Many members, supporters and friends of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) approach the TFP Annual Conference in Spring Grove, Penn. with great anticipation. It is always an exhilarating prospect. This year’s event was held on the October 27-29 weekend and provided a chance to catch up with old friends and discover new faces, all committed to the Counter-Revolutionary Cause laid out so well by Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira. This year’s theme was one that I found particularly inspiring as a history teacher: “A Milestone Year: The American TFP’s Half-Century Battling for the Church and Christian Civilization.”
The Milestones on a Fifty-Year-Long Road
Milestones are important. They provide opportunities to evaluate how far we have come, which can serve as great encouragement for the days ahead. And the TFP has come far.
One especially poignant photo was on display at the conference. It was also on the cover of the September/October 2023 issue of our Crusade Magazine. It depicts the original five members of the American TFP holding a banner in the plaza that once stood between the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City in 1973. Those buildings once appeared so gigantic and impenetrable—the very symbol of world commerce, while the banner is fabric, subject to the mercy of the slightest breeze.
Now, of course, the massive towers are only a memory, felled by one of the most heinous acts in human history. However, that banner, and many more like it, still wave worldwide.
Mr. Nelson Fragelli, who has helped the American TFP since its earliest year, opened the conference. He stated the reasons why the work of the fifty-year-old organization is “full of promise, full of blessings.” The cousin of our long-time American TFP director, Luiz Antonio Fragelli, of happy memory, reminded all of us that “The TFP has written in golden letters on the history of the United States.” His stories of the early days surrounding the TFP’s founding were extremely beautiful.
A Crusade to Confront the Contents of Pandora’s Box
Following Mr. Fragelli’s inspirational talk, Mr. Jose A. Ureta, co-author of the TFP’s most recent book, The Synodal Process is a Pandora’s Box, spoke on the topic, The American TFP, Resistance and the Crisis in the Church. In this fascinating talk, he spoke about how the U. S. has long represented two philosophical extremes. “At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, the United States was the favorite child of the Revolution, but also the favorite child of Divine Providence.”
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Indeed, this dual role continues today, as seen in the activities of the left and the resistance of Counter Revolutionaries today. Of course, there are many in the great middle ground. To these, the TFP must present its case to prevent the victory of the “woke” forces surrounding us.
After a Saturday lunch, in which attendees rekindled many old friendships, Mr. Preston Noell spoke about the strong bond between Professor Plinio and the American TFP. From his vantage point in Brazil, the TFP founder saw the United States as a land of great potential where the TFP’s counter-revolutionary message could spread and gain strength. Mr. Noell reminded us that “He never stopped saying that we were on a Crusade.” That Crusade continues with rosary rallies, public information, Student Action campaigns, petition drives, and conferences like the one in which we all participated. Like a clam with a grain of sand, we are a constant irritant to the Revolution—an essential role with the ability to produce many pearls for Our Lady.
A Fifty-Year Fight Against Liberalism
The conference then partook of the wisdom of Mr. John Horvat, the author of Return to Order and the vice-president of the American TFP. Mr. Horvat presented the idea that Return to Order, heavily reflecting Professor Plinio’s philosophy, is “a pole of thought for the road ahead.” He contrasted this Catholic-based philosophy with the liberal mindset that has prevailed since the mid-nineteenth century. He summed up liberalism as a system in which everyone agrees that everyone can do as they please, regardless of any prevailing moral code. That ideology, which once appeared so solid and healthy, is showing strong signs of a coming collapse. “Liberalism is a system that only works as long as everyone agrees to get along—and people aren’t getting along.”
Mr. Michael Gorre rounded out the day by looking at Highlights From the Fifty Years of the American TFP. His all-too-brief presentation reflected some of the high points of the Society’s half-century. He recalled the American TFP’s pre-incorporation beginnings with the tabloid Crusade for a Christian Civilization. He even displayed a copy of that first November-December 1971 edition that he had found in the archives. He recalled the men who stood in front of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, selling copies of this vital journal for fifty cents.
Mr. Gorre then reminded the conference attendees of campaigns to help free Lithuania and defeat Soviet Communism. He narrated the events surrounding protests against blasphemous films like The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Dogma (1999) and The DaVinci Code (2006). He then traced the history behind current campaigns, like those opposing Satanism, “Drag Queen Story Hours” and “transsexual” tyranny.
The night ended with a magnificent candlelight Rosary procession carrying a life-size statue of Our Lady of Hope of Macarena, which ended in a fireworks display.
The Fatima Message
As the Sunday session dawned, Mr. Rex Teodosio spoke about the TFP’s vital connection to the events in Fatima in 1917 and to the message delivered to “the three shepherd children” who saw and talked to Our Lady in that tiny Portuguese village. He shared the many ways the TFP promotes Fatima in conversation, formal talks and in America Needs Fatima’s many mailings.
Mr. Teodosio also shared a few anecdotes from his own work as a dedicated presenter of the Fatima message in the thousands of home visits in which he participated. Especially interesting was the recollection of the family that was so inspired by Our Lady’s message that they boxed several Buddha statues on display in their home for years. When the last of the blasphemous images was placed in the box, the bottom of the container failed, and all of the statues lay smashed on the floor.
Returning to a more serious vein, Mr. Rex explained four reasons the TFP promotes the Fatima message. First, Professor Plinio himself promoted it, beginning in 1944 when he became convinced of its importance. Second, the message is Counter-Revolutionary in every respect. The third reason is that the miraculous International Pilgrim Virgin statue cried real tears in New Orleans in 1972. He concluded that Fatima is “the best way to fight against indifference.” Then, Mr. Mario da Costa provided a fifth reason that the Fatima message confirms the writings of Saint Louis de Montfort.
The second Sunday session featured a film presentation assembled by Mr. John Ritchie and Mr. Matthew Miller. It encapsulated the impressive work of TFP Student Action over the past twenty years. The remarkable film focused upon the campaigns in which these young men go into universities and other leftist bastions to bring Counter-Revolutionary messages into the heart of “woke” America. The vitriolic reactions of the leftists are not limited to obscene words and gestures but have frequently degenerated into physical assaults. Even in the face of such provocations, the members of TFP Student Action remained calm as they resisted the left with their well-thought-out arguments and, indeed, their very presence.
A Real Threat—and a Sure Refuge
Perhaps the most dire counterpoint to this weekend of triumph came from Mr. Michael Chad Shibler, a teacher at the TFP-staffed Saint Louis de Montfort Academy. He spoke of the need to confront a modern threat that is all too real in his talk The American TFP Confronts a Cyber Future. He spoke at great length of the “transhumanists” who exercise significant influence in a world that is increasingly dominated by computers. Mr. Shibler explained that this mindset is a new kind of Gnostic heresy that threatens the future of humanity. He reminded us of the need to rely upon Our Lord’s and Our Lady’s promises that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail” against Holy Mother Church and that “My Immaculate Heart shall triumph.”
The concluding session was Mr. Michael Whitcraft’s discourse on the importance of confidence. In it, he spoke much of the role of Our Lady as our Mediatrix. As he pointed out, “God must balance mercy and justice,” while Our Lady “responds only to mercy.” He reminded his listeners that, on occasion, we all feel unworthy. He also reminded us that this impulse is correct, that only grace raises us above the sins of all humanity. “Our Lady,” he reassured us, “is our defense attorney.”
This brief look at the content of an essential conference is only a taste of the delights in which the attendees could participate. The conference concluded with a magnificent Mass and an impressive Medieval banquet. The weekend was a truly brilliant display of God’s Grace toward the American TFP for a half-century.
As a last reminder, it is not too early to plan to attend the conference that will conclude the American TFP’s fifty-first year. God willing, we will see you next October in Spring Grove.