This book is an interesting counterpart to some of the other texts relating to conspiracy theories and Counter-Enlightenment thought that I have been discussing recently here and on my other blogs. However, it is of more than merely historical interest, since Fr Fahey and his ideas continue to be influential among some archconservative Catholics, particularly in the United States (see e.g. here, here and here).
Fr Denis Fahey (1883-1954) was an Irish priest who belonged to the order of the Holy Ghost Fathers. He is remembered today mainly for his writings on religious and political topics and for Maria Duce, the right-wing Catholic organisation which he founded, and which campaigned to have Catholicism declared the state religion of Ireland (Eamon de Valera had stopped short of doing this in his 1937 constitution on account of the island's large Protestant minority). His relationship with the Church authorities in Ireland was varied. He was not held in high regard in the Holy Ghost Fathers, and he elicited mixed feelings from the Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, who thought that Fahey would end up in court. He ran into difficulties with the ecclesiastical censor.
Fahey's ideas as expressed in this book are nothing if not bold in scope. He paints in lurid colours on a canvas of global and historical, if not cosmic, dimensions. His thought is dualistic: Christ versus Satan, supernaturalism versus naturalism, the Catholics versus the Jews. Christian civilisation had been in decline since the 13th century. This decline was accelerated by the Reformation, which disjoined religious life from civil life, the French Revolution, which relegated religion to the private realm, and most recently the rise of Communism. The world was a battleground between the opposing programmes of Christ and Satan. The Catholic Church was naturally fighting for the former, championed by great Christian heroes like General Franco, while the latter was championed by the Freemasons and, standing behind them, the Jews. Fahey writes:
Modern History since  has been, to a large extent, the account of the domination of State after State by the naturalistic supranationalism of Freemasonry, behind which has been steadily looming up the still more strongly organized naturalistic supranationalism of the Jewish Nation.
Accordingly, the Jews and the Freemasons were to be seen as armies under the command of Satan. They were "working in the camp of Satan for the reign of Naturalism". They would deny this, of course, but then they would, wouldn't they? In truth, they were conducting nothing less than a blasphemous revolt against Almighty God. The "equality" of the French Revolution meant that all men are equally God. Worst of all, the coming of the Antichrist might be at hand.
Fahey was clearly a great man for the conspiracy theories, and sometimes the conspiratorialism is very explicit. As indicated, he believed that the rise of Communism was the work of Jews and Masons, and this is what he has to say on the Declaration of the Rights of Man which emerged from the French Revolution, an unremarkable list of human rights which explicitly mentions God:
Now, it is historically certain that the Declaration of the Rights of Man had been conceived and elaborated in the Masonic Lodges before it was presented to the States-General of France. Accordingly, the infamous Declaration, a naturalistic or anti-supernatural document, is in reality a declaration of war on membership of Christ and on the whole structure of society based on that supernatural dignity. The same naturalistic hostility to membership of Christ and the Supernatural Life of Grace runs through all the documents concerning Human Rights drawn up under the influence of the organized forces that were responsible for the Declaration of 1789. That is the real struggle going on in the world, and in it every member of Christ is called upon to play his or her part. There can be no neutrality. "He that is not with me is against me."
He also maintains that the French Revolution, which explicitly protected property rights, was the natural precursor to the abolition of private property under Communism.
Fahey's agenda is completely transparent, and so are its sources. He gets his ideas about the superiority of a Catholic confessional state over freedom of religion from the royalist and Catholic thought of the Counter-Enlightenment. The role that he assigns to the Freemasons derives from his acceptance of the 18th century conspiracy theory that they had brought about the French Revolution, and his antisemitism comes from the fears of Jewish world domination that were spread in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through writings like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Fahey also branched out and accepted more recent conspiracy theories regarding the influence on American public life of Jews and Communists like Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter and FDR's Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau. Needless to say, he wasn't happy about the establishment of the State of Israel, and he wasn't much happier about the United Nations or UNESCO. Towards the end of the book, he helpfully provides a list of Jewish officials involved with the UN.
It is this antisemitism which is most striking and offensive to the modern reader. The Jews, we learn, work in secret and use Freemasonry as a "powerful secret auxiliary force". The Talmud is racist and contemptible. The Jews rejected Christ and have played fast and loose with their own messianic prophecies. They are waiting not for Christ, but for their "Natural Messias", who bears a suspicious resemblance to the "King of the Jews" of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (though Fahey's attitude to the Protocols was ambiguous).
True, Fahey was no Nazi. He had no time for racial prejudice or the worship of the Aryan race. Nazi crimes against Jews were deplorable, though the Nazis had also persecuted Catholics. Jesus was a Jew who loved his own people, and the Jews would eventually convert to Catholicism. All the same, a balance had to be struck. There was no need to go so far as - say - to allow Jewish people full civil rights. Their enfranchisement in the wake of the French Revolution had been a retrograde step, since their prime allegiance is always to the Jewish nation.
This is mad, dangerous nonsense, and it is disturbing that some people still swallow it. Not all of the book is weird or repellant. Some of the sentiments are unremarkable, coming from the pen of a Catholic priest. Fahey didn't like divorce or contraception. He did like papal encyclicals and the Mass. His style is also fairly clear and non-technical, if quite repetitive, and the crankiness of his ideas does not quite manifest itself in a ranting prose style. Nonetheless, this is a strange and dark book, and its oddness is accentuated by the fact that it was published not in Paris in the 1820s, nor in Karl Lueger's Vienna, but among the placid Georgian terraces of Dublin in the year 1953.