Patriotism, Americanism, and the Limitations of Liberty

One might expect on a blog entitled ‘National Traditionalist’ that it embraces the Americanist thesis popular among the likes of most socons, from Rush Limbaugh to Mark Levine. One would be wrong.

Every year, the 4th of July stands not only as a teary eyed reminder of the founding of our nation, but as a timely reminder that what this country was founded on – the freemasonic ideals of liberty – is a deeply flawed premise.

Not only should Catholics dislike Americanism, they should condemn it for the heresy it is, along with Pope Leo XIII.

He rightly saw that overweening nationalistic and protestant and deist freemasonic beliefs in manifest destiny were displacing a proportionate sovereign ambition and modest patriotism, to the point that worship of our nations founding principles (i.e. the Constitution) began to carry the sacrosanct quality of Holy Writ, and our founding fathers the mystic weight of our very own pantheon of false gods.

But surely, the socon claims, with much righteous indignation, surely then one must admit that you hate America if you don’t hold that the founding fathers are to be revered for introducing to the world the single greatest government establishment known to man.

To the contrary…

Catholics Must be Patriots

Lest anyone assert otherwise, let it be known that Catholics are obliged to be patriotic. We’re required to love our country as a matter of duty to the state, as a child would love and obey his parents.

As nature and religion prescribe to children dutiful conduct towards the parents who brought them into the world, so nature and religion impose on citizens certain obligations towards their country and its rulers. These obligations may be reduced to those of patriotism and obedience. Patriotism requires that the citizen should have a reasonable esteem and love for his country. He should take an interest in his country’s history, he should know how to value her institutions, and he should be prepared to sacrifice himself for her welfare. In his country’s need it is not only a noble thing, but it is a sacred duty to lay down one’s life for the safety of the commonwealth. Love for his country will lead the citizen to show honour and respect to its rulers. They represent the State, and are entrusted by God with power to rule it for the common good. The citizen’s chief duty is to obey the just laws of his country. 

Catholic Encyclopedia

Perhaps, reading such a quote, the Americanist would say that Americansim is, in fact, defensible, even laudable. If Americanism referred solely to a patriotic love of one’s country, as opposed to embracing an entire system of beliefs which are incompatible with Catholicism, they might have a point. However, such is not the case. Americanism is rooted in raising up subjectivism at the expense of all that is principled, good, and holy.

Americanism: Paving the Way for Vatican II

The underlying principle of these new opinions is that, in order to more easily attract those who differ from her, the Church should shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age and relax some of her ancient severity and make some concessions to new opinions. Many think that these concessions should be made not only in regard to ways of living, but even in regard to doctrines which belong to the deposit of the faith. They contend that it would be opportune, in order to gain those who differ from us, to omit certain points of her teaching which are of lesser importance, and to tone down the meaning which the Church has always attached to them. 

Pope Leo XIII, Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae

Any traditional Catholic reading such a quote will immediately recognize the incipient modernism of the American thesis, which Pope Leo XIII refers to above. We heard this same idea echoed in the aggiornomento of Paul VI and JPII. We hear it in the modernist clarion call to “be relevant to the modern age” and in Bergoglio’s admonitions that the Church must be updated and leave behind the ‘rigors of a a religion caught up in superficial ritual’ if it’s going to appeal to younger generations.

(On a side note, it’s quite evident that Bergoglio is missing the boat by a mile. The youth are not interested in the hippie anti-authoritarian socialism which marked the boomer generation. They are interested in getting to know their religious and social roots, their traditions, and the traditional mores which underpin society. The leftover hippies are guilty of imposing their rose-tinted glasses on the world, of letting their wishful thinking dictate policy, and now it’s all tumbling like a house of cards).

The Vatican II religion was and is dedicated to compromise with the world, fallen subject to the same overweening idealism of our freemasonic forefathers. While the council fathers were were ostensibly interested in making the Church more attractive for the sake of converting non-Catholics, they fell prey to an ideology which is inherently anti-Catholic. The final culmination of such a mindset is to state that the Church can change her doctrines, as Bergoglio et al recommend.

One blogger succinctly expresses this point for us in discussing the supposed turn around the Church made in regard to the death penalty:

In matters of morality, because of our natural law moral system, conclusions can, and should, change as new information comes along. We come to know the moral purpose of a thing in part by understanding what that thing is. Thus, as our understanding of a thing increases the moral conclusion may also develop.

We saw this on display with the most recent revision of the Catechism concerning capital punishment. The first reason the Catechism gives for why this teaching developed is because today there is “an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.” Previous generations didn’t have the degree of awareness that we have, so their moral conclusions were different.

Paul Fahey, We Do Not Possess the Truth

Right. Our greater degree of awareness (hubris much?) makes us more enlightened than our ancestors, which is why we can now say the death penalty is bad, whereas before, it was lauded by St. Thomas Aquinas. Yet they claim they aren’t guilty of moral relativism because Truth is not unchanging, but alive and subject to the interpretations and understanding of any given age. It’s a defense for moving moral goal posts.

But what does this have to do with patriotism and being Catholic?

Manifestly Destined to Conquer?

At the time of the revolution and for many years after, through the Teddy Roosevelt years and beyond through the WWII years, there was a common practice of confusing love of country with a sense of divinely appointed entitlement. This meshed well, and was produced by, the Protestant ethic that God pours forth material blessings upon those whom He loves. One will typically find Protestants defending capitalist ventures even if those ventures are rapacious – because the more material wealth (read ‘blessings’) that accrues to them, the more they are “loved by God.”

Unfortunately, many, many American Catholics were caught up in the fervor of this ambition, forgetting that the Catholic ethic is that those whom God loves, He will make suffer. He invited us to share His cross with Him and told us to work out our salvation in fear trembling, that those who would be with Him in paradise should take up their cross and follow Him. Suffering, as an ambition, is anything but divorced from Catholic life. It is even a point of worry should a Catholic go through life with too easy a life.

I realize better every day what grace our Lord has shown me in enabling me to understand the blessings of suffering so that I can peacefully endure the want of happiness in earthly things since they pass so quickly. 

St. Teresa of Avila

Catholics are made fun of for “Catholic guilt” and for elevating and pedestalizing suffering. Yet the Catholic distancing from seeing suffering as a holy thing can be attributed directly to the influence of Protestantism on Catholicism. Subsequently, its belief in the contrary, that God rains down material blessings on those He loves, gave rise to a participation by Catholics in a false understanding of what it means to be a patriot.

It’s evident that the Protestant-borne idea that we, the American nation, are manifestly destined to conquer by dint of our superior principles of government (those subjectivist ideations of truth explicated by our blogger above), was argued by Catholic Americanists of the time, resulting in the condemnation of Leo XIII.

Now God passes the banner to the hands of America, to bear it — in the cause of humanity and it is your office to make its destiny known to America and become its grand chaplain. Over all America there is certainly a duty higher than the interests of the individual states — even of the national government. The duty to humanity is certainly a real duty, and America cannot certainly with honor, or fortune, evade its great share in it. Go to America and say, thus saith the Lord! Then you will live in history as God’s Apostle in modern times to Church & to Society. Hence I am a partisan of the Anglo-American alliance, together they are invincible and they will impose a new civilization. 

Bishop Denis O’Connell, a protégé of James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of the U.S. primatial see, Baltimore

In response to such an inflated sense of entitlement, even duty, the Church, via Leo XIII admonished her children to regard the [American] form of government, which supports the freedom to hold and advocate any and all opinions, with a more circumspect eye.

These dangers, viz., the confounding of license with liberty, the passion for discussing and pouring contempt upon any possible subject, the assumed right to hold whatever opinions one pleases upon any subject and to set them forth in print to the world, have so wrapped minds in darkness that there is now a greater need of the Church’s teaching office than ever before, lest people become unmindful both of conscience and of duty.

Pope Leo XIII, Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae

The Catholic Patriot does not, can not laud the founding principles of this nation. That the subjectivist ever-evolving freemasonic principles and understanding of truth and freedom enshrined in the American constitution are inherently and unequivacally opposed to a Catholic understanding of freedom is made clear in Leo XIII’s Libertas Praestantissimum, one of the most salient encyclicals of the modern age. There is no compatibility between Catholicism and the United States Constitution.

What about Libertarianism?

Fair enough. Let’s say the federal government is wrong and always has been. Surely one may point to Libertarianism as a recourse in line with the argument for subsidiarity and local government?

Libertarianism posits that morality and law should be left to the subject of individual states. Any Catholic espousing such a political system is doing Catholicism wrong. The only Catholic libertarianism which would fly is one that exists in a state where Catholicism is the state religion, thus making certain crimes universally illegal, like abortion, rape, homosexuality, and incest, and not subject to individual locale.

Morality and law, broadly considered, are not subject to individual states and local governments, because any civil society is answerable to a higher moral authority, that of the Church – even if that moral authority goes unrecognized as it does in the United States.

Just because a nation doesn’t recognize the right of the Catholic Church as the highest moral authority on earth doesn’t mean the American federal government has no obligation to follow the moral dictates of the Catholic Church. It does mean our nation has direct responsibility for every government sanctioned death produced by Roe v. Wade.

While local government can and certainly should do what it can to mitigate the failure of federal government to uphold the moral laws of the Church, Catholics in no way can support a system which argues as a matter of principle that morality and law is and should be subject to the whims of the local populace.

Catholic Patriotism

So how do we Catholics reconcile our duty to be patriotic, with our condemnation of our country’s founding principles? Like Catholics at the time of the revolutionary war (more on that at a future time), discerning a balanced approach toward how we consider the United States can be difficult.

Simply, it’s ‘hate the sin, not the sinner.’

Love and pray for your country, deplore its government, how it is established, how it is used and abused to transgress against God’s law.

Love your fellow citizens and pray for them, deplore and hate the false principles and modernism which they espouse.

Love the flag, the symbol of your country’s struggle for freedom from tyrannical rule, deplore and hate its elevation as a idol to be worshipped by Americanists.

Catholic patriotism, like so many other aspects of Catholicism, is a balance between two sides – the one which hates everything the United States stands for, and the other, which hails ‘Merica as the greatest country on earth. To be fair, the United States is the greatest country on Earth. Sadly, that doesn’t say much for Earth.

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