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Christian Conservatism vs. Traditional Catholicism


Editor’s note: This article was first published on June 29, 2015 under a pen name. We’re running it again, now under the name of its author, because its content remains evergreen, and our readers (and editors) are well served by contemplating it anew. The text has been slightly edited. Further reflections on the same theme may be found in a related 1P5 article, “Why Conservatism Is Part of the Problem, Not Part of the Solution.”

In these dark times of ours, both in the State and in the Church, one cannot help musing on some of the essential differences between Christian conservatives and traditional Catholics. I am writing with the American situation in mind, but elements of this reflection admit of application to other Western countries.

For the conservative (whether Catholic or evangelical), the solution or restoration begins with the Declaration and the Constitution, with the reclaiming of the public sphere. We are Americans, and our government system gives us the tools to solve our problems. The fundamental thing is action. The enemy is taking the ground because we are not fighting, not voting, not pressing our cause through thick and thin.

The central organizing concept for the conservative is American citizenship. It is around this axis that all other aspects of life and action revolve.

Discipleship is understood as engagement with the world. All other things are judged according to how they fit or seem to fit with this goal.

Evangelization is understood as going out into the street and bringing a certain message to people. It means ecumenical and interreligious outreach to make common cause, looking for strength in numbers—often, as a consequence, grouped around a lowest common denominator. (“You’re heterosexual and believe that marriage has something to do with children? Fantastic! Let’s join forces.”)

For a conservative, the liturgy is a means, one means among many. It is a useful tool. One does not concern oneself much with it, or the manner of its offering, whether or not it has suffered damage at the hands of clumsy repairmen, how it is expressive and formative, and if it could be more or less pleasing to God or even displeasing to Him. It is part of a toolkit we have been given by the authorities, and we make use of it to support the cause. Ours is not to reason why; if it’s good enough for the authorities, it’s good enough for me.

For the traditional Catholic, the solution or restoration is centered on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It must begin with the recovery of the sacred liturgy, “the font and apex of the Church’s life and mission,” and with it, the contemplative orientation of life as a whole. The fundamental thing is prayer, public and personal. The enemy is winning because we have been lazy, contemptuous, irreverent, and worldly, when we should have been seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mt 6:33). “We have here no abiding city, but we seek one that is to come” (Heb 13:14).

The central organizing concept is our citizenship in heaven (see Phil 3:20). We know that our spiritual identity as members of the Body of Christ makes continual demands of us in this world—we are, after all, pilgrims working out our salvation here and now, as we travel and travail. At the same time, however, our heavenly rebirth and destiny decisively subordinate and relativize everything worldly, because our own salvation and that of the whole human race depends on God’s grace and our spiritual bond with Him. This, therefore, is what has to come first and receive our best focus and energy, or else everything else will fall apart and even turn against us. We will be in danger of manicuring the lawn and painting the shutters while family relationships deteriorate indoors.

Discipleship means, above all, entering into the prayer of Christ and the Church through the sacred liturgy, integrally received, reverently celebrated, fully lived. Evangelization is understood as building a city on a hill, putting the light on top of the bushel basket, and letting the beauty of Christian life exercise an attractive force of its own. It means prioritizing the affairs of our own house, adhering to the fullness of the faith and settling for no internal compromises, and accepting—in a time of growing infidelity and persecution—a process of social marginalization that also brings about purification.

Can conservatives and traditionalists work together? In one sense, it’s obvious that they have to try. There is, after all, some wisdom in making a common cause against the enemy, in spite of a lack of total agreement. But it won’t be easy, because there is a lack of clear agreement about the very nature of the crisis we are facing and, consequently, the response called for. Indeed, there is alarming evidence that many conservatives, who tend to think on the procedural plane of politics and economics, do not even recognize the deeper spiritual, liturgical, and metaphysical crisis, and get impatient with those who point in that direction. One is reminded of members of the hierarchy who say that issues like immigration, unemployment, climate control, or loneliness among senior citizens are the great challenges of our age. One wonders whether the sense of the supernatural survives at all.

It is so easy for our priorities to get shuffled and out of order, from the best of motives as well as the worst. We can start to feel as if we will lose everything if we lose our government, our place in society, our semi-Christian culture, our Western civilization—or, for that matter, our clean air and clean water. We have put all our eggs in a worldly basket, and the basket’s being taken away. Let’s face it: the “free world” is in a state of freefall, as rulers and citizens welcome with open arms the demons of the seven capital sins. The public square, which was already full of mendacity, rancor, avarice, and incredible obtuseness, is gearing up for full-scale persecution of Catholics, Christians, believers, sane men. Why is all of this being permitted to happen before our very eyes?

Why did the Lord permit the Jews to be carried off in captivity to Babylon, their temple in Jerusalem destroyed, their lives ruined and wrecked, their future utterly bleak, as if He had abandoned them? He was always going to save them—but not before they had been thoroughly purged of their vices and converted from the depths of their souls. They had to get over being their own king and awaken to a longing for the Messiah. Salvation history “rhymes” and we are at one of those rhyming moments. The same captivity is being allowed to befall us, for much the same reason, and with much the same purpose.

The Lord is telling us something that we have been ignoring in our distracted rushing around as well as in our satisfied indolence.

Be still, and know that I am God. I am your Creator and Ruler. I am your merciful Savior—and I demand your entire mind and heart because I am merciful and you need me. I am a consuming fire. I am the Judge of the living and the dead. I have put you on this earth for a short time, to know, love, and serve me.

“You have looked for more, and behold it became less, and you brought it home, and I blowed it away: why, saith the Lord of hosts? Because my house is desolate, and you make haste every man to his own house” (Hag 1:9).

Put first things first, and I will give you everything else that you need. Put second things first, and I will take away from you both the second things and the first, because you deserve neither of them. My servant Augustine said: The sinner is not worthy of the bread he eats. Do you grasp this difficult truth?

Another of my servants, Benedict, said: Put nothing before the work of God, that is, the worship of my Holy Name. Get your temple in order—offer me due sacrifice, the praise of pure hearts and holy lips—and I will visit you again with my fruitfulness, and you will flourish once more in the lands and in the cities.

16 thoughts on “Christian Conservatism vs. Traditional Catholicism”

  1. Sorry, you don’t deeply understand the Traditional Catholic.

    Well, first, for all Christians, Christ should be first and center of all, individually as our Savior and collectively as the only mediator between God the Father and Mankind.

    For the Traditional Catholic, the individual should strive for Holiness and being in a State of Grace, which achieved by practicing the Christian Virtues, and we receive assistance from the Holy Trinity (God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Ghost) through the Holy Sacraments, in which the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Penitence are extremely important to maintain ourselves in Holiness and a State of Grace.

    Collectively, every individual and every organization, government and association MUST give honor and obedience to God through his only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and His unlimited authority given by His Father on the Ascension, is Christ (Messiah) and King of the Universe, King of Kings, King of all individuals and organizations.

    Now your discussion is oriented how conservative and traditionalists can work together in society.
    Note that the Traditionalist Catholic is working for the Restoration of Christendom, of Christ the King, and His One and Only Holy Catholic Church, the other “churches” being false sects and usurpers and dividers of the One True Church that Christ instituted.

    In fact, had their been no Protestant revolution, there would have been no division of Christendom which the enemies of Christ have been able to successfully been able to conquer America.

    Traditional Catholicism is not for Democracy, as it is an evil system and now we see the results in America, but rather for a Christendom of Catholic Kings owing allegience to Christ the King.

    OK, so obviously, America and the world today is extremely far from any Traditional Catholic concept of Christendom.

    Traditional Catholics still try to save souls individually and save society collectively by insisting Christ as King, however, in reality, barring Divine Intervention, the momentum of natural human processes is toward the opposite direction, to Apostasy and complete rejection of Christ, His Holy Catholic Church, the Divine and Natural Law.

    So Traditional Catholics now, guided by Catholic Prophecy and Biblical counsel on the End of Times, see the signs of the times as we are in the Age of Apostasy as foretold by many Catholic prophecies and apparitions of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary (approved by the Catholic Church with real miracles as a signature from God).

    Traditional Catholics see that the End of Time is coming, the world is worse than in the times of the Deluge, and a big Divine Chastisement is coming after some sort of warning (3 Days of Darkness).

    So the approach of Traditional Catholics is NOT a Benedict Option….that should have been done back in 1962 when prayer was outlawed in public schools.
    The approach of Traditional Catholics is to KEEP THE FAITH and traditional Sacraments (our model is more like the Christians in the Catacombs)., separate from the unholy society and never give in to modern pressures, and be prepared for a Divine Chastisement.

    Traditional Catholics usually view Pope Pius XII as the last Traditional Pope, and sure enough, Pope Pius XII said that the world is worse than the Deluge (already in 1956).

    Traditional Catholics now are relying on Catholic Prophecy and the promises of Our Lord Jesus Christ to save the Elect, the Remnant, from losing the Faith.

    However, Christian conservatives are too like protestants, they say they depend on Christ but all of the talk is about how their own efforts can save society. Traditional Catholics understand that we should stop the forces of Evil and build Christendom, but at the same time, the Plans of God are that at this Age of Apostasy, these evil times are allowed by God by a greater plan, and we should save ourselves and be ready for a Divine Chastisement.

    Hope you realize the Traditional Catholic approach is far more Christ-centered and Christ-depending than evangelical protestantism which has a jarring contradictory contrast of Jesus Saves but also then Christian Action Saves meaning the individual will turn things around.
    The traditional Catholic understands that at this late age, its too late for individual Christians to turn things around, its now all in the hands of Christ., and we should save as many souls including ours, waiting for Divine Intervention on the collective scale.

      • Are you a Christian?
        If so, then you know that they are pro-same sex marriage and against all Christian principles.
        Buddy, its a long list, including Soros organizations, Bill Gates foundation, etc etc which promote abortion and lots of other societal evils.
        Maybe you are in agreement with them and anybody who is in disagremeent with you are tin-foil hatters.

        I just love the one-liner guys who know it all and can answer deeply reason arguments with one smart-ass line with a smart-ass attitude of knowing it all in one line.

        FAIL, buddy. Answer me right where I was wrong.

      • Your comment is just plain dumb. It’s clear you’re unable to do any better but, personally, I’d be embarrassed to post that dribble.

    • Traditional Catholicism is not for Democracy, as it is an evil system and now we see the results in America, but rather for a Christendom of Catholic Kings owing allegience to Christ the King.

      I would caution that you appear to be making too strong a representation of what traditional Catholic teaching holds with regards to forms of government. The Church has not opposed democratic structures per se, nor has it necessarily insisted upon absolute monarchy; what it insists upon is that any democracy be truly Christian in form. For example, Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Graves de Communi Re (1901) was careful to distinguish Christian democracy from social democracy, which he said was to be deplored, as being premised on the idea that ” there is really nothing existing above the natural order of things, and that the acquirement and enjoyment of corporal and external goods constitute man’s happiness.” By contrast, Christian democracy

      by the fact that it is Christian, is built, and necessarily so, on the basic principles of divine faith, and it must provide better conditions for the masses, with the ulterior object of promoting the perfection of souls made for things eternal. Hence, for Christian Democracy, justice is sacred; it must maintain that the right of acquiring and possessing property cannot be impugned, and it must safeguard the various distinctions and degrees which are indispensable in every well-ordered commonwealth. Finally, it must endeavor to preserve in every human society the form and the character which God ever impresses on it. (#6)

      • Yes, you are right and I am aware of the document you quoted. Also Pope Pius XI made some similar comments that the Church does not hold to exclusive particular forms of government.

        I oversimplified because my post was getting long. But now you got me egged on.

        The general idea is, that since Ancient Greece, philosophers respected by the Catholic Church like Aristotle hold that Monarchy (elected or hereditary) is the best form of government, and Democracy is the worse of the 6 forms of government.

        I even read that some ancient Greek philosopher (forget his name) said that Democracy is worse than wars and tyranny, and it can easily devolve to Ochlocracy (mobocracy), which by the way, was the way Jesus was chanted to a death sentence by a crowd incited by the Jewish leadership (and something very similar is being done today with fake same-sex “marriage”, note it was passed by judicial decree after media mob chants).

        Monarchy, or specifically, Christian (Catholic) Kings and Princes, tend to be the best system because it is the most simple and best application of the Catholic principle of Subsidiarity. A Ruler should be clearly responsible for Rules implemented before God and Man. 51% vote by the masses democracy to pass any sort of law is the complete opposite idea and is the cause of a lot of evil. If the average American and Trotsky both love Democracy, something is really quite wrong with America.

        Let us be clear: there is NO form of government that will be perfectly Christian in implementation in all cases, because of Original Sin, ALL Rulers can become Evil and lose their State of Grace, including Catholic Kings of all ages. Having said that, a Catholic monarchical system has done the best to keep the Faith, for that, the since Enlightenment, modern forces have tried to wipe away all forms of Catholic Monarchism.

        There have been Catholic Republics in Italy since the Renaissance, even today the Republic of San Marino was founded in 301 AD and has had a Constitution since 1600. However, note that these Christian Republics, due to that the Public has been able to influence Ruling Decisions, have all severely corrupted (think of the Mediccis). San Marino jumped on the Garibaldi bandwagen as it was every so revolutionary trendy to do in the Papal States, and for that Garibaldi rewarded it by not absorbing it. Then San Mariano went Fascist in 1923 to 1944, every so trendy to stay up with the latest wordly trends, and then Communist from 1945 to 1957.

        So there is no form of Christian government that will guarantee avoidance of Apostasy. Til today, only the Catholic Princes (=monarchy) of Monaco and Lichtenstein have been able to maintain anything close to Traditional Catholic Doctrine.

        Which proves my point above, we are in the Age of Apostasy and it is not really useful to think that a Constitutional change here or form of government there will be the cure to bringing all to Christ and holiness.

        Only interior holiness with the help of God and exterior Divine Will will do this, and looks like it will be a Divine Chastisement that will renew the world (since much of modern human leadership element of the Catholic Church have been also severely corrupted by false modern philosophies and cannot therefore fulfill their duties and obligations to renew the world through governance, teaching and sanctification).

        For all of you who are reading this who are modernized / Americanized, Back to basics: Society should be Organic Society with the principle of subsidiarity, the basic unit being a Father-led Family, and a Ruler that is responsible to both God and His Holy Catholic Church and to serve fellow Man in his position. There should be no separation of Catholic Church and State (although there is a distinction in functions), and the State Ruler and population have the obligation to follow the teachings and rulings of the Catholic Church.

        This has worked for so well over the ages until revolutionary heretics (from Protestants to Godless Atheists) came along and put their murderous beliefs into action, since bad ideas do kill people.

        The most modern form of Catholic Statecraft principles in action, I have found in the 1955 Principles of the National Movement by the General Francisco Franco of Spain in his capacity as Head of State and Regent of a Catholic Throne, that the principles of State are to follow exclusively the principles of the Catholic religion.

        Since none that will be accepted by even 20% of the American population, what is left is tyranny, conflicts, Evil and eventually a Divine Chastisement to clean out and start again.

        • Even under a monarchical system, there need to be some checks and balances so that the monarch does not overreach the Church. After all, it was Catholic kings and princes that gave us Protestantism. Without them, Luther, Calvin, et al., would not have succeeded. The Church would need some type of protection from a king that goes haywire, e.g., Henry VIII.

          • There is centuries of history of that issue, look into the Investiture Controversy, which was a series of conflicts between the Papacy and Kings around 1000 AD onwards. Popes took the position that they can even depose Kings and Emperors, and used Interdiction and other methods, and eventually had Papal States and an army that warred with rebellious Catholic Princes and Kings (which a few generations later they went Protestant, getting what they wanted: unfettered power and the trappings of Christianity).
            Even Louis XIV proclaimed the Divine Right of Kings, meaning that a Catholic King is responsible to God directly and not to the Pope, and sure enough, Protestant King Wilhelm II of Germany of WWI fame, declared that he needed no one between himself and Jesus Christ.
            The truth of the matter is, that Christ wants His Church to rely on Him and Catholic Truth, and not methods of forcing people. Jesus Himself told St. Peter to put the sword away in the Garden of Gethsemane, because if He would want the power of force, would not His Father send a Legion of Angels to protect Him? Its the same for the Successor of St. Peter.

      • I thought you might like this:

        “Fidelitatem enim quam Christiano principi jurarunt, Deo ejuaque sanctis adversanti, euromque praecepta, nulla cohibentur auctoritate persolvere”

        “subjects are by no authority constrained to pay the fidelity which they have sworn to a Christian Prince, to one who opposeth God and His saints, and violateth their
        Blessed Pope Urban II (of the First Crusades fame), 1088 A.D.

        How much more to a plainly anti-Christ democratic government!

    • How I pray that all Catholics would read this to understand how the modern philosophies and writings of the modern philosopher’s influenced the reforms of the Church and the hearts and minds of the Church hierarchy, including the popes.

  2. I would add that traditional Catholics are concerned with the restoration of the TLM and traditional doctrine. The liturgy goes together with the traditional Catholic doctrine and worldview. All the teachings the pre-conciliar Popes taught until the mid 20th century before Vatican II. The teachings opposed to the Liberalism of the last centuries.

    The biggest difference is that American Conservatism embraces the Enlightenment principles on which the Constitution and United States were founded on. This modern conservatism is the 18th and 19th century Liberalism that traditional Catholicism fought. Traditional Catholicism stands in direct opposition to the Enlightenment philosophy that America and the modern world was founded on.

  3. American Conservatives are always saying, if we can only get back to 1776. Back to the Constitution. Back to the Founding Fathers. Well, the Founding Fathers are part of the problem. Their experiment was always doomed to failure. Their principles were wrong and their philosophies were wrong. Their house was built on their secularist house of sand. Christians in America kept it propped up, and it was the very strong pre-conciliar Catholic Church in America, with her waves and waves of immigrants, decade after decade, that kept America going. Once the Church in America was destroyed by Vatican II, the United States was finished.

  4. Bedford Falls has become Pottersville. Jimmy Stewart and his band of merry Christians only staved it off for a few decades. We need a Bedford Falls Restoration Committee.

  5. Something to think about surely. In thinking about this topic, I ask, just what does it men to say so-and-so is a conservative? The answer is, it depends upon what it is that so-and-so desires to conserve. I could be called a conservative because I wish to see Catholic tradition conserved. A dictator could be called a conservative on the grounds he wants to conserve his position and his possessions. Similarly a billionaire who controls vast enterprises can be considered a conservative in that he most likely will be concerned with conserving his money and possessions. While I and the King of Saudi Arabia may both be called conservative do not have much in common.

    I say this because traditional Catholics, with some justification, are often thought of as being conservatives. At the same time it is generally considered that members of the Republican party are conservatives, and that therefore we have interests in common. I sense among many conservative Catholics that if you are a traditional Catholic you line up with the Republican positions in general. I consider myself as a traditional Catholic, and I am conservative about many things too, but I regard most of the conservative Republican political leaders as limited intellectually and morally, at least those that are not stark raving mad that is.

    Labels are useful at times but often misleading. The Republicans are considered to be conservative in that a good many want to conserve the status and power of themselves and the monied interests that finance them. At the same time one of the things the Republicans stand for is an economic policy that is by its nature, extremely liberal, and positively embraces the principles of Darwin. If one studies the social encyclicals of the pre-vatican II Popes, one finds that the positions these popes take on social issues differs markedly from those of the Republican Party.

    It is like calling our war department the Defense Department, that launches war after war under the belief that a good offense is the best defense. One has to be careful about words. Now in mathematics we define every term precisely and when we refer to the sine of an angle we do not mean the tangent. Loose terminology impairs communication.

    Disclaimer. This is by no means an endorsement of the absolutely rotten Democrat Party. Liberalism, i.e. the toleration of evil, the belief that we humans can determine what is good or bad, and that if we can do it we can do it, the belief that we can ignore religious shall nots is the source of evil.

    The Democrat Party is guided by liberal ideas in the social sphere, while the Republican Party is guided by liberalism in the economic sphere. That is the predicament American Catholics are faced with. Unfortunately, the liberal outlook that both parties embrace seem to have more influence with the Catholics who side with either of the two parties, than the Catholic beliefs have on either of the two parties.


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