New book explores how a woman who placed Communists in seminaries reverted to her Catholic faith – LifeSite

(LifeSiteNews) – We haven’t heard the last of Bella Dodd.

Bestselling author Dr. Paul Kengor and his co-author Mary Nicholas, MD, have just published a new book on Bella Dodd and her conversion to the Catholic faith. It is called The Devil and Bella Dodd: One Woman’s Struggle Against Communism and Her Redemption (TAN Books). In it, they also explore the claim attributed to the former Communist that she helped place more than 1,000 fellow Communists into Catholic seminaries.

In an interview with LifeSite about this new book (see full interview below), Paul Kengor explains that he and his co-author “were able to confirm that Bella Dodd truly said that she had been tasked to infiltrate seminaries by the Communist Party with over a thousand Communists.” He and his co-author succeeded in finding additional evidence – besides the recollection of Alice von Hildebrand – that confirm Bella Dodd’s words. He told LifeSite: “We quote several eyewitnesses, two of whom signed sworn affidavits (and just died, one of them in June), and another who is still alive and lives in California.”

For example, the authors quote a living eyewitness, Sherry Finn, who told them: “I remember the huge number of a thousand who had infiltrated the Catholic Church – some to the very top levels of the Church.” As the authors relate, Dodd knew four cardinals in Rome who were communists, and she worked with them. Unfortunately, Bishop Fulton Sheen – the bishop who brought Dodd back to the Church – told Dodd never to reveal the names of these cardinals, out of fear of scandal.

Another source for the book is married couple Johnine and Paul Leininger. They once heard a public talk by Bella Dodd which they summed up in a statement quoted in the book The Devil and Bella Dodd:

In the late 1920s and 1930s, directives were sent from Moscow to all Communist Party organizations. In order to destroy the Catholic Church from within, party members were to be planted in seminaries and within diocesan organizations. Dr. Dodd said, ‘I, MYSELF, PUT SOME 1,200 MEN IN CATHOLIC SEMINARIES.’

The Leiningers also confirmed to have heard Dodd say that there were “Cardinals who were members of the Communist Party. She said she knew the truth of her statement because ‘I KNOW WHO MY CONTACTS WERE.’”

By the 1960s, the Leiningers saw that this strategy of infiltration was successful, that “the Roman Catholic Church had been the victim of a massive Communist/Masonic infiltration…. Today we are witnessing the results of a well-organized, diabolical plan whose blueprint was laid over 70 years ago and patiently implemented.”

And indeed, when observing the state of the Catholic clergy today, one can only concur with this statement.

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In a thrilling win against the leftist infiltrators in the Church, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) made a key electoral decision at their Fall General Assembly in Baltimore, Maryland last week.

As reported on LifeSiteNews, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, was elected Tuesday to serve as the next president of the USCCB.

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Kengor and Nicholas also go into the history of the Second Vatican Council and the successful Communist attempt – with the help of Cardinal Eugène Tisserant – to urge the Council organizers not to discuss or criticize Communism at all (see here the translation of the document on Communism that the Council later dropped). The authors even reference a cardinal who read in a Communist newspaper that “communists had succeeded in infiltating every commission at the Vatican Council.”

“That is an alarming assertion: every commission at the Second Vatican Council – infiltrated,” the authors continue. “Is that an overstatement? Possibly. But clearly something had gone seriously wrong. To quote the later words of Pope Paul VI, the ‘smoke of Satan’ had entered the Church.”

However, despite the evil schemes attested to by this book, Bella Dodd’s own life speaks also of the power of grace. She turned away from the devil of Communism towards God and became a witness against her former ideology. Thus, this book also gives us hope and strength to continue to fight those anti-Catholic forces within the very structures of the Catholic Church today.

Please see here the full interview with Dr. Paul Kengor:

Q: What inspired you and your co-author to write this book on Bella Dodd? How did you encounter her life and work?

A: As someone who has spent my life studying communism and the Cold War, I’ve known about Bella Dodd for a long time. She was one of the leading female ex-Communists in America, maybe number one, and no doubt the most famous ex-Communist convert to Catholicism, via a beautiful story of conversion through Fulton Sheen, a story that we tell at length in the book. It will bring tears to your eyes.

I also know of Dodd because of the famous alleged statement from her claiming to have placed over a thousand communist men into Catholic seminaries in the United States. We go through that claim very, very carefully—meticulously. As readers will see, she indeed said that. We interviewed actual witnesses who heard Bella say it, including Alice von Hildebrand, who just died in the last year.

My co-author, Dr. Mary Nicholas, has followed Bella Dodd even longer than I have. This book began with Mary. She did the first draft. I came in later, as second author, only upon her requests, and even then, agreed to be co-author only once I had done enough work and contributed enough to merit the title.

Q: The book’s title puts Bella Dodd and the devil in connection. How real was her encounter with the devil? Did she describe concrete diabolical experiences, or is it more abstractly described as a life in darkness and away from God?

A: She directly and repeatedly described her attempts to break away from communism as attempting to break away from the devil himself. Over and over. She wrote: “Blasphemously, I would add, ‘I’ll join the devil himself if he is going in my direction.’ There is no doubt that I traveled with him at my side and that he extorted a great price for his company.” She only broke away from the devil of Communism when she crawled back to the Catholic faith of her youth, on her knees. It was Fulton Sheen who, more than any other figure, reached down and helped pull her from the pit.

Q: What are the major sources that you used for informing you about Bella Dodd’s words and life?

A: An enormous number and variety of sources: from her memoir, School of Darkness, to her many sworn testimonies to the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, and more. She became one of the most common witnesses to the Congress in testifying to the tentacles of Communism and the efforts by the Soviet Union and Communist Party USA to infiltrate U.S. society and institutions, especially education. Bella ran the education front for the Party, where she succeeded in thoroughly penetrating the crucial New York Teachers Union.

Another significant source that we used is Bella’s massive FBI file, which we got declassified. I began the process of filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in January 2019 for the release of her file. That process began a long period of waiting, with repeated appeals to the federal government submitted by an attorney colleague of mine. We ended up with over a thousand pages from her FBI file. The agency considered her an enormous source of information. By the early 1950s, according to the FBI, her code name during the McCarthy hearings was “The Falcon.” The material in the file is fascinating.

Q: How would you draw a parallel between this new book and your book The Devil and Karl Marx?

A: The crucial difference is this: While both Bella and Karl Marx dealt with the devil, including the devil of Communism, Bella broke away and embarked on a life of penance and reparation. Marx, to the contrary, remained fascinated by the devil, writing poems about the devil and truly engaging in acts that perpetuated great evil. He was a lifelong angry atheist. Bella, once she broke from the devil, did just the opposite. She said to Fulton Sheen, “I want to enter the most severe penitential order that exists to pay for my sins.” He replied, “No. I command you to give lectures on Communism because these people are blind. They are totally blind to the dangers of Communism.” That was precisely what she did. She made a commitment to alert the world.

Q: Do you touch in your new book about the fact that Bella Dodd helped introduce over 1,000 Communists into the Catholic priesthood? Do we know more about this?

A: That’s the heart of the book. It’s what will attract most readers to it. It’s by far the longest chapter of the book. You’ll have to get the book to find out! But I’ll say this much here: We were able to confirm that Bella Dodd truly said that she had been tasked by the Communist Party to infiltrate seminaries with over a thousand communists. There are sloppy, unsubstantiated claims attributed to her all over the Internet. I feel we’ve provided a crucial service in this book by documenting the fact that she really did say that. We quote several eyewitnesses, two of whom signed sworn affidavits (and just died, one of them in June), and another who is still alive and lives in California. That’s just some of the evidence.

We also walk through the feasibility of Bella and the Party believing that they actually could infiltrate the Catholic Church. There’s no question they would have tried. They had penetrated all the mainline Protestant denominations. Bella even placed a thousand Communist Party members among 10,000 teachers in the Teachers Union in New York alone (she admitted that in sworn testimony), plus numerous other groups for which she was the master organizer in the infiltration. By the 1960s, there were close to 60,000 priests in the United States. For Bella, the prospect of placing merely a thousand communists in Catholic seminaries would have seemed a cinch. She would have saluted the red flag.

So, we know that she tried it. The only question is to what extent this infiltration might have succeeded. We walk through that as well.

Q: Many Catholics are astonished at Bishop Sheen’s counsel to Bella Dodd not to reveal the names of any priests, or even allegedly four cardinals, who were communists and who she helped infiltrate the Church. Do you think, in light of the current Church crisis, that it would have been better to reveal the names both of these cardinals and of these Communist priests?

Perhaps so, but Bishop Sheen didn’t want the scandal. Instead, he told Bella Dodd what Pope Pius XI had told him: The best way that you can fight the “Satanic scourge” of Communism (that’s how it was described in Pius XI’s 1937 encyclical Divini Redemptoris) is to speak out publicly against Communism and teach the people of the Church, the country, the culture, and the world about this evil. That was exactly what she proceeded to do, and she did so literally unlike and more powerfully than any woman in the history of the Church.

Q: What is your book’s message for us Americans right now, at a moment in history where we seem to be more and more exposed to socialism and its tactics, to include the enforcement of new quotas, new victim groups, and the punishment of those who do not follow the new ideology?

A: Communism and its ugly stepsister socialism are way too popular in America today, including among many terribly misinformed Catholics. In July 2019, the Jesuit-flagship America magazine published an utterly shocking article titled “The Catholic Case for Communism.” That’s pure madness. Really, it’s pure ignorance. In truth, there is no justification for such a piece in a Catholic publication. But tragically, our lack of understanding of the evils of Communism, including our ignorance in our own parishes and colleges, has brought us to this dreadful point.

Q: What is the main lesson that we can learn from Bella Dodd’s own history of being a Communist who then converted to the Catholic Faith?

A: Fight evil with truth and with courage, even when they call you names and try to make your life a hell on earth. When Bella left the Communist Party, they smeared her with every name in the book—none of which will surprise readers today. They called her a racist, fascist, Nazi, anti-Semite, you name it. Right out of the playbook. The radical left has been smearing people like this for a hundred years. And Bella herself had smeared people like that when she was in the Party.

They tried to effectively cancel her, as we say today. More than that, they literally wanted her dead. They threatened her. She lived under constant harassment. And yet, she fought back, fearlessly.

That brings me to the other big lesson from her story. To borrow from Pope John Paul II, be not afraid.

Dr. Maike Hickson was born and raised in Germany. She holds a PhD from the University of Hannover, Germany, after having written in Switzerland her doctoral dissertation on the history of Swiss intellectuals before and during World War II. She now lives in the U.S. and is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.

Dr. Hickson published in 2014 a Festschrift, a collection of some thirty essays written by thoughtful authors in honor of her husband upon his 70th birthday, which is entitled A Catholic Witness in Our Time.

Hickson has closely followed the papacy of Pope Francis and the developments in the Catholic Church in Germany, and she has been writing articles on religion and politics for U.S. and European publications and websites such as LifeSiteNews, OnePeterFive, The Wanderer, Rorate Caeli,, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Notizie Pro-Vita, Corrispondenza Romana,, Der Dreizehnte,  Zeit-Fragen, and Westfalen-Blatt.

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