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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Guest Post: Meet me in St. Louis, Dr. Hitchcock by Dexter Duggan

From the evil one's lips to Dr Hitchcock's ears?
"Hey man, you're good. Don't embarrass
yourself by admitting you goofed! Think
 about your reputation as a historian!"
Editor's comment: What responsibility does a Catholic have to correct slanderous comments about others -- especially when they are public and published? The damage is ongoing. Every person led to believe the false and damaging information is scandalized. And to the degree that they promote and spread the slander, the culpability of the instigator is magnified.
I've been following my friend and colleague Dexter Duggan's story on his battle to restore his reputation for several years. I share his distress over Dr. Hitchcock's slander. As a former admirer of both Dr. Hitchcock and his wife, Helen Hull Hitchcock, I find it all most distressing...and, frankly, shocking.

In the beginning, one could give Dr. Hitchcock the benefit of the doubt that his inaccuracies were "mistakes." But something more malicious enters the picture when one refuses to budge from errors and falsehoods and, instead, doubles down on them which Dr. Hitchcock continues to do.

At this point, he appears to be guilty of calumny against Dexter Duggan and that is a serious sin against the 8th Commandment. It brings to mind the story of St. Jean Vianney who told a woman who confessed gossiping to go empty a feather pillow on the hillside and then come back for absolution. When she did, he told her to go gather the feathers up again. "Impossible!" she replied. The saint replied that it was also impossible to undo the damage she did with her tongue. Dr. Hitchcock, please take that story to heart and do what you can to undo the damage you did to Dexter and his reputation with your pen and your keyboard!

Please, readers, pray for both Dr. Hitchcock and my friend Dexter. We will all stand before the Judgment Seat of God. Better to be humiliated here by acknowledging shoddy work than to stand before God in prideful unrepentance!

Errant Missouri historian, EWTN, and London publisher never say, ‘Sorry’:

Meet me in St. Louis, Dr. Hitchcock

By Dexter Duggan, writer for The Wanderer

As veteran pro-life activist Fr. Frank Pavone joined with tens of thousands of others to march down San Francisco’s Market Street for the annual Walk for Life West Coast in January 2017, people recognized him and came right up to shake hands, take pictures, and congratulate his work. I walked alongside Pavone that day, doing an interview as part of my story on the event for The Wanderer (, the oldest weekly national Catholic paper in the U.S., founded in 1867.

As national director of Priests for Life, Pavone had become a familiar face over the decades for his part in pro-life leadership. He had just flown in to San Francisco after attending the January 20, 2017, inauguration of new President Donald Trump and was very hopeful of Trump’s aiding the pro-life cause. Pavone told me then that Trump“is completely in our corner on issues that matter the most, and that he’s a man who follows through on what needs to be done.”

The previous year, during the presidential campaign, I did an interview with Pavone for The Wanderer dated for June 23, 2016, headlined, “Fr. Pavone Says Trump Speech ‘Crystal Clear’ Supporting Life, Religious Liberty.” Many pro-lifers still were looking to choose a candidate. The New York-born Pavone liked what he saw up close about Trump.

Dexter with Cardinal Burke
in October 2019
Pavone is a longtime friend to The Wanderer and says that reading its strong advocacy for unborn babies nourished his vocation to the priesthood and to pro-life leadership. Other prominent supporters of The Wanderer include Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke and Judge Andrew Napolitano.

Just around the time Pavone marched in San Francisco, a new book that claimed to stand up for the pro-life cause was hitting the shelves that entirely ignored Pavone but found space to bring in topics like the Spanish American War and Prohibition, events long before the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Roe vs. Wade, in 1973.

While Pavone placed great hope in Trump, this new book, published late in 2016, firmly proclaimed that the election of either Republican Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton as president would mean the end of the pro-life movement. The book brusquely called Trump a “bizarre threat.”

The book’s index doesn’t mention Pavone at all, although I’m listed on 20 pages. Huh? I’m that much more important than Pavone? Even commentator Norman Podhoretz, Cambodian mass murderer Pol Pot and Prohibition get a reference. I’m on twice as many pages as Planned Parenthood, which gets 10.

The book’s misleadingly broad title was Abortion, Religious Freedom, and Catholic Politics. It was written by elder Missouri historian James Hitchcock, Ph.D. One of its major targets was The Wanderer, whose “Catholic underground,” Hitchcock cried, was guilty of “conspiracy theories, old religious and ethnic grudges, economic ignorance, resentment, and alienation from the entire modern world,” etc., etc.

The book personally attacked me repeatedly as a writer for The Wanderer with outright falsehoods and seriously misleading statements. Hitchcock for years had a bee in his bonnet against The Wanderer that he clung to stubbornly.

Amazingly, his remarkable errors escaped serious editing, and the book came out from Transaction Publishers, at Rutgers University, in New Jersey. (Did you know that Justice Elena Kagan is a Catholic member of the U.S. Supreme Court? Hitchcock says so.) Shortly thereafter, the major international publisher Taylor & Francis, headquartered in London, acquired the Transaction firm and issued the shoddy book under its own Routledge imprint, whose hard cover edition sold to universities for around $100 a copy.

Before long, the powerful “global Catholic network,” EWTN, was interviewing Hitchcock and telling its audience members that they could contact EWTN directly to order the book.

Also amazingly, neither Taylor & Francis, EWTN nor anyone else in a responsible position has ever made any apology for abetting Hitchcock’s defamation or publicly called on him, so far as I’ve ever heard, to make needed corrections. Nor did the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, for which he had worked.

Despite more than three years of the pro-life Trump presidency, Hitchcock never has apologized for his misjudgment. Nor has he retracted any of his embarrassing errors repeatedly called to his attention since mid-2017. Asked to account for them, he stubbornly remained silent, not acknowledging his mistakes, much less defending them. As this is written in late April 2020, Hitchcock recently was untruthful again about what was on the record.

Like many others, I had admired Hitchcock as a scholar, even before we both were contributing editors at the National Catholic Register in the early 1980s. That is, until I discovered in 2017 that he, without offering any evidence, defamed my good reputation as a lifelong pro-lifer. If he couldn’t find facts he wanted, he made them up.

I’ve written before about his assaults. To readers new to this scandal, I’ll repeat a few before getting to the latest news.

Hitchcock, a veteran professor at two Catholic institutions, St.
Dr. James Hitchcock
Louis University and the St. Louis archdiocesan Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, inexplicably charged me with believing that “fanatically pro-abortion” U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater was “worthy of unqualified support.” Does not the Catholic Hitchcock understand he is saying that I, a practicing Catholic, am on the road to Hell unless I repent? Yet he never has offered the slightest evidence for this defamation, not even in the years since the book was published and I said to prove it.

In March 2020 I challenged him to meet me on a debate stage in his St. Louis home town, however his health allows. No response yet. Two years ago, he told his friend Christopher Manion, Ph.D., that he had been “very busy,” but he intended to reply to Manion’s and my criticisms. However, he never did.

Hitchcock falsely wrote that I didn’t care for “Reagan Democrats,” and that I was among those trying “to persuade pro-lifers to transcend their narrow outlook and support a wider agenda.” He never offered any evidence for this, just empty accusations.

He repeatedly put the words of other plainly identified people in my mouth to make me look bad, and even twisted them, such as taking a comment by a black activist in 2015 who said that he thought blacks “are moving toward Donald Trump.” Hitchcock instead claimed that I, Duggan, said blacks “would flock to Trump’s banner.” So now, in my supposedly pro-abortionist Trump fervor, I not only presume to speak for blacks, but also attribute even more eagerness for them to go dashing toward Trump than the black activist himself suggested.

When I covered an official Arizona Republican county meeting where a pro-abortion extremist Democrat was criticized, Hitchcock instead claimed that I covered a meeting of people who looked down their noses at pro-lifers and “were ecstatic” over a “newly elected” pro-abortion Republican whose election hadn’t even been held yet.

In a different story, I noted a range of political gossip over Sen. John McCain inviting potential vice-presidential running mates to his ranch before the GOP convention in 2008. I wrote: “Conservatives could ponder whether a dedicated conservative activist and pro-lifer like (Louisiana Gov. Bobby) Jindal could enhance the ticket by influencing McCain to the right, or only be used as the Arizona senator’s yes-man to lure conservative voters to elect an administration dedicated to undermining their cause.”

Yet what did Hitchcock claim I wrote? This: “Duggan (June 5 [2008]) asked whether, if McCain picked a pro-life running mate, it would only be ‘to lure conservative voters to elect an administration dedicated to undermining their cause’.” Hitchcock simply threw away the part of the sentence that disproved his claim. How low can ya go? Well, as low as when Hitchcock took the words of a man likening McCain to “a mad scientist” and instead claimed that was my own remark.

Now for the latest disappointing news I’m aware of, which occurred just last month, in March 2020.

A woman I know, and who had met Hitchcock years ago, asked him by email on March 12 for “the TRUTH” about the book situation. Hitchcock replied by email on March 19: “Dexter Duggan, whom I have never met, says that I misrepresented him. But he does not say exactly how. He also says that I have discredited myself. If that is true (it is not) what more does he want?”

I never claimed to have met Hitchcock, but I spoke with him on the phone at least once decades ago, when we both wrote for the National Catholic Register and he was fully aware I was a pro-lifer way back then. His claim that I do “not say exactly how” he misrepresented me is as false as his book’s tales. In asking “what more” I want, he seems to suggest he already has done a lot to satisfy me, when in fact he has done absolutely nothing.

The woman replied to Hitchcock on March 21 with some of his many inaccuracies that I’ve pointed out. Rather than thanking her for giving him the opportunity to reply, Hitchcock cut her off peremptorily on March 22: “DD and I have both had our say.” (“DD” is, of course, me, Dexter Duggan.) And that was the end of what the adamantly incorrect Hitchcock would say.

University abortion historian Prof. Mary Ziegler is bringing out her own book via Cambridge University Press now, Abortion and the Law in America: Roe v. Wade to the Present. I’m on a few pages of her book, but she phoned me by prearrangement for a recorded interview then double-checked with me for accuracy -- unlike Hitchcock, who never contacted me at all before publication, and has mainly ducked me since.

 In June 2019 he finally wrote me, once, in a four-sentence letter, strangely addressing me as “Mr. McDermott,” still not acknowledging making a single error, and still inexplicably accusing me of being a bad Catholic and “a loyal Goldwaterite.” Please recall, he’d told his book readers that Goldwater was “fanatically pro-abortion.” He did not answer my reply to this cruel letter.

Prof. Ziegler made none of the howling errors that Hitchcock did. I wonder why. These are historians writing for the future, a standard that Hitchcock sadly failed while gulling his publisher, EWTN and the public.

Maybe in my next installment I’ll name folks representing the publisher and EWTN, for starters, about their part in the remarkable refusal to admit any error. Heck, here are a few now. For the publisher: Tyler Bay, Dean Birkenkamp, Julie Smith, Beckie Parker, Corinne Militello. For EWTN: Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., Jason Addington, Michael Warsaw, Doug Keck.

---April 28, 2020

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