at large, is it not? Meanwhile almost every time I hear a political discussion about Islamic Jihadism, I hear someone pipe up about how that’s not Islam and there are lots of non-violent Muslims. Really? Sure, non-violent Islam is out there. I’m cool with that. I think most people are, why wouldn’t we be? But just because they exist doesn’t mean the violent Jihadists do not, correct? Just because they interpret the Qumran differently than Jihadists doesn’t mean the Jihadists aren’t still reading the Qumran for inspiration and justification, correct? I mean, if a pair of twin brothers moved to a new town, and one mass murdered a small school room full of children … would the media run out and say “wait, wait, his brother’s not like that at all!?” Would anyone care that there was a nice brother who didn’t kill a bunch of children? Of course not they’d be like “can we focus on the real issue here?”

    But I also ask this (for all the non-violent Muslims out there): When was the last time we heard about a serious movement of the non-violent Islam crew to help restore the name of Islam by sending spies into the Jihad movement to root out the Jihadist cells and leaders and camps, etc and bring them all to social justice? Given they all seem to attend the same temples comfortably, I would think the non-violent Muslims ought to have a great chance of bringing the whole conversation to a close by investing themselves in changing the face of Islam. Until then, I see no reason why they should be part of the discussion regarding the ongoing record of violence from widespread, violent Jihadist Islam.

  2. dancingcrane says:

    Thank you Jose and Mike! I also had a convo today on this subject with Mr. Saunders over twitter. He has no interest in correcting himself, far as I can tell, possibly because the original wording fits his narrative too well. His piece has gone viral, and it’s troubling to think that now ‘deadly Catholic radicals’ will become part of what ‘everyone knows is true.’

  3. debra says:

    Excellent blog post Jose and equally awesome response articulated by Mike. You’re right! They need many more letters to the editor calling them out, in fact, I think that is what I will do right now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>