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In the Eternal City, the second National Conservatism conference concludes

National conservatism both holds Christianity in high regard, as the title of the conference acknowledges, and makes certain demands on Christianity at a political level.

Photo by Carlos Ibáñez on Unsplash

The second National Conservatism conference concluded in Rome on February 4, and the day will surely become an important one for the resurgence of right-wing political thought. Politicians, from Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban to the rising hope of the French right, Marion Maréchal, as well as others from Poland, Sweden, and the UK, joined right-wing intellectuals, academics, journalists, and movement and institutional figures from both Europe and America, including organizer Yoram Hazony, Douglas Murray, John O’Sullivan, Rod Dreher, and Ryszard Legutko, for a day of speeches and panels on the future of the right.

This National Conservatism conference was of more immediate interest to Catholics than the first, organized in Washington DC last summer, as its title announces: “God, Honor, Country: President Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and the Freedom of Nations.” The pope who defeated communism, united his nation in faith, and encouraged nations to defeat transnational tyrannic ideologies was quoted again and again, not least in contrast to the current Pontiff, seen by some present as a figure of the Left, and no friend to nationalism.

National conservatism both holds Christianity in high regard, as the title of the conference acknowledges, and makes certain demands on Christianity at a political level. In its American version, national conservatism deals mostly with Protestantism, but in its European iterations, it mostly deals with Catholicism, which brings its own problems and solutions.

First and foremost, Catholicism offers a trans-national ground of justice, referred to several times during the conference: natural law. This, in the view of conference presenters, would make both diplomacy and European unity plausible in absence of the EU, the stated enemy of national conservatism. Catholicism could thus be both part of the past, the historical legacy necessary to conservative politics, but also part of the future, offering ways of dealing with political questions that limit the justification for conflict.

The identity of Europe outside of liberalism is naturally Catholic. But Catholicism was once as rife with conflict, as beset by local defeats and even schism as EU liberalism is now. It’s not at all obvious what lessons have been learned that could fix Europe’s problems. Perhaps liberalism was once necessary to tame religious wars, and Christianity is now necessary to tame liberalism’s self-defeating tendencies, within the context of nation states.

So far, national conservatism would seem to be a species of the genus Christian politics. There’s something in nation states that needs Christianity, though the speakers and panelists did not get into it, except in the negative way of noticing the obvious: that every European tyranny of the 20th century was also an enemy of Christianity.

But what is the hope of this new or renewed alliance between politics and religion? It would seem to be something that the politicians and intellectuals in attendance cannot do themselves: fix the crisis of modernity, or at least make it manageable. This would be an acknowledgement of piety unknown in our times—that we somehow need God, if our politics is to work tolerably well.

There are three major difficulties for the national conservatives’ would-be alliance with Christianity. First, Protestantism, which was mostly treated as no longer religion, but politics—no longer tied to history, but to an uprooted hope in Progress. This silently points to the central, if latent, EU conflict between the Catholic South and the Protestant North. The Catholic Church might be forced to take political positions, simply by the worsening of this conflict.

Secondly, Pope Francis, who seems to be held in low regard by some of the presenters, but was not openly attacked in any of the speeches. The perception seems to be that the progressive faction in Catholicism he leads is a threat to the authority of national politics and a force to chastise national leaders, possibly breaking open the theologico-political conflict at the heart of modern citizenship. While the conference speakers expected popular support, they were skeptical of Church support, which suggests a coming conflict concerning political loyalty.

Thirdly, and perhaps most urgently, the problem posed by Africa. National conservatism seeks to conserve the European nations, but the future of Christianity and of the Catholic Church might be in Africa, not Europe, for reasons of demography. There are more people and, soon, more Christians, in Africa than Europe. Should this force a conflict between the past and future of the faith, how will Christians choose sides?

As national conservatives become important in European politics, Catholics will have to learn to deal with nation states which own the Church’s past literally and figuratively. Nation states are supposed to be Christian, but not universal and proselytizing; bound by law, but strong enough to defend themselves; and popular without tyrannizing over minorities. This is a difficult stance at the best of times, and the times are unlikely to be anywhere near that favorable.

Like it or not, the arrival of national conservatism will force these questions into our minds and public affairs. That End of History liberalism is now questionable, that ever-closer Union is now implausible, is hopeful for a Christianity that has been denied any role in the new dispensation. But it is also dangerous and will require great prudence. National conservatism has affirmed the fact of the importance of Christianity to politics, but not explained how it might be made into a reasonable, persuasive policy. This will be the task of this generation.


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About Titus Techera 25 Articles
Titus Techera is the executive director of the American Cinema Foundation and a contributor to National Review, The Federalist, Law & Liberty, and Modern Age.

6 Comments

  1. Thank you for this sharing of the ‘good news ‘ of a mixed sort , which also helps shed more light as to the words of the Holy Father , on humiliations –

    https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope-francis/mass-casa-santa-marta/2020-02/pope-francis-mass-santa-marta-humility-humiliation.html

    Having taken on the name after St.Francis , he was more than likely ready enough to have anticipated same and being a witness of the Eucharistic Miracle of Buenos
    Aires , to trust in His way for the good that can be through such occasions too .

    The Bridegroom of The Church , His great gift for The Bride and the children in Her being the grace extended , to accept the strength in the will, earned through The Passion , to choose to forgive and thus accept, in humility and gratitude , the abundance of the sweetness of His mercy and grace He desires to pour into the hearts of those who are ready to thus be empowered to do His will, in accepting that mercy , on behalf of others too .
    Animals and animal nature cannot do so , thus the ongoing envy and hatreds in hearts from the ploy of the enemy ,who in his pride in the earlier God given beauty , wanted sole authority to have offspring , to reflect that beauty that he thought of as his own .
    He rebelled from being shown the design of The Father, in an instant, in the creation of man in loving tenderness and wanting no share of the trials and weaknesses of human beings .
    Thus the ongoing efforts to vent that fury and hatred to include the destruction of nature , both human and of the earth , esp. targeted against who are most likely to help bring forth that rebirth in The Spirit .
    The God given human nature and power , instead , to use the will to choose to forgive, thus be also forgiven for all forms of idolatry , in related realms , in the lives of most , to be thus set free from the spirits of torture – all of us needing the wisdom in The Spirit , to walk in that Way .
    We see how the ‘left ‘ increasingly manifests what can happen , in hatred and lust for unjust control of all, in lies and fear and fury , when the ‘sanctuary ‘ of the heart has been given over to the serpentine spirits , that can manifest the ‘miracles ‘ of technology through T. V and media and such , as has been forewarned ..and the subtle or overt influences of other faiths that in one form or another
    have always embraced and promoted the idolisation of the carnal nature ,with lies about reincarnation into animals , promise of carnal pleasures worth killing for and such ..
    The upcoming Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes , its importance brought to our focus again in the events of 2/11/ 2013 , to aid us esp. Catholics who owe her our fidelity , to subdue carnal ways , for the greater miracles of being able to do His will , to thus unseat the false gods from our sanctuaries .
    We are blessed to have good Fatherly hearts in our midst , including that heart warming news about the decision by the Holy Father , to use a nearby good ‘palace ‘ for the homeless .
    Without being able to return to The Father , in accepting and granting forgiveness in The Lord , most of us too are like the homeless as well, yet called to
    know and trust more that even the earthly locales and claims related to our very origins in the contested lands are thus occasions given us , to help grow in His will , for the peace it brings .

    May The Spirit guide us all in same always .

    https://img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go/478546ee-c1cd-4eed-bb06-fb5688b1d807/downloads/1d0uofr7p_185043.pdf?ver=1570638280171

    Blessings !

  2. A study of Catholicism within the Nat Cons movement. “Catholicism brings its own problems and solutions. First and foremost, Catholicism offers a trans-national ground of justice, referred to several times during the conference: natural law”(Techera). Juxtaposition between N & S is too variable as flat N Protestant Eur v S Catholic. It’s complex. Money productivity seem more the issue. GDP leaders Germany UK France Italy Russia Spain show divergence. France is betwixt N S analogy. Italy in the 2 trillion bracket with UK France far surpasses Russia and Spain. Although Italy is moving closer to conservative nationalism France on the edge. Great insight by Techera that Protestantism has turned political Catholicism may need follow. That seems in process w Italy Hungary Poland. And he identifies Pope Francis, in “that the progressive faction in Catholicism he leads is a threat to the authority of national politics and a force to chastise national leaders, possibly breaking open the theologico-political conflict at the heart”. Aligned are massively wealthy men George Soros Bill Gates and fearfully if he succeeds in the coming election multi billionaire Michael Bloomberg [or Bernie dreaded by both parties] leading the radical Left Dem Party. Furthermore Catholicism in S Europe is following the lead of Pope Francis toward secular humanism in line politically with the Dem Party. Only the Catholic Church in the US appears a viable stopgap. Reason why Am Catholics are so roundly attacked and humiliated by the Vatican with hand picked Vatican prelate capos. If Titus Techera is correct that Africa seems the future for such a conservative movement I would add America possessing the structure wealth and a plethora of disillusioned well educated Catholics is better positioned. Much depends on the coming election much depends on prayer. And blood, we have yet to witness with our blood [the Apostle] sweat and tears. Churchill not the origin rather Welshman Christmas Evans Sermons on Var Subjects 1837. So we have a biblical battle cry in this momentous spiritual political conflict.

  3. It is wise to recall that politics is downstream from ethics, and ethics is downstream from religion (whatever it may be). At least, that is the correct order of things. When religion becomes driven by political concerns religion suffers.

    Further, when one attempts to be “relevant”, by attaching oneself to a particular moment or movement in Time, one has detached from Eternity. The attachment to a spot in highly transitory Time condemns one to irrelevance almost at once, historically speaking.

    It is hoped after 2000 years, Holy Mother Church would have learned these lessons, even if some of her members have not.

  4. Until the patriarchate of Rome reforms itself, especially in recognizing the difference between its private opinion pertaining to moral theology and a precept of the Divinely-revealed or the Natural Law, it has no role in guiding Western Europe past EU statism and nationalist statism. The various ethnonationalist parties will have to operate without support from the patriarch of Rome, for this pontificate and most likely the next. Whether some third party can corral those forces for a different agenda, as the organizers of this conference seem to be doing, remains to be seen.

  5. “The second National Conservatism conference concluded in Rome on February 4, and the day will surely become an important one for the resurgence of right-wing political thought.”

    I would say based on the speakers and leadership of this conference that it is actually a form of controlled opposition. The only true “right-wing” politics is based on Catholicism as it was generally understood before “good pope” John XXIII. Any politician that, for instance, believes that the state has jurisdiction over the marriage of baptized persons (to the extent of having the ability to dissolve what Christ said could not be dissolved), is directly opposing the Church (and indirectly the natural law), and is actually a tyrant.

    Ronald Reagan, the apparent paragon of conservatism, has the unfortunate distinction as being the originator of no-fault “divorce” in the United States.

    “Catholicism could thus be both part of the past, the historical legacy necessary to conservative politics, but also part of the future, offering ways of dealing with political questions that limit the justification for conflict.”

    In the past, the popes had mediated between nations at their request.

    “It’s not at all obvious what lessons have been learned that could fix Europe’s problems. Perhaps liberalism was once necessary to tame religious wars, and Christianity is now necessary to tame liberalism’s self-defeating tendencies, within the context of nation states.”

    The lessons learned is that Protestantism was a BIG mistake and that heresy and schism (if allowed to spread) is clearly as dangerous as it was thought of in the past (when heretics put to death). Religious wars were over in Europe by the Peace of Westphalia (1648). Liberalism as a word and a false pernicious doctrine didn’t start until about 1810.

    “Nation states are supposed to be Christian, but not universal and proselytizing; bound by law, but strong enough to defend themselves; and popular without tyrannizing over minorities. This is a difficult stance at the best of times, and the times are unlikely to be anywhere near that favorable.”

    Nation states are supposed to be Catholic. Nations defend themselves by fighting off external enemies and maintaining order in the nation including PROHIBITING THE SPREADING OF ERRORS (see Pope Pius IX’s “Syllabus of Errors”). This should be primarily done through repudiating the principles so near and dear to the hearts of Americans – FREEDOM OF SPEECH and NO ESTABLISHED CHURCHES. A lesser known aspect of the Constitution which should be changed is the prohibition of religious tests of public officials.

    However, there is a caveat. Establishment as understood at the time of the Founding is different from the way that it should be done. Taxes should never go to the established Church, nor should people be jailed (or otherwise persecuted) for refusing to join it.

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