“Si vis pacem para bellum!” Traditional Catholic Activism? Possible? Necessary? Unavoidable? A mind exercise.

I am mindful of what I posted here: 3.5% of a group can bring the group down, turn it around, or take it over.

A friend, who sees and sends the most interesting things, saw and sent this, from The European Conservative.

“Ten Principles of Conservative Activism” by Sebastian Morello

It is good to see the intro to this. I’ll leave the actual ten principles for your own worthy reading.  This is also good for a mental exercise.

Lead in: An image of Ferdinand and Isabella receiving the surrender of Muhammad XII at Granada.

Then…

Remember, you are not trying to establish an environment of tolerance and mutual-understanding. Like Isabella and Ferdinand, you are trying to recover the territory. Treat the new Left like people who hate you, because they do.  [This is true in the Church, too.]

My emphases and comments:

Let’s face it, conservatives are lousy when it comes to activism. We don’t see ourselves as activists, and we’re not very good at adopting such an approach, even as all that is most dear to us is swept away by ideological mischief-makers who know little more than the thrill of repudiating what they do not understand. The reason, of course, that conservatives are poor activists is to be found in the fact that the ‘political struggle’ is not of great interest to conservatives. This is an observation that was well captured in the Viscount Hailsham’s The Conservative Case:

Conservatives do not believe that political struggle is the most important thing in life. In this they differ from Communists, Socialists, Nazis, Fascists, Social Creditors, and most members of the British Labour Party. The simplest among them prefer fox-hunting—the wisest [among them], religion. To the greatest majority of Conservatives, religion, art, study, family, country, friends, music, fun, duty, all the joy and riches of existence of which the poor no less than the rich are the indefeasible freeholders, all these are higher in the scale than their handmaiden, the political struggle.

Conservatives want to carve out a small part of this valley of tears, turn it into a home, and enjoy their lives in a world that so often thwarts such humble aspirations. For the conservative, the way to do this, as Roger Scruton used often to say, is to cultivate a love for all that is loveable, and forgiveness towards all that is not.

[…]

Let’s have a mind exercise.  Substitute some terms…

Let’s face it, traditional Catholics are lousy when it comes to activism. We don’t see ourselves as activists, and we’re not very good at adopting such an approach, even as all that is most dear to us is swept away by ideological mischief-makers who know little more than the thrill of repudiating what they do not understand. The reason, of course, that traditional Catholics are poor activists is to be found in the fact that the ‘political liturgical/ecclesiastical struggle’ is not of great interest to traditional Catholics. This is an observation that was well captured in the Viscount Hailsham’s The Conservative Case:

traditional Catholics do not believe that liturgical/ecclesiastical struggle is the most important thing in life. In this they differ from Communists, Socialists, Nazis, Fascists, Social Creditors, and most members of the British Labour Party  [Jesuits, Homosexualists, Papalorous Ideologues, Progressivist Liturgists, Hacks at Villanova, the Fishwrap, The Bitter Pill, Minons of Globalism, Betrayers of Chinese Catholics…]   .  The simplest among them prefer fox-hunting—the wisest [among them], religion. To the greatest majority of Traditional Catholics, religion, art, study, family, country, friends, music, fun, duty, all the joy and riches of existence of which the poor no less than the rich are the indefeasible freeholders, all these are higher in the scale than their handmaiden, the liturgical/ecclesiastical struggle.

Traditional Catholics want to carve out a small part of this valley of tears, turn it into a home, and enjoy their lives in a world that so often thwarts such humble aspirations. For the traditional Catholic, the way to do this, as Roger Scruton used often to say, is to cultivate a love for all that is loveable, and forgiveness towards all that is not.

Whilst these observations about conservatives and their attitude towards the political struggle are no doubt true, one cannot raise them to justify complacency in the face of civilizational collapse. We may not be naturally good at liturgical/ecclesial activism, but that only means that we must cultivate by art what more degenerate people possess by nature. Basically, we need to learn to be activists, and we need to learn quickly.

I hear self-identifying Traditional Catholics moan endlessly about the ‘woke’ crowd, when they ought to be sitting attentively at their feet. [At this point… you get the excercise.  I’ll stop subbing terms now and leave it be…] Wokery has re-centred the political and cultural discourse on moral issues, and away from the pragmatism of the 1980s and ’90s. Wokery has successfully shifted the public debate away from merely economic issues and questions of individualism, and towards what are popularly called ‘values.’ Wokery has not only re-framed the debate so as to privilege moral principles, but has demonstrated that it is prepared to be socially disruptive and simultaneously colonise long-standing institutions of state and civil society in order to advance its cause. In short, the ‘woke’ crowd have done exactly what conservatives should have been doing over the past decades when they were too busy apologising and conceding evermore ideological territory to their enemies.

Frankly, I’m deeply grateful to the woke movement for re-centring our political and social discourse on moral questions, which is where it ought always to have been. We can lament the gains of woke ideological activists all we like, but they have outwitted us and beaten us at every step. It would have been so easy for it to have been otherwise, given that most people are in fact broadly conservative by nature, but in the face of the woke onslaught we did nothing except cower.

The success of the woke movement is that it has offered a moral and, in fact, spiritual vision of the human drama, and has offered solutions to the unpleasant picture that it has painted of historical oppression and ongoing ‘systemic injustices,’ by which it has convinced a vast number of society’s members that they are imprisoned and in need of saving. This moral and spiritual vision of the human drama may be all wrong, and deeply noxious to boot, but at least they have a vision. It’s time for conservatives to wake up. It’s time to show that they too have a vision—a different, far more fulfilling, and most importantly, truer vision. It’s time to be socially disruptive, and to retrieve the enduring institutions whilst founding new ones.

Increasingly, I see myself as a ‘conservative activist,’ not because I have been deceived into thinking that the political struggle is an end in itself, but because I have realised that if we want to enjoy the ‘all the joys and riches of existence’ to which Hailsham refers, then we need to be proactive about protecting such wholesome aspects of a life worthy of our love. This means, I’m sorry to say, courting the ‘handmaiden’ of such things, namely the political struggle.

If I’m honest, and no doubt this remark will be weaponised against me in the future, I like to live like a hobbit. [Maybe even like a Catholic Restorationist?] The things that really matter to me are family, friends, beautiful buildings and rolling hills, poetry, music, good books, good wine, good beer, and good food. Nonetheless, for the hobbits, such simple homemaking was only possible because the Rangers of the North, the Dúnedain, [SSPX, FSSP, ICK, diocesan priests so easily canceled, fighting in the wilderness] decade after decade protected the Shire from all the orcs and goblins [… yeah…] that would have captured it, wrecked it, and enslaved its inhabitants. If conservatives want the joys of Hobbiton, they must engage in the struggle of the Dúnedain.

Below, I offer ten principles of ‘conservative activism.’ This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but it offers a concise overview of commitments that any conservative ought to keep before his mind’s eye as he battles the orcs that torment the modern world into which we have been so cursed as to be born:

[…]

You can read the rest there.

And I take exception to that last line.

It is a blessing to be born now because this is exactly the time God chose for us to be born.

This is the time into which our Creator called us into being. This is our time and we are his team for whatever work on earth is to be done.  Work involves sacrifice, suffering.

In the days to come we will watch the exaltation of will to power, the acceleration of the modernist grinders, the undermining of Catholic moral teaching to the accompaniment of “ooos” and “aaaahs” of sycophantic toadies with their over the top logorrhea about “new dawns”, “amazing compassion”, “walking together” and the elevation of the mediocre against the memory of the truly accomplished of the past.

Of all the possible universes He could have created, He created this one and not another.

If times are hard and things seem dark, the greater shall be our share of glory and the more God will offer actual graces to bear the cost.   We should not for an instant want to trade places with any one in any period of history.

Meanwhile, 3%.  It’s not unrealistic.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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16 Comments

  1. thomistking says:

    Rorate recently proposed weekly protests in front of the nunciature in DC for those of us who live in the area. I, for one, would be willing to give up my Saturday mornings for this if it is legitimately a good idea (even though I would rather do almost anything else).

  2. G1j says:

    Fantastic post. There will be a time to take on wokeism. Both outside and inside the Church. Question is…Is it know?

  3. Philmont237 says:

    I remember reading Mao Zedong’s “On War” for my Insurgency and Counterinsurgency class at the Naval Postgraduate School, and thinking “No wonder we keep losing the culture war. They are fighting a completely different battle than we are! We are trying to fight a conventual war while the enemy is fighting a protracted ‘People’s War.'”

  4. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    Conservatives/traditionalists often get bogged down with statesmanship. There is often a goal of being the better man, dismissing the politics and warfare as worldly. And then we lose, because the other side fights hard and fights dirty. We need to stop with the idealist statesmanship when we are getting our clock cleaned.

  5. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    I would like to plead in defence of our supposedly “less effective” traditional approach.

    It seems to me that the 20th century, with all it’s war, genocide, and apostasy, comes clearly as a result of men “trying to do something”, and every attempt to do things “harder” only resulted in more misery. The crowning moment of all this carnage was the council fathers attempting to provide their planned, practical solutions to spiritual problems. That went… you know. The lesson which I think God was trying to get across to us was “without me you can do nothing.”

    A hard lesson, but one which has played out in real time in my own life. My efforts have all been in vain; my innumerable blessings showered upon me not as a result of effort but rather from the abundance of God’s grace. Im quite convinced that if we cultivate leisure in the Pieper-ian sense, and take our Sabbath seriously, our Catholic culture will return, and all these ancillary things will be added on to us.

  6. Tradster says:

    An excellent article but flawed in one important sense. The leftists always pretend they are just grassroots activists who just spontaneously spring up and come together for the cause de jour. In truth, they are recruited, organized, and heavily funded by wealthy puppet masters who have the resources to play the long game. This is a reality that by our very natures most conservatives are incapable of duplicating. I do not know how we could consistently counter that huge disadvantage except to believe, in the words of St. Joan, “act and God will act”.

  7. Not says:

    St. Athanasius, ” The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.”

    [While that might be true, this is a spurious quote.]

  8. WVC says:

    @TheCavalierHaterhly

    I think you underestimate how much they hate us and how much they want to destroy everything that would contribute to true leisure and Catholic culture. The last thing they want is for you to be able to just live a normal, grace-filled life. Their goal is to leave you in abject misery with no recourse to anything outside of their will.

    I’m not saying we should put too much stock in the efforts of man alone, but we have quite a lot of history before the 20th century of God working through men taking bold actions – from Constantine through Pope Pius X, we have plenty of examples of men who rolled up their sleeves and went about doing the hard thing that was before them. St. Cyril of Alexandria didn’t sit around and wait for God to handle Nestorius (in fact, he was pretty vicious in his attacks). Read what St. Thomas More actually wrote about Martin Luther – he wasn’t worried about “appearing nice.” Even the legend of St. Nicholas punching Arius in the nose has been passed down through the generations for a reason.

    This “we’ll comply so hard it will show them we mean business” mentality I’ve already seen spreading like wildfire in my own diocese, so recently struck down by Bishop Burbidge, makes me sick at heart. As if the grand plan is to try to shame the devil. Truly folks do not understand either what is at stake or who the enemy is. If anyone thinks Pope Francis will be struck with pangs of guilt upon seeing photos of school gyms packed with folks going to the Latin Mass . . . you’ve got another think coming.

    I’m just a laymen. There’s not much I can do. But I’ve decided to send a copy of Dr. Kwasniewski’s book on Obedience to every priest saying the Latin Mass in my diocese in the hopes that it might help them as they discern their way forward. If we are not willing to even consider a different path other than servile blind obedience, then we place all our hopes on the good will of Pope Francis, Cardinal Roche, and others of their sordid ilk. Bullies historically do not change their ways unless they have to start paying a cost for their aggression. So far, Pope Francis has had his way without barely having to lift a finger – just the rumor of threats has been more than enough to get bishops to do what they claim they do not want to do and, apparently, priests to self-exile themselves from their own churches. No shots have been fired. No arrests have been made. Nothing more than 1 bishop was transferred, so far as I’ve heard. All the ground that has been given up to date has been given up willingly, not grudgingly.

  9. sjoseph371 says:

    I’d put out there that one of the reasons us conservatives are lousy at organizing is that we actually have jobs, a family to provide for, and a life. For the progressive activists, organizing IS their job, their family, and their life. I’m not using that as an excuse to do nothing, it is just that while the progressives were busy doing their destruction we were busy with the other things that at the time, were more important (God, family, job).

  10. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    @WVC

    I didn’t say comply. I think we often approach these situations with a simple dichotomy when subtle distinctions are called for. I would advocate for something between “deliberate ly ignoring them” and “malicious compliance.” By all means, I approve of the distribution of educational literature. Beyond this, there’s no amount of “activism” that I can perceive that will avail us. They can hate all they want; I’m reminded of the famous “Defenestration of Prague”: the protestants shouted “Where’s your Virgin Mary now?” And threw the Catholics out the window. And they landed on a passing hay cart.

    Now, I would like to make a few historical points: Constantine was chosen as to raise the Imperial Office to a supernatural glory, initiated by a miraculous vision, and confirmed by successive miracles. St. Cyril of Alexandria only partially succeeded, and instead of permanently removing Nestorianism, they are still extant today and still in schism. Pope Pius X, however, as saintly as he was, should very clearly show us the problem with implementing our supposed solutions: Modernists don’t take oaths seriously. People who do, who weren’t modernists, were often the ones who got torn up in the process of rooting out. Which obviously failed.

    I would argue, further, that every member of the hierarchy who has jumped on board the TC express has done so not unwilling because of threats, but either because they obviously despise tradition, or because they are conviction bereft careerists.

  11. Imrahil says:

    Dear sjoseph371,

    interesting observation.

    That is, of course, why Lenin came to the conclusion that the revolution has to be brought about by professional agitators not having another job and paid for by the party. And while it goes without saying that the kind of revolution he wanted is the false one, there may be something to it… tactically.

    The obvious analogon among Catholics would, of course, seem to be the clergy… but they might not quite fit, either, because they too care about other things, in this case prayer and distributing the Sacraments to people.

  12. jason in kc says:

    Excellent article.

    My biggest question re: infiltrating the institutions is whether or not a society ordered to the ends envisioned by conservatism would even desire those institutions. And if it didn’t outright demolish them, what exactly should they look like?

    For example, say conservatives infiltrate the universities. Great, do they stay as is with all the promiscuity, financial slavery, etc.? Would having conservatives dominate them make that model any better just because there’s less wokeness? Or is the model itself utterly broken and thus not worth salvaging? I would imagine that a conservative vision of the university would have the effect that 90% or more of the current student population wouldn’t go to college. This would lead to substantially less revenue for universities. It would likely also entail that many of the trappings of the modern university experience would need to be dismantled or at least heavily curtailed. Thus, a rubber-meets-the-road question is whether conservatives are willing to give up college sports for a conservative vision of the university, or whether they want to retain the current model with a conservative avatar. If the latter is the answer, then it seems to me there’s really no point in infiltrating them as it probably wouldn’t change anything. Perhaps it wouldn’t entail something that drastic, but I think those second and third order consequences need to be considered when the model itself is in question.

    The same would be true for many other institutions. Entertainment in its current form, for example, does not seem to meaningfully coincide with a conservative vision of the ends of a good society. By this I don’t simply mean the content but rather the entire model in which large corporations intentionally create and manipulate the pop culture (and thus downstream the actual culture) around us. Again, would that be any better with a conservative veneer? Even if it was all good wholesome content, does the current glut of entertainment media coincide with a conservative vision of society? The current rubber-meets-the-road question is whether conservatives are willing to forego Hulu and Netflix and Disney+ and the like for the sake of such an ordered society; the future question would seem to involve things like Daily Wire +.

    I guess my unsolicited contribution to the article would be that activism is going to require a lot more sacrifice and a lot less comfort. The buffer zone of a prosperous nation has papered over much of the rot and kept the pain of that to some extent at bay; I find myself asking myself if I am willing to forego many of the niceties and comforts for a conservative vision of society. I also wonder if the coming economic pain will lead to a reevaluation, or simply an acceleration into dissolution and ashes.

  13. Antonia D says:

    I really love this post – it gets to the reasons behind our inaction as conservatives, addresses them, and sends us on to do our jobs. Ora ET LABORA! And we need to work specifically fighting leftism and unbelief. So… evangelize like crazy (recommendations: learn from ClaritasU, St. Paul Street Evangelization, Catholic Answers, and the book Tactics by Protestant Greg Koukl). Get involved in local, state, &/or national politics – run for office, volunteer to register conservatives & Christians to vote, or vet candidates, etc. Protest and demonstrate, politically and against bad bishops. “Take up space” with our Catholic faith (as Taylor Marshall says) and, with a million beautiful banners and flags, start a pilgrimage… or a procession & Rosary rally down Main Street. Get out there and do something to save our country and our faith now, before it’s too late!

  14. Recusant5 says:

    If you believe in quite prayerful inner resistance ; Keep it to your self instead of blocking and discouraging others and giving heart to the enemies of the Mass who rejoice in our disunity and naïveté.

  15. Fr. Reader says:

    @not
    Before the end of time and the Resurrección of the flesh, I don’t think there’s any skull in hell.

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