Whenever the late, great Anna Russell related something so incredibly illogical or totally bizarre in the plot line of some opera or other, she would utter her tag line, which almost always brought down the house: “I’m not making this up, you know!” Well, neither are we . . . and what we’re saying would absolutely floor anyone who accepts opera plots without batting an eye.
In yesterday’s podcast, we took a look at Ignatius Loyola Donnelly and mentioned that he had a significant influence on today’s “progressive” agenda . . . which has next to nothing to do with the Progressive Party or platform of Theodore Roosevelt back in 1912. Today we are looking at Donnelly’s influence on the social doctrine promulgated by Msgr. John A. Ryan of the Catholic University of America and accepted by many Catholics and non-Catholics (both Christian and non-) as “authentic Catholic teaching.”
Yeah, right. And you don’t have to be Catholic or play one on television to see the weirdness in this plot.
|Msgr. John A. Ryan|
From the website of the Catholic University of America, we read,
John A. Ryan was the foremost social justice advocate and theoretician in the Catholic Church during the first half in the 20th century. Ryan's family life informed many of his views on politics and society. He learned first hand of the difficulties that farmers encountered and supported the populist movement as a young man. He also read and became aware from his Irish immigrant family about Irish nationalists like Ignatius Donnelly and supported the cause of Irish independence.
Uh, yeah, uh, Kingfish. . . .
So, Ryan “supported the cause of Irish independence”?
Bologna. Maybe he changed his mind later when it was expedient to do so, but he was quite clear in his views following the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916. The administration of Woodrow Wilson was particularly condemnatory of the Rising, and many Catholics and Irish Americans, stalwarts of the Democratic Party, followed Wilson’s lead:
In the United States the attitude of the Church and the Catholic press towards the Easter Rising was anything but cordial. There were some Catholic clerics who could detect the accents of God in the pronouncements of officials in the Wilson Administration and who quickly reflected the opinions of the President. Reverend John A. Ryan was typical of this group. He sharply denounced the Easter Rising and expressed the view that everyone who aided the Sinn Féiners should feel the heavy hand of the British Government. It is interesting to note that during World War II Dr. Ryan went to an extreme in his support of the Roosevelt Administration. (Charles Callan Tansill, America and the Fight for Irish Freedom, 1866-1922. New York: Devin-Adair Co., 1957, 204n.)
So much for supporting the cause of Irish independence. And Donnelly?
|Ignatius Loyola Donnelly|
Like Henry George, Donnelly was in favor of nationalization of railroads. (“Anti-Trust Leaders At Variance Over Watered Stock,” Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, Massachusetts), Wednesday, February 14, 1900, 4.) He also advocated confiscation of all property at the will of the courts (“Fight Against the Trusts,” Aurora Daily Express (Aurora, Illinois), Tuesday, June 6, 1893, 7), and abolition of private property in land, with the confusing qualifier, “[s]ubject to the right of every human being to a home in the land.” (“Watson Nominated: Named by the Populists For Vice President,” The Free Lance (Fredericksburg, Virginia), Tuesday, July 28, 1896, 1.) He has been described as “America’s ‘Prince of Cranks’.” (Walter Monfried, “America’s ‘Prince of Cranks’,” The Milwaukee Journal (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), Friday, May 15, 1953, 8.)
The son of an Irish immigrant who died young, Donnelly was raised by his mother and sent to the best schools she could afford, where apparently he imbibed the socialism that was captivating the intelligentsia of the day. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1852. In 1855 he married Katherine McCaffrey.
It is not known at what point in the 1850s Donnelly formally left the Catholic Church and became a spiritualist, but it was probably immediately after his marriage; “Many leading socialists of the day looked to religion for ways to define society according to principles both religious and socialist.” (Dr. Julian Strube, “How Socialism Helped to Seed the Landscape of Modern Religion,” Aeon, 14, November 2017.) In the mid-1850s he left the practice of law and began a career in real estate speculation.
|Charles "Free Sex" Fourier|
In 1857 “amidst rumors of financial scandal” (while serving in Congress, Donnelly accepted a $50,000 “legal fee” from the 1856 John C. Frémont presidential campaign, which the unenlightened continued for years to characterize as a bribe), Donnelly moved to Minnesota where he and some partners attempted to establish the City of Nininger. This was one of the utopian socialist communities springing up at the time, most of them either inspired by or based directly on the program developed in France by François Marie Charles Fourier and revised and promoted in the United States by Albert Brisbane. Fourier. You know, the guy who said that unrestrained sex would make the Sahara a fertile farmland, transform the North Pole into a tropical paradise, and turn the oceans to lemonade? Yeah, him.
The Nininger project bears some resemblance to the Republic of Poyais, “the Land that Never Was,” a fraud perpetrated by Sir Gregor MacGregor in the early nineteenth century. (David Sinclair, The Land that Never Was: Sir Gregor MacGregor and the Most Audacious Fraud in History. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press, 2003.) Despite his advocacy of abolishing private property in land, however, Donnelly owned “several farms” at the time of his death. (“Ignatius Donnelly Dead,” The Spokesman-Review, Wednesday, January 2, 1901, 1.) Like many socialist prophets, Donnelly believed firmly in a private philosophy of “Do as I say, not as I do.”
|Original Nininger sank like Atlantis|
The Panic of 1857 caused the Nininger project to fail and left Donnelly deeply in debt. As so many had before and since, Donnelly decided to go into politics to make his fortune . . . again.
The Sage of
Nininger eventually served as one of the first Lieutenant Governors of
Minnesota, then in Congress, then as a state senator, and then as a state
representative. Interestingly, his
offices declined in status as people became more aware of his “esoteric” ideas
expressed in his speeches, novels, and works of pseudoscience.
So, you think that’s looney? Tune in tomorrow for our next exciting episode!