Thursday, April 25, 2019

“He is the smartest guy in Rome. He’s always a tough guy. He comes across as a monk, but he’s actually a very tough guy.” —American businessman and political strategist Steve Bannon, on British Catholic political activist Benjamin Harnwell, head of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute in Rome. The Institute has received permission from Italian authorities to take over a nearly abandoned 1,000-year-old Carthusian monastery in the town of Trisulti, about 100 miles south of Rome, and — to the consternation of many — turn it into a center for a conservative political and cultural movement in Europe. Bannon, formerly a top advisor to US President Donald Trump, is helping to publicize and support the monastery project. Critics of the initiative say it aims to “destroy Europe” by stressing “national identity” over against the idea of a “united Europe”

Trisulti will be the home of a number of projects that underscore the fact that man is made in the image and likeness of God, and that recognition of the imago Dei is the cornerstone of the Judaeo-Christian foundations of Western Civilization.” —Benjamin Harnwell


Summary Note: A controversial project in central Italy involving Steve Bannon, formerly a close advisor of US President Donald Trump, aims to restore a nearly abandoned Carthusian monastery and to make it the center of a political and cultural movement in Europe.

The project attracted considerable attention in recent months, most recently in a bitterly negative opinion piece in the Israeli journal, Haaretz, on April 22, three days ago. This Haaretz article moved me to gather the material for this email.

The general effect of the coverage by many media outlets has been to raise the profile of the project to a global level even before its actual launch. There are many obstacles to transforming a medieval monastery into a modern school or cultural center, including lighting, toilets and showers, and the project’s leaders have said that these issues have not yet been fully assessed or solved.

The Letter below attempts to give a sampling, a “Dossier,” on the coverage of this project over the past two years in an effort to provide background material for readers.


The monastery of Trisulti in collepardo, near Frosinone, in central Italy south of Rome. It was consecrated in 1211, more than 800 years ago




The history of the monastery

Trisulti Charterhouse (Italian: Certosa di Trisulti) is a former Carthusian monastery or charterhouse, in Collepardo, province of Frosinone, central Italy. It is located on the slopes of Monte Rotonaria, a peak of the Monti Ernici, at 825 meters above the sea level. It was consecrated in 1211, becoming a national monument in 1873.

In 1947, the monastery was taken over by the Cistercian Congregation of Casamari Abbey and continues as a Cistercian monastery. However, in recent years only two elderly monks have been living at the monastery.

A first Benedictine abbey was founded in the site in 996 by St. Dominic Abbot, not far from the current building, which was erected starting in 1204 by order of Pope Innocent III, who assigned it to the Carthusians. The abbey church, dedicated to St. Bartholomew, was consecrated in 1211.

The name Trisulti may derive from Latin tres saltibus, meaning “at the three jumps”: this was the name of a castle of the baronial Colonna family which commanded the three passes (“jumps”) leading to Abruzzo, Rome and Ciociaria.

The former White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, announced in 2018 plans to establish an academy in the charterhouse.


Dossier: Six Articles

Below are six articles which contain information and judgments about the Trisulti project. Together, they may provide a useful dossier of background information to begin to understand and assess the project.

(1) Introductory material from the Trisulti project website, February 14, 2018

(2) Article from Haaretz, April 22, 2019

(3) Article from Reuters, September 18, 2018

(4) Article from the Daily Beast, June 20, 2018

(5) Article from CBS News, September 7, 2017

(6) Article from Crux, February 13, 2017


Six articles on the Trisulti project

(1) Introductory material from the project website (link)

Rome, 14 February 2018 (Ash Wednesday)

The Dignitatis Humanae Institute today signed a pioneering accord with the Italian Ministry for Culture to become the official Leaseholder of the historic Abbey of Trisulti, National Monument of Italy since 1873.

The original abbey, whose ruins still stand nearby, was founded by St. Dominic of Foligno in AD 987. Pope Innocent III ordered the current structure built in 1204 in honour of the Virgin Mary, whose first of numerous apparitions at the grotto beneath Trisulti was to a pious ascetic hermit sometime in the first half of the Sixth Century. This apparition was well-noted at the time because it was accompanied by two miraculous signs — an imagine of the Madonna in a stalactite (of which only the face remains conserved), and a spring of water which still runs to this day.

Innocent’s strong devotion to this apparition long preceded his election as Pope, and his papal summer palace is the building that today houses the National Library of Trisulti, which contains some 38,000 volumes and 35,000 ecclesiastical documents. Pope Innocent paid for the construction of the abbey from both his own pocket and Vatican funds, and he personally consecrated the new monastery in 1211. Trisulti, which was then part of the Papal States, was also under the protection of the Holy Roman Emperor from the time of Frederic II onwards. Bulls of Innocent and Frederic (as well as of Pope Boniface VIII) are conserved in the Library.

The abbey itself is situated 50 miles south-east of Rome in the Apennine mountains, at 850 metres above sea-level, surrounded by thousands of acres of protected centuries-old oak forest.

Presiding Abbot of the Cistercian Congregation of Casamari, Dom Eugenio Romagnuolo O.Cist. — of the outgoing community — is an active member of the DHI’s Board of Trustees, thus ensuring continuity with the past as Trisulti goes forward into the future under its new leadership.

H.E. Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, Honorary President of the DHI, said: “I would like to thank Caterina Bon Valsassina and her colleagues on the Adjudicating Commission at the Ministry for Culture for their competence and diligence with which they have performed their difficult task, and we are proud and honoured to have been selected. I would also like to thank Minister Dario Franceschini for his pioneering policy of cooperation between the Ministry and private institutions for the greater promotion of the common good.”

DHI Board Member Mgr. Roberto de Odorico added: “I warmly look forward in the years ahead to the DHI’s working closely with the competent authorities to ensure the preservation of this historic patrimony of Italy — and indeed of the whole world.”

DHI Board Member Abbot Eugenio Romagnuolo said: “I am truly delighted that after many years of planning and preparation, the DHI is embarking on this exciting new chapter in its development. The DHI has a massive plan of renewal and regeneration for Trisulti, whose monastic history goes back a thousand years.”

Benjamin Harnwell, President of the Board of Trustees, said: “Trisulti will be the home of a number of projects that underscore the fact that man is made in the image and likeness of God, and that the recognition of the imago Dei is the cornerstone of the Judaeo-Christian foundations of Western Civilisation. We are praying for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary — whose connection to Trisulti goes back one and a half thousand years — over this new chapter in our mission as we go forward.”


(2) Opinion article from Haaretz, April 22, 2019 (link)



Steve Bannon’s Fascist Far Right Christian Army Is Marching on Liberal Europe — and on the Pope

Bannon thinks he’s Europe’s savior. He’s also a narcissist, spinmeister and provocateur. But we shouldn’t dismiss his coalition-building efforts to radicalize Europe, empower the far right and declare holy war on the Vatican

By Alexander Reid Ross 

April 22, 2019

Steve Bannon is trying to take his far right populist provocations to victory in Europe’s ballot boxes — and to win Europeans’ souls. Hard right, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-abortion, Christian traditionalist souls susceptible to cheap anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim dogwhistles, that is.

Derided by Trump and alienated from sectors of his party, Bannon will likely never again serve as a public face of Republican strategy, but has instead become an eminence gris whose influence many will conveniently disavow. Regardless, he is pushing his Trump-style nationalist and race-baiting victory strategy to its next logical battlefield.

Bannon has called the Christian right a fundamental “layer” in Trumpism, and has worked to develop an international system through which the religious right can gain hegemony.

Five years ago, he laced his comments to a group of reactionary Catholics in the Vatican with references to known fascists, and spoke in apocalyptic terms.

He called on “the Church militant” to “fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting that will literally eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000 and 2,500 years.”

He spelled out the necessity of a global far right Christian coalition against the evils of socialism, atheism and Islam: “We are at the very beginning stages of a global conflict. If we do not bind together as partners, with others in other countries…[then] this conflict is only going to metastasize.”

Last month, the same coterie convened in Verona for the World Congress of Families to rally a global movement against LGBQTI rights, abortion, and immigration. Tellingly, their meeting included members of the fascist Forza Nuova party, which also marched in support in the streets outside of the meeting.

Bannon’s “vision” requires not only attacking the democratic systems of nation-states in Europe and but also transnational power centers that show insufficient commitment to hard right values, such as shutting Europe’s doors to immigration — including the Pope.

In a 2016 meeting with Italy’s now deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, Bannon reportedly opined that “the pope is a sort of enemy. [Bannon] suggested for sure to attack, frontally.”

After that meeting Salvini was photographed holding up a T-shirt emblazoned with the words: “Benedict [the former arch-traditionalist pope] is my pope.”

Bannon’s seeding this far-right insurrection against the papacy by allying with Francis critics both within Catholicism and outside, building effectively a cross-denominational Christian traditionalist front. And he might be winning.

One of the trustees of his institute is an outspoken critic of the current Pope and ex-Breitbart contributor, Austin Ruse, who’s also an official of the World Congress of Families, the coalition of far-right, anti-gay Christian groups meeting in Verona that is backed by Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian ultra-nationalist oligarch close to Vladimir Putin.

The Bannon anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim agenda has strong backing from within the Vatican, not least in the person of Robert Sarah, an African cardinal who’s a traditionalist favorite to succeed Pope Francis. His rhetoric in 2019 almost precisely tracks the language Bannon employed in his own speech at the Vatican in 2014.

He (Cardinal Sarah) told a French paper recently: “If the West continues in this fatal way, [accepting mass immigration] there is a great risk that, due to a lack of birth, it will disappear, invaded by foreigners, just as Rome has been invaded by barbarians… This current desire to globalize the world by suppressing nations, specificities, is pure madness…If Europe disappears, and with it the invaluable [Christian] values of the old continent, Islam will invade the world.”

It seems that Pope Francis may already be feeling the anti-immigrant heat. In his Easter message, he unexpectedly called for the international community to return refugees to Syria.

In tandem, Bannon is deepening his political efforts, which he calls The Movement, to swing Europe to the right, with one test being the upcoming EU elections.

For Bannon, organizing populist parties is “no different from Goldman Sachs” or when he started his own financial services firm — “it’s just a different conference room.” That’s the story, at least, that he fed Alison Klayman in her documentary The Brink, which followed Bannon from the aftermath of the disastrous 2017 alt-right protest in Charlottesville to the beginning of 2019.

The Brink sheds light on a strategy of collaboration across the far right that, by Bannon’s own admission, openly exploits anger and resentment. While identified as “populism” for its emotive appeals, Bannon’s strategy is forged in expensive hotels, in conversations with former Goldman Sachs head John Thornton, on private jets, and in the mansions of billionaires.

The guestlists for his exclusive dinners include members of Vlaams Belang, a repackaged version of the Flemish fascist party Vlaams Blok, and the most extreme elements of the far-right Sweden Democrats.

While Bannon’s proximity to far-right parties like the rebranded French Front National, now known as the National Rally, and Italy’s League indicate an identification with ostensibly non-fascist parties, his travels among the ranks of fascists indicate that his “populist” strategy involves incorporation of a vanguardist approach that deploys fascism for particular purposes.

Bannon’s long-time ally, the UK’s Nigel Farage, may be, after Salvini, the clearest beneficiary of Bannonism. Farage, once head of the pro-Brexit and virulently anti-EU and anti-immigrant UKIP party, has founded a new Brexit Party in advance of the EU elections.

Bannon was a key figure in dark-money funding and messaging the anti-EU Brexit campaign that Farage spearheaded, a role that Farage himself openly acknowledged and that is documented in a scene in The Brinkbetween the two.

It’s easy to turn a blind eye to fascism, even when it is right under your nose. Nigel Farage in conversation about funding and forming an international movement with Donald Trump‘s white supremacist former adviser, Steve Bannon. Chilling #everydayfascism

Farage for his part isn’t shy about paying Bannon back: He’s called him the “greatest political thinker and activist in the Western world today.”

Bannon is seen offering tangible support to groups like the Sweden Democrats and Belgium’s Vlaams Belang, reassuring them that “we do actually control the government.” Later in the film, a figure from the Marine Le Pen-led National Rally insists that Bannon is “quite discrete in the way he helps. ‘I have these tools, you want them [or] don’t want them.’”

The National Rally just announced it had formally joined a new pre-EU elections alliance of far-right forces in Europe spearheaded by Italy’s Salvini, to which Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD), a far right party with neo-National Socialist links, and Austria’s Freedom Party, which has National Socialist roots.

How does Bannon intend to widen the circle of provocateurs, entryists and far-right activists who are au fait with those tools and how to use them?

One way is Bannon’s establishment of what he terms the “Academy for the Judeo-Christian West” in an old Italian monastery he intends to repurpose as a “gladiator school for culture warriors.” As he commented on its curriculum: “Will we teach the underpinnings of populism and nationalism? Yeah, absolutely. But also a broader range of stuff. The trends of where we think the world is going.”

Steve Bannon, former WH Advisor, has leased a monastery in Italy for 20 years where he plans to create Christian Nationalist Training Camp for “Christian Warriors” to fight against other religions including Islam and Judaism.

Not a book. Real life.

It is difficult of course to gauge the extent to which Bannon and his populists have aided the rise of the international far right. He’s hardly the only American right-winger so deeply committed to their resurgence.

As the World Congress of Families convened in Verona, Open Democracy released an expose showing millions of dollars flowing from U.S. evangelicals to European right-wing religious groups connected to populist radical right parties over the years. Stateside, his name seems to be achieving diminishing returns: his assistance to Republican contenders during the mid-term elections went bust.

The trans-Atlantic movement Bannon now represents, no matter how awkwardly or how much as a result of his own PR, dovetails globally with other right-wing populists, especially those who benefit from crucial support from right-wing evangelicals.

Brazil’s new president Jair Bolsonaro’s son was photographed with Bannon during the election campaign that ushered his father into power, and his foreign minister Ernesto Araújo wrote an extensive tract citing Bannon and Russian fascist ideologue Alexander Dugin as important geopolitical reference points in the “multipolar world.” Araújo has since glorified the “authentic national sentiment” of the Nazi Party.

In The Brink, Bannon makes scattered references to a “global revolt” that will stitch together the “guys in Egypt,” Modi’s people in India, and Orban in Hungary. He posits a China-Iran-Turkey axis as a rising global power, and hopes to thwart Chinese hegemony with the support of billionaire fugitive Guo Wengui.

The name conspicuously absent from the film is Vladimir Putin, whose role in shaping the world-system that Bannon hopes to achieve — and would be its principal beneficiary — remains critical.

Given recent indicators, such as the far-right’s performance in elections from Belgium to Finland and the Pope’s Easter declaration, Bannon’s dream of “defeating the EU” by Europeans voting to destroy it and plunge the continent further into illiberal democracy may come to fruition sooner than even he dreamed possible, irrespective of his own efforts.

Bannon is a mass of contradictions, a self-marketeer supreme and narcissist whose grandiose visions are often mirages or spin.

He is a counter-revolutionary who considers himself a constituent part of a new French Revolution, a Catholic who targets the Pope, a purported populist who believes nothing can be accomplished without control over the government’s appropriations process, and a widely detested figure who believes he has his finger on the pulse of the “zeitgeist.”

He is part of an ecosystem of far-right inciters and grifters who see themselves both as running the world and fighting a courageous uphill battle to take power. But he’s helping Europe’s far right decant its tired formulas into new bottles for popular consumption.

In one telling scene in The Brink, Bannon sits in an expensive Venetian hotel with a representative of the Brothers of Italy, a “post-fascist” successor to Mussolini’s Italian Social Movement. Guardianassociate editor Paul Lewis tells Bannon that he had previously called the Brothers a “neo-fascist” party. Bannon responds with a bromide to the effect of, “I don’t think I ever said anything like that.”

In fact, in a 2018 Guardian interview, Bannon had called the Brothers, hardly disparagingly, “one of the old fascist parties,” and went on: “We’re partnering with parties that are going to become quite mainstream, over time.”

To credit Bannon alone with the incremental successes of the European far right’s political and religious crusade would be internalizing his own narrative as the continent’s great savior; but there’s no doubt he’s helped birth a new, and threatening, spirit of transnational co-operation, funding, and incitement to a neo-fascist spectrum from America to the Old World.

Alexander Reid Ross is a Lecturer in Geography at Portland State University. He is the author of Against the Fascist Creep (AK Press, 2017). Twitter: @areidross


(3) Article from Reuters, September 18, 2018 (link)



SEPTEMBER 14, 2018

Steve Bannon drafting curriculum for right-wing Catholic institute in Italy

By Mark Hosenball

(Reuters) – Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon is helping to craft the curriculum for a leadership course at a right-wing Roman Catholic institute in Italy, stepping up his efforts to influence conservative thinking in the church.]

Benjamin Harnwell, director of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute based in a mountaintop monastery not far from Rome, told Reuters Bannon had been helping to build up the institute for about half of its eight-year life.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, a leading Vatican conservative who is president of the Institute’s board of advisers, said Bannon would be playing a leading role there.

Burke told Reuters he looked forward to working with Harnwell and Bannon “to promote a number of projects that should make a decisive contribution to the defense of what used to be called Christendom”.

Bannon’s increased engagement with the Institute demonstrates how his involvement in Europe extends beyond electoral politics to an effort to build a populist faction inside the Catholic Church.

Bannon told Reuters this week that after Nov. 6 (2018) Congressional elections in the United States, he will spend “80-90 percent” of his time in Europe building up his Brussels-based populist “Movement”.

Bannon, who has visited the Institute’s home at the 800-year-old Monastery of Trisulti and addressed the organization by video link, is helping to draw up the coursework for a training program for conservative Catholic political activists and leaders, Harnwell said.

Bannon is also raising funds for the institute in both Europe and the United States, he added. The institute has set “very high academic standards”, Harnwell said.

Harnwell, a former European Parliament staffer, also is advising Bannon on his campaign to build a populist Movement across Europe that will support far-right parties in next year’s European Parliament elections, he and Bannon said.

Bannon and the Vatican did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this story.


Harnwell said he founded the institute while working as an aide to a British Conservative European Parliament member. At the time, one of the legislature’s committees was trying to block Rocco Buttiglione, a confidant of Pope John Paul II, from becoming European Commissioner for justice and security.

During a confirmation hearing, Buttiglione, who was nominated to the European Commission by then-Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, described homosexuality as a sin and said the principal role of women was to have children. Amid political uproar, Buttiglione withdrew from consideration for the Commission.

Harnwell said Buttiglione was a “founding patron” of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, whose mission he described as “defending the Judeo-Christian tradition” and promoting “human dignity based on the image of God”. Harnwell added: “If you don’t have a culture of religious principle, we no longer have a credible basis for life.”

Buttiglione, who described himself as a convinced pro-European, said there were some differences between him and Harnwell. “I am interested in a cultural dialogue with the so-called Populists but I am not one of them and, first and foremost, I am a Catholic and I stand by the pope,” he said in statement to Reuters.

Harnwell said the Institute was setting up two training programs: a leadership course that Bannon is helping to design, which Harnwell described a an “academy for the Judeo-Christian West”, and the Cardinal Martino Academy, named after a former papal ambassador to the United Nations, which will promote pro-life Catholic social teachings.


Bannon, a rabble-rousing conservative media entrepreneur and activist popular with Trump’s base, was fired from the White House a year ago, but the former adviser remained a Trump ally.

Bannon returned to the right-wing Breitbart News website, which he had headed before running Trump’s presidential campaign. In January, Bannon quit as Breitbart’s executive chairman after angering Trump by harshly criticizing his eldest son.

Leaving Breitbart threatened Bannon’s dream of leading a new political movement that supports his “America First” agenda of tougher trade deals and immigration laws.

Harnwell said the Institute expects to present its first courses next year. The monastery is large enough to accommodate 250-300 students at a time.

Burke, the former Archbishop of St. Louis, has been a leading light at the Institute since 2013 and is an outspoken critic of some policies of Pope Francis.

Since Francis’ election in 2013, Burke has led the charge by conservatives who have sharply criticized the pope, saying he has left many faithful confused by pronouncements that the church should be more welcoming to homosexuals and divorced Catholics and not be obsessed by “culture war” issues such as abortion.

Burke is president of the Institute’s “advisory board”, Harnwell said. The cardinal has condemned Islam as a threat to the West, a position that strongly parallels one of the principal political campaign themes of both Bannon and Trump.

In 2014, Pope Francis removed Burke as chief of the Vatican’s Supreme Court, the Apostolic Signatura, and demoted him to become patron of the Order of Malta, a charitable organization.

Bannon is in “communication” regularly with Burke, although Harnwell acknowledges that the three-times divorced Bannon “doesn’t pretend to be a model Catholic”. Harnwell said the institute itself “takes no view on the pope” or his policies.

Burke has met several times with Matteo Salvini, Italy’s far-right deputy prime minister, Harnwell said. Earlier this summer, Salvini ordered Italian ports to stop allowing landings of ships carrying refugees fleeing Middle East strife.

After meeting Bannon in Rome last weekend, Salvini announced that he was joining the populist Movement Bannon was setting up aimed at disrupting the European Union.

Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Additional reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Giles Elgood

© 2019 Reuters. All Rights Reserved.


(4) Article from the Daily Beast, June 20, 2018 (link)


Steve Bannon, Cardinal Burke, Minister Salvini, and the Plot to Take Down Pope Francis

A trio of conservative henchmen are now working closely with each other against the pontiff’s efforts to defend human rights and equality—even on World Refugee Day.

By Barbie Latza Nadeau

June 20, 2018

ROME—It sounds almost like a lame joke. A former Trump strategist, a conservative cardinal with a penchant for fancy ceremonial gowns, and a far-right xenophobe walk into a bar in Rome. In this case, the Trump strategist is Steve Bannon, the conservative cardinal is American Raymond Burke, and the xenophobe is Italy’s new interior minister Matteo Salvini. No, they aren’t in a bar, but they are conspiring against one man, Pope Francis, on the issue most dear to him: immigration.

It is no secret that Francis, whose first ever apostolic voyage was to the Italian island of Lampedusa to give support to the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have crashed onto the shores there, supports an open-border policy. He has celebrated mass on the Mexican border with the United States, and he has warned world leaders to prioritize the acceptance of migrants over national security concerns and to avoid “discrimination, racism, extreme nationalism and xenophobia.”

In a series of statements ahead of World Refugee Day on Wednesday [June 14, 2018] Francis called for integration and acceptance, not borders and closed ports. “I hope that the states involved in these processes reach an understanding to assure, with responsibility and humanity, assistance to and the protection of those who are forced to flee their own country,” he said in one of his many messages to mark the occasion.

But the pope’s words have fallen on the deaf ears of many politicians, and sparked outrage from Bannon, Burke, and Salvini.

Bannon told ABC News this week that the Catholic Church was “one of the worst instigators of this open borders policy,” singling out Francis as the main reason for the migration crisis in Europe (which began long before Francis was elected in 2013). Bannon, who proclaims his own Catholic faith, previously has said the Catholic Church just needs “illegal aliens” to fill its pews.

When Bannon was in Rome in early June [2018] to celebrate Italy’s new populist government run by Salvini, Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio and their previously unknown puppet Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, he also took a side trip to the Trisulti monastery. It’s an 800-year-old gem of real estate a few hours from Rome being developed by Benjamin Harnwell, a conservative British Catholic with ties to UKIP, the party that built its reputation pushing for Brexit, as a bastion for right-wing-thinking types.

Harnwell runs the ultra-conservative and somewhat mysterious Catholic organization Dignitatis Humanae Institute which advertises that it was “founded to help Christian politicians defend their faith in the public square.” Harnwell runs a banner on his website with a quote from Bannon: “[Harnwell’s] the smartest guy in Rome. He’s always a tough guy. He comes across as a monk, but he’s actually a very tough guy.”

The monastery will host events with speakers like Bannon and Burke and conservative Christian leaders. “Trisulti will be the home of a number of projects that underscore the fact that man is made in the image and likeness of God, and that recognition of the imago Dei is the cornerstone of the Judaeo-Christian foundations of Western Civilization,” Harnwell, who did not respond to requests for an interview, is quoted as saying on his website.

Harnwell and his organization are an important connection between Bannon and Burke. Harnwell is the one who first introduced the two, according to a New York Times article that is displayed on Harnwell’s website. Bannon spoke at one of Harnwell’s’ conferences by grainy video link back in 2014 during which he warned that the migration exodus would lead to a rise in populism. Burke was the keynote speaker the year before.

Burke is one of the pope’s chief detractors, openly questioning Francis’ ability to run the church and campaigning for a lessening of papal powers. He has openly called Islam a threat as he supports tighter border controls in direct defiance of his boss, the pope, and he is a vocal supporter of American President Donald Trump, whom the pope has called un-Christian for wanting to build his wall.

The cardinal has been cultivating a relationship with Salvini, who visited him this week in Rome. The two had met several times before over their shared dislike of the current pontiff, albeit for different reasons. The fact that Salvini visited Burke, who is no longer the head of any congregation in the Curia, instead of Francis, whom he has openly criticized for inviting migrants to Italy, is lost on no one. And the photo of the two men smiling like Cheshire cats is at once creepy and worrying.

Salvini closed Italian ports to charity rescue ships earlier this month [June 2018], sending more than 600 people across high seas to Spain to prove his strength. He has now declared war on nomadic Roma people, calling for a physical survey of Roma camps to create a census from which he will essentially make a list of people to deport.

“Irregular foreigners will be deported via agreements with other countries,” he told an Italian television station this week. “But Italian Roma unfortunately we have to keep.”

It is no secret that Bannon has been a big fan of Salvini’s policies, calling them an example for the rest of the world. Salvini’s actions have also boosted his popularity at home, and a photo op with a cardinal like Burke speaks volumes about just whom he is trying to impress.

A recent survey showed his Lega party 2.2 percentage points higher than when his coalition government was inaugurated on June 1. His coalition party Five Star Movement lost 2.5 points in the same survey, in part because their base doesn’t agree with the hard line on migration.

Francis doesn’t agree either, but he is losing ground both here in Italy and abroad. He has been particularly vocal about migrant rights in recent days, both with regard to the closing of Italian ports and the separation of children from their families on the U.S.-Mexican border. “I would like to point out that the issue of migration is not simply one of numbers, but of persons, each with his or her own history, culture, feelings and aspirations,” Francis said this week. “These persons, our brothers and sisters, need ongoing protection, independently of whatever migrant status they may have.”

Paolo Gentiloni, Italy’s former center left prime minister accused Salvini of following the American model too closely, tweeting a sentiment that many moderates fear the most: “Yesterday refugees, today Roma, tomorrow guns for everyone.”

One might assume Francis is asking what Jesus would do for the good of humanity. It seems Bannon, Burke, and Salvini, worshippers of Trump, think they know better.

• Barbie Latza Nadeau


[email protected]


(5) Article from CBS News, September 7, 2017 (link)


September 7, 2017, 7:18 AM

Steve Bannon says Catholic Church has “economic interest” in “unlimited illegal immigration”

In his first extensive interview since leaving the Trump administration, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is speaking out about President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program. The Obama-era policy protects nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation.

Bannon spoke to Charlie Rose in an interview that will air this Sunday, Sept. 10, on “60 Minutes.”

Steve Bannon: Look, what he did on DACA the other day. Okay, I don’t agree with that DACA decision, but I understand how he struggled with it, I understand how he’s giving the possibility of a legislative thing. And he said even last night in a tweet – even in a tweet, he would rethink it. Trust me, the guys in the far right, the guys on the conservative side are not happy with this.

Charlie Rose: Can I remind you, a good Catholic, that Cardinal [Timothy] Dolan is opposed to what’s happened with DACA? Cardinal Dolan.

Bannon: The Catholic Church has been terrible about this.

Rose: Okay.

Bannon: The bishops have been terrible about this. By the way, you know why? You know why? Because unable to really – to – to – to come to grips with the problems in the church, they need illegal aliens, they need illegal aliens to fill the churches. That’s – it’s obvious on the face of it. That’s what – the entire Catholic bishops condemn him. … They have – they have an economic interest. They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration, unlimited illegal immigration. And as much as –

Rose: Boy, that’s a tough thing to say about your church.

Bannon: As much as I respect Cardinal Dolan and the bishops on doctrine, this is not doctrine. This is not doctrine at all. I totally respect the pope and I totally respect the Catholic bishops and cardinals on doctrine. This is not about doctrine. This is about the sovereignty of a nation. And in that regard, they’re just another guy with an opinion.

CBS News reached out to the archdiocese of New York Thursday to see if they wanted to respond. We are waiting to hear back.


(6) Article from Crux, February 13, 2017 (link)

A dose of reality about the Steve Bannon/Cardinal Burke axis

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux

February 13, 2017

Everyone loves a conspiracy theory, and of late English-language media have been giddy with speculation that Trump mastermind Steve Bannonand American Cardinal Raymond Burke, seen as a leading traditionalist critic of Pope Francis, have formed a pact to “legitimize extremist forces that want to bring down Western liberal democracy,” in the words of the Washington Post.

(What the specific aim of this alliance may be isn’t terribly clear, since nobody seriously believes a Trump-backed Vatican palace coup is in the offing. Presumably, the idea is to encourage and embolden one another.)

Because we’re talking simultaneously about one of the most polarizing figures in American politics and an equally polarizing presence in the Catholic Church, a disclaimer is obligatory: Nothing that follows is intended as either a defense or an indictment of the views Bannon and Burke represent. Instead, it’s designed as a dose of reality about their rumored meeting of minds.

Five such points seem worth making.

First, so far as we know, there has only been one face-to-face encounter between Bannon and Burke, which came before Trump’s election and even before the release of Pope Francis’s controversial document Amoris Laetitia … in other words, before the raw material of any potential alliance was actually in place.

Second, there’s no clear evidence Bannon and Burke have become BFFs, beyond a suggestion from Ben Harnwell, the Rome-based head of a conservative group called the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, that they’ve kept in contact.

Even if the two men do occasionally swap emails, in itself there would be nothing extraordinary about it. I’ve covered the Vatican for twenty years, watching scores of American politicians wash through Rome, all hoping to establish contacts — either because they see the Vatican as an important global player, or because they think there could be domestic political value to being seen as having Catholic friends in high places, or both.

American politicians tend to seek out the Vatican’s fellow Americans, first because many don’t speak other languages, and second, because those are the people they’re likely to know about. Generally they gravitate first to Americans they believe might share at least some of their views, which makes Bannon reaching out to Burke, whose combative rhetoric on Islam is well known, completely natural.

From a very different point of departure, Bernie Sanders did the same thing when he came to Rome, as have John Kerry, John Bolton, Newt Gingrich, and any number of others I’ve watched in action.

Third, there’s no evidence of Bannon having any close Roman contacts beyond Harnwell and Thomas Williams, a theologian and ex-Legionaries of Christ priest who writes for Breitbart. (Williams also has contributed to Crux.)

While both Harnwell and Williams are well-informed about Roman happenings, both probably would be the first to concede they’re no kind of Vatican heavyweights in a position to broker backdoor deals between the White House and a cabal of dissident cardinals. With respect to this Vatican administration in particular, both are definitely outsiders.

Fourth, Bannon and Burke are different personalities with distinctly different agendas.

For one thing, Burke’s idée fixe at the moment is defending classic Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage, an issue brought to the fore by Amoris Laetitia and its cautious opening on Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Given that Bannon has been divorced and remarried three times, as has his boss, Burke probably wouldn’t regard them as his most natural partners.

Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, whatever else you want to say about Bannon, he’s not a political idiot. If his goal truly were to influence the direction of the Francis papacy somehow, away from potential conflict zones with his boss, he surely would have to know that Burke is hardly positioned to be helpful.

Indeed, if one were to compile a list right now of figures on the Roman landscape least likely to influence whatever Pope Francis says or does, Burke would be a great candidate for the top spot.

Granted, some of the protagonists in this storyline seem to be going out of their way to make a conspiracy theory almost irresistible.

For instance, on Monday Williams used his platform on Breitbart to deliver a reply to Jesuit Father James Martin, who had gone on MSNBC on Sunday to comment on reports about an alliance between Bannon and what Martin termed Catholic “radical traditionalists.”

Readers can look at what Martin said and then Williams’s response, and judge the merits of the exchange for themselves. In terms of the optics, however, it’s easy to assume that Williams equals Bannon and Bannon equals Burke, and therefore to conclude that Williams was executing a play designed by the cabal.

Under the law of Occam’s razor, however, the simplest explanation is different.

What’s probably going on is this: Bannon is a ferocious cultural conservative, and thus when he was in Rome he reached out to people he suspected might be friendly. Without any need for coordination, in the meantime, he’s continued to pursue his agenda, and Catholics such as Burke have pursued theirs.

In other words, the most plausible explanation is that the people who figure in this narrative are simply doing what they do, and the fact their activity sometimes overlaps shouldn’t be a surprise.

Bottom line: We don’t need a new “axis of evil” to account for what’s happening, simply the usual clash of competing ideologies and worldviews. That may not make anyone feel better, but it at least has the virtue of being closer to reality.

[End Dossier]

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