Is the Church Inherently Conservative?

The great issue that separates progressive from more traditionalist Catholics is whether the Church will return to type.

To answer that question “yes” is to say that the Church has an essential nature—a basic structure, set of beliefs, and way of functioning—that is sometimes obscured by corruptions or distortions but can be counted on to reassert itself in a purer and more vigorous form. In effect, it is to view the Church as a living being that retains her identity as she develops, and is subject to occasional infirmities but thereafter returns to health.

People attached to modern ideas of progress don’t expect and don’t want that to happen. Present-day thought doesn’t like types, and it likes the idea of returning to type even less. It rejects organic comparisons for institutions, and prefers to view them as constructions for consciously chosen goals rather than products of essential forms that exist and endure whether we like them or not. We are Church, such people often say, and how we do Church determines what Church is.

Such claims have strong moral overtones. Belief in enduring forms is identified with stereotypical thinking of a kind that rejects change and difference in favor of an imaginary world of eternal essences. That kind of thinking, it is thought, lends itself to a reactionary and oppressive approach to politics and religion that denies human freedom and tries to force an abstract ideal based on an imaginary and idealized past on obdurate reality. Scratch a traditionalist, many people say, and you find a fascist.

On such a view, the Church becomes, if she is true to her vocation, the form taken from time to time by man’s response to God’s action in the world, or perhaps God’s action itself insofar as He acts through willing human instruments. It’s either what people are doing in response to God, or what God is doing through people He’s enlisted. Either way the Church disappears as a continuous and internally coherent institution, and becomes the happenstance outcome of some other force. Progressives say that the “other force” is the Holy Spirit, while skeptics are likely to identify it with various worldly projects that want to make use of the resources and popular prestige of the Church, or perhaps with a spirit that is far from holy.

In any case, the progressive conception means that faith in the one holy Catholic and apostolic Church, and with it the meaning of the word “Catholic,” lose clear definition. The life of religion loses the element of rational public and corporate conviction, and of looking to the past and holding to what has been found good and worthy of love and loyalty. Instead, it becomes a matter of launching into the unknown based on some personal insight or inner assurance, or more likely of following the guidance of prophets claiming special knowledge who say they will help us sing a new Church into being.

Such views may be modern, but they’re not new, since they’ve been held by antinomian visionaries throughout the ages. The twelfth century Calabrian abbot Joachim of Flora, who seems to have been personally holy although his views were officially condemned after his death, is famous for proposing that the Age of the Son, governed by the institutional Church, would soon give way to the Age of the Holy Spirit, based on the Gospel but transcending its letter as well as the need for disciplinary institutions. There have been numerous such figures over the centuries.

Our situation today does of course have features that distinguish it from previous times. One is that the technocratic understandings that dominate social life today promote the view that the world is simply what we make of it. That view undermines organic conceptions and the idea that institutions have essential forms to which they tend to return. Another is that mass higher education, and the resulting spread of modish ways of thought, make the conceptual dissolution of the Church into a loosely associated succession of situations seem normal to many churchgoers.

One result of such tendencies is that the dream of going beyond the authority of the institutional Church has become mainstream and bureaucratic. Instead of twelfth century abbots in rags, barefoot Franciscan spirituals, or Münster-style enthusiasts engaging in total violent revolution, we have conferences of academics and other mild-mannered bureaucratic functionaries with formal certifications and retirement plans.

The attitude toward hierarchical authority is nonetheless similar and must be judged by its fruits. We determine the value of understandings by whether they help us deal with the world, and of visions of the Church by their effect on her and her members. As things are, the Church has lasted 2000 years. It seems impossible to understand how she could have done so, humanly speaking, without a remarkably functional and well-integrated pattern of basic principles. Adaptability has no doubt been necessary for her survival, but if she were a happenstance agglomeration of people, beliefs, and practices she would have disappeared long ago.

Nor does God’s protection and guidance by itself seem an adequate explanation for her survival, since without continuity of basic form and principle there would be nothing distinct to have survived. We would not speak of the survival of the Church, but of a succession of historical situations with some overlapping features but no common identity.

From early times the Church has been hierarchical and authoritative. Antinomian and anti-institutional movements have been episodes in her life, but they haven’t lasted long or turned out well on their own terms, so they’ve evidently been at odds with the nature and necessities of Catholic life. Institutional form and function are not everything, but they are not nothing either, any more than the human body and its constitution, functioning, and well-being are nothing. Catholicism is a religion of incarnation. That means it recognizes without reserve the claims of the spirit, but also the necessity for the spirit to become concretely present in our world through the sorts of things—such as bodies and institutions—that make up the world. Such things may be unruly and backward at times, but they are basic to the world Christ came to redeem, so they can’t simply be rejected and suppressed.

The claim that belief in essential forms and natures is oppressive is odd. If such things don’t exist, the world becomes the shifting outcome of conflicting forces and there is nothing in it that is distinct enough to be oppressed. It is not possible to oppress a momentary configuration of eddies in a stream. Or if such things do exist, but they continually transform themselves, then politics becomes something for experts or visionaries who have a special gift for reading the signs of the times. It loses the connection to settled ways of thought needed for rational cooperative self-government. In either case politics becomes something that properly belongs to the few with little possibility for legitimate criticism by outsiders, and is likely to become oppressive in the usual manner of successful radical political movements.

James Kalb


James Kalb is a lawyer, independent scholar, and Catholic convert who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (ISI Books, 2008), and, most recently, Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It (Angelico Press, 2013).

  • ForChristAlone

    “we have conferences of academics and other mild-mannered bureaucratic functionaries with formal certifications and retirement plans.” This is what some areas of the Church has become. It is part of the reason why I no longer am employed directly by the Church; I could not if I wanted to hold onto my faith. There was a hollowness to those bureaucratic functionaries that made being among them a very surreal experience.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Ever since Turgot, the Enlightenment taught mankind to expect that the future would be unlike the past, that it would be better, and that the experience of ages may instruct and warn, but cannot guide or control.

    Jefferson was articulating the same notion, when he insisted the earth belongs to those who are on it, not under it.

    This is very different from the true organic principle, enunciated by Bl John Henry Newman that “In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

    • jacobhalo

      “here below to live is to change” Yes, I agree with that, but I would add “change for the better.”
      I know I sound like a broken record, but Vatican II was a change for the worse.

    • slainte

      Are you sure that historical progress is moving forward in a straight line toward perfection, or is there ample evidence that it is indeed cyclical?
      After all, we progressed beyond paganism to knowlng Our Lord Jesus Christ through Faith and Reason (even if Jansen nixes the latter) and having been redeemed by Him, yet many are sliding backwards and embracing New Age paganism or worse rejecting belief in God entirely.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        I don’t share Turgot’s views at all. I think that those who try to discern patterns in history are seeing pictures in the fire

        • slainte

          I suppose a strict rationalist who rejects faith in God or a belief in the hereafter must seek patterns in history as little else is available to give meaning and purpose to one’s life.
          The fruit of the Enlightenment is not always sweet.

  • AcceptingReality

    Progressives, in their efforts to advance their belief in moral relativism (antinomianism), attempt to equate traditional values with oppression and dictatorial control. They use the “f” word, “fascist”, to brand believers in traditional values as extreme. So, it really is a relativist attack on objective truth. The very use of the “f” word is itself a fascist strategy meant to marginalize and oppress those who disagree with their progressive world view.

    • Judaic Bolshevist Mammonism (Baphomet) = Mahomet (Muslim Brotherhood)

      They are both lying metrosexual bítches of the devil, the Abomination of Desolation… The Golden Calf has grown up to be a hollow Bronze Bull.

  • Nestorian

    OK, but the question then becomes which extant Christian body fully and truly instantiates the timeless essence of the Church? Kalb takes for granted that it is the Roman Catholic Church. However, as my blog handle indicates, I would assert that he is mistaken. The timeless essence of the Church is in fact embodied by the Nestorian Church, more appropriately (self-)designated as the Holy Apostolic Catholic Church of the East.
    Catholics, Protestants, and even the other Eastern Churches (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox) are destined to founder in their attempt to challenge the unhinging of tradition represented by Modernity and Postmodernity. This is true for the basic, yet also profoundly and subtly significant reason that they falsely claim to embody the timeless essence of which Kalb writes.
    By contrast, the Nestorian Church, because it represents the true essence of the Church founded by Christ, with Himself as its head and all those professing His name in some mysterious way as members of Its Body, can enter the lists against Modernity and Postmodernity without having to fear that the fundamental challenges posed against it will reveal its self-proclaimed essence to be merely a human creation, and thus riddled with falsehood.

    • Mark Millward

      Nestorian. I know that Wikipedia is not necessarily a reliable fount of knowledge, however its where I went to discover more about Nestorianism on reading your post. I’d be grateful if you would tell me how the Wiki article on your religion may be defective. That might allow the possibility that I am wrong in concluding, on the basis of the Wiki article, that your own claim to “fully and truly instantiate the timeless essence of the Church” has little credibility. Nestorian heresy anyone?

      • Nestorian

        The Nestorian Church has always – correctly – denied teaching the Christological heresy of which they stand accused. This was acknowledged in a very official and authoritative way for Roman Catholics when Pope John Paul II promulgated a “Joint Christological Declaration” in 1994 with His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Head of the Nestorian Church.

  • Dick Prudlo

    The “change is good” mantra is as useful to the Church as dark matter to explain anything real in cosmology.

  • Yes, the Church is inherently conservative- to herself.

    No, conservatives in America and much of the first world, are not conservatives. They may not be progressives, but their moral relativism as regards economic liberalism and the free market is just as apparent as the moral relativism among progressives as relates to lust.

    The Church is against *ALL* moral relativism, not just part.

    • Art Deco

      but their moral relativism as regards economic liberalism and the free
      market is just as apparent as the moral relativism among progressives as
      relates to lust.

      The next time some libertarian gives me grief about ‘the drug war’ or goes on a whinge about the absurdity of controls on prostitution, I will recall I am just another moral relativist.

    • Adam__Baum

      And the pseudopaleocatholics, represented by Theodore Seeber, are disjointed from reality.

      When it comes to the economic sphere, they insist over and over again, that man is not just frail and prone to sin, but inherently corrupted. Every commercial transaction is a brush with Gomorrah. except of course, theirs because they are unfairly convicted victims of this earthy penal colony, and victims of prison rape.

      This is were the pseudo prefix becomes operative-their dark and disturbing vision, usually born of their inability to comprehend their own imprudence and ineptitude (such as purchasing time shares without proper thought or legal counsel) isn’t Catholic, it’s Lutheran.

      Unlike Luther, they are unable to concoct the novel doctrines whose ultimate defects can’t be seen for five centuries. In Luther’s lifetime, it started to become obvious Sola Scriptura was a recipe for division, it wasn’t for nearly five centuries that we could see that the subordination of marriage to the state proposed by Martin (and Henry Tudor) would result in a monstrous deformations.

      No, these guys are mere parasites, so they attach themselves to eccentric doctrines that are mere thought experiments, that lack definition, form and practice.

      Maybe Max Weber ran into a Theodore Seeber and assumed that the vigorous assertions of hyper-orthodoxy were true.

      • So that’s all encyclicals are to you? “eccentric doctrines that are mere thought experiments, devoid of definition, form and practice-even completion.”. Except one small problem- decentralized distributism has been working practically for more than 1500 years, ever since the Rule of St. Benedict.

        • brians

          Seems to work for North American anabaptists, anyway: as always, one of the more economically secure segments of society. Problem is, you’ve committed heresy against what everyone knows is God’s Political Party by suggesting that corporate consolidation of the means of production might not lead to a right-wing progressivist utopia.

        • Adam__Baum

          There’s simply no nice way to question your sanity. Consider it questioned.

          Quadragesimo Anno #42

          • I see nothing in Quadragesimo Anno that denies the economics of the monasteries, and especially not #42, where the claim is made that for economics to be just, morality must come first.

            • Adam__Baum

              The language is obvious. Read it until you understand it.

              • The language is obvious, my question is why you think I would possibly disagree with it, or what my example of the monasteries (where clearly, morality does rule over economics to produce justice) is in violation of it.

                • Adam__Baum

                  Response unwarranted.

  • poetcomic1

    The visible Church is a ‘body’. My own body is ‘regimented, authority ridden and hierarchical’ or I am a goner. The Great Levelers reminds me of a joke by the comedian Emo Philips: “The brain is the most important organ in the body – yeah but look who is telling you that!”

  • Samuel

    This is a very thoughtful essay, as it would be from someone of the stature of James Kalb. My only comment refers to the title of this essay. Most readers think of “conservative” and “liberal” today in political terms. In answer to the question the title implicitly poses—“Is the Church Inherently [Politically] Conservative?”—the answer is no. Both conservatives and liberals got together to kill Jesus Christ. The scandal of self-giving service to others—that is, the hatred for truly innocent love—was, is, and always will be the one thing, perhaps the only thing, conservatives and liberals in power can agree upon. To transcend the political polarization in our nation, we must look to Christ and rise above politics. The Church is about humble love, not about cultural, intellectual, or political power.

    • Crisiseditor

      The title was meant to draw attention and to stimulate thought and nothing more. In your case, I accomplished my purpose.

      • Matthew 10:33… “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

        judaism = anti-christ

        • slainte

          Deuteronomy 7:6-8…

          “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt..”
          Repent Mr. Blake….your provocative statements are not welcome here.

      • Objectivetruth

        When asked in social situations and politics eventually comes up, I am often asked “are you liberal or conservative?” I’ll answer “neither.” After a perplexed look, I’m asked “then what are you? I’ll answer, “Orthodox Catholic.” This usually jump starts many intriguing and fascinating conversations.

        • Crisiseditor

          “Liberal” and “conservative” Catholics will often identify themselves as “orthodox” in the sense of being “faithful.” Is the Church faithful? Faithful to what? Christ’s teachings? The answer for a Catholic is obviously yes. (For a Protestant obviously no. But the audience here is Catholic.) Among Catholics, the dispute discussed in this article is over how much the Church can legitimately change without altering it’s nature and mission. Liberals will say a lot, while conservative (traditional? orthodox?) Catholics will say much less. Using familiar terminology reaches more people even when they may have different definitions of what that might mean. If I said, “Is the Church Inherently Orthodox?” people would scratch their head wondering what is being asked. After all, if the Church is not orthodox, it’s not the Church of Christ. Catholics don’t ask that question.

          • Objectivetruth

            And I would reply that if the Church is inherently Orthodox, than I am an Orthodox Catholic. In other words, I believe the Church has the ability to “bind and loose” on what it declares on earth concerning faith and morals has already been declared in heaven. If the Church tells me that abortion, contraception are immoral, that Christ was/is fully human and fully divine, that Mary was conceived without sin……I have the full faith and Trust that these are absolute Truths. In other words, for me the orthodoxy of the Church is that Christ has promised His guidance on these Truths, and would never allow His Church to be led astray and allow to teach erroneously. So you are right: I am orthodox in the sense of being “faithful” to the Church because I have 100% trust that when it comes to the teaching of faith and morals, the Church is being 100% faithful to Jesus Christ.

    • Judaic Bolshevist Mammonism (Baphomet) = Mahomet (Muslim Brotherhood)

  • hombre111

    I agree that the Church is, by its nature, conservative. But conservative doesn’t mean reactionary. Too many times, beginning with the Galileo travesty, the Church has been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world.

    • Adam__Baum

      “Too many times, beginning with the Galileo travesty..”

      History hasn’t judged your ilk yet.

    • DG

      As an aside, but still perhaps of some relevance, modern cosmology holds that (from a certain perspective) any place in the universe can be considered its center. So Galileo wasn’t completely in the right here at all.

      • hombre111

        A long time ago, I read a book by a mathematician that took the Church’s side. The old story about Galileo demanding the cardinal to look through a telescope and see verified his conclusions about the solar system is a tall tale. It would have proved nothing. There was no experiential proof for the earth going around the sun until sometime in the 1800’s. The Ptolemaic system, complicated as it was, could predict the location of stars and planets to within a couple of decimal points, too fine to even be noticed by the eye. Galileo wanted to overthrow the Ptolemaic system because his new theory was “mathematically more elegant.” Try telling that to a cardinal who knows as much about math as you or me. But the decision of the Church to throw itself into what was a scientific discussion was a step too far, and the Church has been apologizing ever since.

        • Objectivetruth

          A partial list below of 200 Catholic scientists (clerical and non clerical) that made significant scientific contributions over the past millenium, including Copernicus and Ockham. All were celebrated, encouraged and supported by the Catholic Church. One can argue that without this robust Catholic scientific work in physics, mathematics, biology, chemistry, astronomy what we call modern society today would be non existant. Uninformed conspiracy critics of the Church always trot out Galileo as some half arsed proof source that the Vatican is stuck in the Neanderthal age:


        • Adam__Baum

          Think of the apologies due for keeping the insubordinate in good standing.

    • Objectivetruth

      “The Church has been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world.”

      Sigh. The Vatican observatory. Thirty five craters on the moon named after Jesuit scientists. Teilhard de Chardin’s anthropological work with Peking Man. Etc.

      Obviously hombre111, you think the Church was dragged kicking and screaming on these (and many other discoveries) into the modern world?

  • cestusdei

    The Roman Church was always respected for its conservation of apostolic tradition.

  • Isaac S.

    I think it would be interesting to be alive in, say, 300 years and see what ever happened with the Vatican II “experiment” that disrupted so much of the life of the Church. While remaining true to her dogmas and unchangeable doctrine, the Church suddenly decided that everything that was non-doctrinal was simple window dressing and could be dispensed with as easily as one repaints a room. Somehow no one thought that by changing the architecture, liturgy, disciplines, calendar, teaching methods, et. al. so suddenly would give the impression that the underlying doctrines had changed as well. If the Church truly “reverts to type” over the ages, the Missal of 2313 will much more strongly resemble the Missal of 1962 than the Missal of 2013.

  • Arriero

    The inherent hate against the State shows a profoundly protestant attitude among many Catholics. It’s disturbing. This attitude forgets the intrinsic Statist (institutional-political) nature of the Church which has really made the Church what it is now: the most durable Institution in world history. The State, by the way, is a Liberal invention. And radical individualism, ultimately leads to radical statism. This thesis was one of the big ideas behind Father Juan de Mariana’s teaching (one of the first and foremost Liberals in history; and a true one, a Catholic liberal not the pseudo-anarchist pseudo-calvinist one that came later); his thesis was that God made men free to choose between good and evil and men too often chose to do evil; for that simple reason, men need regulations, men need norms to regulate their inherent freedom to choose the evil. Pope Benedict, in one of his latest speeches before resigning, put financial deregulation at exactly the same level than terrorism. This thesis has been put into fashion again by Pope Francis, who comes from the Latin branch of Catolicism (he recently wrote: «Men is not corrupt, men is sinner»); i.e. the only real branch of Catholicism where the evil tentacles of protestantism were not allowed to penetrate (Pope Francis is a mixture of Spain and Italy, the big defenders of the true Faith and millenarian Catholic nations, whose foundation stays upon the principles and manners of Catholicism). This also explains why many americans sometimes misread this Pope, because they are heavily influenced by Protestantism, directly or indirectly. Someone who sees a little bit of socialism in this Pope’s words is a protestanized cynic. That’s why the calvinist wing within the Church has to be completely wiped out. Pope John Paul and Benedict luckily wiped out marxism from the Church, now is turn to wipe out the evil tentacles of protestantism within the Church. This is one the bigest evil of our current Church.

    Those who live in Millenarian Catholic nations know that the success of the Catholic Church has always been closely related to political power and the State. We are no cynics so we don’t deny this fact. Because we know that the Church is a hierarchical institution; a powerful insitution, a dogmation institution. I say all that as a compliment. We know that was a Pope who crowned Charlemagne, the father of Europe. We also know that the first liberals in history were the members of the School of Salamanca and not the so much admired english liberals. We know that nothing in the foundation of America was intrinsically Catholic, but everything in the foundation of France, Italy or Spain was Catholic. Only the hidden nihilistic forces of protestantism hate the State, because they certainly began their path hating any authority or regulatory body, especially the Church, which has always been the most annoying for them.

    • Adam__Baum

      But you repeat yourself…

  • Jason Priestley

    The government killed Jesus Christ and all his followers. Do you need this drawn in crayon for you?

    • Arriero

      This intrinsic hate against government is profoundly protestant.

      The Church would have never been what it is without political power; ergo, without the State. It would have never been what it is without being the official religion of the Roman Empire.

      Spain was founded in 1469 when a Catholic King and a Catholic Queen got married and gathered their kingdoms in the defense of the Catholic Faith against the muslim enemy.

      Charles V of Spain never allowed the evil and nihilistic tentacles of protestantism to penetrate within the Church. That’s why the Counter-Reformation took place.

      Government made the Church the most durable and powerful institution in World History. In this battle, you seem to be in the protestant nihilistic and revisionist team.

      We don’t deny the importance of the Authority. Because we know what is our Church, not just a book, not just a couple or so of dogmas, but too much a history. We know that english-liberalism is a protestanized pseudo-version. We only believe in the liberalism of Catholic thinkers, who never hated or scorned the State.

      • Adam__Baum

        I realize the modern left has an annoying tendency of attributing hate as the only motivating factor to those that disagree with them, but prudence isn’t hate and their statism is not Catholic, it’s idolatry.

        To tell us that government is a wonderful and benign force based on a few rare occurrences of history, non very recent is foolish.

        Government is the Pharaoh defying Moses, Herod slaughtering the Holy Innocents, Pilate washing his hands. It’s the Catholic King of England, having been afforded the title “Fidei Defensor”, launch a war against Catholics. It’s his modern successors visiting misery on the Irish (Catholics). It’s Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot. It’s Barack Obama making Catholics pay for abortion. It’s the purposeful propagation of dependency and conflict to divide and conquer. It’s inconveniencing and endangering the public with a contrived traffic jam to settle a political score.

        There is nothing in Catholic doctrine or in historical experience to advise one to submit unquestionably to government in supine fealty. There’s everything to suggest that government is like fire, a little, carefully controlled wards off the chill. Handled carelessly or uncontrolled it consumes everything in it’s past.

        • Crisiseditor

          Samuel knew what the Israelites could expect from government but they did not listen (1 Samuel 8):

          “Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, ‘This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’

          “But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’ “

          • Art Deco

            Is anarchism the new editorial line here at Crisis?

            • Crisiseditor

              The obvious point–except to you–is that even Scripture suggests we should be fully aware, even wary, of what the state is capable of, in response to the cheer leading of “Arriero.” And what do you do? Assume that the magazine is now anarchist after having found no evidence for such a position for so many months. I think you like to argue just to argue, even with people who are on your side.

              • Arriero

                This video deserves a watch, and a deep analysis and reflection:


                (I post it if by chance any of you were able to understand Spanish)

                Briefly, that’s a high-level discussion in the Spanish television about the topic whose title is «Catholic Spain». This part from the debate is about the Second Vatican Council and the paper of the Church in the modern world. Two man discuss here: Gustavo Bueno and José María García Escudero. The first is self-considered a Catholic atheist, i.e. someone who denies the existence of God but feels strongly influenced and proud of the Catholic nature of the atmosphere he has lived in, of the intrinsic Catholic nature of his country and Institutions. The second one is a prominent Spanish lawier who tries to discuss Bueno’s thesis.

                It’s funny watching how a protestanized pseudo-Catholic (García Escudero), who only has good words for the «spiritual nature» of Catholicism and denies some of the Church’s institutional and historical feautures (like his power over the State), is easily revealed and ashamed by someone, Gustavo Bueno, who despite being an atheist knows which is the intrinsic Institutional, historical and moral authority of the Church. So he correctly states the truth.

                Of course, Gustavo Bueno asks what really has brought us the II Vatican Council. Bueno’s conclusion is the same I tried to point out: «Si la Iglesia a lo largo de quince siglos no hubiera tenido las relaciones que tuvo con el estado, no hubiera llegado a ser lo que es» (If the Church throughout 15 centuries did not have the relationship it had with the State, he would never have become what it is). García Escudero, as a protestanized Catholic, reneges from the Church’s tradition.

          • Slainte

            Kudos for being brave and telling the truth.

          • hombre111

            And yet, when I was studying philosophy in the seminary, the conclusion was that the Catholic Church sees a benign monarchy as the best possible government.

            • Adam__Baum

              You can dismiss that like so much else you were taught.

        • Judaic Bolshevist Mammonism (Baphomet) = Mahomet (Muslim Brotherhood)

          They are both lying metrosexual bítches of the devil, the Abomination of Desolation…

        • Arriero

          Profoundly protestant views about history, about government, about regulation and, ultimately, about the Authority, again. These views born from misunderstanding human nature and Liberalism, due to the heavy influence that protestantism had in the Foundation of America, the less Catholic of all old nations.

          Government is Theodosius making Catholicism the official religion of the Empire. Government is the Spanish Catholic Kings from Spain defending the Faith against the muslim enemy. Government is Charles V not allowing protestantism to spread all over Europe. Government is Philip II trying to impose Catholicism, again, in England. Government is Pope Leo III crowning Charlemagne on Christmas Day at Old St. Peter’s Basilica. Government is imposing in South-America Catholicism as the religion of the colonies and of all the people. Government is defending the Faith from any foreign attack. Government is the Holy League defeating the Ottomans at Lepanto. Government is Franco defeating the communists and imposing Catholicism at the centre of the State.

          There is too much cynism. The Church would have never been what it is without political power, without control over the State, without institutional-political power. But you seem to be naive to see the truth in the whole affair: Obama can do the policies he does because the Church has no real political power in America. It has never had because nothing within American Institutions is intrisically Catholic. Spain has just aproved a very restrictive abortion law (one of the most restrictive in Europe). Why? Because the Catholic Church STILL HAS real power over the State. This lack of political power is the cause behind the lost of religiosity during the last 200 years; during the years when, in fact, protestanized liberalism imposed its views. You don’t seem to realize that defending the so-beloved «freedom of cult» is also profoundly anti-Catholic. It is pure relativism and subjetivism; i.e. pure protestantism. It is very well known that Pope Benedict wanted to re-cristianize Europe, mainly. He knew that this would be impossible without political power!

          It’s at least funny how many americans see the evil monster of marxism in every sentence that doesn’t fit their certain conception of the world. But this Pope won’t be fooled by this; because he, luckily, is not influenced by protestantism.

          Are you able to realize that only a Catholic confessional State makes sense? Are you able to realize that Catholicism is not the self-cooked religion that is protestantism? Are you able to realize why Ireland, Spain, Italy or Poland has restrictive laws over abortion, marriage, etc.? Keep on scorning the State and you will see what’s next.

          • DG

            Scorning the regimes of the usurpers holding the reins of power in most current states is not an endorsement of anarchism.

          • Objectivetruth

            For the record, Ireland and Spain’s restrictive laws over abortion and marriage are corroding rapidly due to secularized government’s tightening grip. The fact that rescinding Spain’s abortion law is even a consideration shows that.

          • Adam__Baum

            There’s a difference between cynicism and skepticism. Learn the difference.

            • Arriero

              False. I only say that without political power the Church would have never become the institution it is (see video I posted in this same thread). And I say more: liberalism – protestanized liberalism, not the respectful liberalism of Father Juan de Mariana and the School of Salamanca – has undermined little by little the Institutional power – ergo the Authority – of the Church through a hidden, but harmful, relativism (of deeply protestant roots. Cfr. Pope Benedict) of the worst kind.

              I don’t say that statism is Catholic. I say that protestant Liberalism is not Catholic. And that despising government and regulations per se is a profoundly protestant attitude ( And that all of you who deny the history of the Church as a prominent Institutional authority with enough power within and over the State to influence in society and to widen its licit power, are being cynics.

              Of course, knowing which countries were that had to organize the Counter-Reformation to fight against the protestant nihilist roots allows to see these things clearer. Americans never passed through that filter, because it was founded upon the principles of calvinism with no «past history». That’s why, in fact, many of you wrongly misread this Pope, who says truths like temples, as all Popes, by the way.

              • Adam__Baum

                “I don’t say that statism is Catholic.”

                Yes you do. You just won’t admit it, either because you are a shill for a retoviral intellectual view or don’t understand the implications of what you write.

                You keep making ridiculous charges. When one is dispatched, you change it. Hate became cynicism, now you complain about “despising” the government. You just can’t seem to imagine anything but obedience to the state.

                You are enamored of power as opposed to authority, because you don’t understand the difference. The Church had NO political power for a long time and flourished. Too much entanglement with government is a recipe for disaster, as when Henry Tudor was afforded the title “Fidei Defensor”.

                To accuse people who don’t agree with you of being “protestant”, is abject nonsense, because it Protestantism elevated the state over the Church. It was Henry Tudor who said marriage is an affair of state, and Luther who said the state, not the Church should regulate marriage.

                • Arriero

                  «The Church had NO political power for a long time and flourished.»

                  First and foremost, the Church flourished when the Roman Empire – Theodosius – decided to be Catholic. That’s an historic fact, not an opinion. The Church flourished when after the III Council of Toledo Reccared I abjured from Arianism and converted to Catholicism, which conducted the religious unification between Visigoths and Hispanoromans. The Church flourished when a Pope crowned Charlemagne. The Church flourished when Spaniards arrived to America – both North and South – with a CATHOLIC BIBLE (not a protestant one) in their hands. The Church flourished when jesuits, among others and with the total support of Charles V, began the Counter-Reformation. Plenty of examples. Sola-Scriptura and «me and God alone» is not the best and most renowned feature of OUR Church, is it? I invite you to read the political and economical works of Catholic thinkers from the School of Salamanca: They’re TRUE LIBERALS!

                  «You just can’t seem to imagine anything but servility and obedience to the state.»

                  You just can’t seem to know that our Church is being displaced and marginalized by those in power. And that libertarianism is profoundly anti-Catholic in its essences. If you will have a Catholic president in the US, believe me that nothing – or a big chunk – of what we’re witnessing would be happening. But you only blame Obama while being unable to see the truth in the whole issue: that Catholic conservatives must be in front of government if we want our values to be protected and defended with dignity and justice. Because a solely «spiritual Church» is a very protestant concept that will end up with it, as it is already happening.

                  «You are enamored of power as opposed to authority».

                  Without power there is not Authority. God has Authority because he is almighty. The Church has (or had, it seems) Authority because she had power, real power to shape the world following the word of God.

                  «Too much entanglement with government is a recipe for disaster».

                  Ok, I can accept this BUT ONLY AS A PLAIN POLITICAL OPINION. Many Catholics in the US assess Pope’s words from a political and economical point of view. Wrong. There is nothing in the Catholic Church history, teaching or tradition which supports your political preference. Not a single man of faith in history (out from the US, at least) who ever supported that views. Give me a name! Not even Pope Benedict, who put financial deregulation at the same level of terrorism. Not even Chesterton, not even Belloc, neither Maurin or Newman.

                  «To accuse people who don’t agree with you of being “protestant”»

                  I’ve said these opinions and attitudes are profoundly protestant. Period. I’ve not called you directly a protestant; that would be a very bad insult, I guess. Don’t take my words as a personal attack, it’s not my aim. Less even on this site, which I appreciate.

                  «By the way, the next time you want to buttress your rant with a Wikipedia article, make sure it exists.»

                  Here it is:

                  In any case, interesting conversation. Have a good day!

                  • Adam__Baum

                    “There is nothing in the Catholic Church history, teaching or tradition which supports your political preference.”

                    What part of Henry Tudor do you not understand? As an addition, look at how the Catholic left continued to support the Democratic party long after abortion was it’s highest priority, and now Obama is hell-bent on forcing nuns to buy the pill.

                    That’s Church history, just as much as things that occurred over a millenia ago.

                    As for Chesterton and Belloc, I find much of what they wrote interesting and enlightening, but they aren’t authoritative or indisputable. I’m free to disagree with them, and still receive on Sunday.

              • redfish

                I would argue the primary role the Catholic church played in most of its history was to serve as a check to the power of kings. Because a king had to act within the accord of moral laws, he could be excommunicated and lose his moral authority to rule, and for that reason, the Church often sided with peasant revolts. This was the entire basis of Christendom — and why Christians feared Muslim states in which the state and the religion were inseparable, and why Catholics were so in principle against the Protestant revolt.

                Protestants, of course, brought in the idea of the Divine Right of kings, which ended up giving monarchs more power, and absolute authority as a sovereign. They also tended to be much more radical about bringing religion into law. Puritans, who wanted to use the law to enforce every type of moral dictate, and followers of Luther who persecuted Catholics and attacked Jewish communities. Liberalism might have been a historical outcome of Protestantism, but it was by no means advocated by it — Protestantism was a tool of monarchs and theocrats. That’s why when people argue that all that Islam needs is a Reformation like occurred in the West, they’re entertaining a gross misunderstanding of history. Islam already had a Reformation — what they need is a Counter-Reformation.

                As much as the Church filled the role to counter the political power of kings, it made relationships with them and sometimes was collaborative, that’s true. Its also true that a lot of priests became corrupt and too tied to their institutional power. But I think focusing above all else that is misunderstanding the broader scheme of history. Though Catholics were critical of revolutionaries, there was never anything inherently anti-Catholic about republicanism. The Church never spoke against the republics of Italian city states, and never argued they should overthrow their governments and become “benign monarchies,” as hombre suggests. In fact, the Church — though with a deeply corrupt Pope — helped overthrow the demagogue Savonarola and return republican government to Florence. Savonarola, the forerunner of Protestants, deepened the moral legislation of Florence, instituting capital punishment for sodomy, which was undone with the help of the Catholic Church.

                • Arriero

                  «Though Catholics were critical of revolutionaries, there was never anything inherently anti-Catholic about republicanism.»

                  Indeed, I could argue that a succesful republic may only flourish under Catholicism. If republicanism ever had a religion, I have no doubt it was Catholicism.

                  But republicanism is not liberalism. Liberalism is a profoundly protestant politico-economic system. I only follow and respect republicanism of Catholic roots, the republicanism from the School of Salamanca, from the Calbert family ( ), from Charles Carroll, and many other respectful men of Faith. Father Juan de Mariana extensely wrote about tyranicide and about revolutions against the evils and corrupts.

                  Republicanism, of course, needs a state, a centralized-institutional power, though democratic. A centralized state is incredibly important for the economic and political success of societies (cfr. Acemoglu-Robinson); and also it is important from a moral point of view (cfr. Thomas Moore). The history of the Church is a history of leading and moral leaders. There is a big misunderstanding of freedom within the US political moviment due to how it historically developed and due to the origin of its roots.

                  In another thread I discussed with a well-known expert in the history of the Foundation of America this same issue and we finally agreed that although there wasn’t anything intrinsically Catholic in the Foundation of America, many of the papers could be quite rightly assessed from a Catholic point of view. In fact, natural law per se is profoundly anti-Calvinist, the same that the intrinsic concept of freedom (cfr. Predestination).

                  In fact, a good conclusion might be to call this Pope and his papers a good piece of ol’ Catholic Republicanism. The only true and respectful. American protestanized right-wingers don’t fool me with their rethorics of anti-state, anti-government, etc. I already know them very well, nihilists…

                  • redfish

                    Catholicism might not be compatible with Liberalism in its doctrinaire form, but I don’t think Protestantism, as it originally existed was either, as I argued. It was used to justify both state power and moral legislation. In that part, Catholicism has been more compatible with Liberalism. The fact is that, in historical terms, Protestants have been less able to conceptually separate state and church.

        • DG

          “What is a state without justice but a band of robbers?” — St. Augustine.

        • Slainte

          Excellent post. You hit it out of the ballpark.

        • Objectivetruth

          Nice. Well done.

  • Jay

    I was always told the Catholic Church has a conservative mind and a liberal heart.

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  • Howard

    There are a lot of problems both with the question and with the attempt to answer it.

    To start with, “Is the Church inherently conservative?” is about as meaningful as, “Is the Church inherently Plantagenet?” (No. The Plantagenets were Catholic, which is different, and the Church recognized the legitimacy of many Plantagenet monarchs, which is also different.)

    Secondly, it is not at all clear that “conservative” still has any coherent meaning, at least judging from the range of ideas expressed by those who call themselves “conservative”. These days it seems to mean nothing more than, “opposed to at least one plank of the current Democratic platform”. Certainly there are planks of the Democratic platform that are at odds with Catholic teaching, but that should not be expressed in a way that implies that the Catholic Church identifies with the Republican platform.

    Thirdly, the Pope is 77 years old, but to say, “The Pope is INHERENTLY 77 years old,” would be inaccurate, whether one was discussing the person of Francis or the papacy in general. What the Church is INHERENTLY is defined by the Creeds, especially by the Credo of the People of God proclaimed by Pope Paul VI.

    Fourthly, the main flaw seems to be that you insist on binary thinking. The Church does not think like the Democratic Party, so the Church must think like the Republican Party; no other options are on the table. The Church either has no inherent form, or She has deviated from its inherent form and must return to it; no other options are on the table. Catholics are either progressives in favor of puppet Masses, or traditionalists willing at a minimum to drive 4 hours round trip every Sunday to hear the Mass in Latin; no other options are on the table.

    • It’s hard for me to see how you engage what I wrote.

      The basic point of the piece is that current ways of thinking tend strongly to reject essential forms, and that injures the ability of many people to understand the Church (and many other things).

      You apparently reject all discussion of polarities (like rejection vs. acceptance of essential forms as a way of understanding the world around us) as black-and-white binary thinking. That seems pointless to me.

      Also, some of your specific points are hard to make sense of. You say “conservative” has no definite meaning, and then you treat it as if it were as specific as “Plantagenet” or “Republican..” Why not interpret the title given the piece by reference to what it actually says? Also, you say that the Church has an inherent form, and then speak as if talking about her inherent form is the equivalent of saying the Pope is inherently 77 years old. Why not distinguish essential and accidental qualities?

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