It all re-started for me with Ammon Hennacy

By James F. Holwell

Ammon Hennacy (July 24, 1893-January 14, 1970) was a Christian anarchist, pacifist, social activist, Catholic Worker Movement supporter, a “Wobbly” vegetarian and tax resister. He established the “Joe Hill House of Hospitality” in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hennacy eventually married and left the Catholic Church, though he remained a “non-church Christian.”His most popular and emblematic essays can be found in his memoir “The Book of Ammon.”

Ammon Hennacy

As a teen-ager in a Roman Catholic prep school for boys, I learned in some depth about the anti-communist, pro-capitalist culture into which I was born. After prep school I entered a seminary to study for the priesthood in a missionary society. At age 22, in 1953, having been told I did not have a vocation, I settled into an entry level job at a bank on Wall Street.

It was then that I met Ammon Hennacy. He came every Tuesday afternoon to the corner outside the bank, selling copies of The Catholic Worker for one cent. I remember sharing with him some of my earliest beliefs; for example, that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg deserved to die in the electric chair because they tried to help those evil Russian Communists. I remember telling him that it is time to bomb Moscow, because peaceful coexistence was a trick, intended to deceive us into nonresistance.

One day I asked Ammon if he and the others with him are ‘racticing’ Catholics; that is, whether they go to Mass and receive Holy Communion. He said Yes, and on a daily basis! With that I judged him guilty of gross desecration of the Sacred Species. I told him he was nothing but a filthy Communist and therefore against God. I grabbed him by the coat collar and was about to punch him out, when he asked me if I would let him put down the papers, so that “After you finish beating me, I’ll still be able to sell them.”

So what could I do? I let him go. He patiently explained to me that he was far to the left of Communists, because they believe in government and laws. In contrast, he stated that he was an Anarchist, believing that God’s laws are “engraved in the hearts of men” (St. Paul) and therefore human laws, and police and soldiers and judges, are all unnecessary and have nothing to do with real justice!

Ammon helped me to see that the traditional churches have supported war as a way to dominate others. The reasons for war are always the same— to free the money changers to benefit and the weapons makers to amass fortunes based on the blood of others. Ammon saw that the American government and military had turned around from the ideals in the Declaration of Independence. We have become the new King George III and people everywhere are asserting their independence from the American Empire. The corporate leaders, spurred on by their shareholders, put massive profits first, needs of people last. So it is fine that the lives of the working class are destroyed as long as the result is a fatter bottom line.

Regarding the events of 9-11, 2001, there is no doubt in my mind that Ammon would have seen through and realized that Muslim hijackers could have been in no way responsible for the demolition of these buildings with about 3000 human beings still trapped inside. It was the usual false-flag tactic that leaders have used for time immemorial to provoke the population into a warlike frenzy.

He spoke with reverence about the Sermon on the Mount. He reminded me of the lifestyle of the 1st Century Christians, which he declared to be the only example of true communism that ever existed. He spoke strongly: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” I asked him whether, in this ideal state, some people would only take and give back nothing. To that he pointed out that it is only when people are not taught to discover their gifts that this can happen. Children would be educated to discover their gifts, not channeled into a packaged curriculum that emphasizes money and de-emphasizes the idea of service. This system compares one with another, rating students according to ‘academic excellence.’ It is a system whose real aim is to build character, that is, to turn free spirited children into passive acquiescence and acceptance of the requirements of the corporations and the military establishments.

There is more, and I am ready to be involved with others to look at how these ideals can be practiced in the world of today and tomorrow.