Ben Harnwell is the founder of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, a think-tank that, in his words, “aims to form a class of future leaders conceptually armed to fight for our Christian faith which is everywhere under attack”. Envoy in Italy of the former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon (Trump’s ideologue), he seems to have emerged victorious from the clamorous legal impasse that saw him evicted a few years ago from the historic Abbey of Trisulti, one of Italy’s most beautiful monasteries, that was scheduled to become the home of Bannon’s “Academy for the Judeo-Christian West”. He gives a valuable interview for Tota Pulchra.

Mr Harnwell, what is the purpose of the Academy for the Judeo-Christian West?

The Academy will promote the foundational concepts of what we call “the West” — which is fundamentally a conceptual construction.

The West is conventionally described as the civilisation built on the confluence of three principal currents. The Christian faith, Greek philosophy and Roman law. That is to say, the West has three historic “spiritual” capital cities — Jerusalem, Athens and Rome.

Cardinal Ratzinger gave an important discourse on this theme at Subiaco — where St Benedict dwelled for years in prayer and solitude before starting his mission — in his last major address as prefect of the CDF the day before John Paul II died.

I think, by the way, that Ratzinger tried to continue the theme in his first major address as pope, at Regensburg. These two contributions — along with his own taking the name “Benedict” in honour of the founder of Western monasticism and the “father” of Europe — could have heralded an epoch-defining papacy that vigorously re-rooted Christianity as the essential force behind the concept of “Europe”.

But after Regensburg, Pope Benedict just sort of retreated into his study and gave up — and so that legacy, more needed than ever — really falls now to us, the laity, to deliver.

And frankly, we culture warriors are far better at fighting for our values than the clergy anyway.

To open a parenthesis, the Second Vatican Council, which admittedly I largely reject, actually produced a Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, which stated that “The laity must take up the renewal of the temporal order as their own special obligation.” A call that is continuously trampled underfoot these days by the hyper-clericalism of ever-politicking — and ironically über-Concilliarist — Vaticanarchs. Ok so I just made up the word Vaticanarch, but you know what I mean so let’s close the parenthesis here.

A friend of Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist during the Trump government. Do you talk often? What does he think of the upcoming elections in America?

Being the international correspondent for “Steve Bannon’s WarRoom”, based here in Europe, I am in touch with Steve on a regular basis.

What clearly emerges from the speeches he gives in his broadcasts and from the public debates he holds in the United States, is the certainty that Trump will win in November.absolutely Indeed the only thing that can stop Trump now is a stolen election.

The Abbey of Trisulti (in Central Italy) should have been the new centre of the DHI. Serious accusations of criminal conduct, all recently disproven in court, forced you to abandon it. Things have changed today. Are you going to resume the projects that had been provisionally postponed?

So far, we have won — and won decisively — in the Regional Administrative Tribunal, the Court of Auditors and the Criminal Court.

All — every single one — of the accusations that had been levelled at us — such as, lacking the necessary experience to participate in the public tender, having committed fraud in the public tender and non-fulfilment of lease conditions — these have all now been decisively rejected by the respective courts. We do not yet know when the projects that we started can be continued because what we suffered was a political sabotage at the hands of the left, rather than a judicial procedure to rectify criminal conduct (I have never been convicted of even the slightest wrongdoing in my life). As you well know, in Italy even where the law is clear and certain, the left always has its modes of getting its own way.

Talk about Jewish roots in the West. It’s obvious that Christianity provides the cultural basis of our world. What has Judaism contributed to the formation of our society?

I spoke earlier of the Judeo-Christian tradition that lies at the basis of the West. Note that I spoke of a tradition — and not of a religion — because the religion at the basis of the West is Christianity, without any doubt!

There is no such thing — and there has never been any such thing — as a Judeo-Christian religion.

That Europe is Christian in its formation (though admittedly is now post-Christian in its cultural tradition) is simply to assert a historical fact.

But in addition to the influence of Christian revelation, there is also the Old Testament that comes down to us from — obviously —the Jews.

The anthropology that helped define Western civilisation goes all the way back to the very first chapter of the very first book of the Old Testament, Genesis (verses 26 and 27), where it is stated “Man is made in the image and likeness of God”.

This is the inauguration of the cornerstone of our whole philosophical, cultural and religious tradition.

In this sense — the anthropological sense — one can indeed talk of a “Judeo-Christian tradition” without betraying anything non-negotiable to either Christianity or Judaism — and in fact, it is only in this sense that I think one can do this with any integrity.

But this anthropological contribution is of maximal importance.

What does it mean for us? It means that every single human life, without exception — from conception until death — has an infinite value to it because every single human person irradiates from within that “image and likeness” of He who is Infinite.

Christians and Jews can — and in my view, must — come together in the public square to witness to the truth of the “imago Dei”, because the rejection of this transcendent truth is at the heart of Satan’s diabolical agenda.

We thank you and we bless your holy name, Almighty God, for making us in your image and likeness!

Often the apocalyptic/millennial tones typical of a certain Judaism collide with the vision of certain American evangelical churches. It is no coincidence that there are various evangelical lobbies that support the state of Israel. It is evident that the Church of Rome, while filing down some harsh criticisms, does not have such a radical and definite position in this regard. What do you think?

Personally, I greatly appreciate American evangelicals, especially conservative evangelicals, who know and revere Holy Scripture much better than Catholics. Their faith is very sincere. But they sometimes have relatively new ideas of only a few centuries’ provenance — that is to say ideas that have no particular ancient pedigree going back the full two thousand years to the Apostolic age — especially regarding the End Times. For example, beliefs relating to the Rapture speculated in more recent times. I don’t know where I stand on the suggestion that just because a particular belief is relatively new that doesn’t make it false, because I have a very strong innate scepticism when it comes to innovation in religion. I think we need to — as best we can — believe what the Apostles believed, in the way they believed it. And if/when/where in doubt as to what exactly that is, we have Tradition to guide us. That is what it is there for.

But perhaps the Evangelicals are right and the Jews all need to convert before Jesus can return. I would need to look to see if the Catholic Church has definitively taught on that. In any case, Christians pray for the conversion of the Jews as an act of profound charity. Christians pray for the conversion of all non-Christians as an act of profound charity. The mass conversion of the Jews at the End Times would be truly beautiful. But even more beautiful of course would be to convert — for all non-Christians to convert — today. Why wait?!

By the way, let’s not forget, there wouldn’t even be any Christianity in the West if others hadn’t cared enough to evangelise the originally pagan countries that now make it up. The only coherent response therefore — assuming you actually value your own Christianity — is to pass on what you yourself received, and making disciples of all nations. Any praxis other than evangelisation, as far as I am concerned, is functional apostasy.

Sadly for many decades, Catholics no longer talk in any serious way about the Conversion of the Jews; or about the soul, its destiny in the afterlife, the Four Last Things (death, judgement, Heaven and Hell) — and essential topics such as the Apocalypse. I pray, with all my heart, that God brings back our Catholic pastors to have a profound concern for the spiritual care of souls, mindful of souls’ eternal destiny — rather than shallow pseudo-Marxist political agitating that trivialises and scorns the supernatural in favour of the material hear-and-now.

*This interview was originally given in Italian and has been both translated into English and edited for length.

Readers interested in following Ben Harnwell’s commentary can find him at where his posts attract more than a million hits a month.


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