English Methodists and the Myth of the Catholic Antichrist (c. 1755 – 1817)
Paul’s second epistle to the community at Thessalonica warned that the second coming of Christ will be preceded by the appearance of ‘the man of sin’ (or ‘the man of lawlessness’), who will work false miracles and exalt himself over God, setting himself up in God’s Temple, all in accordance with the plans of Satan (2 Thess 2:1-17). The ‘man of sin’ was subsequently linked to the Antichrist mentioned in John’s first and second epistle (1 John 2:18-22, 4:3, 2 John 1:7). Various diabolic figures from the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation have also been interpreted as relating to the Antichrist. These allusions to a diabolic character were fleshed out over time. According to Norman Cohn (1975), ‘over the centuries new and terrible anxieties began to make themselves felt in Christian minds, until it came to seem that the world was in the grip of demons and that their human allies were everywhere, even in the heart of Christendom itself.’ The Antichrist was regarded as an authentic manifestation of evil, who would lead Satan’s forces in a cosmic war against the followers of Christ. The Antichrist was intertwined with millenarian expectations of the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth. The arrival of the Antichrist, as Cohn (1957) observed, was considered no mere ‘phantasy about some remote and indefinite future but a prophecy which was infallible and which at almost any given moment was felt to be on the point of fulfilment’. 
The Seven-Headed Beast (Silos Apocalypse, Illuminated Manuscript) [Wikimedia Commons]
‘A wild beast coming up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns’
In English-Methodist discourses during the eighteenth century, it was often the Catholic popes – sometimes individually, sometimes collectively – who were mythicised as ‘the Antichrist’. The tone for these discourses about ‘Antichrist’ was set by the original founders and leaders of the Methodist movement, John Wesley (1703 – 1791) and Charles Wesley (1707 – 1788), both of whom were enthusiastic millenarians.
John Wesley’s general ambivalence and prejudice towards Roman Catholicism has been well documented by David Butler (1995), but it is specifically to John Wesley’s construction of the so-called ‘Romish Antichrist’ that we now turn. According to Butler, it was in his commentary on Revelation in his Explanatory Notes on the New Testament (1755) that John Wesley recorded his ‘oddest thoughts on the Papacy’. John Wesley’s preface to this section of his Explanatory Notes records how he despaired of understanding much of Revelation until he encountered ‘the works of the great Bengelius’, (i.e., Johann Bengel’s Gnomon, published in 1742), the reading of which ‘revived’ his hopes of understanding ‘even the prophecies’ recorded in the Book of Revelation. According to John Wesley, much of his commentary on Revelation was partly translated and abridged from observations found in Bengel’s Gnomon, albeit he allowed himself ‘the liberty’ to alter some of Bengel’s observations, and to add a few notes where he felt that Bengel’s account was incomplete. Where Johann Bengel ends and John Wesley begins is not always clear, but that they were seemingly much in agreement – at least in the passages that John Wesley derived or lifted from Bengel – seems reasonably certain.
John Wesley believed that the role of Antichrist, ‘the beast with seven heads’, was not assigned to just a single individual, but to ‘a body of men’ at some moments in history, and ‘an individual’ at others, which he summarised as ‘the papacy of many ages’. In particular, he seems to have had in mind all popes since the beginning of the papacy of Gregory VII in 1073. He regarded this fantastical ‘beast’ to be no mere legend but a real and imminent danger. Commenting on Revelation 13:1 (‘and I stood on the sand of the sea, and saw a wild beast coming up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten diadems, and upon his heads a name of blasphemy’), John Wesley stated that ‘O reader! This is a subject wherein we also are deeply concerned; and which must be treated, not as a point of curiosity, but as a solemn warning from God. The danger is near.’ According to John Wesley, the sea that the Antichrist was prophesied to emerge from was not ‘the abyss’ but rather ‘Europe’, and ‘the beast’ was ‘the Romish papacy, as it came to a point six hundred years since, stands now, and will for some time longer.’ John Wesley was not, it seems, entirely sure about the exact arrival of the Antichrist, suggesting that the Antichrist arrived some 600 to 700 years previously (from the perspective of his writing in the 1750s), at some point between the beginning of the papacy of Gregory VII and the conclusion of the papacy of Alexander III (i.e., between 1073 and 1181), though he fixated primarily on Gregory VII. Butler convincingly suggests that Wesley’s strongest suspicion was that Gregory VII was the original manifestation of ‘the beast’. This seems to be confirmed by a closer examination of Wesley’s commentary on Revelation. In his comment on Revelation 13:1, Wesley stated that ‘whatever power the papacy has had from Gregory VII, this the Apocalyptic beast represents’. And in his commentary on Revelation 17:11, Wesley states that: ‘the beast consists as it were of eight parts. The seven heads are seven of them; and the eighth is his whole body, or the beast himself … The whole succession of popes from Gregory VII are undoubtedly antichrist. Yet this hinders not, but that the last pope in this succession will be more eminently the antichrist, the man of sin; adding to that of his predecessors a peculiar degree of wickedness from the bottomless pit. This individual person, as a pope, is the seventh head of the beast; as the man of sin, he is the eighth, or the beast himself.’ Despite his warnings about the danger posed by ‘the beast’ in his Explanatory Notes in 1755, John Wesley seems to have believed that the beast would eventually be defeated in 1836 (following the chronology of Johann Bengel). In his commentary on Revelation 17:10, he speculates simply that in 1836, ‘the beast [will be] finally overthrown’. In fact, it seems that just 22 years later, John Wesley was already confident that the power of ‘the beast’ was already in decline. According to Butler, Wesley wrote a letter to Joseph Benson (another Methodist minister) in 1777, stating that ‘the Romish Anti-Christ is already so fallen that he will not again lift up his head in any considerable degree. … I therefore concur with you in believing that his tyranny is past never to return’. 
Two pages from John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament, 12th edition
Around the same time that John Wesley was finishing his Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, his brother, Charles Wesley, also made reference to the ‘Romish Antichrist’. In April 1754, he wrote a letter to an unknown correspondent. In this apocalyptic letter, Charles Wesley referred to the ‘labyrinth’ of ‘scriptural Prophecies’ that God had guided him through, and the arrival of the ‘Kingdom of our Lord in its fulness upon earth’ after certain key events: ‘the conversion of God’s antient people the Jews, their restoration to their own land; [and] the destruction of the Romish Antichrist & of all the other adversaries of Christ’s kingdom’. 
Kenneth Newport (1996), in his comprehensive survey of Methodist millenarianism (mostly premillennialism), identifies a number of other Methodist preachers who referred or alluded to the ‘Roman’, ‘Rome’ or Catholic ‘Antichrist’. For example, according to Newport, Joseph Sutcliffe (1762 – 1856), a preacher appointed by John Wesley to the Redruth Circuit in 1786, and the author of several works including a commentary on scripture and a 25-page pamphlet on the ‘glorious millennium, and the second coming of Christ’ (1798), constructed an elaborate millennial narrative combining elements of pre- and post-millennialism (with Christ’s second coming prior to his thousand-year reign on Earth, but with Christ returning to and ruling the earthly Church from heaven, and the millennium not entirely free from the vices and wickedness of earlier times, and with the millennium followed by one final cataclysmic battle between Jesus and Satan at its conclusion). In Sutcliffe’s narrative, the Roman ‘Antichrist’ (‘the pagan and the papal beast’) is defeated, the Jews embrace Christianity, and play a special eschatological role in helping to convert ‘the Turks, Tartars, Persians, and the numerous nations of the African shores’; ‘dwelling among all commercial nations, and being perfectly acquainted with their manners, customs, languages and religions, they [the Jews] are already arranged as an army of missionaries’. Later, Satan attacks the Jews, who by then are in Jerusalem, but Satan is defeated when Christ appears in visible form to slay his enemies. This is all expected to occur in the nineteenth century (beginning with the final defeat of the Antichrist circa 1820 and the battle against Satan in Jerusalem circa 1865). Then, after a thousand years of Christ’s rule of the earthly Church from the Celestial Court (i.e., a temporary paradise on Earth, a kingdom ruled from heaven, rather than located in heaven), Satan will escape his thousand-year imprisonment in the ‘bottomless pit’ to return for one last cosmic battle, but will be defeated by ‘the Lord Jesus’ who returns from heaven in ‘flaming fire’. After this, there will be the final judgement, the destruction of the wicked, and the resurrection of the righteous in the everlasting heavenly kingdom of God (presumably circa 2865). And according to Newport, Thomas Coke (1747 – 1814), the co-founder of Methodism in America and the first Methodist bishop, also developed a vibrant millenarian narrative in his Commentary on the Holy Bible (1803), in which the Antichrist already rules the Earth (presumably unbeknownst to most people), and has done so since the year 606 CE, but the Antichrist will be destroyed after his 1,260 year reign, in circa 1866, after which the Jews and Gentiles will all embrace Christianity, and the millennium will begin. 
Thomas Taylor (1738 – 1816), an influential Methodist preacher and friend of John Wesley, also argued that the ‘great Anti-christ’ was the ‘church of Rome’, in his Ten Sermons on the Millennium; or, the Glory of the Latter Days (1789). According to Taylor, ‘a glorious time’ was coming, when ‘Jesus will reign, and every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess him to be Lord’. This blessed time will, Taylor suggested, involve the ‘destruction of Antichrist’, ‘the chaining of the dragon’, ‘wars and fighting ceasing’ and ‘the gathering in of the Jews’, among other events. Turning to the subject of Antichrist, Taylor observed that ‘every person, persons or thing, which oppose Christ, may be termed Anti-christ’. According to Taylor, the Antichrist thus consists of many groups, including ‘the Jews’, ‘the Turks’ and ‘Socinians’. But for Taylor, the ‘great Antichrist’ was the Catholic Church. For example, whilst he summed up the reasons for ‘the Jews’ being on the list in just one sentence (‘the opposers of Christ, in that they reject his government, will not have this man to reign over them, and thereby judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life’), and similarly ‘the Turks’ and ‘Socinians’ in one sentence apiece, the Catholic Church received several pages of criticism. According to Taylor, ‘but what is most generally understood by that term’ [i.e., Antichrist], ‘and what the scriptures in very clear terms mark out, as well as history, for Antichrists are, the doctrine, hierarchy and discipline of the church of Rome. The Pope and Cardinals, together with the whole herd of secular and regular priests and begging friars, joined with their whole train of legends for doctrines, may be said to be the great Antichrist’. Taylor outlined over several pages of the sermon what he considered to be the sins of the ‘church of Rome’, including as highlights, ‘infallibility’, ‘transubstantiation’, ‘praying to the dead’, ‘purgatory’, ‘priestly absolution’, ‘persecutions’, ‘torture’ and ‘the Inquisition’. He suggested that in its ‘superstitious discipline’ and ‘horrid cruelties’, the ‘church of Rome’ was the ‘whore of Babylon’. 
Significantly, Adam Clarke, a prominent Methodist preacher and bible scholar from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, whose anti-Judaism and anti-Catholicism I examined as part of a collaborative project between the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester and the John Rylands Research Institute, also embraced many hostile myths and stereotypes about Catholics (and Jews), but rejected the millenarian ideas of the previously discussed Methodists. Adam Clarke was born c. 1760 – 1762 (the exact year being unknown) in Londonderry. He died of cholera in London on 28 August 1832. Clarke met John and Charles Wesley at the Kingswood school in Bristol when he was approximately eighteen years of age, and was appointed by them to preach at Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire. His circuit soon extended to other towns and villages, and he was later assigned to the London Circuit. He was elected three times to the Presidency of the Methodist Conference and was widely respected as a preacher and scholar.
Unlike the previously discussed Methodists, Clarke did not believe in a gathering in or restoration of the Jews, or their mass conversion to Christianity, or their role in the final struggle against Antichrist. Instead, he suggested in his commentary on the New Testament, published in 1817, and his commentary on the Old Testament, published in 1825, that the role of Jews was simply to serve as a wretched and dispersed people, as perpetual monuments to the truth of Christianity. In his commentary on Matthew 24, he argued that the Jews, preserved as ‘a people scattered through all nations, … without temple, sacrifices, or political government’, reluctantly stand forth, despite their attempts to ‘suppress the truth’, as ‘unimpeachable collateral evidence’ of the predictions found in the New Testament. Reading the Gospel of Matthew as a prophetic text written before the sacking of Jerusalem, Clarke argued that ‘the destruction of Jerusalem’ had been foretold, and was a remarkable demonstration of ‘divine vengeance’ and a ‘signal manifestation of Christ’s power and glory’. Clarke concluded that, ‘thus has the prophecy of Christ been most literally and terribly fulfilled, on a people who are still preserved as continued monuments of the truth of our Lord’s prediction, and of the truth of the Christian religion’. Similarly, in his commentary on Jeremiah 15:4, he argued that the statement, ‘I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth’, was in respect to ‘the succeeding state of the Jews in their different generations’. According to Clarke, ‘never was there a prophecy more literally fulfilled; and it is still a standing monument of Divine truth. Let infidelity cast its eyes on the scattered Jews whom it may meet with in every civilized nation of the world; and then let it deny the truth of this prophecy, if it can’. In his preface to the Epistle to the Romans, Clarke argued that the calamities endured by the Jews, and their continued survival as a distinct and separate people despite a ‘dispersion of about 1700 years, over all the face of the earth, everywhere in a state of ignominy and contempt’, was evidence of a ‘standing miracle’, and the extraordinary will and interposal of Heaven. According to Clarke, the continued presence of the Jews as a distinct but dispersed people, ‘for many ages, harassed, persecuted, butchered and distressed’ (by ‘Pagans and pretended Christians’), as ‘the most detestable of all people upon the face of the earth’, but nevertheless preserved, was in line with a prediction in the book of Jeremiah (‘for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure’ [Jeremiah 46:28]), that God will bring an end to other nations, but not the Jews. Clarke concluded, in a somewhat ontological vein, that ‘thus the very being of the Jews, in their present circumstances, is a standing public proof of the truth of Revelation’ 
Again, unlike the Methodist millenarians, Clarke did not prophesise the destruction of the Catholic Church or speculate with confidence as to the identity of Antichrist. Reflecting on the Antichrist in his commentary on Revelation 11:7 (‘and when they [the two witnesses] shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them and shall overcome them, and kill them’), Clarke observed that the beast from the bottomless pit ‘may be what is called Antichrist’, but he concluded that other than some power opposed to ‘genuine Christianity’ and under ‘the influence and appointment of the devil’, it was impossible to say who or what Antichrist is. He noted that the conjectures about the identity of the beast (and the two witnesses) are manifold. As examples, he mentions as possibilities, ‘some Jewish power or person’, ‘one of the persecuting Heathen emperors’, and ‘the papal power’. Ultimately, the Antichrist (‘the beast’) remains an uncertain and shadowy figure in Clarke’s discourse. 
Portrait of Dr Adam Clarke, c. 1806, Methodist Archives /PLP 26/11/24
With his rejection of millenarian ideas, his limited interest in speculating about the identity of Antichrist, and his belief that Jews would be preserved in their dispersed, separate and wretched condition as perennial monuments to the truth of Christianity (rather than a gathering in of the Jews, and their embracing of Christianity), Clarke seems to have been an outlier compared to many of his Methodist colleagues from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. However, whilst he seems to have been indifferent to the idea of a Catholic Antichrist, he did embrace other hostile myths and stereotypes about Catholics (as well as many hostile myths and stereotypes about Jews). Adam Clarke’s anti-Judaism and anti-Catholicism are examined in more detail in my article published in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library: ‘“Monuments” to the truth of Christianity: Anti-Judaism in the Works of Adam Clarke’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, volume 93, issue 1, Spring 2017, 45-66 [link to journal volume] [link to author accepted manuscript]
 Norman Cohn, Europe’s Inner Demons: The Demonisation of Christians in Medieval Christendom (1975; repr., London: Pimlico, 2005), 23; and Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium (1957; repr., London: Pimlico, 1993), 35.
 David Butler, Methodists and Papists: John Wesley and the Catholic Church in the Eighteenth Century (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1995), 129-134; and John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament, notes on the Revelation 13:1 and 17:10-11, originally published in 1755, but the 12th edition has been used in this blog (New York: Carlton & Porter, no date), available online at archive.org, pages 650, 697-702, 714-715.
 The Unfinished letter from Charles Wesley to an unnamed correspondent, 25 April 1754, can be found in the John Rylands Special Collections, DDCW 1/51. For a transcript and discussion of this letter, see Kenneth G. C. Newport, ‘Charles Wesley’s Interpretation of Some Biblical Prophecies According to a Previously Unpublished Letter’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 77, no. 2 (1995), available online at Manchester eScholar, pages 31-52.
 Kenneth G. C. Newport, ‘Methodists and the Millennium: Eschatological Expectation and the Interpretation of Biblical Prophecy in Early British Methodism’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 78, no. 1 (1996), available online at Manchester eScholar, pages 103-122. For Joseph Sutcliffe, see pages 109-112. For Thomas Coke, see pages 121-122; and Joseph Sutcliffe, A Treatise on the Universal Spread of the Gospel, the Glorious Millenium, and the Second Coming of Christ (Doncaster: Gazette-Office, 1798).
 Thomas Taylor, Ten Sermons on the Millennium; or, The Glory of the Latter Days (Hull: G. Prince, 1789), sermon 1, ‘The Destruction of Antichrist’, pages 20-28.
 Adam Clarke, The New Testament, of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; containing the text, taken from the most correct copies of the present authorised translation, including the marginal readings and parallel texts, with a commentary and critical notes. Designed as a help to a better understanding of the sacred writings, 3 volumes (London: J. Butterworth, 1817), commentary on Matthew 24:30-31 (and concluding notes for Matthew 24), and preface to commentary on Romans, page viii; and Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments. The text carefully printed from the most correct copies of the present authorized translation, including the marginal readings and parallel texts. With a commentary and critical notes, designed as a help to a better understanding of the sacred writings, 5 volumes (London: J. Butterworth, 1825), commentary on Jeremiah 15:4, 46:28.
 Clarke, The New Testament, of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, commentary on Revelation 11:7.
Twelfth EAJS Congress: “Branching Out. Diversity of Jewish Studies”
Twelfth EAJS Congress. “Branching Out. Diversity of Jewish Studies”. Frankfurt. July 2023.
“Jewish Studies” is a multi-disciplinary field that brings together scholars, topics and methods from across many academic disciplines. Additionally, Jewish Studies scholars are often involved in multi-disciplinary networks, cooperating and communicating with colleagues from a wide variety of fields. At the same time, research into Jewish history, culture, languages and the like is not limited to Jewish Studies departments, creating yet wider networks and even greater diversity. The twelfth EAJS congress, “Branching Out. Diversity of Jewish Studies”, taking place in Frankfurt/Main (Germany) on 16-20 July 2023, will showcase the diversity that is an integral part of Jewish Studies: research topics that range from the Bible and ancient history to contemporary Jewish thought and culture, a multitude of different sources from all over the world, methods and approaches from archaeology to digital humanities, and a vast array of interdisciplinary networks and research approaches. Scholars of Jewish Studies from Europe and beyond are invited to propose papers and sessions.
The following are links to various announcements for the 12th EAJS Congress:
Call for Papers (Abstracts/Sessions) – Deadline 31 December (23:59 GMT+1): https://www.eurojewishstudies.org/calls-for-papers/call-for-papers-twelfth-eajs-congress/
EAJS Emerge (forum for PhDs and emerging scholars) – Deadline 31 December (23:59 GMT+1): https://www.eurojewishstudies.org/calls-for-papers/twelfth-eajs-congress-16-20-july-2023-eajs-emerge-call-for-applications-deadline-31-december-2022/
Distinguished Panels for the Congress – Deadline 15 Jan 2023: https://www.eurojewishstudies.org/calls-for-papers/call-for-submissions-distinguished-eajs-panel-and-distinguished-eajs-graduate-student-panel-deadline-15-january-2023/
Horrors in Bucha and a barely-veiled call for cultural genocide
Russia’s retreat from the region surrounding Kyiv has revealed the fate of Ukrainian towns occupied by the Russian army. When the Ukrainian army re-entered Bucha on 1 April 2022, they discovered the Bucha Massacre. Bodies of murdered Ukrainian civilians, strewn in streets and alleys, with their hands tied behind their backs, mutilated, burnt and shot, were left by the Russian army to rot. There are also several accounts of torture and rape in Bucha, in some cases of young children. This, it would seem, is the reality of Putin’s vaunted “de-Nazification”.
Excavation of mass grave in Bucha. Photograph by Anastasia Taylor-Lind (link to Guardian article)
Significantly, just two days after the discoveries in Bucha, an article entitled “What should Russia do with Ukraine,” published by the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti on 3 April 2022, called for the liquidation of the Ukrainian political, ethnic and cultural identity. Whilst stopping short of a call for Ukrainians to be killed en masse, the article did de-humanise Ukrainians in general as either “passive Nazis” or “active Nazis” (thereby making massacres like the one at Bucha more likely), and called for the suppression of Ukrainian “culture” and “education”, and the rejection of the Ukrainian “ethnic component of self-identification” (i.e. “de-Ukrainization”). The article even suggested that the very name, “Ukraine”, was to be eliminated. In other words, a barely-veiled call for “cultural genocide“, as originally conceived by Raphael Lemkin in 1944. Reports of Ukrainians being “evacuated” by the Russian army along corridors into Russia, “filtered” and shipped to camps in Siberia, deep within Russia and far away from Ukraine, reinforce this suspicion that Putin’s goal is not merely to seize Ukrainian territory (bad enough as that is), but rather to wipe away even the very idea of Ukraine (which in Putin’s mind is an existential obstacle to the re-birth of “Greater Russia”).
According to a translation of the article, provided by Ukraine Crisis Media Centre (UCMC), “Denazification is necessary when a significant part of the people – most likely the majority – has been mastered and drawn into the Nazi regime in its politics. That is when the hypothesis ‘the people are good – the government is bad’ does not work. Recognition of this fact is the basis of the policy of denazification.” The article stated that “the Nazis who took up arms should be destroyed to the maximum on the battlefield. There should be no significant differences between the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the so-called national battalions, as well as the territorial defence that joined these two types of military formations. All of them are equally involved in extreme cruelty against the civilian population, equally guilty of the genocide of the Russian people, and do not comply with the laws and customs of war. War criminals and active Nazis should be exemplarily and exponentially punished. There must be a total lustration. Any organizations that have associated themselves with the practice of Nazism [must be] liquidated and banned.” The article called for Ukraine’s leaders – which it referred to as “the Bandera elite” (an allusion to Stepan Bandera, a Nazi collaborator until the Gestapo arrested him because of his proclamation of the Ukrainian state, and an admittedly divisive character in Ukraine, seen by some as a freedom fighter who led an insurgency against the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s, and by others as a villain and violent antisemite; he was assassinated by the KGB in 1959) – to be “liquidated” as their “re-education is impossible”, and called for the “forced labour” of the “accomplices of the [Ukrainian] Nazi regime”. Chillingly, the article clearly had in mind the general population of Ukraine, as it explicitly stated that “Denazification is a set of measures in relation to the Nazified mass of the population.” The article explained that “in addition to the top, a significant part of the masses, which are passive Nazis, accomplices of Nazism, are also guilty. They supported and indulged Nazi power.” According to the article, “the just punishment of this part of the population is possible only as bearing the inevitable hardships of a just war against the Nazi system,” which, the article cynically concluded, was “waged as carefully and prudently as possible in relation to civilians.” “Further denazification of this mass of the population,” the article continued, would “consist in re-education, which is achieved by ideological repression (suppression) of Nazi attitudes and strict censorship: not only in the political sphere but also necessarily in the sphere of culture and education.” According to the article, “the terms of denazification can in no way be less than one generation, which must be born, grow up and reach maturity under the conditions of denazification.”
In a new twist that will likely serve to increase the genocidal language emanating from Moscow, Russian TV is now reframing the invasion of Ukraine as a religious or holy war. For example, on Friday 15 April 2022, Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of Russia’s State Duma, drawing upon language found in religious apocalyptic discourse, suggested on “The Big Game,” a TV show on Channel One Russia, that the “holy war” against Ukraine was a clash between the armies of light on one side (i.e. Russia) and the forces of “absolute evil” on the other (i.e. Satan, the Antichrist, Ukraine and the United States). He stated that: “In the modern world, we are the embodiment of the forces of good. This is a metaphysical clash between the forces of good and evil… We’re on the side of good against absolute evil, represented by the Ukrainian nationalist battalions… and the American temple of Satan, located in Salem, expressed its support for Ukraine. This is truly a holy war, a holy war we’re waging and we must win” (reported and translated by Julia Davis in the Daily Beast on 18 April 2022). A couple of days prior to that, on Wednesday 13 April 2022, Nikonov had given in indication of forces that he believed would be added to the phalanx of evil aligned against Russia, referring to an as yet incomplete “Fourth Reich,” which would add Finland, Norway and Japan to its numbers (reported in Newsweek). According to Professor Christopher Partridge, a key element of apocalyptic discourse is that it persuades its audience (and authors) that they are participants in a great cosmic narrative, “that their lives have meaning, that their conduct matters, and that history has purpose … [that] their faith will be rewarded; goodness and truth will triumph; what currently threatens them as final evil will prove to have been interim evil.” (Christopher Partridge, The Re-Enchantment of the West, volume 2, 2005, p. 284). Some of this can be seen in statements by Andrei Kartapolov, another member of the State Durma, on The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov TV show on Friday 15 April. According to Kartapolov, “we’re entering a very interesting period in the development of modern history. We’re all incredibly lucky to be able to witness these great events.” He went on to state that “historians will later study this period, to talk about its role, its meaning as the turning point that determined the coming world order for many years to come. And we’re witnessing it first hand! More than that, we’re participating in it! We should be proud of that alone” (reported and translated by Julia Davis in the Daily Beast on 18 April 2022). And in a modern allusion to and refinement of the antisemitic blood libel myth, Sergey Mikheev, a Moscow propagandist, assigned the role of ritual murderer to Ukrainian Pagans and Western Satanists (rather than to the Jews as is traditional in such narratives). Mikheev stated on a Russian political talk show, The Evening With Vladimir Solovyov, that the “Ukrainian God” is “the Devil”, that the Ukrainian religion is Paganism, that it “demands human sacrifices,” “demands blood,” “killing and atrocities are the initiation, to plead loyalty to those dark powers,” and that Ukrainians crucify [Russian] soldiers. He also suggested that Ukraine itself was a blood sacrifice by the “Satanists” in the West, that Ukraine was being cut “as a pig at the sacrificial pagan altar,” as an offering to “those Gods they [i.e. the West] truly worship” (link to video, posted on Twitter, with translations by @JuliaDavisNews).
The dangers of the misappropriation of Holocaust history by Putin and his followers, their mythologizing of so-called “Ukrainian Nazism” and their “special operation” to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, increasingly framed in religious language, are starkly revealed in towns like Bucha and Borodyanka. None of this is to deny that Ukraine has its share of far-right groups – ironically, largely encouraged by the years of ongoing aggression emanating from Russia – but there is little evidence of these being any more prevalent than in many other democratic European countries including France and Germany (and considerably less than in Hungary, and, pointedly, Russia). As Jason Stanley – Professor of philosophy at Yale University and author of How Fascism Works (2018) – has pointed out, “Ukraine does have a far-right movement, and its armed defenders include the Azov battalion,” but “no democratic country is free of far-right nationalist groups, including the United States,” and in 2019, the Ukrainian far right received only 2% of the electoral vote, “far less support than far-right parties receive across western Europe, including inarguably democratic countries such as France and Germany” (Jason Stanley, “The Antisemitism Animating Putin’s Claim to ‘Denazify’ Ukraine”, The Guardian, 26 February 2022). It is worth noting that the Azov regiment, which was formed out of the original far-right Azov battalion, is a tiny component of the Ukrainian military (approximately 1,000 soldiers), and is not the same unit as existed back in 2014-15, with the far-right elements today being significantly less prevalent (though admittedly not entirely gone), and with it’s recruitment being open more broadly to Ukrainian society (link to video report by Ros Atkins, BBC, posted on Twitter, 24 March 2022).
If the West wants to put a stop to this false “de-Nazification” – which is to say, Russia’s campaign to turn Ukrainian towns and cities into rubble, and to liquidate the very idea of Ukraine – then it needs to do more to help Ukraine. Significantly, according to the article in RIA Novosti, the “collective West” is “the designer, source, and sponsor of Ukrainian Nazism”, which probably suggests that RIA Novosti, and possibly Putin himself, would like to see a similar Russian campaign of so-called “de-Nazification” inflicted upon the countries and populations of the so-called “totalitarian” West. And according to State Duma deputy, Oleg Morozov, on a TV show on Thursday 14 April 2022, “Today’s world is very dangerous for us, but it’s also dangerous for Americans, for the Chinese, for the Europeans, for the Polish, and first and foremost, for the Baltics. Let them remember that denazification is a long, endless process and will very likely not end with Ukraine” (reported and translated by Julia Davis in the Daily Beast on 18 April 2022). Making sure that Ukraine defeats Russia’s invasion and attempted cultural genocide may therefore not just be the moral thing to do, it may also be in the enlightened self-interest of the West.
[Blog post updated 19/04/2022]
Link for other blog posts on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine (2022)
Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Like most right-minded people, I am horrified by the barbaric and immoral invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s regime. It is not clear what rational endgame Putin could possibly have in mind. He has brought devastation to Ukraine and its people, and is bringing economic catastrophe to his own country. The brazenness of the lies that Putin tells the world to try to justify his invasion is staggering. He falsely claims that his goal is to “de-nazify” Ukraine, and he refers to the Ukrainian leadership as “drug addicts” and “neo-Nazis”. Volodymyr Zelensky, the democratically-elected President of Ukraine, is neither a corrupt drug addict nor a neo-Nazi, but rather a brave wartime leader (when offered an evacuation by the US, he replied, “the fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride”). He is also Jewish. Zelensky lost several relatives to the Holocaust. Additionally, from 2016-2019, Ukraine had a Jewish Prime Minister (Volodymyr Groysman) as well, making it, to the best of my knowledge, the only European country to have simultaneously had a Jewish President and Prime Minister. Putin’s lies and warped claims, casting Jews and Ukrainians as a cabal of corrupt gangsters and Nazis, and Russians as their victims, are an inversion of reality and a misappropriation of Holocaust history. And, as if to ram Putin’s lies and hypocrisy home, Russian missiles have struck the Holocaust memorial at Babyn Yar, the site where tens of thousands of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust were murdered, by Nazis, during the Second World War.
None of this is to deny that Ukraine has its share of far-right groups – ironically, largely encouraged by the years of ongoing aggression emanating from Russia – but there is little evidence of these being any more prevalent than in many other democratic European countries including France and Germany (and considerably less than in Hungary, and, pointedly, Russia). As Jason Stanley – Professor of philosophy at Yale University and author of How Fascism Works (2018) – has pointed out, “Ukraine does have a far-right movement, and its armed defenders include the Azov battalion,” but “no democratic country is free of far-right nationalist groups, including the United States,” and in 2019, the Ukrainian far right received only 2% of the electoral vote, “far less support than far-right parties receive across western Europe, including inarguably democratic countries such as France and Germany” (Jason Stanley, “The Antisemitism Animating Putin’s Claim to ‘Denazify’ Ukraine”, The Guardian, 26 February 2022). It is worth noting that the Azov regiment, which was formed out of the original far-right Azov battalion, is a tiny component of the Ukrainian military (approximately 1,000 soldiers), and is not the same unit as existed back in 2014-15, with the far-right elements today being significantly less prevalent (though admittedly not entirely gone), and with it’s recruitment being open more broadly to Ukrainian society (link to video report by Ros Atkins, BBC, posted on Twitter, 24 March 2022).
Whilst I am relieved that the UK, EU and US have put in place several measures to support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, and to sanction and condemn Putin and his inner circle of close supporters, these can, and should, go much further. The UK government should do more to welcome Ukrainian refugees escaping the carnage being inflicted on their country (for example, by easing or waiving the visa requirements and reducing the red tape). Following the lead of Germany and France, the UK should start to actually seize the mega-yachts, properties and money of Russian oligarchs, rather than just talking about doing so. And those seized resources should be quickly liquidated and the proceeds used to help Ukrainians as soon as possible. Sanctions applied by the UK should become active immediately, without allowing Putin’s supporters several weeks or months to move and re-launder their money (the UK needs to act faster before Russian assets are spirited away). Europe need to do more to break its dependence on Russian gas (and oil). And the UK and US need to remember that whilst Ukraine might not be a member of NATO, the UK and US made commitments, as signatories to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, to protect the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine (in return for which, Ukraine gave up its significant stockpile of nuclear weapons).
[Blog post updated 19/04/2022]
Link for other blog posts on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine (2022)
New Publication: ‘Anti-Judaism in the Works of Adam Clarke’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library.
New research article in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 93:1 (Manchester University Press, Spring 2017): ‘”Monuments” to the Truth of Christianity: Anti-Judaism in the Works of Adam Clarke’.
Abstract: The prevailing historiographies of Jewish life in England suggest that religious representations of ‘the Jews’ in the early modern period were confined to the margins and fringes of society by the ‘desacralization’ of English life. Such representations are mostly neglected in the scholarly literature for the latter half of the long eighteenth century, and English Methodist texts in particular have received little attention. This research article addresses these lacunae by examining the discourse of Adam Clarke (1760/2–1832), an erudite Bible scholar, theologian, preacher and author and a prominent, respected, Methodist scholar. Significantly, the more overt demonological representations were either absent from Clarke’s discourse, or only appeared on a few occasions, and were vague as to who or what was signified. However, Clarke portrayed biblical Jews as ‘perfidious’, ‘cruel’, ‘murderous’, ‘an accursed seed, of an accursed breed’ and ‘radically and totally evil’. He also commented on contemporary Jews (and Catholics), maintaining that they were foolish, proud, uncharitable, intolerant and blasphemous. He argued that in their eternal, wretched, dispersed condition, the Jews demonstrated the veracity of biblical prophecy, and served an essential purpose as living monuments to the truth of Christianity.
Publication date: March 1, 2017
For more information, please see:
Link to author accepted manuscript
Link to article (Ingenta Connect)
Link to research guides which focus on the materials held in the John Rylands Library relevant to Methodist attitudes towards Jews and Judaism (Centre for Jewish Studies)
Melilah: Manchester Journal of Jewish Studies. ‘Atheism, Scepticism and Challenges to Monotheism’. Volume 12.
This volume attempts to make a modest contribution to the historical study of Jewish doubt, focusing on the encounter between atheistic and sceptical modes of thought and the religion of Judaism. Along with related philosophies including philosophical materialism and scientific naturalism, atheism and scepticism are amongst the most influential intellectual trends in Western thought and society. As such, they represent too important a phenomenon to ignore in any study of religion that seeks to locate the latter within the modern world. For scholars of Judaism and the Jewish people, the issue is even more pressing in that for Jews, famously, the categories of religion and ethnicity blur so that it makes sense to speak of non-Jewish Jews many of whom have historically been indifferent or even hostile to religion.
Themed volume: Atheism, Scepticism and Challenges to Monotheism.
Editor: Daniel R. Langton.
Assistant editor: Simon Mayers.
Open Access, freely available online: www.melilahjournal.org/p/2015.html
- Kenneth Seeskin, From Monotheism to Scepticism and Back Again.
- Joshua Moss, Satire, Monotheism and Scepticism.
- David Ruderman, Are Jews the Only True Monotheists? Some Critical Reflections in Jewish Thought from the Renaissance to the Present.
- Benjamin Williams, Doubting Abraham doubting God: The Call of Abraham in the Or ha-Sekhel.
- Károly Dániel Dobos, Shimi the Sceptical: Sceptical Voices. in an Early Modern Jewish, Anti-Christian Polemical Drama by Matityahu Nissim Terni.
- Jeremy Fogel, Scepticism of Scepticism: On Mendelssohn’s Philosophy of Common Sense.
- Michael Miller, Kaplan and Wittgenstein: Atheism, Phenomenology and the use of language.
- Federico Dal Bo, Textualism and Scepticism: Post-modern Philosophy and the Theology of Text.
- Norman Solomon, The Attenuation of God in Modern Jewish Thought.
- Melissa Raphael, Idoloclasm: The First Task of Second Wave Liberal Jewish Feminism.
- Daniel R. Langton, Joseph Krauskopf’s Evolution and Judaism: One Reform Rabbi’s Response to Scepticism and Materialism in Nineteenth-century North America.
- Avner Dinur, Secular Theology as a Challenge for Jewish Atheists.
- Khayke Beruriah Wiegand, “Why the Geese Shrieked”: Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Work between Mysticism and Sceptics.
Melilah is published electronically by the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester (ISSN 1759-1953), and as a printed edition by Gorgias Press.
The Anti-Antisemitism and Anti-Fascism of the Catholic Worker, 1935-1938
The English Catholic Worker (inspired by, but not to be confused with the longer-lived American newspaper of the same name), which was founded in June 1935 as the aptly named newspaper of the English branch of the Catholic Worker movement, provides a significant contrast to the other English Catholic newspapers of the time (such as the Catholic Herald and the Catholic Times). It was the only newspaper to focus primarily on representing the poorer working-class Catholics of England, addressing issues such as a just wage, workers’ rights, working conditions, and trade unions. It had a significant circulation of about 32,000 copies per issue during 1937, rivalling that of the Catholic Times, though falling short of the better-selling Catholic Herald (which had a circulation approaching 100,000 readers by 1936). Unlike the American Catholic Worker (which is still running), the English Catholic Worker ceased publication in 1959. For an account of the English Catholic Worker’s first year of existence, see Barbara Wall, “The English Catholic Worker: Early Days,” Chesterton Review, August 1984. For a discussion of the English Catholic Worker‘s discourse about Jews and antisemitism from 1939 to 1948, see Olivier Rota, “The ‘Jewish Question’ and the English Catholic Worker, 1939–1948,” Houston Catholic Worker, May-June 2005 [My thanks to Louise Zwick at the Houston Catholic Worker for providing me with the text for Olivier Rota’s article.].
During the 1930s, the Catholic Herald expressed ambivalence and at times sympathy for fascism and antisemitism, antipathy for liberalism (which it blamed for “destroying utterly the organic character of the western European States”), and suggested that Jews were a culturally “alien” presence in England that should be segregated as part of the reconstruction of a unified Christian society. The Catholic Times was even more sympathetic to fascism and antisemitism. In 1933, the paper asked whether one can be “quite certain that the alleged Nazi persecution of the Jews is quite what it is made out to be?” According to the editorial, “we cannot easily forget the part played by international Jewry in the present state of world-distress. Nor can we overlook the fact that Jews are at the back of much of the present widespread propaganda of irreligion and immodesty, two of atheistic Communism’s main lines of attack on that civilisation which Herr Hitler, for all his faults, has sworn to uphold.” According to the editorial, “Jewish Freemasonry is at the back of a world-wide persecution of Catholics far worse than anything that Jews have had to suffer in Germany.” The Catholic Times even suggested that it was the “international Jews” that were “persecuting the Nazis.” According to an editorial in 1938, “if Fascism is tolerated by us, … it is not because it is opposed to Bolshevism, but because in many respects it is a good form of government. The evil in it can be tolerated because it is far outweighed by the good. Bolshevism, on the other hand, cannot be tolerated, because it is fundamentally and essentially evil, because the evil far outweighs the good.” (See for example, “Fascism,” Catholic Herald, 17 August 1935, p.10; “The Future of Jewry,” Catholic Herald, 3 January 1936, p.8; “Mosely Goes Anti-Semite,” Catholic Herald, 27 March 1936, p.6; “And the East End,” Catholic Herald, 23 October 1936, p.8; “The Resistance to Jewry,” Catholic Herald, 22 January 1937, p.8; “Herr Hitler and the Jews,” Catholic Times, 31 March 1933, p.10; “Mr. Vernon Bartlett’s Broadcast,” Catholic Times, 27 October 1933, p.10; “Why Fascism is Tolerable,” Catholic Times, 14 January 1938, p.10).
Unlike the Catholic Herald and the Catholic Times, the Catholic Worker was consistently critical of all forms of fascism, rejected the concept of a “Jewish Problem,” and refuted antisemitic accusations and stereotypes. According to the Catholic Worker soon after its founding in 1935, “the troubles of Germany in the last three years have steadily grown worse, and the persecution of both the Jews and the Catholic population has increased in its severity. … the governors of Germany would seem to have become hopelessly drunk of the wildest dreams of nationality, and the exaltation of a mad racial obsession.” The paper had no confidence that “the Hitler gangsters” would honour the Concordat between Germany and the Vatican. (“Germany and the Vatican: A Reply to Nazis,” Catholic Worker, August 1935, p.1).
The paper frequently criticised racism and prejudice in all its forms, and excoriated the British Union of Fascists (the BUF), Italian fascism, and Nazism. According to the Catholic Worker, “the B.U.F. policy against the Jews seems to the ‘Catholic Worker’ unjust. The denial to them of rights of citizenship, the refusal to recognise them as full human beings (in one B.U.F. pamphlet they are called in all seriousness ‘sub-men’), are violations of Christian teaching.” The paper lamented that “it is very probable that many of those who have joined the B.U.F. are men and women who want a just social order, and think that Fascism is the only possible way of achieving it. … They are willing to stand by while Jews are denied elementary human rights because they cannot see any other way of achieving social justice for the multitudes.” (Editorial, Catholic Worker, February 1937, p.4; Stephen Deacon, “Fascism in Italy: Catholics and Fascism,” Catholic Worker, September 1937, p.7; R. P. Walsh, “‘Catholic Worker’ and Fascism,” Catholic Worker, February 1938, p.7).
In March 1938, the paper observed that “it seems as if the wave of anti-Semitism is to reach world-wide importance.” The paper noted that “the fate of the Jew in Germany is too well known to need further comment,” and that antisemitic publications are on the increase in Italy. According to the Catholic Worker, “Poland, with all its Catholic population, is notoriously against the Jews.” Closer to home, the paper noted that “without any doubt, Mosley makes headway in England, and with him progresses the anti-Semitic movement in this country.” The paper lamented that “very many Catholics are numbered among Mosley’s followers,” and are thus exposed to the BUF’s antisemitic rants. In September 1938, the paper published a lengthy article on the menace of antisemitic nationalism. According to the article, “already in this paper we have had need to criticise the dissemination of doctrines of race prejudice among Catholics. The editorial post-bag makes in this matter depressing reading. Not content with that colour bar which is the peculiar pride of the Englishman …, correspondents who claim to be Catholics are urging us to join them in vituperation of the Jews.” The paper cited the litany of complaints that the antisemite brings to bear: “Always it is the Jews. The Jews have a stranglehold on finance. … The Jews are the great capitalists. The Jews are the sweaters of the workers. The Jews are the principal agents of Communism. Strangest accusation of all, the Jews are teachers of atheism. … According to our correspondents, one of whom has the nerve to sign himself, ‘In the name of the Divine Fascist,’ the Jews are all this. But over-riding all other accusations is the supreme fault – The Jew is not British.” The paper classified all these accusations as “Stupidity!” The Catholic Worker concluded that “we need to remind ourselves of what is true. That Jews do not preponderate in the City of London, and that the Jews who do labour in that temple of finance are at least as honest and capable as the rest. That while some Jews have great wealth, others have none at all, and that Christian sweaters of labour are as hateful and more numerous than Jewish. … most of the Jews in this country are as British as the people who slander them. Nor would it matter two-pence if they were not.” (“Catholics and Jews: What are our duties?,” Catholic Worker, March 1938, p.4; “The Menace of Nationalism,” Catholic Worker, September 1938, p.5; Let us be warned in time,” Catholic Worker, September 1938, p.5).
Despite its sustained solidarity with Jews, it may be noted that the paper did, occasionally, allude to traditional religious narratives about how Catholicism was superior to, and the fulfilment of, Judaism. For example, in one of the articles that defended Jews, the Catholic Worker did state in passing that “the Jews have an even greater problem of leakage than have we, and that is not indeed surprising since the Jews have not the true Faith [my italics]” (“The Menace of Nationalism,” Catholic Worker, September 1938, p.5). And in another article that defended Jews, the paper stated that “as a Jew, true to his faith, imperfect and mistaken though it be [my italics], and following the commandments of God so far as they are known to him, he is a man to be praised highly, a candidate for heaven” (“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” Catholic Worker, November 1938, p.4). Another article that rejected antisemitic “Jew-Baiting” nevertheless cited the annual Good Friday prayer as part of its defence of Jews, and whilst it clarified that “perfidious” meant “without faith” rather than “treacherous,” it nevertheless revealed more than a trace of supersessionism: “Yearly the Church bids us pray ‘for the perfidious (i.e. without faith, not faithless in the sense of treacherous) Jews, that our God and Lord would withdraw the veil from their hearts: that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ. … Surely Christians … should themselves show such charity towards the Jews of their own day as to do their part to remove the veil” (Annie Somers, “Our Brother the Jew,” Catholic Worker, June 1938, p.6). Nevertheless, despite these and other occasional slips, it seems clear that any hint of superciliousness was incidental, unintended, and outweighed by the consistent criticisms of antisemitism.
Whilst antisemitic myths and stereotypes were a prominent feature of English Catholic newspapers, literature and intellectual discourse during the latter decades of the nineteenth and the early decades of the twentieth century, it is important to note that the ordinary working class Catholics of England (the largest social group within English Catholicism) often rejected or ignored such narratives. They also tended to be unsympathetic towards fascism. Significantly, as Ulrike Ehret has also noted, the Catholic Worker, the main newspaper that addressed the working class Catholics of England, consistently opposed fascism and rejected antisemitism. Another consistently anti-fascist English Catholic magazine was Canon Francis Drinkwater’s and Father Gosling’s The Sower. (See Ulrike Ehret, Church, Nation and Race: Catholics and Antisemitism in Germany and England, 1918-45, Manchester University Press, 2012, pp. 38, 47, 75, 211-214. For the Sower, see Tom Villis, British Catholics and Fascism: Religious Identity and Political Extremism Between the Wars, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp. 205-209).
Chesterton’s Jews: An Update
There have been some interesting developments in the months and years since Chesterton’s Jews was first published (in August 2013). For example, in chapter five of Chesterton’s Jews, I introduced the myth that the Wiener Library defends G. K. Chesterton from the charge of “antisemitism,” noting that the resilience of the myth, which received its genesis in the late 1980s, is demonstrated by the fact that there are still numerous internet pages that refer to it. However, since the book was published, the myth has been at least partially uprooted (link for more information). Michael Coren had originally stated that it was the “Wiener Institute, the best monitors of anti-semitism in Britain,” that defended Chesterton from the charge of antisemitism (Michael Coren, “Just bad friends,” New Statesman, 8 August 1986, 30). Three years later, it was “the Wiener Library, the archives of anti-Semitism and Holocaust history in London,” that regarded Chesterton as “a friend, not an enemy” (Michael Coren, Gilbert: The Man Who Was G. K. Chesterton, 1989, 209-210). The implication was that the institution itself defended and regarded Chesterton as a friend. However, in September 2013, Coren clarified that it was not the institution, but rather just one of the many librarians (whose name he does not remember) that have worked there over the years. According to Oliver Kamm in the Jewish Chronicle (online edition, 10 October 2013; print edition, 11 October 2013), when he asked Coren about this, he quickly replied, “regretting that he could not recall the name of the librarian with whom he spoke and that his records from this pre-digital age had not all travelled with him to his current home in Canada.”
A more significant development relates to the movement for the canonisation of Chesterton. When Chesterton’s Jews was published, it was possible to discuss (in chapter six) how Chesterton had been represented as a saint by a number of his admirers, and how a movement that called for the canonisation of Chesterton was growing. If I had waited one more month before publication, I would have also been able to report that Peter Doyle, the bishop of the diocese of Northampton, had appointed a priest, Canon John Udris, to start an investigation into whether Chesterton’s Cause should be formally opened. If I had waited a few months, I would have been able to discuss how this had played out in various newspapers, such as the Catholic Herald (in which Francis Phillips suggested that Chesterton was a “genius,” a “prophet,” who should be canonised and made the patron saint of journalists), the Tablet (in which Richard Ingrams suggested that Chesterton’s writing evinced an “undeniable anti-Semitism,” and that he “shut his eyes to too many nasty things and a saint cannot do that”), and the Jewish Chronicle (in which Oliver Kamm suggested that Chesterton was a writer unfit to be a saint, and Geoffrey Alderman expressed amazement at the lengths that people will go to excuse the “antisemitism” of public figures such as Chesterton), to mention but a few. Since then, Canon Udris has given talks and interviews on Chesterton, suggesting that Chesterton was innocent of “anti-Semitism,” and should be beatified. For example, in an interview in the Catholic Herald (3 March 2014), it was reported that Canon Udris had stated that Chesterton said some “daft things,” such as that the Jews should wear distinctive dress to indicate they were outsiders. According to Udris, “you can understand why people make the assumption that he is anti-Semitic. But I would want to make the opposite case.” And in a talk delivered at Beaconsfield in 2014 (YouTube link), he stated that “the holiness of Chesterton is something that’s infectious.” It will certainly be interesting to see if the investigation initiated by the bishop of Northampton concludes with the Cause of Chesterton being formerly opened.