Note Before Reading
This article was originally intended to be presented to a broader, Catholic audience, and thus it expounds upon concepts that should already be quite obvious to the average American Sun reader. I have chosen to keep it in its original format because I want to maintain its holistic integrity and because I hope that some members of my original target audience discover it. I believe the crux of the piece stills provides a valuable and novel perspective on the Roman Church even to those Sun Readers that are familiar with the subject.
In my attempts to publish this article on well-read Catholic websites with a dissident slant, I found that none of them would have much interest in such a political charged piece.
This led me to the conclusion that there is almost no crossover between emerging Populist political theory and “Traditional Catholicism” (as it will be defined later in this article). E Michael Jones’ Culture Wars Magazine is the closest example, but his opinions on the post-Vatican II Church do not align with the aforementioned Traditional Catholicism. Publications such as Church Militant or One Peter Five report exclusively on the corruption within the Church, which serves its own purpose, but rarely sheds light on the political implications of a particular scandal or hierarchal disgrace.
In my opinion, these reports are necessary but redundant. The Church is corrupt and getting worse. No more evidence is needed to make this accusation. What is lacking in the headspace of Traditional Catholics is a broader understanding of the forces working against them. As a result, it is insular as a movement and lacks ideas for effective action. Until this vacuum of thought is filled, it will continue to be facile. This idea alone probably deserves an article by itself, but for now I present you with the topic at hand.
Lessons from American Politics
The internal political workings of United States are remarkably complex and are formed by a myriad of big money donors, politicians, federal agencies, and more. What emerges from this morass is identifiable control mechanisms that are enacted against the citizenry, and these methods are similar across borders and oceans due to America’s outsized influence in a globalized world.
As a result, we can observe that the American political environment that has been cultivated and – more importantly – maintained bears a striking resemblance to the present state of the Catholic Church. In this piece, I will attempt to demonstrate how Pope John Paul II is to Catholicism as Ronald Reagan is to Conservatism, how Charlie Kirk and Bishop Barron function identically within their respective organizations, and how Traditional Catholics can learn from the triumphs and failures of America’s peripheral political movements, namely the Populist Right.
Why They Are Similar
We begin by acknowledging the obvious dichotomy of Left vs. Right, Democrat vs. Republican, Conservative vs. Progressive, etc. that exists in mainstream political discourse, and will hereon refer to the mainstream right as “Conservative Inc.” The corporate name that has been popularly bestowed upon them correctly implies they are not a platform to promote the ideals and will of the people, but rather a carefully curated product created by and paying dividends to those in power.
Before continuing further, the idea that President Trump has transcended the corporate brand of Conservatism must be dispelled. Despite his election being fueled by his outsider status, we enroll the President as a loyal stockholder as well. Verily, he has defied it in his prudential approach to foreign entanglements and harder stance on immigration, but while he does not hold all of the positions of a “traditional” conservative, he enforces and conforms to the culture that has existed within Conservative Inc. since, at least, the time of Ronald Reagan. What’s more, he has done everything in his power to be accepted by – nay, absorbed – into the Conservatism Inc. board of trustees.
Outside of Conservative Inc. lives the Populist Right, which has existed in many iterations and accepted various monikers such as Paleo-Conservative, New Right, Dissident Right, etc. They are, at their core, Right-Wing American Nationalists, and in many cases reactionary movements. For our purposes, we will simply use the umbrella term “Populist Right.” This strand of Rightwing thought reached its crescendo in American politics when Donald Trump was elected president. Soon thereafter, the Liberal establishment descended upon it from every side with a great ferocity, and it was all-but extinguished in the disaster of the Charlottesville rally. The media made it political suicide to associate or support it in any fashion after that infamous debacle, eliminating the possibility of Donald Trump lending it sympathy or political support (though it is very questionable if he would have done so in the first place).
Traditional Catholics share a very similar niche in their own religious ecosystem. By Traditional Catholics, I refer to Churches where the Latin Mass is celebrated. Conservative Inc. equivalent Catholics will be referred to as “JPII Catholics,” defined by their more conservative interpretation of Vatican II as demonstrated by Pope John Paul II.
The similarities between the Populist Right and Traditional Catholics are currently almost entirely in their nature and not in their substance. They do not share a common ethos, but they are each a group of outsiders, and existing power structures focus a great amount of attention and effort in keeping them on the margins of acceptable thought. This similitude can offer Traditional Catholics invaluable insight into their own attempts in resisting Rome’s march toward a wholly un-Catholic universalism and worldliness.
An easy way to illustrate the parallels between the two groups can be demonstrated in two figures: Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. Any Conservative Inc. client would cite Ronald Reagan as the Godfather of the modern Conservative movement. The Populist Right does not share their unfettered admiration, and would quickly point out that he signed an amnesty bill that permanently rendered California a stronghold for the Democrats, among other follies.
On the other hand, JPII Catholics see the Saint they are named after as the epitome of everything good that has sprung from the Novus Ordo. To be clear, I do not consider Saint JPII to be a wicked man by any means. I agree with his Sainthood. But as a Traditional Catholic, I recognize that he reaffirmed Orthodox Catholic social teaching while simultaneously furthering a subtle liberal agenda, epitomized in his kissing of the Koran. This scandal is hard for a lamb of the JPII Catholic flock to come to terms with and look upon in an objective fashion, just as a member of America’s Conservative Inc. would never want to truly examine the negative aspects of Reagan.
This shared skepticism of widely believed narratives is one of the principle unifying factors between these two ideological camps, and a principle dividing factor with their opponents. For further illustration: Traditionalists are unafraid to question the efficacy of Vatican II, while the Populist Right is unafraid to challenge the tenets of democracy.
A second unifying factor between the two groups is a negative outlook toward the current direction of their respective institutions. As a Catholic, this should be obvious: belief in God is vanishing (1), scandals abound, and disbelief in basic Catholic dogma among even Church-attending laity is rife (2). Yet, speaking to a typical JPII Catholic, one sadly finds that they have their head buried deep in the sand with respect to the crises in the Church, or they are uninterested in discussing them. My own anecdote involves a college student telling me he believes his generation is turning the tide back toward the Faith. This optimism is not just false, it is foolish and dangerous. Nonetheless, I have found it to be the prevailing attitude among young JPII Catholics.
The Populist Right’s pessimism lies in the numbers as well: deaths of despair have never been higher (3), illegal immigration seems impossible to quell, and usurious debt is sinking countless lives into economic ruin. Conservative Inc. can only speak to the (limited) economic prosperity of a rising stock market and tax cuts, while ignoring the unspeakable spiritual misery of a society in love with Mammon.
The real value of finding similarities between the Populist Right and the Traditional Catholic movement is not in comparing them to each other, but rather in comparing their enemies. Who are their enemies? The easy answer is the ideological liberals. The unabashed revolutionaries. The secretive saboteurs and infiltrators. They stand upon their papier-mâché moral high ground and operate the levers of power with little resistance. We know the Liberals well and they know us. They are no longer the “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” to use a favorite Catholic adage. It is, in fact, those who feign orthodoxy and conservatism that deserve our critical focus.
Beware the Gatekeepers
Conciliatory, ineffectual, deceptive and even sinister – these are the words that best describe the Gatekeepers of Conservatism Inc. While putting on the veneer of preserving America’s most sacred values – those of free speech, free enterprise, and universal access to the increasingly illusory “American Dream” – Conservatism Inc. in fact distracts, distorts, and corrupts what an organic, efficacious Conservative movement would stand for and pursue. Nowhere is this more evident than in TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk normalizing homosexuality and even transgenderism as compatible with “Conservatism.” Trump’s complicity in this transmutation of American Conservative morality is apparent as well in his launching a campaign to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide (4), making the normalization of sodomy an official initiative of the Empire.
This applies to the Catholic Church in much the same way. The Church’s own brand of Conservatism Inc. is represented most completely, in my opinion, by Bishop Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. What exactly does Bishop Barron have in common with the imposter Charlie Kirk? Not his belief system, but rather his role as a Gatekeeper of the intellectual mainstream. The general strategy is simple enough; repeat easy, agreeable slogans that every Catholic would support, denounce and censor ideas that are potentially inflammatory or effective, and do not challenge your ideological foes in any consequential way.
Charlie reprises the same tired conservative talking points that his donors demand and doesn’t let the conversation veer too far from subjects relating to the negative effects of socialism or the importance of protecting Israel. Meanwhile, he surrenders to and even embraces revolutionary leftist initiatives like sexual liberation ideology (including photo-ops with drag queens). A generous interpreter of Charlie’s positions might say he was a lukewarm Conservative.
Bishop Barron, likewise, reinforces basic orthodox Catholic beliefs in his many books and speaking arrangements, but occasionally includes doctrinal poison pills, as he did in his talk on whether or not Hell was empty or crowded(5). He doesn’t do serious combat with enemies of the Church like LGBT-advocate Fr. James Martin, who has referred to him as a friend(6). Furthermore, he acts as an arbiter for ideas that really challenge the Church’s hierarchy, such as Taylor Marshall’s book Infiltration. Essentially, Bishop Barron keeps the laity pacified and as far away as possible from potentially disruptive ideas like the apparent subversion of the Church.
Charlie and Bishop Barron, for all of their differences in occupation and beliefs, are fundamentally the same in their functioning within the power structures they serve. By no means are they the only Gatekeepers, but merely two of the most prominent. This beast is a hydra, and where one falls in ignominy, another will be foisted upon us. They tend to form cliques and strictly regulate who they interact with, even barring debates with undesirable elements so as not to be exposed.
This aversion to fair debate is an important point that should be explored further. One must understand that they have nothing to gain from a discussion and everything to lose, for they are not supported by the weight of their ideas, but instead are propped up by powerful figures in the shadows. By giving a platform to individuals who have gained merit from their ideas, they risk having their feeble propositions dismantled by uncompromised and formidable intellectuals. They will instead debate easy opponents who their audience has a natural inclination to disagree with: atheists, radical feminists, communists, and the like.
I will not speculate on whether or not Bishop Barron and Charlie Kirk are intentionally carrying out this gatekeeping duty, but they should be judged carefully against the above criteria and their demonstrated integrity. I would venture to say, however, that the ideological damage they inflict rivals the most radical of Liberals.
Attack those that yield power and behold the hydra! It rages at one of its own being vanquished! In their retaliation one discovers that the Liberal and Gatekeeping Conservative elements are many heads on the same snake. The language they use in denouncing their opponents are identical: racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, white supremacist, conspiracy theorist, etc. These words should mean nothing, and yet they hold immense power in the minds of the masses, and so the established powers, left or right, will ensure your character is properly assassinated in the public eye.
The war waged against either side is not remotely reserved for retaliations. Pope Francis has not hesitated to denounce Traditional Catholics, both directly and indirectly, and members of his liberal mafia have done the same. Traditional priests are routinely repressed in seminaries and their dioceses as well. In the political realm, members of the Populist Right are beleaguered with reputation-destroying insinuations and defamations by the media apparatus and its cronies. If all else fails, they are deplatformed and effectively scrubbed from the Internet.
The hope in both the Populist Right and the Traditionalist movement is in the growing legitimacy crisis of the established power players in each camp. Recently, Charlie Kirk was challenged and exposed in the QA portions of his speaking events, revealing the emptiness of his faux ideology. Meanwhile, the worshipping of pagan idols in the Vatican Gardens and their placement in St. Peter’s Basilica has brought unprecedented outrage to every sensible Catholic. All but the most liberal Catholics defended it. JPII Catholics, at least in my own experience, keep their heads buried in the sand. When I curiously probed what one of my own JPII Catholic friends thought of the affair, the response was simply, “Bizarre.”
Lessons from the Populist Right
So the Church and American politics are on similar trajectories of decay. So what? There are important lessons to take away from the failures of the Populist Right since Trump’s inauguration, and Traditional Catholics would do well to take notice and learn:
- Infighting = Destruction – After the inauguration of Trump, each faction of the Populist Right – with its different brands of American Nationalism – began to dispute what the proper direction of his presidency was. The resulting infighting made everyone forget what united them in the first place, and the subsequent splintering shattered their momentum. SSPX, FSSP and Indult congregants cannot afford to be so petty.
- There will be Infiltrators – The Populist Right was infiltrated by federal agents both in their organizations and in their online communities. We already know that was the strategy of Freemasons and Communists in the Church. Don’t be so naïve as to think they won’t infiltrate Traditional Catholic communities as well. We must be vigilant and denounce bad actors as soon as they are identified.
- Don’t Pay the Grifters – This really goes hand-in-hand with the infiltrator warning. Beware the grifters, who will piggyback off the momentum of a bourgeoning movement to line their own pockets.
- Public Displays of Strength are Powerful, but… – Many Populist organizations were allowed to thrive online for years without resistance. It was only when public meetings and demonstrations were carried out that the tentacles of the State unleashed their might to suppress them. Traditional Catholics must be smart about moving the bulk of their activism off of podcasts and articles (hypocrite that I am) if they want to sprinkle the streets stained by iniquity with holy water and prayerful processions.
- Never Apologize – The phalanx of liberal power loves apologies. Never give them one. Political actors who apologize for past or present “transgressions” are never rewarded for it. In fact, they are demonized further (7). This is a simple and obvious lesson that so many fail to internalize. If you have guilt on your heart, ask for mercy and forgiveness from our Lord.
The practices and aims of liberals everywhere are not a mystery. They are manifest each day, and have been exposed and expounded upon ad nauseam. They are open revolutionaries preying upon a declining civilization. It is our faux Conservative and Orthodox allies, serving as subversive tools to power, that hamper Traditionalists from regaining ground against the truly insidious corruption that pervades our Church. We must publicly challenge them at every opportunity and show the world how shallow their ideas and weak their resolutions are toward furthering the Kingdom of God on Earth.
It is with great interest that we should watch the developments of the American political theater and, particularly, the progression of the Populist Right. Despite its incongruity with the Traditional movement in terms of its goals, their own failures and successes have great lessons to teach us as we gain more leverage and traction within the Church. In this dogged fight, we must employ every resource at our disposal.