Saint Benedict Center's main site is An online Journal edited by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Richmond, New Hampshire.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

An Open Letter to Richmond Residents

Feast of Saint Dominic
August 4, 2007
[See also "False and Misleading Rumors."]

Dear Neighbors,

For a while now I have been wanting to address you regarding the controversy which has surrounded Saint Benedict Center’s plans to erect another building on our property. Recent events have reminded me that it is necessary to do this sooner rather than later.

With this letter I extend an olive branch to all our neighbors, whether you are in favor of our building project, against it, or are indifferent to it.

First, I would like to say that I’m very sorry that our attempt to build a 10,300-square-foot school and chapel has occasioned bad feelings in the community. This was certainly not our intention. We have lived at peace in this town for almost twenty years now and we intend to remain here in peace.

Nevertheless, there is something else at work. In an effort to oppose our project, some folks have tried to “stir the pot.” They have made very ugly and defamatory accusations regarding SBC and the families who worship here. Even friendly bystanders who do not practice our religion have been caught in the crossfire.

We are very sorry that some Richmond residents have had their peace disturbed, but we had no way of knowing that a handful of opponents would resort to these tactics.

The situation has escalated to the point that a nationally-known organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), has run an article on it in their publication, Intelligence Report. This article has been circulated around town. I have already responded to it on our web site (, but I will make some brief comments on it here.

The SPLC is well known for profiling organizations as “hate groups.” They started during the civil rights movement, by going after racist groups like the KKK and similar organizations. But then they moved on to other territory, making a lot of money in the process. As part of their multi-million-dollar annual business, they label many conservative, pro-family, and pro-American organizations as intolerant extremists. They very often create controversy where there is none, as when they portrayed the movie series, “The Lord of the Rings,” as racist propaganda. Americans on both the political left and the political right have questioned the SPLC’s credibility.

The story they ran on SBC included serious misquotations, non-factual statements, and untruthful rumors. A layman who comes to our chapel was accused of making the despicable statement that “Jews should be dealt with using ‘blood and terror if it’s required.’” This is a libelous claim. The vile quotation was fabricated.

The article also reported the unfounded rumor that people “heard the sound of automatic weapon fire at SBC on a regular basis.” SBC is a monastery, not a shooting range; we have no automatic weapons. This claim is untrue, as are numerous others calculated to make us look like a dangerous cult.

What got left out of the article is what we actually do in the community, like visiting the elderly in nursing homes, helping disabled neighbors with their firewood, sponsoring a Boy Scout troop, teaching children in our school, training altar boys to serve Mass, and entertaining people with wholesome, family fun at our annual festival. As a service to the community, we also typeset and helped publish two books on Richmond’s history: The Town in the Forest: Life Story of Richmond, New Hampshire, by Neith Boyce and The Only Mill in Town: The Story of the Pail-Making Industry in Richmond, New Hampshire, by Richard A Martin. We rendered these services for free.

Many of you have visited here and know us, or you know families who worship here. You know that these defamatory claims portray us in a very false light — as we were able to show in the detailed refutation on our web site. It is a terrible shame that outsiders based in Alabama, people who do not know us and who made no effort to interview us for their article, have attempted to stir up trouble in our small New Hampshire community.

That said, we bear no grudge against those who were quoted in the article. Neither do we hold it against people if they oppose our building project for one reason or another. Contrary to what the article claimed, we don’t want to chase people out of town. Rather, we want to remain your good neighbors. Here in Richmond, as everywhere else, there are bound to be disagreements of one kind or another; but that does not prevent us from being kind, civil, and neighborly to each other. And if we try to interest you in our Catholic religion, it is out of Christian charity, not out of hatred.

To those we haven’t met: We invite you to get to know us. Some folks may attempt to give this letter their own spin, causing doubt and confusion about who we are. This makes it even more helpful for you to get to know us personally. This year’s Blueberry Fiddle Festival would be a great opportunity for us to enjoy each others’ company. We hope to see you soon!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M.
Your neighbor, and the Prior of SBC

Way off Center: The Southern Poverty Law Center on St. Benedict Center

Well, by the grace of God, we must be doing something right. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published an article on Saint Benedict Center in the Summer issue of their Intelligence Report. It turns out they don’t like us.

Yes, the liberal organization — which impugns our stance on “divorce, abortion, birth control, pornography, [and] sodomy” — has given us a sound thrashing. You see, to have strong views against such things makes us a “hate group” to their way of thinking. This, from an organization which calls conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan a “white nationalist” guilty of “selling racism.” Further, those who call for stronger control of immigration are tied in with “white supremacist” causes and “anti-immigration extremists” (even Alan Keyes?). But Christian men aren’t the only source of evil, for the Concerned Women for America, are in SPLC’s sights for their pro-family agenda, and David Horowitz advances “efforts to make bigoted and discredited ideas respectable.” You movie buffs will be surprised to learn that Gods and Generals is racist historical revisionism and that The Lord of the Rings advances the cause of “the White Patriarchy” (because its heroes are “manly men who are whiter than white”). And lastly, to utter the unholy name of perhaps the most nefarious goose-steppers of all, the Michigan State University Young Americans for Freedom, like us, were designated a “hate group.”

One may wonder why we don’t simply ignore this organization. The main reason is that they are very well endowed financially and therefore have the money to make their claims stick. Further, they have stirred up a bit of trouble for us locally.

We have published a refutation of the article’s claims: “The Trouble in Paradise is Trouble with the Truth.” Here, we present a summary of its inaccuracies. Included in the SPLC’s fictitious portrayal of our religious community are the following:

  • A layman who comes to our chapel was accused of making the despicable statement that “Jews should be dealt with using ‘blood and terror if it’s required.’” This is false. The man said no such thing.
  • “Rumors” that “SBC members have rifles equipped with night vision scopes” and that automatic weapons are fired at our monastery “on a regular basis.” are reported. These rumors, unverified by the journalist, are false.
  • The claim is made that our religious community is “training in martial arts and weapons.” The unsubstantiated claim is false.
  • The article states: “Some [residents] even fear that the Slaves really intend to draw children away from public schools in favor of their own, possibly crippling secular public schools by de-funding them in the process.” The fear is groundless and nothing is offered to prove it.
  • One individual is cited claiming that “she feels that the SBC has begun to threaten her formerly idyllic way of life. At issue are both the beliefs and the practices of the SBC.... ” The implication is false. SBC has never threatened this person in any way.
  • We were accused of trying to pressure non-SBC-affiliated residents out of town: “The [SBC’s] goal was to have people get wind of this expansion and then move out.” Not a single shred of proof offered to support this statement. It is a suspicion, and a false one at that.
  • The article accuses us of “anti-Semitism,” which one SPLC spokesperson defined as “hating Jews.” The charge is false. Why do we bemoan the lack of serious effort to convert Jews to the Catholic Faith if we “hate” them? Among those Father Feeney was instrumental in bringing into the Catholic Church were over a dozen Jewish converts.
  • The article states: “Increasingly, folks here are objecting to the SBC’s desire to outlaw divorce, abortion, birth control, pornography, sodomy, public education and even, some fear, government in general.” The notion that we “desire to outlaw government in general is false, silly, and, not surprisingly, unproven.
  • The article employs colorful words to portray us in a fanatical light. We are called “radical,” and “angry.” We “hotly denied” accusations against us in the press. Further, we employ “extremist rhetoric” and live in a “compound.” Such inflated rhetoric does not advance the cause of truth, but only bolsters the article’s false assertions.
  • The article cited “concerns” about “the potability of wells on the SBC property. ” The “concerns” are baseless. Our drinking-water wells comply with the stringent standards of the NH DES , which monitors our systems through periodic testing.
When one advances the cause of the conversion of America to the Catholic Faith and the restoration of Catholic orthodoxy, he is asking for trouble. Groups like the SPLC are there to deliver. “In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

For a longer refutation of the SPLC’s recent article, see “The Trouble in Paradise is Trouble with the Truth.”