Understand Conservatism

Sometimes a basic term is misunderstood because everyone assumes its meaning is clear.

Conservatism at root is the desire to conserve the existing order. It’s a natural instinct. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Conservatism as a movement arises when the existing order is attacked by revolutionaries. The revolutionaries believe the old ideas are false and unjust and must be replaced. The conservative knows the existing order is good and tries to protect it.

The American conservative movement became potent in the postwar period. At that time the existing order was being attacked by liberal and leftist revolutionaries. The superstructure of the American order was basically sound although its religious, philosophical and social foundations had been severely weakened. At that time, mainstream American conservatism was about the business of protecting an existing order that was outwardly healthy because its visible structure still reflected traditional ways and beliefs.

Some visionaries understood that the foundation was weak and they called for it to be strengthened. They were mostly ignored. To switch metaphors: heart surgery is dangerous, only to be undertaken when the patient is in imminent danger, and most conservatives believed the patient had only a superficial injury.

The revolutionaries were able to overthrow the old order because of the weakness of its foundations. They have taken control. They are establishing a new order based on revolutionary principles: DIE, BLM, CRT, LGBTQ+,…  They do not have total control yet, and counter-revolution is still possible, but the hour is late.

Since the existing order is now revolutionary, the conservative instinct is now to preserve the revolution. That is the fatal flaw of mainstream conservatism: thinking that the existing revolutionary order is good just because it is the existing order. Mainstream conservatism only opposes “extremist” revolution. It supports mainstream, establishment revolution: moderate amounts of feminism, atheism, globalism, immigration, affirmative action, and so on. Mainstream conservatism sometimes makes good-sounding promises, but it does not deliver what is needed.

Within living memory mainstream conservatism opposed the revolution. Conservatives can still be honorable if they work to re-establish the good ways of the old order.

Moloch is But a Vassal of Our True Enemy

Back in 2010, I commented to a post at VFR:

Nominalism is satanic, I’m telling you. It’s a device to destroy man. Convicted nominalism has to end in suicide, whether cultural or personal. If there are no transcendent values, but rather only and merely our own personal, private preferences, then our personal private preferences are false to facts. This is a little tricky to see, until we draw the analogy to the schizophrenic. The schizophrenic’s impression that there are black helicopters pursuing him are peculiar to him. The black helicopters are not really there. So we understand that his impressions are illusions. But nominalism says that the values we apprehend in things and people and activities, like the black helicopters, are not objectively real. And this means that our feelings of value are—just like the schizophrenic’s black helicopters — hallucinations. They are false. Nominalism says that there is in reality no value out there to be had.

But to say that there is no value really to be found in the world is nihilism. And the consistent nihilist, who has the courage of his convictions, cannot believe that his own life, or anyone else’s life, or the life of his nation, are worth a hill of beans. So he cannot find any way to defend them—none at all. And this will result in death, one way or another, even if only through the sheer lassitude of utter ennui.

I thought at the time I sent that comment to Lawrence, God rest his soul, that in characterizing a school of epistemology as satanic I was perhaps engaging in a bit of rhetorical hyperbole. Firing for effect, as it were.

But then, the other night, I was reading An Exorcist Explains the Demonic: the Antics of Satan and His Army of Fallen Angels, by Father Gabriele Amorth, SSP. Father Amorth was for many years the exorcist of the Diocese of Rome. I read the following passage from his explanation of Satanism (beginning on page 30):

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The Biological Solution

Rorate Caeli reports here that Bishop Michael Olson (age: 47, ordained 1994) of Fort Worth, TX has banned the Traditional Latin Mass at Fisher More College.  This decision appears plainly to violate the law of the Church.

It illuminates a larger point.  One of the characteristic slogans of conservative Catholics is “the biological solution.”  In theory, because younger priests are significantly more orthodox than are older priests, soon the hierarchy of the Church will become more orthodox.  The orthodox priests will rise through the hierarchy, you see, becoming bishops and cardinals and someday popes.

This is a dumb idea.  There are about 5000 bishops in the world and about 400K priests.  Thus, there are about 80 priests for each bishop.  In 80 randomly selected young priests, there are going to be several very liberal ones.  Young priests are better, not uniformly good.  Thus, if the hierarchy wants heterodox or disobedient bishops, it will have little difficulty in finding them.  There tend to be around 100 voting cardinals.  That’s one cardinal for each 4000 priests.  Making sure the guys with the red hats are mostly or all liberals is very easy.

Personnel is policy, and selection is a very powerful force.  Just because Chinese are, on average, quite short does not mean that Chinese professional basketball players are, on average, quite short.

What Francis shows Catholics about Catholics

The orthodox Catholic position regarding the Holy Father is that his authority comes from Christ, and therefore is a fact we must live with whether he is a living saint, a silly old fool, or a degenerate scoundrel. No one knew this better than St. Francis of Assisi who dealt with some of the scummiest of the scummy Popes at one of the worst times in the history of the Church, yet who resolved nevertheless to obey them in all things but sin and to make a spirituality of that obedience in order to inspire and transfigure the faithful. This authentically Franciscan orthodoxy made clear the way forward for genuinely holiness-minded Catholics living through difficult times: we need not like the man who is Pope any more than we need like the man who is our father, we may even be inclined to complain to like-minded friends about this or that injurious decision of theirs, but both remain nevertheless our fathers with a legitimate claim to our piety and our prayers, which we sin by withholding.

The modern Western Catholic, who is basically just that and in that order (modern, Western, and only then Catholic), wants and desires to be pious toward the Holy Father but, lacking even a remotely effective formation in history or spirituality or anything else, cannot conceive of such piety and obedience being offered on anything other than (essentially modern) consensual terms. So he convinces himself that he does not love and obey the Pope because he is the vicar of Christ but because he is a good man who never ever says anything stupid, and if you disagree, go to Hell with the rest of the Pharisees.

What Pope Francis is showing Catholics about Catholics is that, what they lack in St. Francis’ holiness, they make up for by being remarkably competent suck-ups.

First Things: a case study in the strengths and weaknesses of Catholic optimism

Is it just me, or nowadays is every other writer at First Things a self-professed “gay Christian”?  Not that I object to people who are fighting different temptations than mine, but it does warp the magazine’s perspective on the great battle of our age.  One would think that all this fighting over same-sex “marriage” was motivated by concern one way or another about how sodomites organize their lives–about making them happy, regularizing their dalliances, or saving them from mortal sin.  No, this is a battle over the meaning of all the existing heterosexual marriages, a fight to defend the patriarchal family and with it the sex roles that give our lives grace and nobility.  What is most missing from our spokesmen is not a vision of how celibate homosexuals can avoid loneliness, but an honest statement of what marriage should be:  of indissolvability, of masculine and feminine roles properly embraced, of male headship.  Get that straight, and it will be obvious to anyone that such an institution is necessarily heterosexual.  Of course, we won’t hear this from any conservative publication or even from Rome itself, even though all of it is clearly and definitively laid out in sacred Scripture.  They begin the argument already fatally compromised.

That’s not the subject of this post, but as you’ll see, it’s related.

When I discovered First Things a decade ago, it was a tremendous consolation to me.  It was the first intellectually serious, unapologetically orthodox and conservative Christian publication I had found.  To this day, when I imagine what an ideal conservative magazine would be, I think of First Things as it seemed to me when I first encountered it.  Here were historians, theologians, philosophers, and political scientists taking the Church’s side against the world, rather than scolding the Church and apologizing to the world for Her inexcusable failure to get with the program.

At the center of it all was Richard John Neuhaus, who brought something indispensable to the whole endeavor.

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Paul Gottfried’s New Website

The redoubtable Paul Gottfried, one of the best living analysts of liberal-theocratic absolutism and its weird mental gymnastics, and more than that, a relentless critic of so-called conservatives who accommodate and facilitate liberalism, is well-known for his books and articles.  Gottfried has established his own website, The Gottfried Report, where he does what he does best without being filtered through a third party’s wont or sensitivity.  I strongly recommend The Gottfried Report to readers of The Orthosphere.

Borg message to Christians: You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

Over at First Things:  At EU Faithful Christians Need Not Apply?  I was all set to cheer on a besieged faithful Christian.  Then I learned more about him:

Borg was grilled for three hours at a hearing before the European Parliament last Tuesday afternoon. Right out of the box, leftist MEPs demanded to know his position on LGBT rights and abortion. Borg had been accused of saying derogatory things about homosexuals and of denying them basic rights. He disarmed his accusers by outright denying he had ever said anything unkind about homosexuals and asserted that not only did he agree with European laws on non-discrimination, but that they should seek out and put an end to all forms of homophobia anywhere in the European Union.

So, Mr. “faithful Catholic” Tonio Borg promises to launch a merciless persecution to eradicate every religion and culture that embraces the truth about men and women (“homophobia”).  He will seek out and obliterate every law and custom that recognizes the patriarchal family as normative (“discrimination”), and he will impose the androgynist utilitarian system everywhere, even though this would mean the extinction of his own putative faith and national culture.  Not long ago, we were lamenting this same pathologization of moral sanity by Justin Welby, ArchWeasel of Canterbury, but really the Maltese Catholic Borg is much worse.  At least the Anglicans aren’t making tyrannical threats about “seeking out and putting an end to” all non-approved thoughts over an entire continent.

And the outcome?

Through a combination of canniness and capitulation, Tonio Borg was approved last week as the new European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection. The final vote was 386-281 with 28 abstentions…

Borg joins 26 other “Commissioners” as the rulers of Europe on what is perhaps the least democratic “democratic” body on Earth.

It could always be worse

I feel somewhat foolish now for my earlier uncharitable ribbing of our shepherds in the Church, and bad enough that I took it to confession yesterday (and I offer my apologies to any readers scandalized by my gratuitous insults of the Lord’s anointed). Our bishops may often be silly, foolish old men, but we’re lucky to have them, especially in light of the alternative.

Speaking of which, check out Dr. Charlton’s remarks on the new head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Cantebury Justin Welby, the “inexperienced mediocrity” who looks like a state-sponsored therapist of questionable sexuality and sounds like a terminally anxious employer being threatened with a hostile work environment suit, whose duplicitous waffling will surely doom a Church that is already in decline and probably cannot survive a long reign by another pallid platitude-peddler.