The American (Establishment) Catholic on Forrestal’s Death
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On his Wikipedia page under “Religion” in the box on the upper right, we find “Catholic” for America’s first secretary of defense, James Forrestal. Indeed, culturally at least, Forrestal would seem to be the epitome of an Irish-American Roman Catholic. His father was an immigrant from Ireland and his mother had aspirations for young James to become a priest. But, according to biographers Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley, Forrestal had broken with his Catholic faith at the time that he left Princeton University, although they interpret his thwarted request to have Monsignor Maurice Sheehey of Catholic University come visit him when he was confined to Bethesda Naval Hospital before going out a 16th floor window of the main tower there on May 22nd, 1949, as a desperate attempt to get back into the good graces of the Church.
Whether we might say that it is about a “fellow Catholic” or not, what “cradle Catholic” Donald R. McClarey has recently written in The American Catholic about Forrestal’s death is an affront to the man’s memory. It does violence to the truth. Everyone, Catholic or otherwise, should be appalled by it. Here are the offending lines:
Tragically, Forrestal, who had worked non-stop on Defense issues since he joined the Roosevelt administration in 1940, had a nervous breakdown. While undergoing psychiatric treatment he committed suicide by jumping from the 16th floor of the National Naval Medical Center. He left behind a note with a quotation from Sophocles’ Ajax…
There’s really no excuse for anyone to be writing such things in 2015. We now have the Internet—The American Catholic is an Internet publication, after all. Since 2004 the official report on Forrestal’s death has been available online, and the evidence that it contains shows beyond serious doubt that McClarey has repeated falsehoods. Research these days begins with the Internet because it’s so easy. Simply typing in the name “James Forrestal” into any search engine leads one quickly to my web site and the discoveries that I have made.
One might think that McClarey was just negligent. He was merely repeating what was in the 1992 Hoopes and Brinkley biography, after all, and Forrestal’s death was only tangential to the subject of his article entitled “James Forrestal and His Prophecy,” which is primarily a sort of flag-waving defense of the U.S. Marine Corps. (Concerning that article, had Forrestal’s counsel been taken, the bloody battle of Iwo Jima, to which McClarey refers, would likely never have been fought because Japan would have already surrendered, but that is another topic. See “Oliver Stone on the Japanese Surrender.”) The possibility that McClarey had made an honest error, more on the order of a sin of omission caused by insufficient research diligence underlay the email that I sent him almost three weeks ago.
Now that so much time has passed and he has failed to respond, the likelihood that his was a sin of commission from the very beginning is great. The fact that his editor, Tito Edwards, at The American Catholic has also failed to respond to my May 18 email to him virtually seals it. Here is the latter email, which includes the original email to McClarey:
Dear Mr. Edwards,
On May 8, 2015, I sent the following email to a writer for your publication:
Dear Mr. McClarey,
A friend has called my attention to your February article in The American Catholic. You seem not to be aware of what we have learned since the release of the official report on Forrestal's death in 2004. For starters, that poem transcription that you quote was in someone else's handwriting. Taken all in all, the evidence points heavily toward murder and cover-up and not to suicide. See my latest article on the subject here. For a brief introduction to the subject see "New Forrestal Document Exposes Cover-up." I believe that it is incumbent upon you to write a follow-up article correcting the record. I have come to expect government propaganda from the mainstream press. The Catholic press should not abet them.
The first law of history is not to dare to utter falsehood; the second, not to fear to tell the truth. - Pope Leo XIII
I would have preferred to make my comment about the article online on your web site, but when I attempted to do so, I received a message that comments had been closed on the article. May I ask you why that is so? Looking at your site's "comments policy," I see nothing about any comments period or any reason for closing comments. What possible reason could there be for closing comments on any topic, but particularly for doing it so quickly after there had been so few comments on a topic of such great importance? I have taken note of your "three strikes and you're out," treatment of those you deem in violation of your rules, though I may not agree with them. Continuing the metaphor, how do you decide that a person will not even be allowed up to the plate?
Ten days have now passed and Mr. McClarey has not responded to my email. I sent it through a lawyer referral service so I have every reason to believe that he received it on the day I sent it. In case he didn't, would you please forward the message you see above to him?
Your responsibility hardly ends with fulfilling that errand request, however. Your web site has published information about the death of a great American public servant that is contradicted by the best evidence now available. The misinformation is so bad that the man who put it out is apparently unwilling to defend what he has written. If he will not do it, you have an obligation either to defend it or to retract it publicly.
All those practicing evil hate the light and will not come to the light lest their deeds should be exposed. - John 3:20
The U.S. Government’s Catholic Apologists
Reflecting upon this non-response from a publication that displays an eagle and an American flag with the cross (not a crucifix) on its masthead, I am reminded that our local diocesan newspaper the Arlington Catholic Herald did not print my letter exposing arch-neocon George Weigel for the duplicity of an article of his that they had published. I am also reminded that it is a rare American Catholic church these days that does not have an American flag in its sanctuary along with all the Christian iconography, and that the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, has taken to hanging a massive flag from its bell tower on patriotic occasions like Memorial Day and Independence Day.
The Catholic Church seems to have replaced the late Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority as the most consistent supporters of jingoism and militarism within our government, and McClarey’s article is certainly consistent with that trend. With one issue, that of the undeniably worthy position against abortion, taking precedent over all others, the Church’s support for militant jingoism becomes virtually inevitable. Parishioners are encouraged to support candidates who oppose abortion on demand, but those people are almost always Republicans who also are the biggest supporters of an aggressive foreign policy and militarism in general. Moreover, even if it is genuine, the Church’s effort to obtain a Supreme Court majority to overturn Roe v. Wade is doomed to failure as long as it gives a pass to the powerful opinion molders in favor of abortion. The annual March for Life would be much more effective if it ended up in front of the Washington Post building instead of the Supreme Court Building
Most disturbing of all from a Christian standpoint is that the Church’s embrace of the government and its flag has entailed a growing divorce from the truth. That is because the government’s foreign policy, in particular, is built upon an ever-growing edifice of lies. Furthermore, it is a foreign policy that, at least since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, is much more in the interests of Israel than it is of the United States. It would be more honest if the flag being waved in support of the mindless patriotism that the Catholic Church has fostered were the one depicting the Star of David instead of the Stars and Stripes.
It is at this point that the misbegotten foreign policy and the disregard for truth come together in The American Catholic. James Forrestal, you see, was the leading opponent within the United States government of the creation of the Jewish state of Israel in Palestine.
May 27, 2015