Thursday 11th October 2007
Published in tandem with the Electronic Watch on Zion
EDITOR: MARTIN WEBSTER
Postal address: Mail Box ICR, 44 The Common, IP22 2QP, United Kingdom.Mobile: 07932 049019
Whatever became of Joe Pearce?
More 'Chesterbollox' from Saint Joseph of Barking
An Irish subscriber to the 'Electronic Loose Cannon', who I presume takes an interest both in Roman Catholic as well as political affairs, was surfing the net recently and came upon two potted autobiographies by the former National Front personality JOE PEARCE.
These essays were forwarded to me and I run them out below. They were published on Roman Catholic web sites based in the USA, where he now, as "JOSEPH PEARCE", lives as "Writer in Residence" at the Ave Maria University, Naples, Florida.
Pearce is a figure of interest to British nationalists -- indeed, White racial-nationalists everywhere -- because he was once prominently associated with the National Front in Britain from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s. (I refer, of course, to the "original" NF, not the crank grouplet which masquerades under that name today.)While Pearce's former involvement for 10+ years on the British racial-nationalist scene is not new news, there are very significant aspects of his background relating to his conversion to the Roman Catholic faith and the accelerated patronage afforded him by the Church which have not been revealed in his misleading accounts of himself.
These aspects of may also be of interest to his colleagues at Ave Maria University and Roman Catholics generally, as well to to those who have remained loyal to the political cause he once had ambitions to lead in Britain.
I am therefore circulating this bulletin to the staff and faculty of Ave Maria University listed at:
I will not contact any of them again unless they choose to subscribe to the ELC.
It might be fair, in view of the content of this bulletin, if I added that I was born and raised a Roman Catholic, but departed from that or any other religious faith when I was 15 and adopted the cause of British racial-nationalism when I was 17.
Everything I have experienced in life since then, 47 years on, confirmed my satisfaction with those decisions.
THE PROBLEM CONFRONTING EVERY YOUNG OPPORTUNIST:WHICH DIRECTION TO TAKE FOR SOURCES OF PATRONAGE?
In the early 1980s a lot of people in the NF pinned their hopes on Pearce and his then "close comrade" Nick Griffin. We all know in what direction Griffin turned in his quest for patronage on becoming Chairman of the British National Party: to Zion and its Neo-Con allies in the "right wing" media, whose friendly publicity can generate so much money.
So it is interesting to examine what Griffin's former best friend Pearce now says about himself and his early career, after having renounced his racial-nationalist beliefs, converted to Roman Catholicism, penned a number of books about G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc and become a "Writer in Residence" at Ave Maria University.
In his autobiographical essays he makes no mention of a number of crucial issues about himself which those who are invited to believe in his spirituality and rely on his integrity are entitled to know, even if only to forgive or turn a blind eye, according to taste.On Pearce's account, one would think that the only facts about his pre-Catholic life which are worthy of public confession and absolution are those which relate to his activities on behalf of the National Front, a British racial-nationalist and anti-Zionist political party.To look at his photo (in which he demonstrates the bright-eyed "I'm Saved" expression used by religion hype-artists of all denominations), and to accept his own words about himself, you wouldn't think butter would melt in his mouth.
According to his account, he was just a teenager from "relatively poor" district of Barkingside, East London, who got misled into a "hate" movement, but who came to know and be saved by Jesus and "Holy Mother Church".
But if this glib -- and to those who know the facts, emetic -- spin is subjected to the slightest analysis, then his presentation falls apart.
NO MENTION OF HIS FIRST WIFE GINA, HIS CHILDREN AND HIS 'QUICKIE' ANNULMENT
As he makes a great display of going into public confession mode when discussing his pre-Catholic life, why does he make no mention of his first wife Gina and their two (or is in three) children?
Is this question a gratuitous intrusion into a man's private life? No.
For a man who has set himself up as a moral beacon of rectitude and honesty as part of his book-marketing operation, it reflects on his character and the extent to which others may repose trust in him.By making no mention of Gina and his children by her, Pearce has absolved himself of the need to touch on the cunning method devised for persuading the Roman Catholic Church to grant him a most expeditious "annulment" of his marriage to Gina.That most certainly is a matter of legitimate public interest, particularly for Roman Catholics.The Catholic Church does not allow divorce. However, in extremely exceptional cases it can provide annulments which declare that a particular marriage was a "nullity" -- that it never took place.
Grounds for an annulment are that the wedding service had not been properly conducted, and/or that the marriage had been transacted without the fully-informed consent of the couple involved, and/or that the union had never been fully consummated.
According to Perefitte's book "The Prince's Person", based on Vatican archives, octogenarian Cardinals during the Renaissance spent many a happy hour considering such cases, their deliberations being informed and enlivened by intimate physical examinations of unhappy couples to determine if the consummation criteria of "Erectio, Introductio, Emissio" had been met.
AT 20 PEARCE WAS "TOO YOUNG TO UNDERSTAND THE WEDDING VOWS"
The Bishop considering Pearce's application for an annulment was told that he had been "too young to understand the meaning of the marriage vows he had made". This, then, was not the kind of case which required His Grace to contemplate and prod the applicant's 'wedding tackle', even if he was unaware that consummation had manifestly taken place months before the wedding.Pearce's plea was artfully supercharged by the suggestion that he had a vocation to become a priest.
At that time and still today, the Catholic Church in Britain is desperately short of priests.
In this connection, information about Pearce was also advanced, which I will amplify later, which indicated that he was a particularly valuable recruit to the priesthood on account of his former association with fanatically anti-Catholic Ulster Protestant paramilitary groups. This was at a time when "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland were still raging.As to Pearce's maturity at the time of his marriage to Gina -- at a Methodist church service, which I attended -- he was fully 20 years of age (and she was fully eight months pregnant).
According to his own boastful accounts about his youthful intellectual prowess, he was precocious at 15, a prodigy at 16 and a political genius at 18!
Here is part of his braying:"At the age of 16 I became editor of Bulldog, the newspaper of the Young National Front, and, three years later, became editor of Nationalism Today, a "higher-brow" ideological journal. At 18 I became the youngest member of the party's governing body.
"Was the Bishop informed of those facts?
Are the simple terms of the Wedding Vow so complicated that a 20 year old adult -- capable two years previously of becoming the editor of a "higher-brow" magazine and getting himself elected to the governing body of a political party -- could not understand them?
"PRIESTHOOD VOCATION" EVAPORATED AFTER CHURCH GRANTED ANNULMENT The annulment was granted, after which the pious Pearce let it be known that he had lost -- or at least mislaid -- his priestly vocation, though was still pleased to continue his conversion to the Catholic faith.
That should have rung the warning bells for the Church, but -- to mix metaphor with cliché: for those with bats in the belfry, hope springs eternal.
By and by, the Church will come to see Joseph Pearce for what he is: a patronage-seeking ego on stilts, a cynical careerist, a hypocritical humbug. Perhaps the Church knows this already.
Perhaps that's the kind of recruit it wants. Such people are easy to control.The outcome of this cynical annulment procedure was that in the eyes of Holy Mother Church his marriage to Gina became a "nullity", thus in the eyes of the Faithful, Pearce had put Gina into the category of an unmarried mother and his children into a state of bastardy.
The last I heard of them (many years ago) they were living in a trailer park in Bungay, Norfolk.After his translation to the USA, Pearce married an American girl, who I do not suppose comes from a trailer-park family. In his magazine StAR he announced three or four years ago the birth of their "first child".This description was technically true, but was a truth deployed as a camouflage behind which a bigger lie was foisted on a gullible American Roman Catholic audience.
SPECIAL BRANCH POLICE MONITORED FRIEND'SOVERNIGHT VISITS TO PEARCE'S APARTMENT
And why is Pearce silent about his long and intimate relationship with Jim Capes, a former organiser of the NF's Norwich branch? This relationship included a long period of cohabitation at Capes' home in Norwich after Pearce had abandoned Gina and his children.Capes, a notoriously mean man, was fond enough of Pearce to buy him a bicycle, which Pearce -- casual as ever with other peoples' money -- carelessly left outside a shop unlocked, and it was stolen.
Capes was well known to me. He was a frequent guest at my home -- and I at his -- over a period of years. At one time he had been a Police Constable in London, but he got drummed out of the Met after Scotland Yard Special Branch officers, who were keeping observation on Pearce's apartment, noted Capes' frequent overnight visits.Pearce's one-time best friend Nick Griffin also took a shine to Capes -- as I revealed without contradiction from anybody in my 1999 pamphlet "Come for an 'Outing' Down Memory Lane", in which I refere to Capes as 'J'.
The incident of frustrated lust which I recounted was relayed to me by Capes himself. It is a hilarious "wrong bedroom" farce worthy of Chaucer at his naughtiest. (Anybody who would like the full text of that pamphlet has only to request the same.)Another person who Pearce does not mention is his initial "mentor" in the process of his conversion to the Catholic Church: Aidan Mackey. In 1967 Mackey was a founding member of the National Front and for a while served as its Deputy-Chairman under its first Chairman A.K. Chesterton (nephew of G.K.).Mackey left the National Front in 1970 as a result of his friend A.K. Chesterton being forced to resign following a membership revolt against his leadership. But Mackey had a less dignified resignation in store for him not long after.
He had to quit his post as headmaster of a primary school in Bedfordshire after 'The Sunday People' newspaper ran a front page story in which he admitted playing "trouser-dropping games" with eleven-year-old boy pupils in the school's changing rooms.
HOW THE SMALL WORLD OF THE 'CHESTERBELLOCIANS'CAME TO MACKEY'S AID AND PEARCE'S "SALVATION"
Thereafter, Mackey became curator of a G.K. Chesterton / Hilaire Belloc resource centre thanks to help from various 'Chesterbellocians' such as:* Richard Ingrams, a member of the "High" Church of England, best known as the former editor of 'Private Eye';* Auberon Waugh, a Catholic author and journalist who in his early days occasionally contributed articles to A.K. Chesterton's paper 'Candour' (which is the reason why the Board of Deputies of British Jews kept a file on him. He affected not to know the reason for this and fretted about it in the 'Jewish Chronicle' year later).* Mrs Leslie Von Goetz, a Catholic teacher, who, as Leslie Green, was a former organiser of A.K. Chesterton's League of Empire Loyalists before it was subsumed into the National Front.Mrs Von Goetz's American husband, Richard, once told me that he is the brother of Barbara Von Goetz, secretary to George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party, prior to his assassination.
The Von Goetz's daughter, Teresa, perhaps the first of the 'Chesterbellocian' circle to lobby Pearce about Catholicism, is another person not mentioned in his biographical notes.
It was in his capacity as curator of the Chesterton / Belloc resource centre that in the late 1980s Mackey began cultivating Pearce with a view to his recruitment into the Catholic Church.
JOE FELL OUT WITH PROTESTANT PARAMILITARIESOVER CASH -- NOT OVER A CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE
As I have said, the Church regarded Pearce as a "good catch". Not only had he reneged on the National Front and racial-nationalism but also on his militant Protestantism, which had brought him into contact with Protestant paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland such as the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association (with whom the National Front, a secular non-sectarian political party, had no contact).For a while, Pearce was well thought-of by Protestant paramilitary leaders. They referred to him as "Our Joe". But their opinion eventually turned sour because of his casual attitude to their money.
The paramilitary people let him have -- on credit -- substantial supplies of flags, banners, literature and badges for sale to UVF/UDA admirers in England. They gave him a generous discount, but they expected to be paid.
Pearce sold the stock and boozed away the entire proceeds. He did not become known as "Joe Piss" in NF circles for nothing.
Demands for payment become pressing. For a while Pearce was worried that he would be visited by UVF or UDA punishment squads. This situation contributed to a cooling of Joe's militant Protestant enthusiasm which paved the way for other "spiritual" directions.
Pearce became disillusioned with the National Front in the late 1980s because whilst he was in jail following his second "racial incitement" conviction, his one-time "close comrade" Nick Griffin plunged the NF into factional strife contrary to solemn promises given to Pearce just as he was about to re-enter the slammer.
Griffin's factional activities, conducted in association with other adherents of the Italian Roberto Fiore's Roman Catholic "Counter-Reformationist" International Third Position, provoked a sequence of splits which finally destroyed the party, denying Pearce any possibility of reward for his self-inflicted martyrdom.
OUT OF JAIL -- PEARCE DISCOVERED THAT HIS"CLOSE COMRADE" GRIFFIN HAD KILLED THE NF
Pearce regarded provoking these prison terms as good career moves in his bid to become NF Chairman. But when he emerged from jail, instead of being greeted at the gate by a welcoming throng from a united party anxious to reward him for his sacrificial effort -- as happened after his first imprisonment -- he found nothing but ruins: no crowd, no party, no perch for his ego, and above all, no income.
It was in this situation of despair and chaos that Pearce's "mentor" Mackey moved in to start the work of claiming him for the Catholic Church.Pearce devoured the books by G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc provided by Mackey and also by another former Chairman of the National Front, Andrew Brons, yet another person not mentioned by name in Pearce's accounts of himself, who nowadays devotes himself to the cultivation of his beard.
He is not noted for any religious affiliation.
In due course Mackey, who had many contacts among Catholic and "High" Church of England 'Chesterbellocians' in the media and publishing world, secured the venerable firm of Hodder & Stoughton as the publisher of Pearce's first book about Chesterton.
From Pearce's relatively recent autobiographical essays about his time in the "Hell of Hate" in the National Front, one gets the impression that from the moment he made his great conversion to "the Well of Mercy" he was at pains to renounce and denounce his past political beliefs and associations and anxious to present himself for public Acts of Contrition.
SPIN AND DECEPTION MARKED PUBLICATION OF FIRST BOOK
Any such impression is false. Spin and deception was the name of the game from the outset of Pearce's reinvention as a Roman Catholic.
Mackey wrote the misleading biographical note about "Joseph Pearce", which appeared on the back of his first book, and the press statements which were issued with review copies to the media. This bumpf made no reference to Pearce's previous life as Joe Pearce, to his prominent involvement with the NF, or to his two sojourns in jail for "racial incitement".
Literary reviewers published their opinions of the book and its author in good faith, but in ignorance of the full context.
One of them, in the 'Sunday Telegraph', later wrote an apoplectic article, larger than his original review, denouncing the way in which he and other reviewers had been deliberately misled.
The facts of Pearce's recent political past were immediately relevant to the subject of the book.
Chesterton was a political as well as a literary and religious figure. Horror of horrors, he is also thought to have been somewhat "anti-semitic"!
Thus Pearce's recent NF background was part of the context of any review.
This deception was perpetrated, mark you, after Joe Pearce had turned to Jesus and Holy Mother Church, reinventing himself as the shiny, new and ever-so-devout Joseph Pearce who had turned his back on the wicked ways of the political world.
It was just one more example of Pearce's cynical opportunism which was a major feature of his career path both before and after his claimed "spiritual" metamorphosis.
"RACIALISM IS WRONG! ANTI-SEMITISM IS EVIL!"SAYS PIOUS PEARCE AFTER BOOK-LAUNCH FIASCO
The exposure of Pearce being "economical with the truth" in the promotion of his first book prompted frantic efforts at damage limitation. He assured the media that "racialism is wrong" and that "anti-semitism is evil".This did not work too well. He remained damaged goods.
So his patrons decided that the best course would be for Pearce to leave Britain and start a new life in the bosom of Holy Mother Church in the US of A.
Mindful of the publicity debacle surrounding the publication of his first book in Britain, the Catholic Church in America has taken steps to safeguard its asset.Pearce has been provided not just with 'golden handcuffs' -- a well-paid job academic job, directorships of publishing companies, a new wife, a trip to the Vatican with his "first" wife to kiss the Pope's ring, etc. -- but also with every facility to airbrush his past and his motives via sundry Church-owned newspapers, magazines and web sites.
On reading through his accounts of his earlier life I note that he has 'gone native', abandoning his English cultural heritage.
For example, he has adopted all of the ugly American spellings of good English words.
The traditionalist English patriots and great writers like Chesterton and Belloc must be spinning in their graves.
PEARCE HAS ABANDONED HIS HOMELAND -- YET KEEPS SECRET CONTACT WITH PALS FROM "HELL"
What's his next step? To abandon his British nationality and become an U.S. citizen? Has that happened already?
It is evident that despite Pearce's Bellocian references to "good ale" and his 'pilgrimages' to Walsingham and such-like sites of ancient piety (in the capacity of an all-expenses-paid tour guide), Pearce has abandoned his homeland and any thought of a fight for its survival and the continuance of its people.
Despite this, he still keeps in touch with a few of his friends of yester-year -- people such as the veteran racial-nationalist and Ulster Protestant campaigner Steve Brady (who he meets, along with other old political comrades, at the annual Hay-on-Wye book festival in Powys, Wales) and former NF Chairman Andrew Brons, now a BNP supporter.
Recently Nick Griffin made a statement that he would be "happy" to welcome Pearce into the membership of the BNP. (Oh no he wouldn't! The paranoid crook would be terrified that if Pearce got back involved with British nationalist politics he would soon seek to be top dog in the BNP and the Pearce-Griffin power struggle of yester-year would be rejoined.)
Let us hope that these meetings with and messages from figures from the "Hell" his past life are not interpreted by his generous patrons in Holy Mother Church as occasions of sin, signs of potential backsliding!
One of the saddest comments in the conclusion to one of Pearce's shallow, incomplete and dishonest accounts of his life is the following:"As an Englishman in America, I sometimes sympathise wistfully with Robert Browning's "home thoughts from abroad" but I can also say with Calderon that "life is a dream", and not merely a dream but a dream come true. Deo gratias!"
"I'VE FINALLY HIT THE JACKPOT! LIFE'S A DREAM! DEO GRATIAS!"
That is Pearce's way of telling us: "I've finally hit the jackpot. I've landed a lucrative career well beyond the expectations of most lads from Barking.
I've finally exceeded the success achieved by my younger brother, Stephen."Stephen 'Stevo' Pearce's financial success always rankled with his Joe -- which is odd for one who, before and after conversion to Catholicism, always affected to disdain materialism.
A former YNF member, 'Stevo' betrayed the nationalist cause for money and career quicker than his older brother. He made a fortune as a pop music promoter. One of his promo videos featured Black African tribesmen trampling rhythmically on prostrate cringing White people.
Who could be jealous of such a creature?
On considering Joseph Pearce's reinvention of himself, I am reminded of a scene in the play "A Man For All Seasons" by Robert Bolt about the life of Sir Thomas More, which was made into a brilliant film with Paul Schofield in the title role.
A former member of More's household, Thomas Cromwell, turned traitor to the man he once admired and from whom he once begged in vain for preferment.In return for being appointed Governor of Wales by King Henry VIII, Cromwell gave perjured evidence against More in support of a charge of treason. Cromwell appeared in court dressed in a foppish manner designed to flaunt the wealth that came with the King's patronage.
After hearing Cromwell's evidence, More quietly asked the careerist popinjay: "Thomas -- Jesus said: 'What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?' -- but for Wales??"
I paraphrase that question for Pearce:"-- but for Florida??
Here's Joseph Pearce's spin on Joe Pearce:
This Rock - Volume 14, Number 5 - May/June 2003 Race with the Devil
From the Hell of Hate to the Well of Mercyby Joseph Pearce"A sound atheist cannot be too careful of the books that he reads." So said C. S. Lewis in his autobiographical apologia, Surprised by Joy.
These words continue to resonate across the years that separate me from the bitterness of my past.What is true of the atheist is as true of the racist, which is what I was.
A hell of hatred consumed my youth.
Eventually I stumbled out into the brilliance of Christian day, but, looking back along that path, I can see in my mind¹s eye the literary candles that lit the way.
There are dozens of candles bearing the name of G. K. Chesterton, of which Orthodoxy, The Everlasting Man, The Well and the Shallows, and The Outline of Sanity shine forth with particular brightness. Almost as many candles bear the name of Chesterton¹s great friend, Hilaire Belloc, and several bear the name of John Henry Newman. And, of course, there is the flickering presence of Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. These and countless others light the path by which I¹ve traveled.
I grew up in a relatively poor neighborhood in London¹s East End at a time when large-scale immigration was causing major demographic changes. The influx of large numbers of Indians and Pakistanis was quite literally changing the face of England, darkening the complexion and adding to the complexity of English life.
Perhaps inevitably, the arrival of these immigrants caused a great deal of resentment amongst the indigenous population.
Racial tensions were high, and violence between white and Asian youths was becoming commonplace. It was in this highly charged atmosphere that I emerged into angry adolescence.
At the age of 15, I joined the National Front, an emerging force then in British politics that demanded the compulsory repatriation of all nonwhite immigrants.
As a political activist, I found my life revolving around street demonstrations, many of which became violent. I filled my head and inflamed my heart with racist ideology and elitist philosophy.
It was at this time that I made what I consider to be my Faustian pact -- not that I had heard of Faust nor, as an agnostic, did I have any particular belief in the devil. Nonetheless, I recall making a conscious wish that I would give everything if I could work full-time for the National Front. My wish was granted, and I abandoned my education to devote myself wholeheartedly to becoming a full-time "racial revolutionary."I never looked back.
At the age of 16 I became editor of Bulldog, the newspaper of the Young National Front, and, three years later, became editor of Nationalism Today, a "higher-brow" ideological journal. At 18 I became the youngest member of the party¹s governing body. Whether I believed in him or not, the devil had certainly been diligent in answering my wish.
Apart from racism, the sphere of my bitterness included disdain for Roman Catholicism, partly because the terrorists of the Irish Republic Army were Catholics and partly because I had imbibed the anti-Catholic prejudice of many Englishmen that Catholicism is a "foreign" religion.
Such prejudice is deeply rooted in the national psyche, stretching back to the anti-Catholicism of Henry VIII and his English Reformation, to Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada, to James I and the Gunpowder Plot, and to William of Orange and the so-called "Glorious" Revolution. I knew enough of English history -- or at least enough of the prejudiced Protestant view of it that I had embraced in my ignorance -- to see Catholicism as an enemy to the Nationhood that, as a racial nationalist, I then espoused with a quasi-religious fervor.
It was in the context of "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland that my anti-Catholicism would reveal its full ugliness. The IRA¹s bombing campaign was at its height during the 1970s, and my hatred of Republican terrorism led to my becoming involved in the volatile politics of Ulster.
I joined the Orange Order, a pseudo-Masonic secret society whose sole purpose is to oppose "popery." Technically, although only Protestants were allowed to join the Orange Order, any actual belief in God did not appear necessary. As a Protestant agnostic, I was allowed to join; an avowed atheist friend of mine was also accepted without qualms. Ultimately the only qualification was not a love for Christ but a hatred of the Church.
In October 1978, still only 17, I flew to Derry in Northern Ireland to assist in the organization of a National Front march. Tensions were high in the city, and toward the end of the day riots broke out between the Protestant demonstrators and the police. For the duration of the evening and well into the night, petrol bombs were thrown at the police, Catholic homes were attacked, and Catholic-owned shops were looted and destroyed. I had experienced political violence on the streets of England but nothing on the sheer scale of the anger and violence that I experienced in Northern Ireland.My appetite whetted, I became further embroiled in the politics of Ulster, forging friendships and political alliances with the leaders of Protestant paramilitary groups, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defense Association.
During a secret meeting with the army council of the UVF, it was suggested that I use my connections with extremist groups in other parts of the world to open channels for arms smuggling. On another occasion an "active service unit" of the UVF -- i.e., a terrorist cell -- offered their "services" to me, assuring me of their willingness to assassinate any "targets" that I would like "taken out" and expressing their eagerness to show me their arsenal of weaponry as a mark of their good faith.I declined their offer as politely as possible -- one does not wish to offend "friends" such as these! They were dangerous times. Within a few years, the IRA had murdered two of my friends in Northern Ireland.
Back in England, violence continued to erupt at National Front demonstrations. Outside an election meeting in an Indian area of London in 1979, at which I was one of the speakers, a riot ensued, and a demonstrator was killed.
A few years later a friend of mine, an elderly man, was killed at another election meeting, though on that occasion I was not present.
Predictably perhaps, it was only a matter of time before my extremist politics brought me into conflict with the law.
In 1982, as editor of Bulldog, I was convicted under the Race Relations Act for publishing material "likely to incite racial hatred." The sentence was six months in prison. The trial made national headlines with the result that I spent much of my sentence in isolation and solitary confinement. The prison authorities were fearful that my presence might provoke trouble between black and white inmates.Ironically, one of the other prisoners in the top security wing was an IRA sympathizer who had been imprisoned for slashing a portrait of Princess Diana with a knife. He and I saw ourselves as political prisoners, not as mere common criminals like the murderers serving life sentences who constituted the majority of the other prisoners on the top security wing.
Unrepentant, I continued to edit Bulldog following my release and was duly charged once again with offenses under the Race Relations Act.
On the second occasion I was sentenced to 12 months¹ imprisonment. Thus I spent both my twenty-first and twenty-fifth birthdays behind bars.During the first of my prison sentences, Auberon Waugh, a well-known writer and son of the great Catholic novelist Evelyn Waugh, referred to me as a "wretched youth". How right he was! I was wretched and wrecked upon the rock of my own hardness of heart.
Years later, when asked by the priest who was instructing me in the Catholic faith to write an essay on my conversion, I began it with the opening lines of John Newton¹s famous hymn extolling the "amazing grace ...that saved a wretch like me."Even today, when forced to look candidly into the blackness of my past, I am astonished at the truly amazing grace that somehow managed to take root in the desert of my soul. How was I freed from the prison of my sinful convictions? How was I brought from the locked door of my prison cell to the open arms of Mother Church?
With the benefit of hindsight, I perceive that the seeds of my future conversion were planted as early as 1980 when I was 19 years old. In what barren soil they were planted! At the time I was at the very height -- or depth -- of my political fanaticism and was indulging the worst excesses of my anti-Catholic prejudices in the dirty waters of Ulster Protestantism. Few could have been further from St. Peter¹s gate than I.The seeds were contained in my genuine desire to seek a political and economic alternative to the sins of communism and the cynicism of consumerism.
During the confrontations on the streets with my Marxist opponents, I was incensed by their suggestion that, as an anti-communist, I was ipso facto a storm trooper of capitalism. I refused to believe that the only alternative to Mammon was Marx. I was convinced that communism was a red herring and that it was possible to have a socially just society without socialism.
Knowing of my quest to discover such an alternative, someone suggested that I read more about the distributist ideas of Belloc and Chesterton.At this juncture one hears echoes again of Lewis¹s stricture that "a sound atheist cannot be too careful of the books that he reads" -- not least because the book to which Lewis was referring specifically was Chesterton¹s The Everlasting Man. It was a book that would precipitate Lewis¹s first tentative steps to conversion. In this at least I can claim a parallel between C. S. Lewis and myself.
For me, as for him, a book by Chesterton would lead toward conversion.In my case, the book that was destined to have such a profound influence was a lesser-known book of Chesterton¹s.
The friend who suggested that I study the distributist ideas of Chesterton informed me that I should buy The Outline of Sanity but also that I should read an invaluable essay on the subject entitled "Reflections on a Rotten Apple", which was to be found in a collection of his essays entitled The Well and the Shallows. I purchased these two books and sat down expectantly to read the volume of essays. Imagine my surprise and consternation to discover that the book was, for the most part, a defense of the Catholic faith against various modern attacks upon it. And imagine my confusion when I discovered that I could not fault Chesterton¹s logic.
The wit and wisdom of Chesterton had pulled the rug out from under my smug prejudices against the Catholic Church. From that moment I began to discover it as it is and not as it is alleged to be by its enemies. I began the journey from the rumor that it was the Whore of Babylon to the realization that it was in fact the Bride of Christ.
The Catholic Path
It was destined to be a long journey. I was lost in Dante¹s dark wood, so deeply lost that I strayed perilously close to the Inferno. It is a long and arduous climb from there to the foot of Mount Purgatory. But I was in good company.
If Dante had Virgil, I had Chesterton. He would accompany me faithfully every inch of the way, present always through the pages of his books. I began to devour everything by Chesterton that I could get my hands on, consuming his words with ravenous delight.Through Chesterton I came to know Belloc, then Lewis, then Newman.
During my second prison sentence I first read The Lord of the Rings and, though I did not fathom the full mystical depths of the Catholicism in Tolkien¹s myth, I was aware of its goodness, its objective morality, and the well of virtue from which it drew. And of course I was aware of what Tolkien shared with Chesterton, Belloc, and Newman. Why was it that most of my favorite writers were Catholics?
It was during the second prison sentence that I started to consider myself a Catholic.
When, as is standard procedure, at the beginning of my sentence I was asked my religion by the prison authorities, I announced that I was Catholic. I wasn¹t of course, at least not technically -- but it was my first affirmation of faith, even to myself.Another landmark during the second prison sentence was my first fumbling efforts at prayer. I am not aware of ever having prayed prior to my arrival at Wormwood Scrubs prison in December 1985, at least not if one discounts the schoolboy prayers parroted to an unknown and unlooked-for God many years earlier during drab school services. Now, in the desolation of my cell, I fumbled my fingers over the beads of a rosary that someone had sent me. I had no idea how to say it. I did not know the Hail Mary or the Glory Be, and I could not remember the Lord¹s Prayer.
Nonetheless, I ad-libbed my way from bead to bead uttering prayers of my own devising, pleading from the depths of my piteous predicament for the faith, hope, and love that my mind and heart desired. It was a start, small but significant.My release from prison in 1986 heralded the beginning of the end of my life as a political extremist. Increasingly disillusioned, I extricated myself from the organization that had been my life and had been my raison d¹être for more than a decade.
As a 15-year-old, I had wished to give my life to the cause; now, in my mid-twenties, I desired only to give my life to Christ. If the devil had taken my earlier wish and had granted it infernally, Christ would take my newfound desire and grant it purgatorially.
Having spent the decade of the 1980s in a spiritual arm-wrestle between the hell of hatred within myself and the well of love promised and poured out by Christ, I finally "came home" to the loving embrace of Holy Mother Church on the Feast of St. Joseph in 1989.
Today, 14 years on, I still find myself utterly amazed at the grace that could save a wretch like me.==================================================================http://www.smallisstillbeautiful.com/?page_id=2Intercollegiate Studies Institute - circa February 2007
I was born on February 12, 1961 in Barking on the outskirts of London. During the 1970s, as an angry young man, I became involved in extremist politics. Joining the National Front, a white supremacist organization, I edited a youth magazine, Bulldog, for which I was imprisoned twice, in 1982 and 1985, for ³publishing material likely to incite racial hatred². I was also involved with Protestant paramilitaries in Northern Ireland and joined the militant anti-Catholic Orange Order. Two of my acquaintances were killed at the hands of the IRA.I found my bigoted anti-Catholicism challenged by the writings of G.K. Chesterton in works such as The Well and the Shallows. From Chesterton I graduated to Hilaire Belloc, John Henry Newman, C.S. Lewis and, eventually, to St Thomas Aquinas and St Augustine.
Finally, after a decade of soul searching and intellectual grappling, I renounced my old associations and errors and was received into the Catholic Church on St Joseph¹s Day (March 19) 1989.
My biography of Chesterton, Wisdom and Innocence, was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton in 1996 and by Ignatius Press in the USA a year later. Since then I have published biographies of other literary figures, including Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Hilaire Belloc, Oscar Wilde and Roy Campbell. During my research for the life of Solzhenitsyn I traveled to Moscow to meet the great Russian writer and was privileged to receive the cooperation and the blessing of Solzhenitsyn and his family throughout my work on the book.
Meeting this irrepressible warrior for freedom remains one of the highest honours and fondest memories of my life.Literary Converts, a study of the Catholic literary revival in England during the twentieth century, examines the impact of writers such as Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Oscar Wilde and G.K. Chesterton. Tolkien: Man and Myth, published in 1998, was written as a riposte to the hostile critical reaction to Tolkien¹s emergence as the most popular and influential author of the twentieth century in several national polls in the UK.
Frustrated at the grotesque ignorance of many critics, most of whom had clearly not felt it necessary to read The Lord of the Rings prior to passing judgment, I wrote Tolkien: Man and Myth in refutation of their ignorant dismissal of Tolkien¹s magnificent achievement.
In similar vein, I also edited a selection of essays by Tolkien scholars from both sides of the Atlantic, entitled Tolkien: A Celebration.Apart from the aforementioned biography of Roy Campbell, published in the UK as Bloomsbury and Beyond (HarperCollins) and in the USA as Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books), I have edited a volume of Campbell¹s Selected Poems (Saint Austin Press) which I hope will bring this great poet to the attention of a new generation of readers.
Such is my admiration for Campbell that I was greatly honoured to be invited to his birthplace in Durban, South Africa, for a colloquium on the centenary of his birth. I was also very pleased to find myself part of the official celebrations of Oscar Wilde on the centenary of his death in 2000, taking part in a public debate with, amongst others, Corrin Redgrave, at London¹s National Theatre on the South Bank.
In September 2001 I accepted a position as Writer in Residence and Professor of Literature at Ave Maria College in Michigan, crossing the Atlantic with my new American wife to begin a new life in the New World. Since then my life in the States is best described as exhilarating and exciting, if also somewhat exhausting. Apart from my teaching duties as a member of the Literature Faculty, I find myself on the lecture circuit, speaking at diverse venues throughout the United States on subjects within my sphere of competence.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, in the wake of Peter Jackson¹s film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, I have been in most demand to speak on J.R.R. Tolkien but I also give talks on the Catholic Literary Revival in general, and on Chesterton, Belloc, Solzhenitsyn and C.S. Lewis in particular, the last of whom was the subject of the first of my books written on American soil, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church. Apart from the United States, I have spoken in recent years in Canada, England, Germany and Portugal.Aside from literary biographies, I have strayed, albeit rarely, into other genres. My solitary novel, The Three Ys Men, is a surrealist romp in which the characters grapple with each other on the metaphysical battlefields of Time and Eternity, and Progress and Tradition.
Since September 2001 I have been co-editor of the Saint Austin Review, a Catholic cultural journal published on both sides of the Atlantic. In November of the same year I became editor-in-chief of Sapientia Press, the publishing division of Ave Maria University, which has published some excellent books in the fields of literature, theology, popular science and Catholic social teaching.
In February 2004 I moved with my wife and two year old son, Leo, to the Florida campus of Ave Maria University in Naples.
As an Englishman in America, I sometimes sympathise wistfully with Robert Browning¹s ³home thoughts from abroad² but I can also say with Calderon that ³life is a dream², and not merely a dream but a dream come true. Deo gratias!