What does “neocon” really say?

On this blog we are seeing certain labels tossed around like wind-swirled liter in the corner of a carpark.

We need clear civil discussion about what is meant in the secular context and the ecclesial context by


I suppose we will have to make distinctions by also getting somewhat into "paleo-con" and "crunchy-con".

Do us all a favor: If you don’t really know what you are talking about, perhaps it might be better just to read this discussion rather than post in it.

Thanks! And be careful.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. David Andrew says:

    Perhaps a place to start, with the usual caveats would be the entry for the term in Wikipedia.

    To be honest, after reading the Wiki article it doesn’t mean what I thought it did, and as you point out, it seems to get tossed around pretty freely.

    That’s my careful contribution, and from this point forward I will read what gets posted here with great interest.

  2. Felicitas says:

    A “neoconservative” was a former liberal who became disillusioned with the direction the Democratic Party was taking in the late 70’s/early 80’s, and who switched allegiance to the Republican Party of Reagan’s era.

    At the start of the Iraq war, the American left began using the term to denote a traitor to leftist causes. But, it didn’t take long for the word to morph into the shortened form “neo-con”, which at first meant “anyone who supports the War on Terror”. It was amusing to see such lifelong Republicans as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld referred to as neo-cons.

    Now, it seems to mean anyone of right-leaning views at all, that the person using the term disapproves of and wishes to depersonalize and neutralize.

  3. prof. basto says:

    Someone writting to support the agument that the SSPX Bishops hadn’t been excommunicated also used the term “Neo-Cath” (Neo-Catholic, I assume). It’s clearly a form of derrogatory used by the poster to describe those (even conservative people, and even traditionalists) who belong to what he sees as the “Conciliar Church” or who accept the teachings of the Apostolic See (that he calls “Modernist Rome”).

  4. Veritas says:

    The only thing “neocon” really says is just how far we’ve come in adapting secularist analytical paradigms to Church matters, another example of the need to reclaim our true identity–Catholic, unqualified by loaded adjectives that lend nothing but confusion.

  5. Mark says:

    When I use this term (ecclesiastic), it generally means a person who is doctrinally orthodox (more or less), but ignorant of, or hostile toward the Traditionalist movement. Generally it is not a particularly flattering term. As a caricature, they quote Vatican II all the time and want to interpret it conservatively according to the letter, but are ignorant of most pre-conciliar teachings and documents. They tend to turn Vatican II into a super-doctrine, that cannot be questioned. They are very ultramontane: you cannot criticize the pope at all. They are devoted mostly to the JPII saints and St. Therese. They cannot admit that the New Mass, done in Latin with chant and ad orientem, could possibly be a step backwards from the extraordinary form. Neocons are often not intentionally neocons, but just ignorant, or, as I theorize it, afraid of the consequences of admitting the trads are right. However, as it does carry a negative connotation, it is probably more Christian to avoid it. Additionally, there are variations in meaning. I would guess there are some in the sspx who would describe me as neo-con because I attend the N.O. when I can’t get to the TLM.

  6. Cosmos says:

    In my opinion, a “neo-con” is (to begin):
    1) A person who, regardless of his personal spiritual habits, approaches the world and his intellectual faith from the perspective of classic “liberalism.”
    2) A person who implicitly takes the dynamic and compelling vision of JPII as if it were, in fact, the faith itself. This may be compared to early Franciscans who reduced Catholicism to “fransicanism.” It is generally done in the name of the “true meaning of Vat II.”
    3) A person who, while at ease with the tradition as part of history, casually considers apparent splits with that tradition as thoroughly “catholic” and easily explained as development of doctrine. It is the constant evolution of practical pastoral approaches to bringing the faith to the contemporary world.
    4) A person who conflated unquestioning obedience to the Pope with obedience to the Church base on the historic accident of the decades long year reign of JPII. It is unclear how these men would have fared under infamous past popes, or how their rhetoric coexists with the current Pope. (See, e.g., George Weigel: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/25/world/europe/25pope.html?pagewanted=all)
    5) A person who thinks that, but for bad implementation, VatII would have paved the way to far better church. He is convinvced that all the latent (human) problems in a Church Council inevitably work themselves out out after a few decades, despite the historical record that says otherwise.

  7. Brian Mershon says:

    Neocons appear to the only people who don’t understand what the term means. In the Catholic sense, it is connected with those Catholics who identify with the Troskyites.
    [Okaaay… I think it is time for a quiet time out.] Pretty simply actually. Weigel, Michael Novak, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and others have already been named.

    They also have a tendency to dissent against the Pope when such things as SSPX bishops’ excommunications are overturned, the U.S. wants to engage in an endless unjust war, etc. etc.

    Of course, they are always in the “center” of the Church because only they know when they can disagree with the “prudential judgments and teachings” of the magisterium.

    They are funded by lots of money that does not have Catholic origins, quite possibly politically motivated.

    There are a whole series of articles that explain the American concept here.


    Neoconservative outside of the U.S. means more like “traditionlist.”

    Quite ironic. Neoconservatives can bash people who adhere to the Pope’s decisions (like lifiting the SSPX excommunications) and who receive the news joyfully.

  8. Jenny says:

    I have always taken it to mean formerly liberal Jews. When it is used in anger, I generally understand it as an anti-Semitic remark directed at those who have “forgot their place.” Of course in these last few years, it has also meant “anyone to the right of me.”

  9. Cosmos said: 3. A person who, while at ease with the tradition as part of history, casually considers apparent splits with that tradition as thoroughly “catholic” and easily explained as development of doctrine. It is the constant evolution of practical pastoral approaches to bringing the faith to the contemporary world.

    That’s interesting. I think your #3 is a definition of a progressive Catholic… I guess we don’t all see eye to eye on what these terms mean, do we…

  10. Jordanes says:

    Brian Mershon said: In the Catholic sense, it is connected with those Catholics who identify with the Troskyites. Pretty simply actually. Weigel, Michael Novak, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and others have already been named.

    By that standard, Weigel, Novak and the late Father Neuhaus could not accurately be called neo-conservatives. Novak is, and Neuhaus was, undoubtedly, and they did not identify with Troskyite socialism and communism. I think Weigel is too – if I recall correctly (and I may not), he was formerly a liberal Democrat, but his views became more conservative over time. There was a similar development in the political views of Novak and Neuhaus.

  11. James Isabella says:

    Jenny, this is the way I also understood the original definition. Well before it became a pejorative, I had a political science class at Penn State University in the early ‘90’s, taught by a man who self-identified with “Neo-Conservative”, e.g. a formerly liberal Jew who became disenchanted with the Democratic Party.

    And I, too, assumed it to be an anti-Semitic remark when I first heard it being used at the start of the second Iraq war.

  12. RC says:

    Thanks for mentioning this point, Fr.

    Felicitas has given the proper definition, but this word has been misused to death. At this point, it generally communicates nothing, but it gives people a way of shifting from debate about issues into sloganeering about people.

  13. IMHO, political nomenclature does not always fit into ecclesiastical perspectives. Point in fact:

    Theologically and doctrinally, there are those who are ORTHODOX and those who are HETERODOX. There is either true teaching or false teaching.

    Liturgically, there is either PROPER or IMPROPER use of the authorized rubrics. Sacred celebrations can be LICIT or ILLICIT. Sacraments are either VALID or INVALID.

    Moral Theology tells us that only human acts can be moral acts which mean there must be an act of the free will and use of the rational intellect. Moral acts can be GOOD, EVIL or simply NEUTRAL.

    The problem lies in that many dissidents who espouse heterodox teaching claim to be LIBERAL and they accuse those who defend orthodox doctrine as being CONSERVATIVE.

    Politically, there are liberals, moderates and conservatives. Conservatives can also be subdivided into paleo-cons (old time) and neo-cons (new type). The former espouses strict anti-communist, anti-socialist ideology and supports a federalism style of government where states have more rights than the national government. The latter includes converted liberals and modified conservatives who separate moral issues from political and who promote international intervention when it serves the national interest. Paleo-cons opposed a pre-emptive military strike whereas neo-cons promoted it. Paleo-cons are overtly ant-abortion, pro-life and pro-traditional marriage, while neo-cons want to be inclusive and invite pro-choice and pro-same-sex-marriage supporters under the same tent.

    It is mixing apples with oranges, however, to classify one’s Catholicism as being paleo-conservative or neo-conservative. One is either faithful to the Magisterium (orthodox) or one is a dissident (heterodox). Terms like traditional and progressive, modernist, contemporary, etc., really don’t have a place in Catholic theology, morality or liturgy. Pope Benedict has defined the Roman Rite as having an ORDINARY and an EXTRAORDINARY Form. No use of a ‘traditional’ Mass or a ‘modern’ Mass. Sacred Worship either conforms to rubrics or it does not.

    The press tried to call Pope John Paul II a theological and moral conservative while an economic and political liberal. NONSENSE.

    Faith must INFLUENCE politics, not vice versa. Economic and political terminology do not always translate smoothly into theology or divine liturgy. Truth and grace transcend human opinion. Republicans, Democrats and Independents, however, have no monopoly on truth as we well know. Nevertheless, objectively speaking, it is not conservative to be pro-life and liberal to be pro-choice. It is a SIN to support or tolerate abortion regardless of your political party or its platform.

    Too many political overtones and nuances have blinded Catholics to see clearly what is morally EVIL and what is morally GOOD. We are obligated to DO GOOD and AVOID EVIL. (first moral principle). Politics is but a TOOL to accomplish and achieve goals, whereas moral principles and values either foster goodness or they foster evil. The Devil is neither liberal or conservative, he is just a Liar. What bothers me is when average people water down their morality for the sake of building political coalitions and associations. Compromising one’s values is nothing less than surrender. Incremental progress is a rational strategy as long as we never sell our soul in the process.

  14. Kirk Kramer says:

    “It is, moreover, our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as ‘profane novelties of words,’ out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: ‘This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved’ (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim ‘Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,’ only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself.”

    Pope Benedict XV,
    the encyclical letter Ad beatissimi apostolorum, November 1, 1914

  15. shadrach says:

    Fr Z,

    Thanks for asking. I agree with veritas about the dangers of using secular political terminology to describe matters within the Church. Both those on the political left and right use secular political terms in religious discussion – often to suggest that their pet political projects – the victory of Obama or the Iraq war, for instance – are part of a wider struggle for the salvation of man. I think to be truly Catholic means that you end up, like our Saviour, as an sign of contradiction, that can’t be wholly annexed to any present-day political agenda, right or left, or, indeed, centre. If we are engaged, we should be properly detached. We should also beware of these secular labels. Names matter. If we allow ourselves to be described by secular terms, we are in danger of aiding secular agenda.

    Adveniat regnum Tuum.


  16. Banjo Pickin' Girl says:

    Hooray for Father Trigilio, I am so tired of name-calling and label-making. Think of the effect this has on people who see this blog. And my nickname in school was Quasimodo, who, I believe, was faithful. So faithful I shall be.

  17. Matthew M. says:

    The term is obviously debased beyond usability (e.g. some of the comments above.. Catholic Troskyites??). Anybody is free to look up what it really means (Irving Kristol, Jeane Kirkpatrick, etc). It reaches the maxiumum incomprehensibility when applied to Catholic matters

    But I will offer two de facto manners in which it’s now used:
    1) as a general sneer. often with a subtext of ‘jew’ or ‘jew-friendly’.
    2) as ‘proponent of a faction that is impure and is really even worse that false, and that I particularly hate’

    99% of the time I read ‘neo-con’ it falls into one or both definitions.

    I would also add that I use ‘Neo-con’ as a personal marker. If I hear somebody say or write ‘neocon’ I can safely assume their conversation is not worth having, because they rely on sneer categories instead of actual analysis.

  18. Let me preface this by saying that I am preparing to defend my PhD dissertation in political philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

    I have more than a cursory knowledge of the history and development of the term in question, and a more than passing acquaintance with many of the thinkers upon whom it has been foisted, whether in print, on the internet, or on this thread.

    The term, ‘neo-con’, however spelled, is critically useless.

    It has been applied to so many people of such widely differing views for so long a time, that it’s only value is polemical.

  19. Aloysius says:

    Fr. Trigilio is (as is so frequently the case) right on target…I would just add that within the political sphere there can be intersection of the subsets “neo-con” and paleo-con”, i.e. there can be an overlap of ideas. There are some who are pro-life, pro-traditional marriage AND pro-strong national defense, including pre-emptive military action.

  20. Baron Korf says:

    Anytime I see “neo-con” it makes me think “wanna-be” or “poser”. As if this is what being conservatism is like today, but not in the golden, good ol’ days of yore…

    But that’s just my interpretation.

    Cheers to Padre Trigilio!

  21. fra paolo says:

    I don’t think neocon is appropriate for discussion of ‘political’ trends in the Catholic Church. In the secular world of the United States it refers to a particular recipe of policy options that nowadays is could be regarded as ‘Theodore Roosevelt Republicanism’ for the 21st century. I don’t think it’s traveled to other countries.

    If you really were determined to use it in the context of the Catholic Church, I don’t think a neocon Catholic would embrace the Extraordinary Form. Politically, neocons are modernist, so ecclesiastically they would Ordinary Formers.

  22. Emilio III says:

    Tom, it might be a good idea to post a link to Fr. Neuhaus’ article rather than (or in addition to) sspx.org’s criticism of it. It can be found at http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=467 for those interested.

  23. Basil says:

    I think part of the difficulty here is that the term “neoconservative” is used to mean different things in different domains –

    * it historically has a connection with anti-Communist liberals who became conservatives
    * in contemporary foreign policy, the term is often applied to those who advocate the use of American political, economic, and military power to spread liberal democracy.
    * in domestic policy, the term is sometimes applied to “big government conservatives”, who are more or less comfortable with the modern form of the American state and seek to use its power for what they see as conservative ends.
    * in theology, it refers to those who view a synthesis between the Catholic tradition and the liberal Enlightenment tradition (especially in its American, rather than European form), as both possible and desirable. The term “Whig Thomists” and “Augustinian Thomists” has also been proposed for the “neoconservative” and anti-neoconservative sides of this debate.

    A person could hold positions referred to as “neoconservative” in one domain but not in others, and many do; at the same time, there is a lot of overlap and historical connection between neoconservatism in the different spheres.

    Typical neoconservative magazines and journals in politics and theology would be things like the Weekly Standard, Commentary, and in many respects First Things in its current form (though people involved with it at earlier times, like Stanley Hauwerwas and Christopher Lasch, are very much not neoconservative).

    Typical anti-neoconservative ones would be something like the American Conservative in politics, and things like Communio, Caelum et Terra (http://www.caelumetterra.com/), and the New Pantagruel (http://www.newpantagruel.com/) in theology and culture.

  24. DM says:

    I remember once, when someone asked for a definition of “neo-Catholic” in the ecclesiastical sense, offering this as a non-polemical definition:

    A Neo-Catholic is a Catholic who attempts in good faith to be orthodox, and whose opinions about how the Church should act (in regards to oecumenism, liturgy, culture, evangelization, the interpretation of Vatican II &c) are primarily defined by John Paul II’s papacy.

    I would say that the difference between traditionalists and neo-Catholics is more about approach and philosophy than about specific conclusions. Generally, a neo-Catholic believes:

    1) That the documents of Vatican II, the encyclicals of John Paul II and the 1992 Catechism are either infallible, above criticism, or simply correct.

    2) That the ecclesiastical traditions of the Church do not have a permanent objective content, and can be changed, added to, or subtracted from whenever and for whatever reason the Pope or his authoritative representatives deem fit.

    3) That modern culture is analogous to pagan culture, and should be evangelized in the same manner, with the same expectation of success.

    And a traditionalist believes the opposite.

  25. chironomo says:

    This is a word (or words) often heard when an argument begins to degrade into name-calling and labeling. As a political term, it’s usefulness in discussing ecclesial matters is limited, and as can be seen from the ongoing discussion here, it can lead to misunderstandings and even more name calling. As has been noted above, the meaning of the term has changed from it’s original definition (A Democrat, not necessarily a “liberal”, who changed party affiliation as the Dems moved further to the left in response to the politics of the Reagan era) to a more general definition of those identifying themselves with Reagan style conservatism, to the current definition of a right-wing conservative, usually hawkish and fiscally conservative. That is how we arrived at the rather strange situation of persons like Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, men who have always held strong conservative views, being referred to as Neo-Cons. The problems seems to arise when these political terms come into use to describe ecclesial views, the result being that progressives become “leftists” or “liberals” and the orthodox positions become “conservative” and “right-wing”. Those who hold particularly passionate views concerning orthodoxy then invite the application of terms like “neo-con” since we associate that term with those further to the right politically. IMHO, the term has no real use in an argument about theology, any more than does the term “liberal”. There are folks who are politically to the far right who hold extremely progressive views of liturgy…

  26. DM says:

    I also suggest the term “Johannepaulist” to describe the particular set of enthusiasms and opinions that most traditionalists would call “neo-Catholic”, just because it’s reasonably accurate, and less likely to cause offense or derail a serious discussion with semantic quibbling.

  27. Bernie says:

    Is this the Fr Trigillo from EWTN?

    Just wondering father. I like your posts and your work at EWTN (if this is who you are).

    As we say in Portuguese… “sua bencao padre” (requesting your blessing, father),

  28. MCH says:

    I do not believe the term “neocon” has any ecclesiastical meaning outside the United States. Within the U.S., the term usually refers to such Catholic public intellectuals as George Weigel, Michael Novak, Robert George, and the late Richard John Neuhaus. In general, they take the view that the Church has reconciled itself, and rightfully so, with liberalism and/or with modernity. This occurred either with Vatican II or in JP II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus. It is said that John Courtney Murray, S.J., was the forerunner who paved the way for such a reconciliation, who taught the Church to appreciate America’s achievement–for America is the pre-eminently modern and liberal nation-state. As a result, American-style liberal democracy and democratic capitalism can now be embraced as, in fact, “the best regime,” the closest fallen human beings have come to the best order for man in society.

    “Conservative” Catholics–without prefix–I take to mean Catholics who persist in the traditional Catholic critique of modernity–reaching back to various philosophical criticisms of Descartes–and of liberalism–reaching back to the reaction against the French Revolution. While such Catholics may appreciate the practical benefits of America’s social order, they contend that there remains nevertheless something wrong with the liberal theory on which the order is said to rest. This was the position of, e.g., the 19th-centurh American Catholic thinker Orestes Brownson, who held that the American Founders “built better than they knew.” Conservative Catholics also have a more “conservative” reading of John Courtney Murray, observing that Murray’s answer to the question, “Can America’s liberal political order be reconciled with Catholicism?” was: only if that order is understood in terms of “articles of peace” rather than “articles of faith.” In other words, only if America’s settlement is understood as a practical arrangement rather than as the Truth: it is not the Truth. And what is more, Murray held that religious pluralism in America was only possible on account of America’s moral uniformity–a moral uniformity which has been eroding over the past several decades, precisely as America’s social order conforms more and more closely to theoretical liberalism.

    Thus, conservative Catholics tend to take a more critical stance toward America than do neoconservative Catholics. Perhaps as a result, conservative Catholic public intellectuals (such as David Schindler) do not rise to such prominence as do neoconservative Catholic public intellectuals.

  29. chironomo says:

    Chris Altieri…

    Thanks for your insight. I think my post above went a ways towards proving your point although that’s not what I intended. There are about 25 comments here, all with slightly different though similar definitions! Perhaps this is a term, as you noted, that ought not be used in this context…

  30. It’s important to seperate a political neo-con from a religious neo-con.

    Religiously speaking, I think that the broadest definition of a neo-con is the “reform of the reform” types. They’re the ones that are infiltrating the TLM ghettos but freely come-and-go to either the TLM or the NO. They are conservative Novus Ordinarians, which seem to equally rankel the trads and the Puppet-driving-Communion-grabbers.

    It’s not a good name, but it seems to be what is sticking.

    Remember all those hours that you spent praying that Catholics would rediscover Tradition? Well, you get what you pray for.

  31. Paul says:

    I echo the posters following and supporting Fr. John Trigilio’s explication, with several small caveats.

    1) Many people commonly described as “neocons” are, in fact, quite pro-life.

    2) The term has distinct connotations when used amongst conservatives (along the lines Fr. Trigilio mentioned) and among or by liberals (“a Republican I don’t like”).

    3) The term in ecclesiastical parlance is often used by sour-grapes traditionalists to refer to anyone who is both not a heretic but also not as sour grapes as they.

    In all cases, it’s not a very useful term. I have seen people self-identify this way, however (once heard a sometime contributor to First Things describe it as a “neo-conservative publication”), which is unusual. It tends inevitably to carry pejorative connotations except in the narrow political sense—and even then there is a distinct possibility.

  32. Paul says:

    PS —

    5) In the political sense, neoconservatives tend to have more fiscally liberal and interventionist views about government’s role than so-called paleoconservatives. But others have, I believe, made this observation as well.

  33. reader says:

    It should first be understood that Neo-con is a political ideologue, regardless of what religion they claim to belong to. Usually, their ideology gets the better of their religious teachings.

    One of the hallmarks of Neoconserativism is that it believes that American military might may be justifiably used to spread pluralism, capitalism, and “democracy” around the world.

    The war in Iraq is the prefect example of this.

    In short, add Rousseau and Thrysamachus together, and the result is basically a neo-con:

    “We’ll force them to be free” + “Might makes right” = “Prepare to be assimilated; resistance is futile. You’ll thank us in the end.”

    Just check out the white papers from the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), as well as reports by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), for actual neo-con blueprints.

    Now, it’s roots are in fact firmly planted in Trotskyite soil. That is indisputable. So too is its development half a century ago amongst certain faculty members at City College in NYC.

    Actually, its roots go even further back than that. Claes G. Ryn at the Catholic University of America has identified similarities between neoconservatism and the Jacobism of the French Revolution. I highly recommend his book, “America the Virtuous” in this regard.

    It should be noted that neoconservatism has nothing to do with actual conservatism at all. An example of a real conservative would be Edmund Burke, a man who certainly would decry the foreign policy prescriptions of today’s neo-cons.

    Real conservatives tend to be called “paleo-cons”, since they belong to the old / original meaning of the term conservative, and would be guys like John Adam’s whole family, Robert Nisbet, Russell Kirk, Barry Goldwater, and Pat Buchanan. Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind” is an excellent introduction into real conservative thought, and the more you read it the more you’ll understand what separates the neo-cons from the true heritage of conservatism.

    I still haven’t the life of me figured out what a “crunchy con” is.

    But some of us do in fact know what Neo-Con means, and who they are, and why they are so dangerous. Good Catholics should beware not to be manipulated by any ideology, especially neoconservatism.

  34. Charlotte says:

    Thanks, Father Z., for opening up this thread. It’s a much more lively way to learn about what a neo-con is than reading the highbrow, longish essay about it over on Fisheaters. Sometimes it’s simpler just to ask people and take in all the debate.

  35. paul zummo says:

    One of the hallmarks of Neoconserativism is that it believes that American military might may be justifiably used to spread pluralism, capitalism, and “democracy” around the world.

    This is not entirely accurate. I\’ve read a few primers on neoconservatism, and even studied under the aforementioned Claes Ryn at CUA (who was one of the advisers on my dissertation), and I don\’t think they\’re of one mind on foreign policy, especially as described here. The one constant is a rejection of realism, but neocons do not universally advocate use of the military for the spread of democracy. In fact, some neocons can be almost \”anti-idealistic\” when it comes to such matters.

    Real conservatives tend to be called “paleo-cons”

    This is also debatable. I tend to think that both neocons and paleocons differ from traditional conservatism in various ways. Paleocons are generally much more populist than traditional conservatives, and – at least in my mind – more rigidly ideological.

    Anyway, I agree with most of the commenters who note that the term \”neocon\” has basically lost all meaning. I wouldn\’t go as far as some who think it is completely valueless. Yes Virginia, there really are neocons. But they are not as numerous (nor wicked) as often portrayed.

  36. chironomo says:


    Successive comments have now done a better job of making my point than my own comment did…that the definition stays the same but the connotation changes depending on one’s own political views. Probably why it is a poor term to use in mixed company! The problem now appears to me to be not what the definition is, but what a particular person means when they use it, or a term like “neo-Catholic”. I particularly like the above definition.. “A Republican I don’t like”…

    Still, there are a variety of takes on “neo-con” above that are 180 degrees from what I take the term to mean, at least in the popular political jargon…

  37. Charlotte says:

    I was the one who posed the original question on a different thread: Can someone please give a short, concise explanation of what a neo-conservative is? Those of us reading the hundreds of comments on all these SSPX posts are able to get a small idea, but I’d like an actual explanation/definition. I’m sure there is someone who will take this request as an act of charity. Thanks!

    Some of the initial responses on that thread included:

    1. “Neoconservative is basically a meaningless term now. It originally referred to a group of New York, Jewish, intellectual liberals who increasingly became more conservative in their politics as the Democratic party radicalized in the 60s and 70s. The term grew to include any former liberal who became more conservative in response to the radicalization of the Democratic Party. In this sense, Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and the late Fr. Neuhaus are neoconservative. Now it just means anyone who holds certain policy positions such as being more sympathetic to the welfare state (although they want government to work for conservative ends) and supportive of a more hawkish/interventionist foreign policy. They are also generally considered ardent defenders of a strong U.S.-Israel alliance.

    Neoconservative is also used to refer to non-Traditionalist, conservative Catholics. Thus, they support the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, they just critique the manner in which the Council has been implemented or interpreted. They are also characterized as ultramontane. The term is usually used pejoratively. In this sense, George Weigel, Fr. Neuhaus (again) and Michael Novak are considered neoconservative. (Note there is usually alot of overlap between Catholic neoconservatives and neoconservatives more generally.)”

    2. “I think the term “neo-Conservative” is an American term for those Catholics who usually have an exaggerated view of the papacy e.g believing that every single thing a Pope does or says is an act of the Holy Ghost, which is beyond question. Any form of reservation or criticism would equate to “schism” for them. They would also seem to feel that in order to be seen as faithful to the “new regime” they have to disassociate themselves with the old ways (hence the number of priests of good will, that would not allow or celebrate the traditional liturgy because it “turning back” on the council or doesn’t fit in with their “reform of the reform programme).

    And they would also tend to ignore church history and pronouncements from before the council – thus giving the impression to non-Catholics that the church started in 1962.”

    3. “I don’t believe it’s considered “neoconservative” to support the reforms actually called for by ecumenical council. I think you would be right on if you dropped this part of the description. The term is generally not applied to those, like Fr. Z who cling to the tradition of the Church and use the EF exclusively or, OF properly celebrated (ie. in a very traditional fashion). It’s more associated with Catholics who embrace many of the reforms that went beyond the teaching of the council, but still adhere to the moral teachings on abortion, contraception, homosexuality etc.”

    4. “I also disagree that the Neo-Cons are ultramontane. They praise the Popes and spin their writings to support their agenda, but when the Popes come out clearly against their beliefs, they have no problem defying the Pope. So when the Pope and Vatican were clear that he US war with Iraq did not meet the just war criteria, they went to Rome and gave talks undermining the traditional teaching, and pretending the Pope was acting outside his prerogatives by deciding the morality of the action.”

  38. Joe says:

    It has been my understanding that a “neo-con” is someone who believes the United States should spread republican (in the technical sense not referring to the modern party) democracy throughout the world. They believe that the US political and economic system will outlast all others and is the best that has ever been constructed; thus the evangelical mandate. I came to interpret Bush II’s rhetoric as an expression of this belief system. Yet such rhetoric is not confined to the Republican party. FDR, Clinton, and Obama (and probably others too) have said similar things.

    Now, one cannot just assume that this political philosophy is beneficial to humanity, especially if one is Catholic. Belloc, for one, was very clearly opposed to the kind of society that we now have, for it is based on Calvinist errors regarding the relationship between the human person and God (specifically, the reconciliation of materialism with Christianity). In other words, it is spiritually unsound to adhere to the belief that “America” is the world’s last best hope (if you are trying to become a saint).

  39. Ruben says:

    I’d like to add something I think might be good to reflect upon. It is a thought expressed once by Alice von Hildebrand in which she recalled what her husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand, had to say about the “right” and “left”. It is that “The Catholic is neither right nor left, he looks at temporal things in the light of eternity and he goes higher or deeper, but it is perfectly stupid to say right or left from a purely Catholic point of view.”

  40. Steve says:

    Ferrara and Woods define Neo-Con in a Catholic sense and call them Neo-Catholics. They are the Wanderer
    variety trads who border on Papolotry and have an incorrect understanding of Papal infallibility.
    [HUH?] This error
    causes them to see “Catholicism” as whatever the Pope says or is in favor of. All disagreement with the
    Pope, even when he is steering the Church towards an iceberg, is to cease and we must agree with him at all costs.

    Neo-Catholics are perfectly exemplified by the fairy tale “The Emporer Has No Clothes”.

    Neo-Caths before 1984- “The TLM was abrogated! The Pope can abrogate it and he did by issuing the Novus Ordi!
    You Traditionalists need to repent, stop disobeying the clear wish of the Holy Father that the TLM dissappear
    and report directly to your nearest clown mass to offer it up as a penance for your disobedience.

    Neo-Caths after 1988- The Holy Father says we can have the TLM with the Bishop’s permission, but you
    MUST be obedient to your Bishop! A priest has NO right to say TLM. It is an exception to the rule.
    If the Bishop doesn’t grant you a TLM in your diocese it is because God wants you to do penance for
    not liking the NO He gave you.

    Neo-Caths after Summorum Ponitificum- As we’ve been saying all along, the TLM was never abrogated! Alleluja!
    The Holy Father is so good to us! Priests had the right to say it all along as we said. How silly
    the notion that it was abrogated. How foolish! Of course the TLM, can not be abrogated! Viva Il Papa!
    [Okay… I think you need a little quiet time in the corner. CU.]

    Neo-Caths right after ’88- The SSPX are schismatic disobedient excommunicants disloyal to the Pope!…… (repeat cycle)

  41. ETH says:

    I think Fr. Trigillio’s description is basically right.

    I would quibble, however, with part of his definition of secular neoconservatives. He states:

    “[Neoconservatives] include[] converted liberals and modified conservatives who separate moral issues from political and who promote international intervention when it serves the national interest. Paleo-cons opposed a pre-emptive military strike whereas neo-cons promoted it. Paleo-cons are overtly ant-abortion, pro-life and pro-traditional marriage, while neo-cons want to be inclusive and invite pro-choice and pro-same-sex-marriage supporters under the same tent.”

    Many people who self-identify as neoconservatives don’t fall under this definition. For example, Michael Novak, Ross Douthat (at least with respect to domestic policy) and Joseph Bottum identify themselves as neoconservatives but you could hardly accuse them of “separat[ing] moral issues from political” issues or desiring to rub elbows with pro-choice supporters. The expansiveness of the term “neoconservative” has rendered it basically meaningless (at least in the secular context). It use to actually mean a very identifiable thing–i.e., a group of New York, Jewish, former-liberal intellectuals (like Irving Kristol)–now it means anyone who gravitates more toward the National Review or Weekly Standard versus the American Conservative.

    However, at a very high level of abstraction, I think you can distinguish the two strands of conservatism in American politics. On the one hand, paleos adhere to a more organic, Burkean understanding of civil society and government and thus reject social contract and the related concept that human relationships/obligations are primarily the result of consent. Thus, prescription, prejudice and tradition figure largely in paleo-policy making. On the other hand, neoconservatives accept some of the fundamental premises of the Enlightenment and therefore are more optimistic in reason’s power (i.e., abstract ideas rather than the concrete reality of tradition) to shape public policy.

    I think this article by Ross Douthat, wherein he review Conservatism: An Encyclopedia, gives a pretty good brief description of the various stands of conservatism in the United States: http://www.mmisi.org/ir/42_02/douthat.pdf

  42. Loren Z says:

    The New Oxford Review has a very good editorial explaining neoconservatism including Catholics such as George Weigel being involved in the movement. Check out:


  43. boredoftheworld says:

    I hope I don’t get sent to the corner for this but I have generally thought that neocon (or neocat) was used to indicate a person who as a Catholic was very much an American. I’ve always used it that way and I’ve understood that was the intention of other people when they’ve used it.

  44. Baron Korf says:

    I’ve been called a neo-con, in terms of the church, before. After this thread I still can’t tell if I am one or not!

  45. Patrick says:

    In short: a neo-conservative Catholic would be one that is orthodox, except on the “Jewish Question”. That is, they believe the “Old Covenant” to still be valid for those that identify themselves as Jews. Anyone that does not consider “the Jews”, their struggles, and their victories to be special, is considered, by the neo-conservatives, to be an anti-Semite, and outside of [their own version] of orthodoxy.

  46. Holly says:

    I think it’s Steve, above, who just wrote on the fisheater website forum that “NeoCon=Father Z”!

  47. So I guess it really is the equivalent of name calling for some people.

    I wonder if any of them will figure out what I am trying to do here. Ever.

  48. IS says:

    I’ve never been called a neo-con before. I’m heavily involved in politics in Australia and in the Church.

    Generally, neo-cons referred to in Aust are those connected with the orthodox movements but not trad or
    pro-beauty explicitly.

    Neo-Con: Opus Dei, Regnum Christi and similar.

  49. Romulus says:

    About 5 years ago I went to hear George Weigel give a talk as part of a series supposedly devoted to religious matters. I thought he would be talking about the late Pope, whose biographer he is, or about the Vatican’s posture on interreligious dialogue (it was an ecumenical gathering at a secular university). What we received was a lengthy apologia for the recently-launched war in Iraq — surprisingly without one reference that I can remember to Just War doctrine.

    I agree with what others here have said about neoconservatism as a mixture of free market fundamentalism and muscular international interventionism. It first appeared on my radar screen in the early Reagan years. Democrats like Sen. Scoop Jackson of Washington and ex-Democrats like Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick could be relied upon to take a hard anti-Soviet line. Champions of free market capitalism also saw themselves as allies — after the stagflation of the Nixon-ford-Carter years, the 80s were a decade of heroic materialism in the eyes of many.

    I do not know why Jews came to be so heavily represented in the ranks of neoconservatism. It’s a fact that Commentary, the organ of the American Jewish Committee, identified itself on its masthead as “the home of neoconservatism”, and that that journal was an energetic advocate of pro-Israel and anti-Soviet policies. That its editor, Irving Kristol, acknowledged his past as a Trotskyite is not in dispute. The magazine became a home for many who later come to the neocon forefront, such as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle (quondam aide to Sen. Jackson).

    IMO it’s this Trot appetite for export and imposition of a secular liberal ideology that is particularly offensive. Movements for globalist world orders centered on new paradigms creep me out because of their Marxist/rationalist presuppositions about the inevitability of historical forces and the malleability of man. The idea that “the will of the people” (more accurately, what the people can be persuaded their will is) is sovereign is deeply unchristian and untraditional. For this reason I have no trouble perceiving neoconservatism as a threat to authentic conservatism.

  50. Timothy says:

    I’m just beginning to pay attention to this issue, but as best as I can understand it:

    Neo-con = “Might makes right”

  51. David 2 says:

    Dear Fr Z,

    I take it that you are referring to “neo-con” in the Catholic, rather than strictly political sense, in which case many of the comments here are wide of the mark.

    The fundamental difference between neo-conservatives and traditionalists is that the neo-conservative looks at the past through the eyes of the present while the traditionalist looks at the present through the eyes of the past.

    My understanding of the term is taken from an article written by Fr Chad Ripperger FSSP (who teaches at the FSSP seminary in Nebraska). His site http://www.sensustraditionis.org has a lot of excellent sermons, essays and other materials on it.

    Anyway the article appears here: http://www.christianorder.com/features/features_2001/features_mar01.html

    Basically, the origin of the term is that a neo-conservative is conservative, but not in the sense that pre-Vatican II conservatives were conservative. A neo-con can be described as a “magesterialist”. It’s a long article, but will reward a careful reading.

    I Quote:

    As the theological intellectual community began to unravel before, during and after Vatican II, those who considered themselves orthodox were those who were obedient and intellectually submissive to the magisterium since those who dissent are not orthodox. Therefore, the standard of orthodoxy was shifted from Scripture, intrinsic tradition (of which the magisterium is a part) and extrinsic tradition (which includes magisterial acts of the past, such as Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors), to a psychological state in which only the current magisterium is followed.

    Neo-conservatives have fallen into this way of thinking i.e. the only standard by which they judge orthodoxy is whether or not one follows the current magisterium. Traditionalists, as a general rule, tend to be orthodox in the sense that they are obedient to the current magisterium, even though they disagree about matters of discipline and have some reservations about some aspects of current magisterial teachings which seem to contradict the previous magisterium (e.g. the role of the ecumenical movement). Traditionalists tend to take not just the current magisterium as their norm but Scripture(41), intrinsic tradition, extrinsic tradition and the current magisterium as the principles of judgment of correct Catholic thinking. This is what distinguishes traditionalists and neo-conservatives i.e. their perspectives regarding the role of ecclesiastical tradition and how the current magisterium relates to it.

    Inevitably, this magisterialism has led to a form of positivism(42). Since there are no principles of judgment other than the current magisterium, whatever the current magisterium says is always what is “orthodox.” In other words, psychologically the neo-conservatives have been left in a position in which the extrinsic and intrinsic tradition are no longer included in the norms of judging whether something is orthodox or not. As a result, whatever comes out of the Vatican regardless of its authoritative weight, is to be held, even if it contradicts what was taught with comparable authority in the past. Since non-infallible ordinary acts of the magisterium can be erroneous, this leaves one in a precarious situation if one only takes as true what the current magisterium says. While we are required to give religious assent even to the non-infallible teachings of the Church, what are we to do when a magisterial document contradicts other current or previous teachings and one does not have any more authoritative weight than the other? It is too simplistic merely to say that we are to follow the current teaching. What would happen if in a period of crisis, like our own, a non-infallible ordinary magisterial teaching contradicted what was in fact the truth? If one part of the magisterium contradicts another, both being at the same level, which is to believed? Unfortunately, what has happened is that many neo-conservatives have acted as if non-infallible ordinary magisterial teachings (e.g. the role of inculturation in the liturgy as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) are, in fact, infallible when the current magisterium promulgates them. This is a positivist mentality..

    Sorry for the length of that quote, but it’s important for the debate.

  52. David 2 says:

    A slightly shorter version of the Ripperger article, entitled Conservative vs. Traditional Catholicism – Distinctions with Philosophical Differences – appeared in Latin Mass Magazine back in 2001 – http://www.latinmassmagazine.com/articles/articles_2001_SP_Ripperger.html

  53. fxr2 says:

    Father Z,
    Basil’s post (27 January 2009 @ 1:43 pm) nails the definition of Neo-Con politically. I am not in favor of applying political terms to the Church. I think ‘Traditionalist’, ‘Reform of the Reform’, and ‘Sandalista’ or ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ work better. When I see Neo-Con used in the context of the Church I read it as ‘Reform of the Reform’. I believe there is much baggage associated with using the political terms which often offend.
    This and $2.50 will get you a cup of coffee.


  54. No one of consequence says:

    It is too simplistic merely to say that we are to follow the current teaching.

    No it isn’t.

  55. David 2 says:

    No one of consequence,

    That was part of a quote from Fr Ripperger. Did you even read the article? Facetious parsing of individual sentences without dealing with the substance of Fr Ripperger’s distinctions is juvenile and unhelpful to any intelligent debate.

  56. No one of consequence says:

    What would happen if in a period of crisis, like our own, a non-infallible ordinary magisterial teaching contradicted what was in fact the truth?

    It’s the role of the living Magisterium – guided by the Holy Spirit in a way that the rest of us are not – to discern the truth and distinguish it from views that would be reflections of the contemporary crisis.

    Unfortunately, what has happened is that many neo-conservatives have acted as if non-infallible ordinary magisterial teachings (e.g. the role of inculturation in the liturgy as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) are, in fact, infallible when the current magisterium promulgates them.

    Saying that the teachings of the living Magisterium require assent is simply not the same thing as saying that they’re infallible. One could just as easily respond that some traditionalists act as though all past teachings are infallible. Indeed, some traditionalists very explicitly refer to past teachings as infallible that in fact are definitely not.

  57. No one of consequence says:

    David 2: I’m sorry, but I think that the article is replete with unhelpful assertions that don’t themselves have anything to do with the actual teachings of the Magisterium.

  58. David 2 says:

    Fair enough NOOC, but consider this quote on ecumenism:

    The first is that those things that pertain to the extrinsic tradition and do not touch upon the intrinsic tradition are ignored. This manifests itself in the fact that some ecclesial documents today do not have any connection to the positions held by the Magisterium prior to the Second Vatican Council. For example, in the document of Vatican II on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, there is not a single mention of the two previous documents that deal with the ecumenical movement and other religions: Leo XIII’s Satis Cognitum and Pius XI’s Mortalium Animos. The approach to ecumenism and other religions in these documents is fundamentally different from the approach of the Vatican II document or Ut Unum Sint by Pope John Paul II. While the current Magisterium can change a teaching that falls under non-infallible ordinary magisterial teaching, nevertheless, when the Magisterium makes a judgment in these cases, it has an obligation due to the requirements of the moral virtue of prudence to show how the previous teaching was wrong or is now to be understood differently by discussing the two different teachings. However, this is not what has happened. The Magisterium since Vatican II often ignores previous documents which may appear to be in opposition to the current teaching, leaving the faithful to figure out how the two are compatible, such as in the cases of Mortalium Animos and Ut Unum Sint. This leads to confusion and infighting within the Church as well as the appearance of contradicting previous Church teaching without explanation or reasoned justification.

    It highlights a very real problem – very relevant to the SSPX situation.

    The faithful are left with apparrently contradictory documents of equal weight and theologians write tome upon tome trying to reconcile them.

    A neo-con, to my mind, is someone who accepts the latest document from Rome as revoking the earlier, even if the two are of equal weight, or the earlier is more authoritative than the latter. Whoever called it “JohnpaulIIism” above, was abolutely correct.

    A neo-con is someone who blindly follows the current magesterium, while a traditionalist follows the current magesterium applying an hermeneutic of continuity.

  59. Hope this doesn’t put me in the penalty box with Brian:

    Distinguo! by Fr. Ripperger:


    Muddled Thinking by Fr. Neuhaus:
    Comment by Tom in Columbus — 27 January 2009 @ 1:25 pm

  60. Charlotte says:

    OK, since I started this all – I asked “What is a Neo-Con?” – it’s time for some levity:


    And I hope this fun little humor break won’t be oppotunity for more name-calling!

  61. Geoffrey says:

    I was always under the impression that “neo-con” (“neo-conservative”) were the political conservatives in the mold of George W. Bush and those who supported the Iraq war, as opposed to the “traditional” conservatives (Ronald Reagan, Pat Buchanan, etc.).

    Only on this blog have I heard the term used in a Catholic sense. I know “traditionalists” have used the term “neo-Catholic” to describe “conservative Catholics” loyal to Rome in all cases.

    In Catholicism, these terms are really useless and I am saddended that so many people here use them. I am proud to be an orthodox Roman Catholic Christian. No more, no less. Viva il Papa! Ioannes Paulus Magnus, ora pro nobis!

  62. Joe says:

    “A neo-con, to my mind, is someone who accepts the latest document from Rome as revoking the earlier, even if the two are of equal weight, or the earlier is more authoritative than the latter. Whoever called it “JohnpaulIIism” above, was abolutely correct.

    “A neo-con is someone who blindly follows the current magesterium, while a traditionalist follows the current magesterium applying an hermeneutic of continuity.”

    David 2: in this description neo-conservativism sounds a lot like Mormonism, where the latest statement by a living “prophet” is always correct, even if it contradicts something which a previous “prophet” taught. I have tried to explain this to Catholics, that papal infallibility is not a matter of receiving messages sent from God with new ideas and insights (the Mormon god can change his mind completely on things) but rather is about service to enable the Church to be “pillar and foundation of the truth” that St Paul describes Her as.

  63. Joe:

    Your comparison to Mormonism seems astute.

  64. Brian says:

    I would tend apply the name “neo-con” to Catholics who refer to Pope John Paul II as “Pope John Paul the Great.”

  65. In short: a neo-conservative Catholic would be one that is orthodox, except on the “Jewish Question”. That is, they believe the “Old Covenant” to still be valid for those that identify themselves as Jews. Anyone that does not consider “the Jews”, their struggles, and their victories to be special, is considered, by the neo-conservatives, to be an anti-Semite, and outside of [their own version] of orthodoxy.
    Comment by Patrick — 27 January 2009 @ 4:31 pm


    This too may change. As David 2 has pointed out, they are positivists.


  66. Geoffrey says:

    “I would tend apply the name ‘neo-con’ to Catholics who refer to Pope John Paul II as ‘Pope John Paul the Great.'”

    By George! I think that was directed at me!

  67. Brian says:

    “By George! I think that was directed at me!” LOL

  68. David2 says:

    “I would tend apply the name ‘neo-con’ to Catholics who refer to Pope John Paul II as ‘Pope John Paul the Great.’”

    Sounds like a pretty good litmus test to me.

    Another good litmus test is whether the person suggests that the death penalty is gravely wrong in all circumstances and talks of a “consistent ethic of life” – that’s a JPII innovation not supported by any previous Pope, and indeed expressly contrary to previous Catechisms of the Church.

    I had meant to quote this paragraph from Fr Ripperger, too:

    The term “neoconservative,” on the other hand, refers to those who are considered the more conservative members of the Church. More often than not they hold orthodox positions, but they would not assert that it is strictly necessary to reconnect with ecclesiastical tradition. The prefix “neo” is used because they are not the same as those conservatives in authority in the Church immediately before, during and after the Second Vatican Council. The current conservatives, that is, the neoconservatives, are different insofar as the conservatives of the earlier period sought to maintain the current ecclesiastical traditions that were eventually lost.

    How about we get rid of this phrase “neo-con” or “neo-Catholic”, with its political overtones – I mean one never knows whether one is referring to George W Bush or Fr Neuhaus!

    Some suggestions:

    1. Magesteriallists;

    2. JohnPaultheGreatists;

    3. Positivist Catholics;

    4. Catholic Mormonists;

    5. Papal Oraclists;

    6. “Which way is the wind blowing today”-ists.

  69. IS says:

    Hit it in one Brian!

    Different, of course, to ‘the great John Paul II’… along with the other neo-con of ronald reagan.

  70. Geoffrey says:

    Why has this blog suddenly become infested with arch-traditionalists?! Fr Z has a column in The Wanderer… not The Remnant!

  71. David2 says:

    Geoffrey, you call the FSSP and those who attend their Masses (and the occasional Novus Ordo) “arch-traditionalists”?

  72. Paul J. B. says:

    David2 raises some interesting points. However, it seems to me, he goes off the tracks in implying that John-Paul II broke with the tradition of the Church in saying: “the death penalty is gravely wrong in all circumstances.” As a matter of record, Evangelium Vitae said nothing of the sort. It said that in the conditions of the contemporary world, licit uses of the death penalty are rare at best. This is entirely different than saying the death penalty is inherently wrong. Developments in doctrine anyway, always look like contradictions of the previous tradition to those who don’t divide the forms right (to take a turn of phrase from Aristotle.) I do agree that VCII and the Popes since could have made some things clearer, e.g. about how to interpret Dignitatis Humanae, etc. in the light of tradition. But it’s not like the Popes haven’t had other things to do, given the general chaos in (?post-)Christian society, and the other problems in implementing the council! Some patience with the Church is required. It may even take a century, but it will be worth the wait.

    The pope is not an oracle, but we still need to obey him in his ordinary magisterium, and have religious submission of will and intellect to it (obsequium). You will find no saints who consul disobedience to superiors or the magisterium of the Church. Holiness is simply not gained that way. As for me, an unabashed John-Paul II supporter, it matters very little to me if he proves right in the long run in this or that detail of his ordinary magisterium. Indeed, it is very unlikely all the smaller details of his ordinary magisterium will be upheld forever. It almost never works that way for any pope! What matters is that he contributed his strong intellect to defending the tradition, and extending it in some good, but small ways. And he was a living icon of personal sanctity, for those who were willing to accept him, especially in his endless labors.

    I mean this as personal criticism of no-one, however.

    Vivat papa nostra Benedictus XVI! Johannes Paule Seconde, ora pro nobis!

  73. Geoffrey says:

    “Geoffrey, you call the FSSP and those who attend their Masses (and the occasional Novus Ordo) ‘arch-traditionalists’?”

    Ha ha! No, not at all.

  74. Richard says:

    I hadn’t realised it was used in a religious context.

    Politically a “neo-con” is someone who has shifted their support from a left-wing party to a right-wing one due to foreign policy issues. On domestic policy issues they remain moderately left-wing (supporting fairly high levels of welfare and government regulation), but on foreign policy issues they are very hawkish; initially anti-communist in the 70s,t that has now expanded to a general support for “imposing democracy” on the world.

    Joseph Chamberlain (the late 19th century British politician) was the original neo-con. He moved from the Liberals to the Conservatives, retained left-wing (for his time) domestic policies (supporting welfare and statutory workers’ rights, opposing laissez-faire free market capitalism), but strongly supported overseas military action to spread the supposedly civilising influence of British imperialism.

    What on earth this means in a Church context I have no idea.

  75. David Kastel says:

    a “conservative” is someone who is in favor of “conserving” something.
    a “reformer” is the opposite…someone who wants to change the status quo.
    “neo” means new.

    In US politics, the “conservatives” of the past opposed (unsuccessfully) the growth of large, powerful central government. Now that the government is so large and powerful, the “neo-conservatives” are in favor of maintaining the status quo…they are now in favor of large, powerful, central government.

    The “paleo-cons” are in favor of the status quo ante…small government. That is why, in politics, the “paleo-cons” and the “neo-cons” can’t stand each other. (The so-called “neo-con” controlled US government over the last 8 years has grown the size and scope of the federal government tremendously.)

    so a “neo-conservative” is someone who is in favor of conserving the “reformed” status quo.

    In the Church, the “paleo-cons” (such as the SSPX) support the status quo ante i.e.-traditional teaching and liturgy. The “neo-cons” in the Church support the current status quo (the Church as “reformed” since the 2nd Vatican Council.) Genrally the “neo-cons” such as George Weigel hate the “paleo-cons”

  76. elliot says:

    in the immortal words of Vinnie Barbarino….

    “I’m sooooo confused!” ;)

  77. pjthom says:

    I’m involved with the Philadelphia Society where a lot of the discussion over neo-con vs. paleo-con goes on, and politically I can say that:

    (1) As many have noted, Neo-Cons were originally big government conservatives that didn’t apparently care about social or size of government issues. They were concerned with foreign policy first and foremost, were liberals during the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies, but they broke with liberalism when the Democratic party went anti-war and nominated George McGovern. The “Godfather” of the movement was Irving Kristol. Neo-cons are now in their second generation (as the career of Bill Kristol demonstrates) and during this second generation they have adopted more socially conservative policies and moved closer to regular traditionalists. They however continue to be generally in favor of a larger state.

    (2) Paleo-cons are also ill defined since the term has meant many things over the past few years and was originally invoked to refer to Bob Tafts conservatives in opposition to Ike’s “New Republicans” in the 50’s. In recent years its a term that has been claimed by anti-war conservatives who attempt to claim the mantle of the intellectual decendants of Bob Taft, but the term is misleading in that there have been plenty of political traditionalists that have supported the Iraq war. For example, Jonah Goldberg has never claimed to be a neo-con, and has ideas about the scope of government that are not neo-con at all. Obviously, “neo-con” has become a term used by some within the right to describe any pro-war conservative, and in that sense the definition has varried depending on who’s employing the term.

    Theologically I’m not on as firm ground, but I’ve noticed that it parallels the political sense in that it seems to be enthusiastic about what is viewed as respectable 60’s liberalism (JFK, Great Society, LBJ and the Vatican II council) but dismissive of what it views as 70’s abuses (Roe v. Wade, McGovern, and the erosion of Church authority, the bad folk music, the lack of respect for God etc.). I note that there were two waves of change in the 60’s and 70’s. The first from 1963-1965, and the second from 1970-1974. Neo-cons across the board tend to favor the first, and be skeptical about the second. I should also note that conservatives tend to think of themselves on the losing side of the argument with liberalism while neo-cons tend to view themselves as a more advanced form of liberalism (a liberal mugged by reality).

  78. ssoldie says:

    I for one will seek out the TLM, “Gregorian Rite” to any N.O.M and the novelties that accompany it. As Cardinal Ratzenger, Now Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, said in reference to the N.O.M. ‘a fabricated liturgy.’ I often wonder if the Holy Ghost was directing the the pertiti at the council, when Fr Ottiavani’s mic was cut off, and all the applauding and laughter took place?

  79. JayneK says:

    I cannot figure out how to apply these terms to myself. I have been moving steadily towards a more and more traditional approach largely because of my regard for the Pope. His comments about liturgy and the value of the TLM have changed how I worship and how I understand reverence. His obvious concern for unity with the SSPX has led me to a sympathetic attitude toward them and a willingness to acknowledge their past and potential contributions to the Church.

    It makes no sense to me to speak of choosing between Pope and tradition.

  80. Joe says:

    Someone told me once that the difference between a new conservative and an old one was what they thought of Pope John Paul II kissing the Koran. If you thought it was all right because he is the Pope, you are a new conservative. If you thought it was possibly an error, you are an old conservative. (I suppose if you thought it was all right because gosh darn it we are all brothers and sisters anyways and it was just the right thing to do, you are a fan of a different blog)

    I myself who grew up thoroughly in the new style came to love the tradition of the Church through the years of Pope John Paul II, but from afar (i.e. the church where I lived in various places was thoroughly new style). I am growing now to understand the subtleties of finding orthodox Catholicism through the witness of a courageous Pope, and finding it through the witness of the Church’s 2000-year-old tradition, Popes and all.

  81. Joe says:

    Father, you also asked about crunchy con. I take that to mean someone who is socially conservative (pro-life, pro-family) and “green” (the crunchy bit referring to food choices), including being against war and the death penalty. As your election cycle is over I hope you will allow a link to a site for a past candidate for President, as an example of crunchy con: http://www.voteforjoe.com/stands/stands_domestic.html Years ago the New Oxford Review called something similar \”ice cream socialism\”, again with the food but an entirely different flavour.

  82. Bruce says:

    “Another good litmus test is whether the person suggests that the death penalty is gravely wrong in all circumstances and talks of a “consistent ethic of life” – that’s a JPII innovation not supported by any previous Pope, and indeed expressly contrary to previous Catechisms of the Church”

    David2 I always equated JPII’s understanding of the death penalty to be:

    CCC 2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
    If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

    Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

    Nowhere in the above do I get a sense that the “death penalty is gravely wrong in all circumstances”.

    Am I wrong? Or did JPII have a different understanding contrary to the Catechism that he approved?


  83. Paul J. B. says:

    Bruce, you are completely right. See the great encyclical Evangelium Vitae, 56. To say John-Paul II did not know or some up Catholic tradition is a little ridiculous to me. Read the footnotes of his documents, please! He was a quite learned man, and had plenty of good advisors–Cardinal Ratzinger being among the foremost of them. Only someone who reads his documents with blinders on could say that, at least as a general proposition.

    I’m a little amused too that some people remember above all about him is his kissing the Koran. Had I been advising him I would have recommended him not to do it, because of the risk of scandalizing a certain sort. But to my mind is fundamentally similar morally to St. Francis’s publically reverencing of pagan books, on the grounds they contained at least some of the truth. St. Francis, it’s said persisted in this even though some condemned him for it!

  84. William H. Phelan says:

    In 1996, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, David Wurmser et al wrote a report for the Netanyahu government titled “A Clean Break”, suggesting that Israel abandon Oslo to topple Middle East governments militarily. The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) was also begun at that time. It stated the U.S. and Israel will dominate the world politically, economically and militarily as the U.S. would be the only super power. The attack on Iraq followed from this group and their thinking.

    See: The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
    John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt Farrar, Strauss, Giroux 2007

  85. Joe says:

    It would be significant if what someone remembered above all about the great Pope John Paul II was his kissing a Koran. I don’t know why he did it, or what he was thinking the next day. My interest in the episode is not what he thought about it, but what others (not just a certain sort) think about it.
    And of course not everything a Saint did in this world was necessarily holy, or right, or prudent, or to be imitated!

  86. Kevin V. says:

    A “neo-con” is just a conservative, because conservatism is a form of liberalism. You cannot have conservatism without liberalism, it makes no sense. It is it’s dialectal opposite.

    This is such an obvious point it has been lost. What is a “conservative” trying to conserve. In the words of Russell Kirk, the “permanent things”, which are those things liberals are trying to destroy. If liberals weren’t trying to destroy it, conservatives wouldn’t need to “conserve” it.

    The problem with “conservatives”, political or religious, is they are straining gnats after having swallowed the camel.

    They accept the metaphysical, epistemological and ethical assumptions of modernity while rejecting their logical consequences. It’s an endless, pointless battle they cannot win. Their only out is to re-examine their entire worldview in light of reason, revelation, tradition and history and see where they went wrong in the first place. There are no easy answers.

    There is such a critique being attempted, see John Milbank’s Theology and Social Theory for a start.

  87. Geoffrey says:

    “It would be significant if what someone remembered above all about the great Pope John Paul II was his kissing a Koran.”

    That story is so old, and yet apparently not old enough!

    It is customary in Polish culture to kiss a gift upon receiving it. John Paul the Great was not a “closet Muslim” or whatever else arch-traditionalists try to maintain. Read his writings. Study his life. He was a saint. Santo subito!

  88. Paul J. B. says:

    Point well taken, Joe.

Comments are closed.