Sunday, 25 September 2011

A traditional Catholic theologian on liberalism

The following is an extract from Cardinal Billot's De Ecclesia (1910).  It is heavily influenced by de Maistre's Essai sur le principe générateur des constitutions politiques et des autres institutions humaines.

Corpus Christi in pre-revolutionary France

Pierre de la Gorce paints a picture of the French ancien régime in his Histoire religieuse de la Révolution française:

A quotation from Alfred Rosenberg

The following is a quotation from Alfred Rosenberg's turgid classic The Myth of the Twentieth Century.

In typical Nazi style, Rosenberg was fundamentally opposed to modern liberal civilisation.  He was against civil rights and parliamentary government, which he thought were of use only to Jews and capitalists.  A nation could not be properly governed on the basis of elections, so it was necessary to replace democracy with dictatorship.  He was also anti-feminist, and saw the liberal state as a female or feminised entity.

A quotation from Fr Denis Fahey

This is an extract from The Kingship of Christ (1931), a book by the Irish conspiracy theorist Fr Denis Fahey.

It shows the same themes as Fahey's other work.  He thought highly of mediaeval Christendom, but believed that civilisation had declined with the Reformation and the French Revolution.  He saw modern constitutional governance as inconsistent with the transcendent order established by God.  He had a dualistic view of the world, which he saw in terms of a great battle between "naturalism" and "supernaturalism", waged between Freemasonry and Christianity, and ultimately between Satan and God.

Bossuet on kingship

An extract from Bishop Bossuet's Politique tirée des propres paroles de l'Écriture sainte (Politics Drawn from the Very Words of Holy Scripture), which was written between 1679 and 1704:

The Counter-Enlightenment and mediaeval thought

I have just come across an interesting doctoral thesis by Tamás Nyirkos of Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary entitled (in English) Christianity and Conservatism: Theology of the French Counterrevolution.  Unfortunately, the thesis is written in Hungarian, but a summary in English is online here.

Review of "Fascism" by Roger Griffin

"It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless.... I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley's broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else."

So wrote George Orwell.  This is a book which is essentially dedicated to the opposite view: that fascism exists as a coherent phenomenon which can be defined and studied.  It is a reader compiled by one of the great academic experts on the subject, the Oxford Brookes scholar Roger Griffin.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Review of "Architects of the Resurrection" by R.M.Douglas

When scholars are looking for an Irish example of fascism, they generally light on a group called the National Guard, better known as the Blueshirts.  This was a short-lived organisation led by a complete idiot which failed to get close to the levers of power and ended up being subsumed into the mainstream conservative Fine Gael party in 1933.  In fact, most historians have come to the conclusion that the Blueshirts weren't really proper fascists, not least because most of them didn't have any very coherent political beliefs beyond a dislike of the IRA and Eamon de Valera's economic policies.

In this book, the historian Ray Douglas seeks to identify an alternative Irish manifestation of fascism: a charming little organisation called Ailtirí na hAiséirghe, or 'Architects of the Resurrection' (Labour supporters dubbed it Áilteoirí na hAiséirghe, 'Clowns of the Resurrection').  This group was active during and after the Second World War, though it lingered on in some form until the 1970s.  More contentiously, Douglas argues that Irish society in general was a great deal more receptive to extreme right-wing ideas than is generally admitted today.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Adolf Hitler on the Jews

The following remarkable passage from Mein Kampf sets out Hitler's views on how the Jews had been active in German and international history up to the present day.

Loyseau on the French royal bloodline

From Charles Loyseau's Treatise of Orders and Plain Dignities (7.92):

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Review of "The Rights of Man" by Thomas Paine

This well-known pamphlet represents the pro-revolution side's riposte to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France.  Dedicated to George Washington, whom Paine admired, it earned its author a conviction for seditious libel in the English courts.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Review of J.S.Mill, "On Liberty"

If Burke's Reflections was the founding text of British conservatism, this was the founding text of British liberalism.  Written in 1859, this hugely influential little book set out the basic case for classical liberalism in the English language.

An extract from Newman's "Letter to the Duke of Norfolk" (1875)

Modern Rome... is not the only place where the traditions of the old Empire, its principles, provisions, and practices, have been held in honour; they have been retained, they have been maintained in substance, as the basis of European civilization down to this day, and notably among ourselves. In the Anglican establishment the king took the place of the Pope; but the Pope's principles kept possession.... [T]he old idea of a Christian Polity was still in force. It was a first principle with England that there was one true religion... that it came of direct Revelation, that it was to be supported to the disadvantage, to say the least, of other religions, of private judgment, of personal conscience....

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Review of "Considerations on France" by Joseph de Maistre

This pamphlet was the response of the extreme right-wing intellectual Joseph de Maistre to the French Revolution - a kind of more robust, Francophone equivalent of Burke's Reflections (which de Maistre had read and admired).

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Contemporary legal writers on the old French monarchy

A quotation from Les institutions du droit français by Claude Serres, published in 1778:

The Draft Constitution of Hizb ut-Tahrir

This subject of this post is the "Draft Constitution of the Islamic State" promoted by the Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir.  It was composed by Hizb's founder, Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, and published in his 1953 book The Islamic State.  It is intended to serve as the constitution of the united Islamic Caliphate (Khilafah) which Hizb seeks to (re-)establish.

The Action Française Oath

This is the oath taken by members of the League of Action Française.  It is attributed to Charles Maurras.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Review of "Reflections on the Revolution in France" by Edmund Burke

This is perhaps the seminal text of traditional British conservatism.  First published in 1790, it is the best known attack in the English language on the French Revolution and the principles that motivated it.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Review of "Fascism" by Sir Oswald Mosley

This is a pamphlet published in 1936 in which the late baronet set out his views on where Britain had gone wrong and what needed to be done to put her right.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Review of "On the Pope" by Joseph de Maistre

"How blind is not prejudice, even in the most penetrating minds!"

Originally written in 1816-17, On the Pope (Du Pape) was the masterpiece of Count Joseph de Maistre, an extreme right-wing intellectual and an implacable opponent of the French revolution, liberalism, Protestantism, democracy and modern civilisation.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Review of "Milestones" by Sayyid Qutb

This, if you'll excuse the metaphor, is the Bible of political Islam.  Originally published in 1964 as Ma'alim fi al-Tariq, it is the enduring legacy to the world of Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), an Egyptian educationalist and a bitter enemy of the Nasser government, western democracy, secularism and female sexuality (not necessarily in that order).  The late Osama bin Laden is said to have been influenced by him and apparently attended lectures given by his brother during his student days in Jeddah.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Review of "Sacred Causes" by Michael Burleigh, Part 2

Burleigh spends some time dealing with the sensitive subject of Pope Pius XII's conduct in relation to the Holocaust.  The debate over Pius' wartime role has developed considerably over recent years, and the state of the question seems to have moved beyond the rather extreme positions taken by some commentators in the past.  By contrast, Burleigh's endeavours to exculpate Pius have a slightly dated feel to them.  This is partly because the book was published in 2006, but (as Burleigh himself notes) the 'Pius wars' were already old news by then.  The controversy over Pius' wartime role has been running since at least the 1960s.  John Cornwell published Hitler's Pope in 1999, then retreated to a more agnostic position in The Pope in Winter in 2004.  Rabbi David Dalin's case for the defence, The Myth of Hitler's Pope, appeared in 2005, following The Pius War, an anthology published in 2004 by Dalin and a conservative journalist.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Review of "Sacred Causes" by Michael Burleigh, Part 1

This is a fascinating, trenchant, witty, absorbing and long book.  It seeks, in essence, to explore 20th century history by looking at the intersection of politics and secular events with religious and quasi-religious ideas and movements.

Monday, 25 April 2011

The 1953 Concordat with Spain

The 1953 Concordat with Spain was the last of the classic Concordats of the Catholic Church.  It provides a fairly good, if somewhat late, example of Counter-Enlightenment Catholic thought applied in the political sphere.

The decline of monarchism in Counter-Enlightenment papal teaching

In this post, I want to sketch briefly the decline of overtly royalist and anti-democratic sentiments in the pronouncements of the Counter-Enlightenment popes.  As with other aspects of Counter-Enlightenment Catholicism, the turning point seems to have been the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903).

The blood libel - A view from 1911

This is a translation of the section on alleged Jewish ritual murder in the article "Jews and Christians" in the Dictionnaire apologétique de la foi catholique, published in 1911.  It is interesting insofar as it sheds light on contemporary attitudes towards the blood libel in the more respectable circles of Catholic Europe.  Essentially, the author is unwilling to endorse the blood libel as a whole, but he leaves open the possibility that ritual murders have sometimes been committed by Jews.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Barruel and the conspiracy theory of the French Revolution

This is an edited extract from a contemporary translation of Augustin Barruel's Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire du jacobinisme, which I have referred to elsewhere.

Charles Maurras on the "Four Confederate States"

From Maurras's Dictionnaire politique et critique:

Jewish-Christian relations again

To go with my recent post on historical Christian antisemitism, here are some translated extracts from the article on "Jews and Christians" in the Dictionnaire apologétique de la foi catholique, published in 1911.  The article, in fact, took a relatively moderate stance by contemporary standards, distancing itself from some of the wilder antisemitic polemics of the time.  Nevertheless, it cannot be described as sympathetic.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Review of "The Popes against the Jews" by David Kertzer

(Also published under the title Unholy War in the UK)

This is a book by the distinguished Jewish American scholar David Kertzer exploring the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Saturday, 26 March 2011


Where did the ideas that made up the Counter-Enlightenment come from?  The answer is ultimately the mediaeval idea of Christendom and the model of Church-State relations associated with it.

A traditional Catholic theologian on the Church and the State

This is the latest post in a series on Counter-Enlightenment Catholicism.  In it, I want to disinter the view put forward by Cardinal Camillo Tarquini on the proper relationship between the Church and the State in his Iuris ecclesiastici publici institutiones (1887).

The traditional Catholic coronation rite

Some excerpts, taken from the Pontificale Romanum (before the ceremony was deleted from it in 1968):

Religious liberty in the Theodosian Code and St Thomas Aquinas

In a recent post, I set out the official or orthodox position of Counter-Enlightenment Catholicism towards religious liberty.  This stance lasted roughly from the French Revolution of 1789 to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and its decrees Dignitatis Humanae and Nostra Aetate.

In this post, I want to look at some manifestations of the Counter-Enlightenment position from earlier in Christian history.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Counter-Enlightenment ideology in the Hamas charter

In recent posts on this and my other blogs, I have been exploring some writings of the European Christian Counter-Enlightenment.  In this post, I want to draw attention to some elements of Counter-Enlightenment thought that reappear in the 1988 Hamas Charter.

Counter-Enlightenment Catholicism in recent times

In this post, I want to trace the survival among ultra-conservative Catholics of some of the themes (and conspiracy theories) of Counter-Enlightenment ideology that I have been examining recently here and on my other blogs.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

What was Counter-Enlightenment Catholicism?

I'm writing quite a bit at the moment about reactionary or Counter-Enlightenment Catholicism, and I intend to write some more on the same subject.  It may be useful to define briefly what I mean by these terms.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

"The Doctrine of Fascism" by Benito Mussolini

This essay, first published in the Enciclopedia Italiana in 1932, can be regarded as an official explanation of the Italian political movement known to history as fascism.  It was ghostwritten for the Duce by the philosopher Giovanni Gentile.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Kingship of Christ and the Conversion of the Jewish Nation, Fr Denis Fahey

This book is an interesting counterpart to some of the other texts relating to conspiracy theories and Counter-Enlightenment thought that I have been discussing recently here and on my other blogs.  However, it is of more than merely historical interest, since Fr Fahey and his ideas continue to be influential among some archconservative Catholics, particularly in the United States (see e.g. here, here and here).

Sunday, 27 February 2011

How the Pope became infallible

In this post, I want to gather together (and, where necessary, translate) some of the accounts of the promulgation of the dogma of papal infalliblity at the First Vatican Council.

Review of "Germany Reborn" by Hermann Goering

This is an odd little book that appears to have been written to persuade the British people, and perhaps also the Americans, of the virtues of the Third Reich.  Its author was "General Hermann Goering, Prime Minister of Prussia", and it was first published in London in 1934.  It was reissued in 2003, and I believe that a neo-Nazi publishing house produced its own edition in 2009.

Review of "Fascism: A Very Short Introduction" by Kevin Passmore

"Along with liberalism, conservatism, communism, socialism, and democracy, fascism is one of the great political ideologies that shaped the 20th century....  Yet how can we make sense of an ideology that appeals to skinheads and intellectuals; denounces the bourgeoisie while forming alliances with conservatives; adopts a macho style yet attracts many women; calls for a return to tradition and is fascinated by technology; idealizes the people and is contemptuous of mass society; and preaches violence in the name of order?"

Review of "The Executioner" by Joseph de Maistre

"I very much miss those 'symposia' of which the ancient world has left us several precious records.  Women are pleasant, certainly; we have to live with them in order not to become barbarians.  Large gatherings have their place; it is even necessary to know how to participate in them with good grace; but when one has satisfied all the duties imposed by custom, I think that it's a great thing that the men gather from time to time to have a reasoned discussion, even at the table.  I don't know why we no longer follow the practice of the ancients in this regard."

Catholic ultra-traditionalism

In this post, I want to look at the phenomenon of Catholic ultra-traditionalism - a movement of Catholic clerics and laypeople that opposes the changes that followed the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965, a worldwide council of the Catholic Church which carried out important work in updating Catholic teachings and practices for the 20th century.

A nineteenth century Catholic theologian on freedom of conscience

I have translated the following sections on freedom of conscience from the Summa Philosophica of Cardinal Tommaso Maria Zigliara, a widely used theological textbook first published in 1876, at the tail end of the conservative pontificate of Blessed Pius IX.

Papal Encyclicals of the Nineteenth Century

Faced with the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, the Catholic Church settled on the response of condemnation and resistance.  This policy was far from inevitable.  Pope Pius VII (1800-23) spoke favourably of revolutionary democracy in a sermon which he preached as Bishop of Imola at Christmas 1797: "Bring me a man who burns with love for God, and he will find the doctrine of equality before God in his heart....  Do not believe that the Catholic religion is against democracy."  This attitude, however, did not last.  In 1814, Pius himself complained about the guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom of expression in the draft constitution of the restored French monarchy.  A fairly typical representative of the conservative Catholic position was Mgr Jean-Joseph Gaume, who put the following words into the mouth of the Revolution in 1877, framing political liberalism as a sacreligious revolt against the God-given social order:

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

This overlong and rather boring pamphlet doesn't need much introduction.  Norman Cohn called it a "warrant for genocide".  Hitler thought it was "terrifying".  The judge at the Berne Trial of 1933-35 called it "laughable nonsense".  The writer and rabbi Joseph Teluskin was less amused: "Thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, of Jews have died because of this infamous forgery".

Review of "The Mythology of the Secret Societies" by J.M.Roberts

"Anyone who knows how difficult it is to keep a secret among three men - particularly if they are married - knows how absurd is the idea of a worldwide secret conspiracy consciously controlling all mankind by its financial power; in real, clear analysis."

Such was the admirably rational opinion of Sir Oswald Mosley on the conspiracy theories of his own day.  Sadly, we are not all as level-headed as the blackshirted baronet, and conspiracy theories of all kinds continue to thrive.  Nor are they merely the preserve of frothing political extremists or young single men blogging from their bedsits.  It is said that 36% of Americans think that 9/11 was an inside job.  In recent years, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion have been endorsed by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Egyptian press.  You can even buy a book written by a British Member of Paliament and Under-Secretary of State explaining that Dr David Kelly was murdered for speaking out of turn about Saddam's WMDs.

Review of "The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara" by David Kertzer

"Signor Mortara, I am sorry to inform you that you are the victim of a betrayal."  The officer felt uneasy, but he had his orders.  "Your son Edgardo has been baptised, and I have been ordered to take him with me."

Review of "Vindication of the English Constitution" by Benjamin Disraeli

This is a little book written by the 31-year-old Benjamin Disraeli in 1835 in defence of the nineteenth-century British constitution.  His principal target was the liberal utilitarians of his day, who supported dangerous ideas like popular sovereignty and universal suffrage.