Annotations to The Autobiography of a Catholic Anarchist

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The Autobiography of a Catholic Anarchist is a 1954 book by American Christian radical Ammon Hennacy. Original scans of the work are available on Wikimedia Commons as djvu and PDF files and an HTML version of the text is on Wikisource. To keep those texts free from extraneous notes and to provide readers with some context, this brief study guide was written on Wikibooks. Below, you can find explanatory notes and links to other Wikimedia projects which will help you get the most out of this autobiography. These annotations are intended to be mostly brief and simple to understand, so they can help reach the widest audience.

Introductory material[edit]

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Christian anarchism has a history going back to the origins of Christianity but the most important modern influences were the Radical Reformation in 15th and 16th-century Europe and the 19th-century writings of Leo Tolstoy
“He without sin was to cast the first stone”: this phrase from the parable of Jesus and the woman taken into adultery is from John 8:7; it has become a popular phrase asking for non-judgementalism.
The Sermon on the Mount is the longest teaching in the Gospels, beginning in Matthew 5. It includes many famous aphorisms, including “turn the other cheek” which asked Christians to be non-violent, even in the face of persecution. Luke contains a shorter teaching known as the Sermon on the Plain in chapter 6.
See wikt:Christian and wikt:anarchism for Wiktionary’s definitions.
“Overturns the tables of the money-changers”: the Cleansing of the Temple is a famous event in the public ministry of Jesus that has been depicted in art many times. It is recorded in Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 2. Jesus enters the Temple in Jerusalem and overturns the tables of money-changers, driving them out of the religious building for trying to make money off of religious devotion.
The Catholic Worker is a newspaper published by Catholic Workers in New York City.
Dorothy Day is the co-founder of the Catholic Workers, along with Peter Maurin.
The federal income tax was established in 1913 by passage of the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The issue was contentious and tax resistance in the United States has been associated with pacifists who refused to pay for war, anarchist and communists who believe that property is theft, and some libertarians.
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The feast of Saint Matthew is September 21 for Western Catholics.
Vincent McNabb was an Irish priest and Dominican possibly best known for The Decrees of the Vatican Council. He favored distributism, a perspective associated with Catholic social teaching which recognizes private property but believes that in order to achieve social justice, the means of production must be spread as widely as possible. According to his 1933 book Nazareth or Social Chaos, the best type of work was agriculture and working the land and the disciples were chosen from “work of secondary need such as fishing or of still less need such as tax collecting”.
Julius Caesar was a Roman dictator who helped end the Roman Republic and replace it with the Roman Empire. The name “Caesar” eventually became a generic title for Roman emperors.
Hilary of Poitiers was a bishop and later Doctor of the Church who was the first Latin-language hymn-writer in Christian history. The Caesar at this time would likely have been Julian the Apostate, the last pagan Roman emperor and one who passed harsh anti-Christian laws. The reference here to “rendering unto Caesar” is likely from Commentarius in Evangelium Matthaei, written 356 in reference to the Matthew 22’s teaching to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s. The passage has had ambiguous meaning to Christians regarding what the role is of the state.
“Subject to every living creature” is a quotation from St. Francis of Assissi who instructed monks to act with respect toward Muslims during the Crusades, cf. Testament of the Holy Father St. Francis. Day also quoted this line in “We Appeal to You in the Name of Saint Joseph”, from The Catholic Worker April 1953, page 2.
“Against such there is no law” is from Galatians 5:23, a Christian Antinomian belief that the Fruit of the Holy Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Dave Dellinger is a left-wing activist who would later be known for being one of the Chicago Seven.
The Bombing of Hiroshima occurred at the end of World War II
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“To put on Christ” is from Romans 13:14.
“To be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect” is a reference to Christian perfection from Matthew 5:48.
St. Francis of Assissi is a 12th- and 13th-century Italian friar known for teaching pacifism and simple living. Benedict of Nursia is a 5th- and 6th-century Italian monk best known for his Rule of Benedict, setting guidelines for monastic life. Saint Dominic is a 12th- and 13th-century Spanish priest who founded the Dominican Order.
Protestants are a group of Christians founded in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries begun by reforms from Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Hus, among others. Although they have divergent views on almost every topic, all Protestants reject Papal primacy and the teaching that the Catholic Church is the one true church. Although there have been religious wars between the two groups, they mostly coexist peacefully today and many participate in ecumenical activities, although the Catholic Church only participates in an unofficial capacity.
An injury to one is an injury to all” is a motto of the Industrial Workers of the World, a politically radical labor union which teaches that all workers should organize in One Big Union, so undermining the rights of any one laborer hurts all laborers. (Confer with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assertion that “[[q:Martin Luther King, Jr.|injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”)
The Body of Christ is a metaphor for the Christian Church from I Corinthians 12:12–14 and Ephesians 4:1–16.
There have been several socialist parties in the United States. Ammon Hennacy joined the Socialist Party of America.
The United States Penitentiary, Atlanta is a medium-security prison. During World War I, it was common for conscientious objectors to be jailed for refusing military service.
Monsignor Reynold Henry Hillenbrand was an American Catholic priest associated with the Liturgical Movement that sought to make Catholic worship services more accessible to the public.
“Tolstoi” is another spelling of Leo Tolstoy.
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Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a 19th- and 20th-century pacifist and leader of the Indian independence movement.
Gregory Thaumaturgus is an ancient Christian saint whose feast day is November 17.
Saint Paul is an early Christian saint and responsible for many books of the Bible—the passages about charity is from I Corinthians 13.
  • page vii
Karl Jung is a psychoanalyst who was originally a pupil of the founder of modern psychiatry Sigmund Freud. Robert Frost is an American poet known for discussing complex philosophical themes in simple language and with rich descriptions of nature. Lillian Spencer was a Colorado-based poet who became famous for her essays in The Denver Post. Vachel Lindsay was also an American poet who was known for writing poems intended to be sung. The Industrial Worker is a publication of the Industrial Workers of the World.
  • page ix
Acts of the Apostles is a work of early Christian history. Hennacy quotes from 5:29–30. The Jung quotation is from Psychology and Religion (1960), page 95. The Frost poem first appeared in the 1936 compilation A Further Range.

Chapter 1[edit]