Austin Ruse is one of the leading organizers and opinion makers within the U.S. Catholic Right. A prominent voice in U.S. right-wing media, Ruse promotes anti-LGBTIQ and anti-abortion positions, and has advocated the criminalization of homosexuality. Since his time as diplomatic attaché of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations around the turn of the millennium, Ruse has been at the forefront of a lobbying effort to nudge the UN's discourse on those matters to the right. He is co-founder and president of the arch-reactionary Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM), which has been listed as an anti-LGBTIQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.1 The group was established in 1997 as an apparent front group for Human Life International, "which had been plagued by corruption scandals and ostracized by the UN."2
Ruse has been deeply enmeshed in Republican politics, in 2008 having served on John McCain's national Catholic steering committee.3 Ruse has publicly expressed his support for Donald Trump, and was part of the Catholic Advisory Group, liaising between Catholic groups and the Trump campaign.4 He has stated that Trump "more closely adheres to Catholic social teaching than Joe Biden."5 Ruse's third book, The Catholic Case for Trump, was published just prior to the 2020 U.S. presidential election.6 His efforts for Trump have been rewarded with direct access to the State Department when in March 2017 C-FAM's executive vice president Lisa Correnti became a member of the U.S. delegation to the U.N.'s annual Committee on the Status of Women by the State Department.7
Ruse sits like a spider in a web of arch-reactionary, and largely Catholic, organizations. Ruse is a Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta as well as a Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, and is a founding member of the Diplomatic Society of St. Gabriel.8 9 He is a supernumerary member of the Catholic fundamentalist organization Opus Dei.10 11 Since around 2000, Ruse is a member of the international planning committee of the World Congress of Families, bringing together Christian Right organizations from all over the world.12 In 2004, Ruse was among the founders of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast,13 an annual prayer event and banquet that takes place in Washington, D.C., which has become an important networking event for the Catholic Right and the Republican Party.
Ruse was formerly a member of the Council for National Policy, an extremely influential umbrella organization and networking group for right-wing Republican activists.13 Ruse was identified as a convener of a Groundswell coalition meeting among right-wing activists and journalists, set out to fight progressivism and the GOP establishment.14 Ruse's bio on Catholic Answers states he is also a member of Sons of the American Revolution.8 According to his bio on C-FAM, "Austin serves on various boards including Catholic Action for Faith and Family, Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Trailways Publishing House, and Imago Dei."13 Since 2019, he appears on the Board of Trustees of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI), a Catholic fundamentalist think tank affiliated with Steve Bannon. Ruse has excellent contacts to the Vatican's right wing, particularly to Cardinal Raymond Burke, who appeared at a 2009 National Catholic prayer Breakfast event, wrote the preface for one of Ruse's books in 2017, and for some time was affiliated with the DHI.
From 2013 to 2017, Ruse was a regular contributor to Breitbart News when it was headed by Bannon, and it was Ruse who inspired Bannon to open a Breitbart office in Rome. Besides, Ruse has published in a plethora of right-wing and Catholic outlets (First Things, The Washington Times, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Human Events, Touchstone). He was a "founding columnist" for The Catholic Thing (biweekly), edited by Robert Royal, to which he contributed articles from 2008 to 2014.15 From 2012 until present he has been writing for the traditionalist Catholic Crisis Magazine, and is listed as contributing editor on the website.16 Ruse founded the foreign affairs blog, TheNewSovereigntists.org, which is now defunct.8 Ruse has been interviewed various times by Catholic Vote in the recent years,17 which made negative headlines for allegedly having tracked people attending Catholic masses in Iowa in 2018 in order to target them with election ads in coordination with Steve Bannon.18
In the past, Ruse spewed his hatred on Twitter (@austinruse), however, he has switched off his account at least twice, the last time around August 2021.19 One time this followed an incident when in March 2014 Ruse stated that the "hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities ... should all be taken out and shot" while hosting a radio talk show on American Family Radio.20 After the fallout from his comments, AFR removed Ruse from their airwaves, and Ruse deactivated his Twitter account.1 On Twitter Ruse has openly sympathized with white supremacist groups, such as the Proud Boys, with which his nephew Luke Rohlfing is apparently associated.
Ruse is a descendant of early English colonists. Raised Methodist, Ruse converted to Catholicism.21 He received a Bachelor of Journalism degree and a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Missouri, and received an honorary doctorate from the Franciscan University of Steubenville,8 which is ranked among the "Absolute Worst Campuses for LGBTQ Youth" by Campus Pride.22
C-FAM was established in 1997 as an apparent front group for the scandal-ridden Human Life International, a U.S.-based Catholic anti-abortion organization, established in 1981 in Gaithersburg, Maryland by Paul Marx (1920-2010), as a continuation of the Human Life Center founded by Marx at Saint John's University, Minnesota in 1972.23
Paul Marx (1920-2010)
According to the Daily Beast2 :
C-FAM was founded in 1997 by Human Life International, which had been plagued by corruption scandals and ostracized by the UN, and which had come under fire for anti-Semitic statements made by its founder, Paul Marx. C-FAM appears to have been a kind of front for HLI. The minutes of C-FAM’s first meeting, obtained by the group Catholics for Choice, said “Not public knowledge that HLI is funding office. Use discretion. Initially state that we are supported by multitudes of individuals/organizations. Don’t hide the fact that HLI is funder—just don’t volunteer that fact to uncertain/non-friendly persons.”
Having been involved in the establishment of the C-FAM, Ruse has headed the organization since shortly after its creation in the summer of 1997, holding the title of President since 2000.8 According to an article by Austin Ruse on the C-FAM website24 :
In the summer of 1997 a small group of pro-lifers set up shop in a tiny windowless office within a stone’s throw from UN headquarters in New York. There were three of them full time. They had answered the call of the Papal Nuncio to the UN that such an office needed to be opened in order to become an expert on UN matters and to work every day on behalf of the unborn child and the family, which was then as now under attack from the hard left. I was one of those three. ...
The founder of C-Fam was Theresa Bell, then Executive Director of Human Life International—Canada. C-Fam lived for three years on a generous annual grant from HLI and we will always remember and always be grateful. Others who can be counted as founders include Christen MacEachern Piroch, the young lady who I happened to meet one day when I was looking to change my life. We also remember Tom McFeely as a founder. A Canadian journalist, Tom taught us how to write straight news, rather than opinion, in the Friday Fax.
Other memorable staff members from those early days include Diana Kilarjian who still stays in touch and sends us nice checks every once in a while. Also, Douglas A. Sylva who was key to our work for several years. Doug created our research program and began our White Paper Series. Also, Hannah Russo who was my longtime assistant and has served these past several years from home as our Director of Development.
Besides spreading homophobic vitriol, part of the group's mission was to work closely with the Holy See delegation at the UN, which over time developed into C-FAM's enmeshment in UN lobby work around reproductive health and gender identity issues. C-FAM became known for targeted campaigns against certain pieces of UN legislation. For example, in 2012 Ruse "attacked a UN global study of anti-LGBT violence, saying it was a 'dishonest' ploy to legitimize homosexuality."25
C-FAM strategically preps young scholars to wield a legal war on abortion, LGTBIQ rights and other rallying points of the Christian Right, particularly with eyes on the UN. To that end, the organization runs an Edmund Burke Fellowship program, awarded every year to ten young scholars with backgrounds in international law and public policy.26
Austin Ruse speaks with the 2015 participants in C-Fam's Edmund Burke Fellowship
Around the turn of the millennium, Ruse was a diplomatic attaché of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.27 According to an article published by a journal of the University of Chicago Law School by Mary Anne Case27 :
As heard on a tape recording whose transcript was disseminated through Catholics for Choice in a 2001 report, Ruse told the ultraconservative Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation that Hillary “Clinton is the conquering queen at the United Nations. I was standing on the floor of the UN a couple of months ago, when she was thinking about running, and I was talking to a priest from the Holy See delegation and I shouldn’t tell you this but he offered me guaranteed absolution if I just took her out and not on a date.
World Congress of Families
World Congress of Families logo
According to Ruse's own information, he has been working on the international planning committee of the World Congress of Families since around 2000,12 an arch-reactionary Christian organization rallying against LGBTIQ and abortion rights. In the recent years the WCF has been "backed by Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin," The Guardian reported.28
Ruse was part of the preparatory committee for the third WCF congress in Mexico in 2003.29
In the summer of 2008, Ruse was a member of the Selection Committee for the fifth iteration of the World Congress of Families, which organized the congress in Amsterdam in August the following year. According to an article by the Christian Telegraph30 :
The 16-member Selection Committee was composed of: Ignacio Arsuaga (HazteOir.org, Spain), Chuck Donovan (Family Research Council), Don Feder (World Congress of Families), Farooq Hassan (Pakistan Family Forum), Jesus Hernandez (The Family Network, Mexico), Marie-Claire Hernandez (Family & Society, Mexico), Randy Hicks (Georgia Family Council), Robert Knight (Culture and Media Institute, Media Research Center), Ewa Kowalewska (Human Life International, Europe), Gwendolyn Landolt (REAL Women of Canada), Yuri Mantilla (Focus on the Family), Dorothy Patterson (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), Austin Ruse (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute), Mary Ellen Smoot, Jennifer Swim (GFC Foundation) and Father Jaroslaw Szymczak (Institute of Family Studies, Poland). The meeting was chaired by Gwen Landolt (Real Women of Canada).
Ruse appeared on the fifth iteration of the WCF in Amsterdam from August 10-12, 2009. According to an article in the Public Eye magazine31 :
During the conference Austin Ruse twittered, “Lots of off stage excitement at the WCF. The local organizing committees are not American conservatives and they produced an unacceptable … Document that we had to get killed. A new document was produced by Allan Carlson [founder and longtime international secretary of the WCF] that will be released today.” Ruse and others bullied their agenda into the WCF’s final document, congratulating themselves that “in the end, the Congress was a success.” Not because it brought two opposing sides together, but because the event succeeded in inching Dutch public discourse to the right. Indeed, the research department of the Dutch Christian Reformed Party (SGP), a WCF participant, recommended that Dutch family policy legalize marriage only for a man and a woman, impose stricter restrictions on divorce, and take away the rights of gay couples to adopt.
In October 2013, Ruse was part of the international planning committee organizing the 8th iteration of the World Congress of Families summit in Moscow, scheduled for September 10 to 12, 2014.32 According to a mailing list announcement32 :
Members of the International Planning Committee for WCF VIII that attended the Moscow meeting included: Ignacio Arsuaga (HazteOir, Spain), Brian Brown (National Organization for Marriage, U.S.), Benjamin Bull (Alliance Defending Freedom, U.S.), Allan Carlson, Lawrence Jacobs and Don Feder (The Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society and World Congress of Families, U.S.), Silvio Dalla Valle (Association for the Defense of Christian Values, Italy), Shelly Locke (Power of Mothers, U.S.), Bob McKoskrie (Family First, New Zealand), Tom Minnery (Focus on The Family, U.S.) Justin Murff (Christian Broadcasting Network, U.S.), Austin Ruse (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute, U.S.), Steven Smoot (Family First Foundation, U.S.), Christopher Carmouche (GrassTopsUSA), Christine Vollmer (Latin American Alliance for the Family, Venezuela), Peter Westmore (Australian Family Association), Srdjan Nogo (Dveri, Serbia), Vincente Segu (Incluyendo Mexico), Fabrice Sorlin (France) and Jack Hanick (formerly with FOX News, U.S.).
However, because of the situation in the Ukraine and Crimea, planning for the conference was suspended, and the summit finally cancelled.33 In July 2013, Ruse wrote about meeting with the oligarchs Vladimir Yakunin and Konstantin Malofeev in Russia. According to Ruse's travel report34 :
Russian Railways czar Vladimir Yakunin, whom I met with, recently engineered a visit to Russia of the True Cross of St Andrew. Five-hour lines in the rain awaited anyone wanting to venerate it. Happily, Yakunin arranged for me to cut the line.
I met also with young tech billionaire Konstantin Malofeev whose office is festooned with religious icons. He is working to bring Russian Orthodox and U.S. Christians closer together.
Malofeev and many other Russians see themselves as a Christian nation sent to help other Christians around the world. For them, at least, that’s why they support the Assad regime; he’s better for Syria’s Orthodox Christians.
He wonders if some sort of grand global alliance between the Orthodox and Catholics can be achieved and what effect that might have on the global culture war advanced by the sexual left. I wonder, too.
Konstantin Malofeev in his office stuffed with icons and other Russian Orthodox paraphernalia.
Around that time Ruse was actively supporting the anti-gay legislation on the way in Russia, and has argued that most Americans would like to see a similar approach in the US.35 In June 2013, a federal law criminalizing the distribution of materials among minors in support of non-traditional sexual relationships was enacted. The law has resulted in numerous arrests of Russian LGBTIQ citizens publicly opposing the law and there has reportedly been a surge of anti-gay protests, violence, and hate crimes. It has received international criticism from human rights observers, LGBTIQ activists, and media outlets and has been viewed as de facto means of criminalizing LGBTIQ culture.36
National Catholic Prayer Breakfast
President George W. Bush addresses the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., April 13, 2007.
In 2004, Ruse was among the founders of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, along Joseph Cella, Leonard Leo, Rick Santorum, and others.13 The NCPB is an annual prayer event and banquet that takes place in Washington, D.C., which has become an important networking event for the Christian Right and the Republican Party, connecting prominent Catholic politicians and representatives of the Catholic clergy, businessmen, political and religious activists.37 Almost eponymous to the more established National Prayer Breakfast of Douglas Coe, the NCPB also has similar objectives, i.e. wielding influence in politics. It featured President George W. Bush as a keynote speaker in the 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 assemblies.37 38 Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke delivered the keynote address at the 2009 prayer breakfast, which also featured Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as guest speaker.
On January 12, 2012, Ruse contributed his first article to the far-right news site Breitbart,39 and after a pause of over a year, starting in September 2013, he became a regular contributor, writing hundreds of articles for the site.40 His last article on the website is dated August 4, 2017,40 two weeks before Breitbart announced that Steve Bannon would return as executive chairman following his period of employment at the White House.41
In an article on The Imaginative Conservative, Ruse said that it was Bannon who had first contacted him:42
Out of the blue in the summer of 2014, I received an email from Steve Bannon asking if I ever published anyplace other than Crisis Magazine and would I be interested in writing for Breitbart. I knew Mr. Bannon’s name from a weekly conservative coalition that still meets in Washington DC. Mr. Bannon occasionally called in but never appeared in person.
The conservative coalition holding weekly meetings in Washington is most likely the Groundswell coalition (see below). However, the year stated by Ruse cannot be right, given that he started writing regularly for Breitbart in September 2013.
Ruse was also instrumental in encouraging Steve Bannon to broadcast a Breitbart radio show from Rome during the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on April 27, 2014, which paved the way for the establishment of Breitbart's Rome bureau.43 Subsequently, Bannon put Thomas D. Williams, in charge of the Rome office, a vociferous critic of Pope Francis and formerly a high-profile priest of the Legionaries of Christ.44 The Legionaries are an ultra-Catholic sect originating in Mexico, whose founder Marcial Maciel was suspended from his ministry in 2006 because of rampant child abuse by him and other leading members. According to Neil Datta, “Affluent anti-gender personalities associated with the Legionaries include the Slim family of Mexico and the von Habsburgs.”45
In July 2013, Ruse was identified as a convener of a Groundswell coalition meeting among right-wing activists and journalists.14 The Groundswell coalition emerged following the 2012 U.S. presidential election won by Barack Obama, and was set out to fight progressivism and the GOP establishment.14 Starting in early 2013, a group of right-wing politicians, political activists and journalists in Washington started gathering for weekly meetings and began networking online, many of them with a Tea Party background. According to leaked documents, in 2013 the group had started staging "a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation" by such goals as repealing the Affordable Care Act, working behind the scenes to enact voter ID laws, and blocking Obama administration nominees.14
According to a groundbreaking exposé in Mother Jones from 201314 :
One of the influential conservatives guiding the group is Virginia “Ginni” Thomas [the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas], a columnist for the Daily Caller and a tea party consultant and lobbyist. Other Groundswell members include John Bolton, the former UN ambassador; Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy; Ken Blackwell and Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council; Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch; Gayle Trotter, a fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum; Catherine Engelbrecht and Anita MonCrief of True the Vote; Allen West, the former GOP House member; Sue Myrick, also a former House GOPer; Diana Banister of the influential Shirley and Banister PR firm; and Max Pappas, a top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Among the conveners listed in an invitation to a May 8 meeting of Groundswell were Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News Network; Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who resoundingly lost a Maryland Senate race last year (and is now running for a House seat); Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society; Sandy Rios, a Fox News contributor; Lori Roman, a former executive director of the American Legislative Exchange Council; and Austin Ruse, the head of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. Conservative journalists and commentators participating in Groundswell have included Breitbart News reporters Matthew Boyle and Mike Flynn, Washington Examiner executive editor Mark Tapscott, and National Review contributor Michael James Barton.
Groundswell went on to be influential in the White House of former president Donald Trump, conducting an effort to rid the White House and other government agencies of so-called "deep state" opponents of Trump.46 47 48 In 2021, Barbara Ledeen was named as a member of Groundswell in connection with her involvement in an undercover campaign by Project Veritas to discredit H.R. McMaster when he served as Trump's national security adviser in 2017 and 2018. Ledeen, longtime staffer for Senator Chuck Grassley on the Senate Judiciary Committee and wife of neoconservative foreign policy analyst Michael Ledeen, said she passed on information about McMaster's social calendar to Project Veritas which then used the information to plan an operation to secretly record McMaster making comments that would cause him to resign or be fired. Ledeen admitted passing on the information but said "I am not part of a plot."47
Consultative status at the United Nations
Although C-FAM has long set its eyes on the UN and has been trying to nudge discourses surrounding reproductive healthcare and LGTBIQ rights to the right, it was not until January 2014 that the organization was approved for consultative status at the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).49 According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, "Non-governmental organizations that are granted this status then have access to ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies and the various human rights mechanisms of the UN and various special events organized by the President of the General Assembly."1
C-FAM staff outside the UN in May 2016 in front of the banner promoting a half-day event at the UN on “Uniting Nations for a Family Friendly World,” hosted by dozens of countries and groups who are working together as the Group of Friends of the Family.
From left to right: Austin Ruse, Marianna Orlandi, Lisa Correnti, Stefano Gennarini, Rebecca Oas, and intern Catherine Birri.
Group of Friends of the Family
In February 2015, the Group of Friends of the Family was launched, a networking group for anti-choice groups lobbying the UN. According to a press statement, "Belarus, Egypt and Qatar organized the launch of the Group of Friends of the Family in the UN Headquarters in New York. The event was attended by representatives of 25 countries from different regions of the world, which proved themselves as supporters of the traditional family and family values."50 The group organizes an annual event titled "Uniting Nations for a Family Friendly World," bringing together anti-choice groups lobbying the UN.51 The respective website states that the event is presented by51 :
The Permanent Missions of Bangladesh, Belarus, Comoros, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Yemen, and Zimbabwe, in cooperation with Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), and Family Watch International (FWI), Concerned Women for America (CWA), Civil Society for the Family including Family Research Council, Human Life International, HazteOir.org, CitizenGo, and Derecho a Vivir.
In May 2016, a group of C-FAM staffers, including Ruse, took part in a Uniting Nations for a Family Friendly World event at the UN.52 According to Peter Montgomery, in the fall of 2016, "C-Fam worked feverishly with Russia and anti-LGBTQ African and Islamist countries to try to overturn the Human Rights Council’s historic decision to hire an independent expert to investigate discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity."53 That summer Ruse rallied against "radical homosexuals" and suggested that "they are coming for your daughter and your son and your grandchildren. They don't have any children of their own. They are deliberately barren. So, they have set their sights on yours, your innocent girls and boys."53 In 2017 Ruse was also in the news because he attacked Jesuit priest James Martin on social media for his work that urges gay Catholics to begin conversations with their bishops.54
Members of The Group of Friends of the Family as of November 2021.
Besides the Group of Friends of the Family, Ruse has been active in other anti-choice lobby initiatives, according to a 2016 report about the Religious Right at the UN by Peter Montgomery55 :
... C-Fam’s Austin Ruse, whose group has special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, has his fingers in many pots: he organized the new Civil Society for the Family coalition, helped organize an event with anti-LGBTQ countries at the UN, and helped launch the Political Network for Values, an effort to bring activists together with legislators who have the means to influence national policy directly. His group also runs a fellowship program for graduate students designed to train a new generation of “pro-family” activists.
Catholic Advisory Group
In the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Ruse advised Trump’s 2016 campaign in the context of the Catholic Advisory Group. According to a press release from September 22, 20164 :
Today, the Donald J. Trump campaign announced a new group convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues and policies important to Catholics and other people of faith in America. The Catholic Advisory Group is a key element of the Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee to the campaign. And Mr. Joseph Cella, Founder of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, will serve as the Catholic Liaison for the members and the campaign.
Members of the Catholic Advisory Group as of September 22, 2016.
For its dedication to the Trump campaign C-FAM was rewarded with direct access to the State Department. In March 2017, C-FAM made headlines "when it was revealed that Lisa Correnti, the group’s executive vice president, was named by the State Department to the U.S. delegation to the U.N.'s annual Committee on the Status of Women."7 Correnti joined C-Fam in 2010 and now works as the organizations Executive Vice President. According to her profile on C-FAM, Correnti "was the regional director for a parental notification bill in California, campaign manager for a pro-life congressional candidate, director of the Catholic Working Group, a Catholic outreach effort at the 2008 GOP convention, California Catholic state co-chair for McCain/Palin and national Catholic coalition leader for Bush/Cheney ’04. Lisa founded OneNationUnderGod.org, a Catholic faith and politics blog that encouraged engagement in the public square by educating on the social teachings of the Church."56
Staff of C-Fam as of November 2016. From left to right: Hannah Russo, Rebecca Oas, Susan Yoshihara, Lisa Correnti, Stefano Gennarini, Marianna Orlandi, and Austin Ruse.
The influence that C-FAM wielded in the State Department became apparent when U.S. United Nations representatives in 2018 received talking points from the State Department "setting out clear red lines against mention of 'sexual and reproductive health' care," which were copied verbatim from a C-FAM script previously circulated, The Guardian reported. According to the article57 :
C-Fam’s channel into the state department and into the US mission to the UN under the then ambassador Nikki Haley, had made itself increasingly apparent in the run up to the 2018 Commission on the Status of Women at the UN’s New York headquarters.
“Nikki Haley’s staffers were in very close touch with C-Fam. C-Fam were continually phoning and emailing Nikki Haley’s staff talking about the language, giving line-by-line instructions,” Phipps [Laurie Shestack Phipps, a diplomat at the US mission to the UN] said. “It was highly inappropriate for a non-government organisation to be giving line-by-line instructions. C-Fam would be sending emails which would be regurgitated in US cables.”
During the 2018 women’s conference, Kozma [Bethany Kozma, a political appointee at the US agency for international development] and other Trump political appointees attended a “listening session” at C-Fam offices without informing the rest of the US delegation, in a breach of normal practice.
According to The Guardian article, C-FAM has pushed the State Department to ally with autocratic regimes in an attempt to restrict women’s and LGBTIQ rights at the UN.57
Dignitatis Humanae Institute
Around 2019, Ruse joined the board of trustees of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI), a catholic fundamentalist think tank based in Rome that came to prominence because of its connections to Steve Bannon, one of the "patrons" of the DHI. The organization became more widely known when in early 2018 Bannon announced his by now failed plans to open a fascist cadre school in a remote Italian monastery with the help of the DHI.58
Ruse's connections to the DHI, however, precede his official role in the organization. According to the Washington Post, it was Ruse who initially introduced Bannon to Benjamin Harnwell, the co-founder of the DHI, when the two hit it off in 2014.59 Furthermore, Ruse had previously collaborated with the longtime president of the DHI's advisory board and later honorary president, Cardinal Raymond Burke, frequently portrayed as a de facto leader of the Vatican's right wing. Burke was prefect of the Vatican's highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, from June 2008 until November 2014, when pope Francis removed Burke as head, and named him patron to a “largely ceremonial post” at the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which he held until 2017, of which Ruse has been a member.60 61 Burke is known as a sharp critic of Pope Francis, accusing him for being too lenient towards homosexuality and abortion.62 The Washington Post called Burke the “rebel prince” of the catholic church, who is “undermining Francis’s reformist, compassionate papacy, and gospel teaching […] using his position […] to legitimise extremist forces that want to bring down Western liberal democracy, Stephen K. Bannon-style.”61
Book by Austin Ruse from 2017 with a foreword by Cardinal Raymond Burke.
In 2017 Ruse published two books: Fake Science: Exposing the Left's Skewed Statistics, Fuzzy Facts, and Dodgy Data; as well as Littlest Suffering Souls: Children Whose Short Lives Point Us to Christ, with a foreword written by Burke.
Burke dropped out of the DHI in June 2019, following “a report that stated Bannon endorses allowing priests to marry and that he believes a majority of clergy members in the Vatican are gay,” according to BuzzFeed News.63
Volontè was formerly an Italian MP (1996 to 2013) and President of the European People's Party at the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE). After in December 2016 a dossier by the European Stability Initiative was published,64 a large-scale investigation into a multi-billion money laundering scheme hit off, in which Luca Volontè was implicated.65 66 Investigators said “they have uncovered 2.39 million Euro in payments to Volonté through British and offshore companies. […] The payments, prosecutors allege, were made in exchange for Volonté’s efforts to mute the European body’s criticism of Azerbaijan’s human rights record.”67 In January 2021, Criminal Section X of the Court of Milan sentenced Luca Volontè to four years in prison for taking bribes from Azerbaijani politicians.68
Organizational structure of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute as of May 2019.
Organizational Chart of the DHI as of September 2019.
Ruse has openly sympathized with white supremacist groups, such as the Proud Boys, with which his nephew Luke Rohlfing is apparently associated.
Archived tweet by Austin Ruse.
Archived tweet from Austin Ruse.
In 2020, Ruse began attacking George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement stating that Floyd’s history of drug abuse led directly to his death. Following intervention from one of his publishers, he removed the offensive tweet. However, later he defended the original remark.19
Ruse mocked the speech impediment of a 13-year-old child appearing during the 2020 Democratic Convention on Twitter, drawing a comparison to Donald Trump's past history of mocking people with disabilities.69 He subsequently claimed he was mocking Biden and claimed, with no basis, the former vice president never had a stutter.70 One of C-FAM’s board members resigned over the incident.19
From September 11 to 13, 2022, Ruse participated in the National Conservatism Conference in Miami, Florida, speaking on the topic “How Christian Conservatives Beat the UN and How You Can, Too.”71
- 1 a b c "Could Austin Ruse's Violent Rhetoric Endanger C-FAM's Status with the UN?," Southern Poverty Law Center, March 19, 2014, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2014/03/19/could-austin-ruses-violent-rhetoric-endanger-c-fams-status-un.
- 2 a b Jay Michaelson, "Why C-FAM, the Catholic Fundamentalists You’ve Never Heard Of, Just Cozied Up to Iran," Daily Beast, April 13, 2017, https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-c-fam-the-catholic-fundamentalists-youve-never-heard-of-just-cozied-up-to-iran?ref=scroll.
- 3"McCain receives endorsement of pro-life advocate couple," Catholic News Agency, January 14, 2008, https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/11442/mccain-receives-endorsement-of-pro-life-advocate-couple.
- 4 a b "Trump Campaign Announces Catholic Advisory Group," P2016 Race for the White House, http://www.p2016.org/trump/trump092216pr.html.
- 5Sarah Mucha, "Joe Biden is a man of faith. That could help him win over some White evangelicals," KTEN, 18 July 18, 2020, https://www.kten.com/story/42384122/joe-biden-is-a-man-of-faith-that-could-help-him-win-over-some-white-evangelicals.
- 6"The Catholic Case for Trump by Austin Ruse," Regnery, August, 2020, https://www.regnery.com/9781684510962/the-catholic-case-for-trump/.
- 7 a b "Anti-LGBT Roundup of Events and Activities 6.26.17," Southern Poverty Law Center, June 26, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/06/26/anti-lgbt-roundup-events-and-activities-62617.
- 8 a b c d e f "Profile: Austin Ruse," Catholic Answers, https://www.catholic.com/profile/austin-ruse.
- 9Diplomatic Society of St. Gabriel, https://diplomaticsocietyofstgabriel.org/.
- 10Betty Clermont, "Opus Dei’s Influence on the U.S. Judiciary," Church and State, December 21, 2018, http://churchandstate.org.uk/2019/03/opus-deis-influence-on-the-u-s-judiciary/.
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