An associate dean and endowed professor at OU’s College of Law is the new editor of a publication classified as a hate group and has contributed to a podcast with anti-Semitic ties.
Brian McCall, an OU law professor, associate dean for academic affairs and associate director of the OU Law Center, was named editor-in-chief of Catholic Family News, according to a June 3 press release. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies this New York-based publication as a hate group due to its former editor’s beliefs and its anti-Semitic ties, according to the center's website.
The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups in the United States and informs the public, media and law enforcement of their activities. The site states that the center uses reports by citizens, law enforcement, field sources and the news media to keep track of the groups and individuals in question and also conducts its own investigations.
The center defines a hate group as an organization that “has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people,” according to its website. Every year, the center publishes a census of hate groups within the United States.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s website states that former Catholic Family News editor John Vennari called Judaism "part of the Kingdom of Satan" in a 2003 edition of the paper and wrote a booklet claiming that Jews had infiltrated the Catholic Church to destroy it. Vennari died in April 2017.
McCall said in an interview with The Daily that as the publication’s new editor, he has no plans to change the course of the newspaper. He said Vennari was a close friend and that the accusations against Vennari were unfair, inaccurate and outdated.
“The newspaper will follow the direction (Vennari) set for decades and that direction does not and will not involve bigotry or injustice against any people on the grounds of race or ethnicity,” McCall said in a Sept. 5 email to The Daily. “The paper is a forum for debating important and controversial religious issues within the Catholic Church. Disagreement on matters of principle in religion do not equate to racial prejudice.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center states in a web post the difference between traditionalist Catholicism and “radical traditionalist” Catholicism. Many traditionalist Catholic chapels exist in the country, embracing the Latin Tridentine Mass and rebuking the liberal reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, but these do not all espouse anti-Semitism, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
McCall said he does not pay attention to the center’s hate group listings because he believes the organization has been widely discredited.
“They’ve made lots of false accusations against many, many different people and organizations,” McCall said.
Heidi Beirich, a spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said she and her colleagues are investigating the editorial transition between Vennari and McCall and will publish new information regarding the group in February.
Beirich said the center will continue to list the publication as a hate group as long as anti-Semitic writings stay on the site.
“At least at this moment in time, Vennari’s writings about the Jews ... remain on there,” Beirich said. “So as far as I can tell at this point in time, there hasn’t seemed to be a shift in direction.”
Beirich said Vennari’s anti-Semitic writings are not the only reason the publication is listed as a hate group.
“We looked at the conferences, their content, who was there, what they said,” Beirich said. “But we also looked at the publication itself, which also was filled with these really crazy conspiracies about Jews.”
McCall contributed to TradCatKnight Radio, a traditionalist Catholic podcast, on July 15. David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, was a guest on the same episode and made derogatory remarks about Jews.
“David Duke is a raging anti-Semite,” Beirich said.
Duke and McCall didn’t interact on the podcast since each spoke on a different segment. McCall made no anti-Semitic remarks but instead spoke about aspects of traditionalist Catholic beliefs.
TradCatKnight’s website states, “One cannot support the state of Israel and be called Catholic ... Jews and Muslims are religions of antichrist ...”
Other podcasts from TradCatKnight include "The Ugly Truth of Zionism," “Russia Ruled by Crypto-Jews” and “The Jewish Problem.”
McCall said he does not embrace or endorse the mistreatment of any individual on the basis of nationality or race and would not support anyone who “harbors ill” toward another based on nationality.
Erin Yarbrough, OU’s interim vice president for public affairs, said in a July 20 statement that academic freedom protects McCall’s right to express his ideas and beliefs. She said the university holds its administrators to high standards of conduct and does not tolerate discrimination.
“Associate Dean McCall has an impeccable record as an administrator and is consistently ranked as one of the top professors in the College of Law,” Yarbrough said in the statement.
McCall said his involvement with Catholic Family News is a part-time commitment outside his university duties.
“This is in my personal capacity that I do this work,” McCall said.