Good Night, Good Prince

July Fourth’s fireworks flashed for me beneath a long, sad shadow. On the birthday of my motherland died my fatherland’s father: Otto von Habsburg, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and son of Blessed Karl I (the last man to serve that Catholic empire as its steward). It was Karl who reigned when my grandfather left the Austrian province of Croatia, and however patriotic an American I am, by the time I was twelve I had read enough (in the work of Catholic political philosopher Erik von Kuenhelt-Leddihn) of the many services done by that monarchy for Europe and for the Church that I’d developed another loyalty: to the vanished empire and its dynasty.

As I tried to explain it to my understandably baffled (Texan) girlfriend, I have always felt that I was really in some sense Otto’s rightful subject. “If he told me to do something that wasn’t a sin, I’d pretty much do it,” I told her. “Well, then. It’s a good thing you haven’t met him,” she said. And while some friends of mine did have that honor, I never did. The next time I’m in Vienna, I will pray at his tomb in the Capuchin crypt. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

Why should I, an American right-wing libertarian, pay attention to the death of a throneless Austrian royal? First of all I should as a Catholic, since it was the House of Habsburg that for centuries helped preserve my ancestors’ faith in the face of Muslim invasion, Protestant preaching, and squabbles with neighboring Orthodox. After the mutual violence of the Reformation era, the Habsburgs proved to be tolerant rulers of folk of every faith; the Jews of Austria-Hungary had the most cause to miss them in the 20th century, but Catholics under Yugoslav rule, and Orthodox under the heel of fascist Croatian nationalists, would each have fared far better had the monarchy never fallen.

So would all of Europe: Almost every inch of the Austro-Hungarian empire would fall first to Adolf Hitler, and then to Josef Stalin, whose Iron Curtain only excluded western Austria. Torn apart by the first great plague of the 20th century, the idolatrous cult of nationalism, the monarchy’s crownlands would later be drowned by the second: socialism — which, in its democratic guise, drained postwar Austria of energy and life, and in its more consistent, dictatorial form, tyrannized the Hungarian, Czech, south Slavic, and Polish peoples for 40 more years.


I also care as someone who tries to steward the intellectual heritage of the great humane economist Wilhelm Röpke, who befriended Otto von Habsburg and joined his postwar efforts to promote a wholesome Christian internationalism — a pan-European order that leaned not on structures of bureaucratic oligarchy, but rather on the spiritual heritage that formed the civilization of the West. It was only within the friendly shadow of Christendom, Röpke believed, that free institutions and a free economy could long survive. A brilliant student, scholar, and advocate of the market economy, Röpke believed that it was the only one that respected the dignity proper to man.

He also knew that true human dignity such as we treasure is only plausible in a Judeo-Christian culture. Remove the underpinning of revelation, and you soon will come to agree with evolutionary biologists who reason that the “sanctity” of human life is (like crowns and kings) a superstitious fetish from the past. You will have no guard in your heart against economists who promise better living through “rationalized” collectivism, racialists who wish to “purify” human breeding stock, or any other wave of persuasive utopians who love man so much that they wish to remake him as another species entirely. Against such empty pomps that intoxicate the second-rate intellectual, there really is no stronger defense than the intuitive peasant piety that leads men to cross themselves when they pass by a church, to honor a distant emperor as in some sense their earthly father, to leave wreaths (as I observed some still do) at the kaisers’ crypt in Vienna.

Röpke differed from his more dogmatically libertarian colleagues in seeing that conservative, patriarchal institutions such as the papacy, hereditary monarchies, and the traditional family served as indispensable buffers against the friction produced by the dynamism and blind efficiency of the market. Marx was a monster, not a fool. He knew that the unfettered strength of human cooperation made possible by free markets could undermine every humane institution that stood in its way — if men made money their measure. When popes fell prey to this, the indulgences they sold cheaply cost Christendom dearly. Shorn of moral restraints, the market found it efficient to traffic slaves — and many Yankee fortunes were built on the trade that resulted.

The market is the most moral means by which men can work together to steward their talents and earth’s bounty; but it knows nothing of ends. Unlike coercive systems that yoke men to building pyramids for Pharaoh, the market frees men to follow their hearts–which are shadowed by sin, so many will choose to worship golden calves. Remove the internal restraints of Christian conscience, and soon enough men will trade in women, in children, in drugs, and in human organs. If socialism is a bus that takes us slowly but surely to prison, the market is a flock of Maseratis racing nowhere in particular. The faster the car, the more sober must be its driver. Precisely because of its greater power and precision, a market economy needs the constant infusion of non-economic values; it needs firm barriers beyond which trade may not intrude; it demands of us deference to inherited pieties, lest it tear down all the cathedrals and Roman ruins to throw up shining towers of Babel.

On July 4, one of our holy ruins fell to earth. A zealous Catholic who strove to keep the Nazis out of Austria in 1938, who helped pierce the Iron Curtain in 1989 and in the West tried to build a new Europe based on Christian humanism, Crown Prince Otto of Austria was a worthy son of his saintly father. Let us pause to mark Otto’s memory and recommit ourselves to defending those household gods our founders brought here from across the ocean. Our republic rests not on toxic Enlightenment ideology but Anglo-Saxon liberty and Christian common law — whose cornerstones are the dignity of the person and the sanctity of the family. Such inherited institutions and notions, which can be defended intellectually but cannot be “proved” true, are the flags for which we should rally to fight; they are the fruit of Christian faith and its best earthly defense against aggressors. Without them, men will not long stay free. That is the expensive lesson of the terrible 20th century.

John Zmirak


John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins (Crossroad). He served from October 2011 to February 2012 as Editor of Crisis.

  • Gian

    “toxic Enlightenment ideology”

    I suppose you mean Rousseau but was he really sui generis?
    How about other enlightenment thinkers, were they toxic?

    “Remove the internal restraints of Christian conscience”
    Considering that these restraints are already mostly gone, is it really wise to
    encourage free market, by your terms?

    “economists who promise better living through “rationalized” collectivism”
    And what about the economists that make exactly the same promise through “enlightened self-interest”?

  • Cord Hamrick

    Exactly, exactly, exactly.

    Thank you, Dr. Zmirak.

  • Cord Hamrick


    Some of the Enlightenment thinkers understood the principles as articulated by Dr. Zmirak, or something approaching them. Burke’s disdain for the French Revolution, for example, has something of it: It was a monstrosity which overthrew every existing social institution capable of inculcating in the populace that virtue which is prerequisite for the success of a free society and for forestalling the return of tyranny through popular vote.

    “Remove the internal restraints of Christian conscience”
    Considering that these restraints are already mostly gone, is it really wise to encourage free market, by your terms?

    It may not, in fact, end well: That is according to the virtue of the people. But there are moral limitations on what we can do about that. To enslave the people for fear they would not use their liberty wisely is morally prohibited as a direct assault on human dignity. It is to treat the human person as a machine to be compelled instead of as a person to be persuaded. God Himself habitually prefers not to do that, even though He has all authority in heaven and on earth. And we believe He gave us no such authority, and that to pretend to have that authority would be evil, even in pursuit of a good end. “Thou shalt not do evil that good come of it.”

    “economists who promise better living through “rationalized” collectivism”
    And what about the economists that make exactly the same promise through “enlightened self-interest”?

    Well, what do you suppose the word “enlightened” means in that famous phrase? It means a fully-formed Christian conscience. It means seeing the world through the eyes of Christ and valuing all created things as God Himself values them. The enlightened person is the person who knows to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and that all other needful things will be added to him. The enlightened person knows that his own best self-interest consists first in the sanctification of his soul, and after that, in the feeding of his brethren as he feeds himself.

    The need for this kind of enlightened self-interest is what the American Founding Fathers had in mind by saying that all just human law is founded in the laws of Nature and Nature’s God (that is, in Natural Law) and that a republic of the type they were creating is utterly insufficient for the governance of any except a religious and virtuous people.

    That is the understood context of the phrase “enlightened self-interest” in most uses of that phrase by American Conservatives and Libertarians. The person who pursues selfishness for selfishness sake and acts as if he were unconstrained by the moral law is not, in this view, “enlightened.” His self-interest is the self-interest of an ape or an ant, not that befitting a child of God.

    • Gian

      I would say that you do not appreciate republicanism very well. A representative is not supposed to be merely an arithmetic average of his electors and the Congress is a deliberative body i.e. it is supposed to deliberates. A libertarian ought to ask himself–deliberates about what? Congress along with the representatives are not supposed to just say “That is according to the virtue of the people.”
      They are supposed to exert themselves in keeping the people within the Natural Order.
      Why else is murder punished? The libertarian answer is insufficient.

      Solzhenitsyn in November 1916 says that a people alone is not sufficient. There is also the “roof” under which the people lives and this “roof” is the State.

      • Cord Hamrick


        What strange statements! I cannot understand why you say them.

        You say,

        I would say that you do not appreciate republicanism very well. A representative is not supposed to be merely an arithmetic average of his electors and the Congress is a deliberative body i.e. it is supposed to deliberates. [sic]

        Naturally! Nothing in my views, which are mid-way between conservative and libertarian, contradict the role of Congress as a deliberative body at all; indeed, this is something I’ve been known to lecture other people about, when they assert otherwise.

        Your following statement…

        A libertarian ought to ask himself–deliberates about what?

        …suggests that you are under the impression that libertarians and conservatives do not share the republican view, that Congress is to be a deliberative body. But libertarians and conservatives do share that view, forcefully. Your question does not demonstrate that there is something about republican government which libertarians do not know; it suggests there is something about libertarianism which you do not understand.

        You then add,

        Congress along with the representatives are not supposed to just say “That is according to the virtue of the people.”

        …but I confess I do not know what you intended to communicate in that sentence. The phrase “Congress along with the representatives” is partly redundant; it is like saying “My parents along with my mother.” And the pronoun “That” in your sentence has an unclear reference; what do you mean by it?

        You then add,

        [Congress, or the lawmakers] are supposed to exert themselves in keeping the people within the Natural Order.

        Well, of course! I do not disagree with that. I would add only one thing to that statement. I would add, “using only morally-licit means.” The whole statement should read: “Lawmakers are supposed, after deliberation, to enact laws which, within the limits of the moral law and lawmakers’ just authority, exert force to keep the people within the Natural Order.”

        Written that way, the sentence is in perfect agreement with the conservative and libertarian views of the role of government.

        Why else is murder punished? The libertarian answer is insufficient.

        The libertarian answer is that the punishment of murder (a.) protects the liberties of innocent persons and (b.) falls within the morally licit boundaries of the use of force by the government. It is permissible to government because of (b.). It is obligatory to government because of (a.). Nothing about this answer is insufficient. Nothing about this answer disagrees with the aforementioned description of the role of the legislature.

        You conclude,

        Solzhenitsyn in November 1916 says that a people alone is not sufficient. There is also the “roof” under which the people lives and this “roof” is the State.

        …but nothing about that statement conflicts with the libertarian or conservative explanations of the role of government, so I need not refute it. (Why, then, did you mention it at all?)

        • Gian

          Murder is also punished since (1) the punishment is ordained by God himself. (2) the punishment is necessary for the flourishing of society itself.

          You are confounding libertarian and conservatism. The American conservative holds to the Constitution of 1789 while the libertarian to Mises.
          Since you have said that American Constitution permits immoral laws such as Comstock laws, I have supposed you to be a Misean. Both of them are species of Whig, though.

          For a Misean, there is no “roof” to a society. It makes no sense to them. Since powers are delegated from constituting individuals, the State is an employee only. They are at least consistent, the way Conservatives are not.

          Whiggery is ever demanding, never content. Once The constitution of 1789 was held to be the most perfect expression of liberty, now it
          permits immoral and unjust expression of power.

  • Thank you for a lovely tribute.

    • Gian

      So Mises and Hayek were not enlightened, by your reckoning by being atheists?
      Were Gibbon, Adam Smith and Hume enlightened or not?

      “that a republic of the type they were creating is utterly insufficient for the governance of any except a religious and virtuous people.”

      But a Misean anarchy suitable for an irreligious people?

      It is strange for you to appeal to Founding Fathers since they had no problem with moral legislation of the sorts you deem unjust and immoral.

      “But there are moral limitations on what we can do about that”

      Does the Church agree with you?

      • Cord Hamrick


        I apologize; at first I did not see this second response you posted to my note. I will answer it now; sorry for the delay.

        You say,

        So Mises and Hayek were not enlightened, by your reckoning, by being atheists?

        The context of the word “enlightened” had to do with the choices individuals made as participants in a free market economy.

        In that context, a person who is 100% perfectly “enlightened” is a person whose buying and selling decisions are identical to those they would have made if they were perfect, unfallen human beings who never made moral errors of any kind.

        By this standard, none of us humans is perfectly “enlightened.”

        But a person with a well-formed conscience, in his day-to-day transactions, can and does exercise “enlightened self-interest” in a real but imperfect way.

        For example, when I go to the grocery store to purchase food for my family, I am exercising enlightened self-interest: I am buying the same things I would have bought if I were a perfect saint.

        If, while buying food for my family, I also buy a quart of ice cream for myself — something which I really don’t need, which may make me fat or unhealthy, which I am only buying because it tastes good, and which I am not planning to share with anyone else — I am probably exercising my self-interest incorrectly. By making this wrong decision, I demonstrate that I am either imperfectly enlightened, or that I am not obeying the enlightenment God has given me. Either way, the exercise of self-interest is an imperfect one instead of an enlightened one.

        But that minor failing does not mean that all my exercises of choice are antithetical to the natural good. It means my exercise of enlightened self interest is imperfect, but not that it is perfectly evil or perfectly un-enlightened. To borrow a Calvinist phrase, I do not believe in a doctrine of Total Depravity of Self-Interest.

        So, to answer your question: Were Mises, Hayek, Gibbon, Hume and Smith perfectly enlightened in their exercise of self-interest? Of course they were not. Their exercise self interest was not perfect because they were not holy angels or saints in glory.

        But they were imperfectly enlightened, just like everyone else is. Persons of other religions can exercise enlightened self-interest in an imperfect way, just as Christians do. Of course I believe that being a Christian helps you form your conscience better than it otherwise would have been formed. But it is still imperfect. And a particular Christian’s conscience may sometimes be less perfectly formed than his atheist neighbor’s conscience, when it comes to economic activity.

        You also ask,

        But [is] a Misean anarchy suitable for an irreligious people?

        That is a false question. Mises does not advocate anarchy; Mises advocates government limited to its just functions. Anarchy is no government at all, which is very different from limited government.

        You also state,

        It is strange for you to appeal to Founding Fathers since they had no problem with moral legislation of the sorts you deem unjust and immoral.

        Which particular legislation do you have in mind?

        Most of the legislation I deem unjust and immoral was considered unconstitutional until the early 20th century, when the Supreme Court began adopting anachronistic interpretations of the Constitution which expanded Federal power.

        But you are quite right to say that some state legislation which existed in 1789 and a while thereafter was unjust and immoral in my view. For example, the legislation establishing churches which existed in some states was, in my view, unjust.

        “But there are moral limitations on what we can do about that.”
        Does the Church agree with you?

        Well, the Church has not yet disagreed with me — if it had, I would not hold this view!

        But the Church has not formally and explicitly taught my view, either. (If it had, I suppose you would agree with it.)

        The Church has not ruled dogmatically on the scope of the legitimate use of force by government. She has stated that things such as torture are an immoral use of force by a government, which is compatible with my view. She has stated that governments are obligated to exercise force to protect the rights of individuals from violence and oppression, which is also compatible with my view.

        She has not stated that governments are permitted or obligated to threaten individuals with jail unless they exercise, or reduce their salt intake, or stop smoking, or give 20% of their incomes to the government for redistribution to those the government deems needy. Had the Church ruled that government was permitted or obligated to do those things, it would have shown that my opinions contained errors. But she has made no such statement.

        To paraphrase John Henry Newman, correct doctrine never contradicts its earlier formulations, but it does develop over time. So if I am correct, the Church may one day teach this view. It is, after all, derived from what I believe to be an orthodox Catholic understanding on the limits of the use of force against our fellow men.

        I would not expect it to happen for hundreds of years, however: We humans are more in need of being reminded of the moral lessons that we have forgotten or failed to heed, than of learning new high-level applications of them.

        • Gian

          Perhaps the Church has not formally decided on the morality of banning obscene literature but does it mean that the Church has nothing to say? What has been the practice of the Christian states (but maybe you hold all of them as illegitimate)? The entire tenor and history of the world goes against Miesen fantasy. Even the Whig states (like America) allow for all sorts of moral legislation.

          Your ideas of society is pretty thin. That my neighbor sins, it has nothing to do with me. There are no social aspects to sin, leave alone the love of neighbor that should impel me to counsel or even coerce him as we must do to a suicidal person. It appears rather as an extreme Protestant type of idea–each person in his home, either going to heaven or not, each one blissfully unconcerned with another.

          Regarding toxicity or otherwise of enlightenment–I was taking the word ‘enlightened’ in its sense as used for 18C Enlightenment. There is no need to lard it with extra metaphysical notions.

          • Cord Hamrick


            I would give your criticisms of my views more weight, if I could ever detect that what you believed my views to be resembled my actual views.

            I grant that the history of human states gives little precedent for what I believe to be most consistent with the Christian faith.

            But surely that is no great surprise? How long did it take to evolve societal structures from the god-king like norms of the Roman Emperors to the democratic republics of today? And despite steady progress in the right direction, have there not always been stumbles, setbacks, and even outright reversals leading back to the near-deification of all powerful monarchs? Does the phrase “l’etat c’est moi” sound familiar?

            It is like slavery, and for much the same reasons. As Christ did not explicitly forbid slavery, but founded a Church which taught men truths about God’s love for all men which, in the end, undermined the logic of slavery, so too has He taught us truths about the proper and improper use of violence against our fellow men.

            How long did it take slavery to be overcome…if it is yet overcome at all? (Ask a Thai prostitute if slavery is overcome.) So why should I be surprised if the logical conclusions of the moral limitations on force instituted by Christ are not yet lived out in the world, despite our fitful advances in the right direction.

            As for my ideas of society being “pretty thin,” I say: Not so. Your ideas of society are too thin, too weak, if you believe that society can only grow when compelled by the sword of government. What kind of society would that be, which relied on threats for its every corporate activity?

            No healthy culture or civilization is what it is only because policemen compel it to stay that way. I believe that when compulsion is limited to those areas where it is necessary and morally licit, a real, healthy society has freedom to emerge.

            Likewise, I fully acknowledge the social aspects of sin: Every evil in your heart and mind makes us part of a communion of sin, and ripples of wickedness spread outward from our every rebellion against God, even to the third or fourth generation.

            And that is why we must not only obey as individuals, but be loud in the streets and the taverns to encourage one another, as family members, towards holiness. I will not point a gun at you to compel you to love your brother (what good would that do, anyway?!) but I will certainly cajole, encourage, exhort, plead, debate, chide, and finagle you to do so! Blissfully unconcerned with your soul? May it never be: I want to shove you into heaven if any effort of mine can assist!

            (But how would I show myself to be more concerned, for your soul or for your rheumatism, by unjustifiably pointing the gun of the government at you?)

            As for “enlightened self-interest”: You asked what I meant by the use of the word “enlightened” in that phrase. I told you.

            Its meaning is only distantly related to that period in the 18th century known as “the enlightenment.” In the phrase “enlightened self-interest,” the word “enlightened” means something like “informed by a wise and correct value system.” That is how conservatives and libertarians use it.

            You need not use the same definition if you do not care to. I have only told you how it is used by free-marketers. If you consider their definition to be so much “lard,” very well: You may decline to adopt it.

            But if those are the folk against whom you are debating, you must know what they mean by it. That way you can avoid arguing against straw-men unrelated to their views.

            This is, indeed, the chief difficulty in conversing on these topics with you Gian. You are convinced you know libertarian and conservative views in sufficient detail to argue against them; yet when you raise criticisms, they have thus far rarely had any basis in reality.

            We are not anarchists. We do not have a thin idea of society. We do not deny the primacy of the family. We do not deny the deliberative nature of the legislature. We do not prohibit government from criminalizing murder and prosecuting murderers. We do not fail to show compassion for the needy. We do not fail to identify with our neighbor. These are all accusations you’ve made, and none of them are even plausible.

            We simply refuse to stick a sword-point at our neighbor’s back unless it’s absolutely necessary and morally licit. And we have a very high threshold for what constitutes an occasion for justified use of violence.

            That’s it.

        • Gian

          Assuming that the Church has not yet decided on a moral question, then it is not appropriate to make absolute statements. You can’t justifiably say It is immoral that …. . The more appropriate wording should be It may be immoral …

          “That is the understood context of the phrase “enlightened self-interest” in most uses of that phrase by American Conservatives and Libertarians.”

          I doubt it very much that people use enlightened self-interest to mean perspective of a saint. I should take it to mean nothing more than worldly prudence.

          • Cord Hamrick

            Okay, those are pretty fair criticisms.

            Regarding government compulsion in matters unrelated to evils involving force:
            I hold it to be immoral, and believe it immoral, and can argue that it is immoral, to exceed the limits on the use of force as I have been describing them.

            But it only is immoral beyond a shadow of a doubt if the Church confirms this view, which they have not done as of yet.

            Fair enough?

            As for “enlightened” being “the perspective of a saint”…well, that’s a very high threshold and I pointed out that Conservatives and Libertarians do not think anybody actually achieves that, any more than they believe that any market is perfectly efficient.

            But, they still believe in (imperfectly) enlightened self interest in the same way that they believe in (mostly) efficient markets.

            Is mostly-enlightened self-interest the same thing as “worldly prudence?”

            I suppose that depends on whether, in your view, “worldly prudence” means “merely worldly prudence.” Without the world “merely,” the phrase allows for the possibility of that natural good which St. Paul found in the Gentiles when he said that they are “a law (torah) unto themselves.” For even the pagans do not give their children a stone or a snake, when they ask for food.

            But putting in the word “merely” suggests that “worldly” excludes heaven’s wisdom entirely. A “merely worldly” prudence would have connotations of self-centered greed and lust. That is explicitly not what conservatives and libertarians mean when they use the word “enlightened!”

          • Gian

            It is hard to believe that libertarians are thinking about heavenly wisdom in ‘enlightened’ self-interest.
            Well greed and lust exclude prudence altogether, whether worldly or heavenly. By worldly prudence, I meant something like American
            Constitution. It thinks long-time and has checks and balances and considers kin, friends and foes. It is a very fine thing.
            But it is not the perspective of a saint such as you find in Father Zosima who asks us, if we find ourselves surrounded by wicked
            people, to ask their forgiveness.

            The point of State is not to force anybody to goto heaven but to keep the society within Tao. The Tao is like a set of concentric
            circles and the Catholic doctrine is the innermost circle (the perfect Tao). But the State is not concerned with getting people
            into heaven but to keep the society going. That is doable by keeping within outer Tao as well. Eg. Muslim men can have four wives with
            rather free divorce. But they have no contraception and abortion. These things being outside any Tao. Societies with blatant homosexuality
            do not appear to have lasted long thus the State needs to keep a lid on there. Smut degrades the education of children and citizens so
            it should be restricted. These things have emerged over a long trial and error and you dismiss all this wisdom over an criterion that
            emanates from an atheist philosophy.

          • Cord Hamrick

            Gian: I’m pretty much in agreement with much of what you said…and I don’t see it as incompatible with what I’m saying.

            But then, at the very end, you lapsed into a straw man again, claiming my conclusions emanate from an atheist philosophy!

            I group together limitations on Just War in Catholic doctrine, limitations on the use of self-defense in Catholic doctrine, the aversion to the initiation of violence in Catholic doctrine which itself sometimes seems to lean nearly towards pacifism (though I reject that), Catholic protestations about the injustices inflicted on citizens and minorities by oppressive regimes, and Catholic teachings on the dignity of man, and conclude from these that there is a common root principle to them; namely, that God has ordered men not to initiate force against other men except to defend innocent persons against evil uses of force against their persons.

            Where’s the atheist root in all of that, again?

            That there are atheists who came to similar conclusions about style of governance does not bother me one whit. All truth is God’s truth. A scientific discovery is true even if an atheist makes it; the sky is still blue even if a Satanist claims it is blue.

            And it certainly is no cause for concern if some Protestant statesmen (steeped in Natural Law and a Common Law emanating from that very Catholic document called Magna Carta) came closer to establishing a government along these lines than any Catholic prince had previously done.

            After all, hasn’t the Church taught us that the acts of the Holy Spirit among our separated brethren are also “for our edification?”

            All of this is to say: My reasoning is not from an atheist root; atheism is certainly no necessary prerequisite for my conclusions; and if some atheists happen to jump on the bandwagon along the way, well, I hope they’ll come to Christ but in the meantime I mostly don’t mind the company.

          • Gian

            But you hold all of pre-democratic states as illegitimate and you express serious reservations with the US Constitution as well.

            The only disagreement between us is the question of moral legislation. You consider it entirely unjust to prevent somebody
            from making or distributing smut unless studies indicate that children are being harmed. A typical American focus on children and also
            a typical American focus on ‘studies’. You question the competence of people’s representative to decide these things unless they have
            authorization from ‘studies’. This is partly why I said in your model, the legislature would have nothing to deliberate upon.

            So all the historical instances from Christendom, Catholic or otherwise, support moral legislation. The states were pretty free with
            moral legislation and the Church has never questioned the authority of States to do so, as far as I can tell.

            So where are the roots of your position?. Whence comes the idea that moral legislation is unjust?

  • John Zmirak

    Thanks, Cord, Christine. The burden of my next piece will be how the decay of Christian values and community creates such a moral void that it demands intrusion by the State, and hence leads inexorably to some form of socialism or other tyranny.

  • ManassasGrandma

    You can’t be a libertarian and a catholic.

    • Midwestern Trad

      Please explain why Catholics may not be libertarians.

    • Cord Hamrick


      I am a Catholic.

      My understanding of the proper role of government is, according to some people, “libertarian.” (Other people label it “conservative”; still others label it “classical liberal.”) All these terms have multiple definitions.

      There are some versions of libertarianism which are incompatible with the Catholic faith. There are others, including my own, which are not incompatible.

      So, I would like to know what it is about libertarianism which you believe is incompatible with the Catholic faith.

      This will tell me whether your definition of libertarianism is the same as mine.


  • digdigby

    ‘Post-Christian Europe’ began when Woodrow Wilson refused to meet with Emperor Karl who desperately wanted to end the absurd slaughter of WWI. Why did Wilson refuse? Because this living saint was not ‘democratically
    elected’ like some Muncie, Indiana dog-catcher.

  • ADHD

    Beautiful tribute on your part, Mr. Zmirak (should that be Zhmirak, if I dare ask?)!!

    To Gian: personally, I feel that all of the Enlightenment-thinkers who espoused non-Christian values (Rousseau, Diderot, Voltaire) were very toxic indeed, leading to Marx and Engels, and thence to Ljéñin, Stáljin, Mao, Pol Pot and so many others! We’re now paying the price – I strongly fear that the West will not be long in succumbing to some sort of Communist-Islâmist alliance which will explode into violence between the two after they’ve eliminated those of us who really believe in Christianity. It’s that final struggle that very likely – but for Christ’s Return – would/will mean the end of Mankind!

    • Michael PS

      “In our land we want to substitute morality for egotism, integrity for formal codes of honour, principles for customs, a sense of duty for one of mere propriety, the rule of reason for the tyranny of fashion, scorn of vice for scorn of the unlucky; self-respect for insolence, grandeur of soul for vanity, love of glory for the love of money, good people in place of good society. We wish to substitute merit for intrigue, genius for wit, truth for glamour, the charm of happiness for sensuous boredom, the greatness of man for the pettiness of the great, a people who are magnanimous, powerful, and happy, in place of a kindly, frivolous, and miserable people—which is to say all the virtues and all the miracles of the republic in place of all the vices of the monarchy” – Maximilien Robespierre Sur les principes de morale politique qui doivent guider la Convention nationale dans l’administration intérieure de la République. Prononcé à la Convention le 17 pluviôse An II (5 février 1794)

      • Cord Hamrick


        Why the quote?

        I apologize if I am being “slow on the uptake,” but I don’t understand the purpose of it, or what point you were trying to make. The quote illustrates that even quite intelligent men (e.g. Robespierre) can be badly mistaken; but why did you decide to illustrate that point right now?

        • Michael PS

          To illustrate that the Revolutionaries realised, indeed insisted on, the centrality of virtue in producing a free society.

          I could equally well have taken excerpts from St Just or Desmoulins on the Left or Ducos, Vergniaud or Mme Roland on the Right.

          In this, they were following Montesquieu, who taught virtue was the animating principle of republican government, just as honour was the animating principle of monarchical government.

          • Cord Hamrick


            Ah, thank you. Certainly virtue is a prerequisite of republican government.

            Perhaps I misunderstood Robespierre’s intent in that quote? I wasn’t familiar with the quote, and, not knowing French, I am unable to read it in the original.

            In translation, it seems to me that Robespierre is implying that republican government will produce virtue automatically: That by having a republican government, one will get a virtuous populace as a result. I find this wildly wrong, which is why I made the comment that quite intelligent men can be badly mistaken.

            But perhaps I was mistaken about the meaning of the quote? I derived that meaning from nuances of how the translation reads in English, but perhaps these do not exist in the original? Was Robespierre stating, not that republican government produced virtue, but merely that those espousing it were virtuous?

  • Pammie

    He was one of that rarest group of humanity: a politician worthy of one’s repect , admiration and imitation. He was a true son of his parents with a life well lived. May the memories of this noble family and their prayers on our behalf assist and guide us in these perilous times.

  • Al

    From all accounts, Dr. Habsburg seems to have been a very fine and honorable man, but his Christianity was that of the third century and beyond, which stands in marked contrast to that of Christ and the first century apostles. Habsburg, in his book The Social Order of Tomorrow advocated, in effect, a reconstitution of the Holy Roman Empire, which wasn’t exactly a bastion of tolerance for non-Catholics, including Christians of the first century variety. FWIW, my maternal grandfather was a Catholic who emigrated from Slovenia during the reign of Franz Joseph.

    • John Mack

      Religious tolerance is recent phenomenon. But the Habsburgs led the way in early modern times, resolving the need for an orderly society with the potential divisiveness of religious diversity. They moderated religious fanaticism by tying the religions to the state. For instance, if you wanted to go to university you had to have proof of an exemplary attendance record at your church (protestant or catholic), synagogue or mosque.

      And the Jews of Slovenia danced in the streets when the Habsburgs finally had had enough of Hungarian misrule in that province and put it under direct Austrian administration, restoring the use of the people’s own Slavic language instead of Magyar, as imposed by the Hungarians.

      The Habsburgs were masters at muddling through and finding ways to mitigate conflicts, despite the fact that the King of Hungary (the same person as the Austrian Emperor), directed by the Hungarian Parliament, sometimes vetoed legislation passed by by the Austrian Emperor (the same person as the King of Hungary). Weird, but it worked.

  • Pammie

    Al: What exactly do you mean by references to “christians of the first century variety”?

    Roman Catholics WERE first century Christians. Perhaps you are refering to the Gnostics,Donatists, Montanists et al, all of whom claimed to be representational of “pure christianity”. That these groups’ theologies are known today (and refuted) is thanks to the Catholic Church. The Holy Roman Empire was a model of diversity and tolerance compared to what went before and after it.

    • Al

      I’m referring to believers who held to biblical doctrines, not those contradictory ones concocted and confirmed in conferences hundreds of years after Christ’s death. I suppose the Spanish Inquisition, as just one example, was a model of tolerance?

      • Cord Hamrick

        Oh, Al.

        You are where I was…no, scratch that. I never quite held your view, because I knew enough history to realize that the Inquisition was a bright light of sanity and fairness for the accused in comparison to the alternatives available in that day; and that even in Spain where its excesses were worst, those excesses could not in fairness be laid at the feet even of the pope, let alone blamed on Catholic doctrine. So I would never quite have said what you just said.

        But suffice it to say that I once held the view, absorbed from those around me, that the Catholic church held doctrines which contradicted the faith taught by the apostles to the early Church. I grew up in Baptist circles, so this was an easy notion to pick up in an unquestioned way.

        Only as an adult, with access to the vast reading resources on the Internet, was I able to learn the truth. Information is key, Al: Become deep in history. Learn the facts. Be willing to read the original sources.

        In doing so, you’ll find out a lot. It will shake your worldview; perhaps shake your faith. (It did mine.)

        But then I asserted firmly that Jesus was my Good Lord, I had followed Him since childhood; I wasn’t going to give Him up now; I only wanted to find out which denomination was closest to the Christianity of the apostles, if any of them were close at all. Once I began on that track, the die was cast.

        I knew that Christians varied widely about Biblical interpretation. Who could know better what the Apostles really meant, than the Apostolic Fathers who personally knew the Apostles, were taught by them, and were groomed and ordained to positions of leadership in the early churches by them?

        After several years’ study of Scripture and Patristics, I realized that I could not, with intellectual honesty, enter any Church other than the Catholic (though the Eastern Orthodox were a near miss) and that Christ was calling me to do so, in obedience to the facts I had learned.

        I could not, while being intellectually honest and obedient to Christ, continue as a member of churches which started later than Pentecost. I could not be a member of churches without bishops in the Apostolic Succession (so important to the early Christians, as observable in Clement’s letter to the Corinthians and Ignatius of Antioch’s letters). I could not continue in churches without the Real Christ in the Eucharist. I could not continue in churches where they had no clergy authorized to hear and forgive sins, in the name of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit given in John 20:23. I could not, in short, continue in churches so utterly unlike the first-century Church…churches which seemed to have lost all their Jewishness, and to have abandoned all the insistence on perfectly correct, divinely-instituted patterns of worship which was always characteristic of God’s covenant partnership with His people. I could not continue in churches which failed to teach what Jesus taught about Christian marriage; namely, that divorce from a Christian marriage simply does not exist; is a metaphysical impossibility, and thus that remarriage after a merely civil divorce is simply adultery.

        I did not want to leave my Evangelical background. I loved it. I had (and still have) deep respect for the Bible teachers of my youth, who had me memorizing Scripture as soon as I could read. I was a worship leader and part of my income depended on that. I lost that income by becoming Catholic.

        But I once told Jesus that I would go where He said to go, serve where He said to serve. So, once He showed me His church and proved from History and Scripture that She is what she claims, what could I do? I was obedient to the heavenly vision, and after three years of RCIA I was received into full communion with the apostolic successor the Archbishop of Atlanta, himself in communion with Peter’s successor in Rome.

        That is my testimony, Al. And I’m far from alone: Scott Hahn and Marcus Grodi and Bill Bales and Richard John Neuhaus and Steve Ray and David Currie and Tim Staples and hundreds of other brilliant students (and teachers and professors) of Scripture have, on examining the evidence, done likewise.

        I am a Catholic because by being a Catholic I can be a more evangelical kind of Evangelical than I was when I was an Evangelical. I can be a more Biblical Bible-Christian than I was when I was merely a Bible Christian. And as I press onward, running the race and seeking the prize which I have not yet obtained, I find myself surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who keep me in their saintly prayers, and am thus lifted up daily by “just men made perfect”: And the prayers of such righteous men avail much!

        I am Catholic so that I can obey Christ the King by serving in the Messianic Kingdom which is in this world but not of this world. I stand in loyal obedience to His appointed stewards, whose offices are stewardly offices in the Household of the Son of David. And they are in fellowship with the chief steward, who like Eliakim son of Hilkiah in Isaiah 22, is granted a seat of authority, a robe, and binding and loosing authority exercised on behalf of the Messiah Himself. What these stewards bind on earth has already been bound in heaven, and what the chief steward binds, none other can loose.

        Thus are the doctrines of the Christian faith set firm upon a Rock: And the Rock is Kepha, or Cephas. As it should be: As all earthly fatherhood is delegated from Our Father in heaven, so all earthly rock-hood is delegated from Christ the Solid Rock on whom I stand. (For all other ground is sinking sand.)

        I am Catholic because I can confess my sins directly to God, and then audibly hear, with my ears of flesh, the voice of God’s mouth and tongue speaking to me saying that my sins are forgiven. Blessed on the mountainside, or in the confessional, are the feet of the men who bring that good news!

        Most of all I can know Jesus Christ as intimately as possible on this earth. I take into my body the Lamb of God, the Bread from Heaven, as He bids me, and find that He gives life to those who eat His flesh and drink His blood, as He promised in John 6. He is the medicine of immortality, as the Apostolic Fathers wrote, saying without a shred of bet-hedging or qualification that the bread and the wine of the Eucharist become and are the very flesh and blood of Jesus Christ which hung on the cross for our sins.

        He is our Pascha, our Passover Lamb. And remember what the Hebrews had to do, to enter and renew the covenant, Al.

        After the lamb’s blood was spilled, they had to eat the lamb.

        So I must take into my body the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. (Happy are those who are called to His supper.) It is the fulfillment of the covenant to Abraham, the completion of the sacrifices of Judaism.

        So: Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise.

        • John Mack

          Yes, the Spanish Inquisition was an instrument off the Spanish state, not the papacy, which ran a far more moderate Inquisition. Unfortunately the Spanish Inquisition was headed by Torquemada, whose grandparents were Jewish, and he was no model of fairness, especially to Jews. On the other hand his uncle in Rome, Cardinal Torquemada was brilliant and tolerant intellectual whose views on the Jews were kind and tolerant.

          Elizabeth’s England was far kinder to Catholics than Spain or France were to Protestants. Yes, yes, there was Walsingham and the execution of priests. But at the same time the Catholic families of the west of England who acknowledged Elizabeth as the rightful queen, and kept apart from the Catholics who insisted that Elizabeth must be overthrown, were allowed to practice their religion.

          Even Walsingham wanted the Catholic Archbishop Craig of Armagh to go free, seeing him as a man of trustworthy conscience who acknowledged Elizabeth as Queen. But Elizabeth was irrational on this subject, incensed that Craig had met with The O’Neill, her archenemy and perhaps a lover who spurned her. Ironically Craig met with The O’Neill to rebuke him for how he had corrupted the Catholic church in Ulster and to let him know that all church authority would be taken from The O’Neill and returned to the Archbishop. Walsingham knew this but Elizabeth, normally tolerant (she accepted another Catholic archbishop, Miler McGrath, as also her Protestant archbishop), was simply blind when it came to anything to do with The O’Neill.

          • bill bannon

            John Mack
            The Spanish Inquisition was closer to the papacy than some authors opine….e.g. one could appeal it’s rulings to the papacy which could overrule it. Go to New Advent’s Catholic encyclopedia and then to “Inquisition” by Joseph Blotzer….then go to the near bottom where you will find this:

            “The Spanish Inquisition….. the predominant ecclesiastical nature of the institution can hardly be doubted. The Holy See sanctioned the institution, accorded to the grand inquisitor canonical installation and therewith judicial authority concerning matters of faith, while from the grand inquisitor jurisdiction passed down to the subsidiary tribunals under his control. Joseph de Maistre introduced the thesis that the Spanish Inquisition was mostly a civil tribunal; formerly, however, theologians never questioned its ecclesiastical nature. Only thus, indeed, can one explain how the Popes always admitted appeals from it to the Holy See, called to themselves entire trials and that at any stage of the proceedings, exempted whole classes of believers from its jurisdiction, intervened in the legislation, deposed grand inquisitors, and so on.”

  • JP

    I enjoyed this post. We spent time in Bosnia in 2005 and it was an eye opening experience, especially as we got to know “Croatians” (Catholics who live in Bosnia) and their stories.

    That is a fascinating and wounded area of the world, but one which has given so much to Europe in many ways.

    Since my trip, I have learned much more about the Croats and their contributions. This post will give me more to look at!

  • Matthew Christensen


    First, I enjoyed your post. Second, you have seemingly overlooked a commonality between your royalist proclivities and your Texan Lady Friend’s imperial past. King Charles I/Emperor Charles V ruled over Texas as part of New Spain. Perhaps a reinstatement of the Hapsburg dynasty will make Texas a new homeland for a Traditionalist Catholic-Libertarian (Right-wing of course) alliance. Alas, the “Good Prince” Otto cannot assist us in this errand and will have to pray for the reinstatement of religious and political sanity from heaven

  • Pammie

    Re Al: ” I’m referring to believers who held to biblical doctrines, not those contradictory ones concocted and confirmed in conferences hundreds of years after Christ’s death. I suppose the Spanish Inquisition, as just one example, was a model of tolerance?”

    Now all becomes clear. Forgive me for being a bit thick today. It’s not possible to have a sensible discussion with someone whose knowledge of history is as sparse and sectarian as your comments seem to indicate. Is your degree in History and Theology from Bob Jones University (or the like) perhaps?

    In any case, all the topics you have brought up can be better answered by entering those search terms on this site or others such as “Catholic Answers”. Perhaps ask Mark Shea on his blog or Cord Hamrick. I think they were both fundamentalists at one time and could be very helpful to the sincere questioner. Good luck on your inquiries. I will ask Blessed Emperor Karl to intercede for you.

    • Al

      Pammie: I’m disappointed that a Catholic like yourself would resort to unfounded insults of someone who happens not to view history through rose-colored glasses. My beliefs are sectarian, but yours are not? I could hold my own with Mark and Cord, who are clearly very knowledgeable. But perhaps I committed a faux pas by intruding into a Catholic website, which I will now exit and for which I apologize.

      • Cord Hamrick

        Oh, no, Al: I just responded to your note. Don’t take off!


        But look, don’t view Pammie’s statement about history as an insult. (I grant that her reference to Bob Jones University comes across as a bit snide; she could perhaps benefit from being reminded that Fr. Dwight Longenecker is a graduate of that school! …but of course he’s done additional study since then.)

        And look, don’t view your challenge to the tenets of the Catholic faith as any kind of faux pas. We are exhorted by St. Paul to “stand ready to defend the hope” that is within us, are we not? Shame on us, then, if we aren’t up to the challenge.

        So don’t exit, and don’t be too thin-skinned. (We aren’t, or at least we shouldn’t be.)

        The only faux pas is that this discussion isn’t really directly on-topic for this thread. (But I’m up for a slight thread-jacking, in a good cause.)

        Pammie’s not quite right; I was never a fundamentalist in the social-separatist sense of the word. I was a conservative Evangelical. (But Catholics are often a bit vague on the taxonomy of non-Catholic communions, and can’t distinguish between a fundamentalist and a conservative Evangelical as easily as those of us who grew up in that garden.)

        Anyhow, I hope you read my earlier reply to your earlier post. It is entirely in sincerity, with absolutely zero animus towards you or anyone else whom I regard to be my brothers in Christ, and sincere in their convictions, but who haven’t come to the conclusions I came to and been compelled by them. Still, I was compelled.

  • Gian

    Whigs tend to get a free pass in America since the American Revolution itself was a Whig, a sort of continuation of the Whig Revolution of 1688. But only a thin and permeable line separates Whigs from ‘toxic’ French thinkers. American conservatives are forever babbling about the French Revolution and Burke but they forget the Whig role in undermining other Old Regimes of Europe, including the Kingdom of Sicily that was forcibly included in unified Italy, the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary and most importantly The Russian Empire. The Russian Empire was for Eastern Europe what Austria-Hungary was for Central Europe-a centre that maintained peace in a region that was even more multi-ethnic than Hapsburg Empire.

    The consequences of the undermining of Russian Empire are well-known but American conservatives are determined to forget that it was a burning desire to copy democracies like America and England that had infected Russian liberal intelligentsia of pre-war years, that undermined the Tsarist state.

    Read Carlye for the accounts of errors and blunders perpeterated by Whigs in 19C that lead to war and civilizational collapse in Europe in 20C. Burke alone is not sufficient.

    • Cord Hamrick

      Hmm. Gian, I mostly agree with all that. Yeah, I can pretty much buy all you’ve said, there.

      Granted, I don’t much like being characterized as “babbling.”

      But then, I tend towards verbosity. Oh well, it’s a fair cop.

      • Gian

        I regret if you are offended but the ‘babbling’ reference was not for you. It is only that I heard this Burke reference innumerable times.
        Conservatives are very fond of certain references like Napier and suttee as if modern American barbarism is not thousand times worse than an occasional suttee. You may or may not know that suttee was not common in all Hindu castes. It was mostly Bengali bramins and Rajpoots.

  • Tom

    Karl 1 looks like he was a kind man, thanks for the article. But I also know that although the Austrians were not the worse, there was nothing “virtuous” or very “Christian” when they partitioned Poland, after Poles helped save Vienna against the Ottoman invasion. To talk about needed “spheres of influence” is insulting.
    Rather then expect that virtuous governance be handed down by (largely irrelevant) aristocrats from the “old country”, I will take the anti-tyrannical system James Madison put in place any day. It is up to us to keep it infused with virtues.

  • Pammie

    Goodness, how thin skinned we all can be. My comment about Bob Jones (or any other sectarian school) was not intended to be snide, but rather an attempt to place where Al was coming from. Much in the same way as I would question a Latter Day’s Saint’s understanding of his Church’s historical ethnicity. They teach that their ancestors were a “lost tribe of Israel”. I think the only place that might be heard would be in a Utah setting, a fact which would seem pertinent to the discussion.

    In case Al should wander back: for the record I was educated in a strictly secular enviroment. My main University professor was a secular Jew, one of my all time favourite teachers. He was so adept at teaching (and funny) that one didnt mind much being told the Christian Church had a Pope named “Joan” and the like. Being a medievalist, we were spared no details he thought pertinent and injurious to the Catholic Church. And I dont have a bit of bruised feelings, because you thought it was important to know what type of education was behind my knowledge. I think it matters too.

  • Al

    Cord, I’d be willing to strike up a dialogue offline if you’re willing to give me your email address.

  • John Mack

    Otto no doubt would tell you of the cruelty and intellectual dishonesty of right wing libertarianism (more accurately called ruthless oligarchic laissez-faire capitalism). And then let you make your own decision.

  • mike

    For a more balanced view of Otto Von Habsburgh Mr. Trifkovic at the Chronicles website has written an article on the subject.