The Vatican: Infringing on U.S. Sovereignty

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH | 26 September 2017
Church and State

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Excerpt from our Chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s book, The Pope and the New Apocalypse: The Holy War Against Family Planning (1984). The book is available at Kindle here and to read for free here.

Chapter 7: Infringing on U.S. Sovereignty

Vatican infringements, or attempted intrusions, on national sovereignty are not a new phenomenon. In 1962, Pope John XXIII told columnist Robert Blair Kaiser of the Vatican’s holy war against communist governments, which the Church felt must be overthrown.[1] For 80 years the French protected the Catholic minority government in Vietnam (only 5 percent of the country was Catholic) from the Buddhist majority. When the French recognized the popularity of the Buddhist uprising and the futility of their efforts, they pulled out. Was America called upon by the Vatican to fill the vacuum?

Spellman: the Papal hawk on Vietnam

Among the many examples of Vatican infringement on American sovereignty offered by John Cooney in his best-selling book, The American Pope: The Life and Times of Francis Cardinal Spellman (Times Books, 1984), is Vietnam. Cooney concluded that the Vietnam war became an “American” cause in large measure because of Spellman’s public and private lobbying. Even before the French defeat at Dienbienphu, the U.S. had underwritten 80% of the French war costs. Spellman, for months before the defeat, had tried unsuccessfully to pressure the administration into beefing up assistance to the French troops. “The Cardinal declared that Vietnam was vital to the preservation of … Catholicism.”[2]

Spellman’s Vietnam stance was in accordance with the wishes of Pope Pius XII. Malachi Martin, a former Jesuit priest who worked in the Vatican during the years of the escalating U.S. commitment to Vietnam, said the Pope wanted the U.S. to back Diem. “The Pope was concerned about Communism making more gains at the expense of the Church,” said Martin, “and he turned to Spellman to encourage American commitment to Vietnam.”[3]

Spellman discovered Diem in 1950 while the latter, a lay celibate and deeply religious Catholic, was a student at the Catholic Maryknoll Seminary in Ossining, New York. According to Cooney, “In Diem, Spellman had seen the qualities he desired in any leader: ardent Catholicism and rabid anti-Communism.”[4] More than anyone else, Spellman nurtured Diem’s rise to power and with Joseph Kennedy formed a pro-Diem lobby in Washington. The rallying cries of the lobby were Catholicism and anti-Communism and the leadership was mostly Catholic, including co-chairmen Generals “Wild Bill” Donovan and “Iron Mike” O’Daniel, Senator John Kennedy and Monsignor Harnett.[5] Says Cooney, “By 1963, Spellman became one of the most hawkish, arguably the most hawkish, leaders in the United States.”[6]

The Vatican influence in that war remained until the waning moments, as highlighted by U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin’s sharp response to criticism of his policy of holding back Americans in the evacuation of the Saigon Embassy compound, while putting Catholic Vietnamese aboard the helicopters. “Among Americans here is Father McVeigh, head of the Catholic Relief Service, who will not leave without his Vietnamese staff … How will the President [Richard Nixon] explain to … Cardinal Cooke, Father McVeigh’s great and good friend, why I left him?”[7] The Vatican’s “holy war” to save the only Catholic government on the Asian mainland from Communism cost 58,000 American and 2,000,000 Vietnamese lives.

Running U.S. foreign policy from Rome

More recently, in the “holy war” in Lebanon, in an attempt to save the Catholic minority government there, 241 American marines died despite the futility of the situation and the urgent advice from military strategists to withdraw. In a news brief commemorating the first anniversary of this terrorist attack, a CBS correspondent said, “The only purpose of the presence of the marines was to protect the minority Catholic government.”

Another example is much closer to home. President Reagan, in a speech in Hoboken, New Jersey, on July 26, 1984, declared that he was following the leadership of Pope John Paul II in determining U.S. foreign policy in Central America.[8] This is the latest effort to save Vatican­-backed governments of overpopulated countries from popular uprisings. The Vatican wishes to maintain the status quo in Latin America, since its political power in the region is currently maximized. This is the Vatican agenda, but when our President adopts it, what does this say to us about the separation of church and state?

Secret legions

The Vatican acts in part, often soundlessly and most effectively, through a relatively small number of Americans who give the Church their loyalty for reasons unrelated to religious practice, but rather for advancement, power and privilege. This is accomplished with great skill and subtlety through secret organizations such as Opus Dei and the Knights of Malta.

According to Father Andrew Greeley, “Opus Dei is a devious, anti­democratic, reactionary, semi-fascist institution, desperately hungry for absolute power in the Church and quite possibly very close now to having that power. Calling the group “authoritarian and power-mad,” the American Catholic priest and author said, “Opus Dei is an extremely dangerous organization because it appeals to the love of secrecy and the power lust of certain kinds of religious personalities. It may well be the most powerful group in the Church today. It is capable of doing an enormous amount of harm. It ought to be forced to come out into the open or be suppressed.”

In a recent Church & State, Religious News Service’s Rome correspondent Eleni Dimmler estimates that worldwide there are 74,000 in the most devoted membership categories (1,300 are priests) and 700,000 Opus Dei “cooperators.” “With this international ‘army’ of devoted members, Opus Dei has created an impressive network of activities in countries around the world … According to a 1979 memo, members of the movement work, among other things, at 487 universities and schools, 694 newspapers and periodicals, 52 TV or radio stations, 38 publicity agencies and twelve film companies.”[9]

The March 19, 1984, issue of U.S. News and World Report examined these two secret Catholic elite religious societies:[10] the Knights of Malta with one thousand U.S. members who are prominent in government, business, or professional life and Opus Dei with three thousand U.S. members of widely varied backgrounds. The number of U.S. members in the “cooperator” category has not been revealed but could amount to more than 100,000.

The central tenet of Opus Dei is to “help shape the world in a Catholic manner” and its American members include “priests, middle and upper­class businessmen, professionals, military personnel and government officials.”[11]

The Knights of Malta dates back to the time of the Crusades; its present members are reported to include some of our nation’s most prominent Catholics: CIA Director William Casey; William Wilson; Vernon Walters; Senators Denton and Domenici; Alexander Haig; William Sloan; and William F. Buckley, creator and leader of Young Americans for Freedom, from which many of the Reagan administration team have been drawn. According to members, the order serves “as an international defender of the Church.”[10]

In June of each year a ceremony is held in Rome for Knights of Malta which includes the “swearing of allegiance to the defense of the Holy Mother Church.”[11] Herein lies the problem for population growth control and its recognition as a national security issue. The Knights are committed to defending the Church. Only the most devout and obedient are invited to join the Knights and Opus Dei (which its detractors have compared to mind-controlling cults).[11] If the Vatican has determined that population growth control threatens the Holy Mother Church, the members of these societies are obliged to counter this threat by thwarting the development of population growth control government policies and their execution.

The Vatican vs. humanity

So it was inevitable, it seems to me, that the interests of the Vatican and those of the United States would clash on the issue of curbing population growth. No one can swear and abide by complete allegiance to both the United States and the Roman Catholic Church. The reported acts and attitudes of the Knights of Malta in the Reagan Administration seem to reflect complete allegiance to the Pope rather than our country. If these reports are true, should the members of these societies be considered traitors to our country?

As long as this conflict of allegiance exists in our midst, the U.S. cannot act with the leadership it exercised until recently to assist other nations in curbing population growth. The real problem is not convincing people that they must have small families, or delivering family planning services to them. This we could most certainly achieve by the end of the century for most of the world’s people at a price we can well afford. The profound problem right now is the conflict between the priorities of the Pope and his Church and his hierarchy and the desperate need of humanity to control its fertility.

All American Catholics are certain to pay a high price for this intrusion of their Church leaders into American sovereignty. In 1969, the so-called Soccer War was fought between El Salvador and Honduras. This was the first war ever directly attributed to overpopulation, a determination made by the Organization of American States.[12] The war was prompted by massive illegal immigration from grossly overpopulated El Salvador into Honduras. Fifteen years later, the overpopulation problem continues to be all but ignored in El Salvador. The population in 1984 is growing at the rate of 2.6 percent per year, giving the country a doubling time of 27 years![13] The results of this continued growth have been the illegal immigration of more than 500,000 Salvadorans to the United States (1 in 9 of that country’s native population),[14] a breakdown in social order and destruction of the economic, social and political structures of the country.

This climate of turmoil is bound to invade the U.S. itself, I’m convinced, if we allow continued illegal immigration of tens of millions of Latin Americans and others into our country. This approach to assuming control over the once most powerful nation on earth appears to be what the Vatican has in mind. Meanwhile, the Catholic hierarchy remains by far the most significant opposition to illegal immigration control.


[1] Kaiser, RB. “Unholy Wars in the Name of God,” U.S.A. Today, August 23, 1984, p. 4A.
[2] Cooney, J. The American Pope: The Life and Times of Francis Cardinal Spellman. New York Times Books, 1984, p. 239.
[3] Cooney. p. 242.
[4] Ibid. p. 240.
[5] Ibid. p 242.
[6] Ibid. p. 245.
[7] Strasser, S., Kasindorf, M., Manning, R., Smith, VE. “55 Days of Shame,” Newsweek, April 15, 1985. p. 46.
[8] Clines, FX. “Reagan Courts Ethnic Voters by Assailing Foes,” New York Times, July 27, 1985. p. A10.
[9] Dimmler, E. “Opus Dei: John Paul’s Holy Mafia,” Church & State 38(8):13, 1985.
[10] Mann, J., and Phillips, K. “Inside Look at Those Elite Religious Groups,” U.S. News and World Report, March 19, 1984. p. 60.
[11] Lee, MA. “Their Will Be Done,” Mother Jones, July 1983, p. 22.
[12] “Understanding El Salvador,” FAIR/Immigration Report 4(6):2, 1984.
[13] Kent, MM. and Haub, C. 1984 World Population Data Sheet of the Population Reference Bureau, Inc. Washington DC, 1984.
[14] Connor, R. Federation for American Immigration Reform. FAIR/Immigration Report 5(5):1, February 1985.

Dr. Stephen Mumford is the founder and President of the North Carolina-based Center for Research on Population and Security. He has his doctorate in Public Health. His principal research interest has been the relationship between world population growth and national and global security. He has been called to provide expert testimony before the U.S. Congress on the implications of world population growth.

Dr. Mumford has decades of international experience in fertility research where he is widely published, and has addressed conferences worldwide on new contraceptive technologies and the stresses to the security of families, societies and nations that are created by continued uncontrolled population growth. Using church policy documents and writings of the Vatican elite, he has introduced research showing the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church as the principal power behind efforts to block the availability of contraceptive services worldwide.

In addition to his books on biomedical and social aspects of family planning, as well as scientific articles in more than a score of journals, Dr. Mumford’s major works include American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (Amherst, New York: Humanist Press, 1984), The Pope and the New Apocalypse: The Holy War Against Family Planning (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1986), and The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina: Center for Research on Population and Security, 1996).

During the formative years of the World Health Organization (WHO), broad consensus existed among United Nations member countries that overpopulation is a grave public health threat and would be a major cause of preventable death not too far in the future. One of the founding fathers of the WHO, the late Milton P. Siegel, speaks to Dr. Mumford in 1992. He explains how the Vatican successfully stymied the incorporation of family planning and birth control into official WHO policy. This video is available for public viewing for the first time. Read the full transcript of the interview here.

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  1. So Reagan followed John Paul II’s advice on Central America. How many nuns and priests died as a result of that policy? I know the four nuns murdered in El Salvador were killed before Reagan became president.

  2. I wonder how much influence Opus Dei is having on the current Marriage Equality debate in Australia, given the number of Catholics in the LNP.


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