“The hegemony exercised by the Anglo-sphere over what is now called the West then signals the Protestant matrix of the cultural-social-political system in question, not in the sense that only (historically) Protestant countries are now considered the West, but in the sense that it is the philosophical-political legacy of Protestantism that defines the ideological horizon of the system.”
“Today’s Anglo-American-led ‘West’ likes to project itself as liberal-democratic[…]However, it would be more correct to speak about what is commonly called the West as the system of ideological modernity/post-modernity; in fact, from Luther to transhumanism there is space for everything in the ‘West’ system. Everything except the natural order and res publica christiana.”
“Catholics must be able to seize the opportunities offered by the historical moment to break out of liberal democratic captivity and begin to think politics again according to the categories of Catholic Doctrine.” —by Don Samuele Cecotti of the Cardinal Van Thuan Observatory (link) in his article below
Letter #72, 2022, Monday, May 31: On the Meaning of the West
Dr. Moynihan, who is traveling in connection with a special project, forwarded this piece. He said he thought readers might find it of interest as one conservative Catholic perspective on the quite complex and challenging problem of modernity and Christian faith. —Katie Carr, Managing Editor
On the Meaning of the “West” Anglosphere, Russia, Christianity. Samuele Cecotti (link)
May 31, 2022
On the Meaning of the “West”
Anglosphere, Russia, Christianity
by Don Samuele Cecotti
With the Note dated April 20 (link), our [Cardinal Van Thuan] Observatory offered its own contribution of clarification regarding the meaning of the ‘West’ and, in so doing, outlined the cultural framework for thinking about both the current crisis, as well as stable and Christian peace in Europe.
In accordance with the best classical-scholastic tradition, we proceeded by adopting explicatio terminorum as a premise for any argumentation to denounce misunderstandings and set discussion on the solid foundations of a defined understanding of what is said to be the ‘West’.
From the Note, however, one can and must also derive input for serious thought about the socio-political-cultural engagement of Catholics today.
In an effort to summarize the extensive text of the Note in short and sharp assertions, we can begin our reflection with some simple premises:
– The “essential” West is the Civilization born from the providential encounter between Greek logos, Roman ius and Divine Revelation, that is, Europe (from the Atlantic to the Urals) + Magna Europa (the European projections beyond the European continent) in its classical-Christian identity;
– The “essential” West, i.e., European Christian Civilization, complies with a Latin-Roman and a Greek-Byzantine declension according to the ancient division into the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire overlaid on the theological-ecclesial level by the schism of 1054;
– Protestantism in itself implies the impossibility of Christian Civilization and therefore projects itself as an “essential” anti-West (1);
– Commonly understood today as ‘the West’ is the system of liberal-democracies under the hegemony of what is known as the Anglo-sphere (United States of America and United Kingdom + Australia, New Zealand and Canada);
– Radical is the irreconcilability between the “essential” West and what is now understood as the West;
The doctrinal irreconcilability between the “essential” West and what is understood today as the West is self-evident as soon as one has understood the identity of the “essential” West as Christianity and the identity of what is understood today as the West as the system of liberal-democracies (Anglo-American-led), since both liberalism and democraticism are ideologies of modernity harshly condemned by the Magisterium of the Church(2), which deny the selfsame idea of res publica christiana on both the ideal and the factual historical level.
The hegemony exercised by the Anglo-sphere over what is now called the West then signals the Protestant matrix of the cultural-social-political system in question, not in the sense that only (historically) Protestant countries are now considered the West, but in the sense that it is the philosophical-political legacy of Protestantism that defines the ideological horizon of the system. Catholic or Orthodox countries and peoples (but also Islamic, Buddhist, Shinto, etc. ) ascribed to the West are thus Protestantized in varying forms and ways ranging from direct proselytism (e.g the endeavor over the past hundred years by the U.S. A. in Latin America to spread Protestant sects there) to mere politico-cultural intervention to redefine local politics, legislation and culture according to the liberal Protestant paradigm (this is what has happened in Italy, but also in Japan, from ’45 onward) via the attempt to Protestantize religious-moral-cultural institutions from within so as to make them instruments of the “Western” system (it is undeniable, for example, that the Catholic Church has undergone a massive process of Protestantization and liberal “conversion). Similar considerations must be made for the Greco-Schismatic universe, regarding the Patriarchate of Constantinople).
Where the option adopted does not entail a direct spread of Protestantism, efforts deployed nonetheless focus on a systemic Protestantization of the country, its political culture and its religious-moral institutions. What is never allowed is
– the realization of a social-political model other than the secular-liberal one;
– the maintenance or reestablishment of an Weltanschauung alternative to the liberal Protestant one.
In “the West” and by “the West”, people may be Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Shinto, etc. but in the liberal Protestant sense, that is to say as a voluntary choice or a purely private matter. On the other hand, however, it will never be permitted to establish a metaphysically based Civilization, that is to say a Civilization in the classical sense. Therefore, the re-birth of ‘Christendom’, of res publica christiana, will never be allowed.
Understanding this, we must bitterly conclude that the West as understood today is the main obstacle to the restoration of the “essential” West. It is precisely the system of liberal-democracies led by the Anglo-sphere that is always and everywhere radically opposed to any effort to establish the res publica christiana. Such a system can only will and act as follows: from the Protestant and liberal perspective, the res publica christiana and Christendom itself (civilization and organic society with its own sound doctrine synthesis of Divine Revelation, Greek philosophy and Roman law) are unacceptable monstrosities. Preventing their revival is an imperative duty!
Charlemagne revived would immediately be judged an enemy of the West, as would be Theodosius the Great, Saint Henry the Emperor and all the great Christian monarchs, from Saint Stephen of Hungary to Blessed Charles of Habsburg along the lines of Saint Louis IX of France. Not to mention the great popes of Christianity such as Saint Gregory VII or Innocent III. The Holy Roman Empire, as well as everything classified as the “Constantinian” Church, is today judged autocratic, illiberal and authoritarian, theocratic and anti-democratic, that is to say implicitly (if not explicitly) non-Western and contrary to the values of the West (3). Which West?
The West understood as the ideological modernity of which Luther was the father, had infested Europe for five centuries and for the last three has imposed itself, first culturally among the elites, then politically-legally in the wake of revolutions and bayonets, and finally as unquestionable common thought.
Today’s Anglo-American-led “West” likes to project itself as liberal-democratic, and thusly have we understood it in its irreconcilable otherness compared with Christianity or the “essential” West. However, it would be more correct to speak about what is commonly called the West as the system of ideological modernity/post-modernity; in fact, from Luther to transhumanism there is space for everything in the “West” system. Everything except the natural order and res publica christiana.
The current West (especially the Anglo-sphere and Western Europe which is most directly dependent on it) now stands as ideologically beyond liberal democracy itself, and asserts itself as a synthetic system-process of all the ideologies of modernity and post-modernity. Think only of the Marxism that triumphs in the West today in forms of social-democratic statism, neo-socialism, neo-Gramscian cultural Marxism and sundry manifestations of Trotskyism (4).
Proof of this was seen by people in their lives during the Covid crisis with liberal freedoms suspended and the myth of popular sovereignty disavowed by a supranational technocracy capable of imposing itself on almost the entire “Western world.” Today’s West remains liberal-democratic in its self-representation but, while not disavowing the liberal and democratic ideologies laid at its foundation, the legal, political and cultural system has already moved far ahead in the process of the Revolution. In order to understand today’s “Western” system, rather than the “old” liberal democratic Constitutions, it is urgent to study the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the policy documents of international organizations and the EU, the publications of major US think tanks, as well as essays such as Klaus Schwab’s The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Homo deus, A Brief History of the Future by Yuval Noah Harari, without forgetting less glamorous but no less significant maîtres à penser such as Jacques Attali or Bernard-Henri Lévy.
Our Observatory devoted its 13th Report on the SDC in the World to “The Chinese Model: capital-socialism of social control,” emphasizing how the capital-socialism of social control achieved by the Communist Party in China is pursued no less by the Western system following another route and with different nuances. China stands out in this as an experimental laboratory of a new socio-political-cultural-economic form of modernity/post-modernity, not in the sense of constitutional form (one-party people’s republic) or manifest ideology (Marx-Leninist communism), but as a totalitarian system that is the synthesis of capitalism and socialism through the massive use of technology integrated with mass psychology for widespread control and pervasive manipulation of consciences.
In this sense, the Chinese model is more “Western” than one might imagine, and today’s West is more “Chinese” than one would commonly like to admit. Given what seem to be current premises, there is a real risk that the years to come will witness a geopolitical clash between China and the “West”(5) for global hegemony in the form of a clash of forces in the presence of a single ideology (that capital-socialism of social control which also bears/will bear with it the transhumanist option and all the trappings of the Revolution) declined in the radical sense in the West, and in the Mao-Confucian sense in China. We would be in the presence of a non-alternative or a false alternative bringing the two paths both to capital-socialist totalitarianism.
Faced with such a picture and such disturbing scenarios, what is the position of political Catholicism? Unfortunately, we must note the long-standing absence of any real political Catholicism and even longer absence of powers that conceive of themselves as Catholic powers. Catholicism is evanescent as a political doctrine and nonexistent as a geopolitical force.
Such evanescence and nonexistence are the consequences of the historical imposition of ideological modernity in Europe and the de facto accommodation between Catholicism and Revolution. It was precisely this accommodation between the Revolution and Catholicism, first condemned then tolerated, and in the end both praised and promoted even within the Church itself, that meant political Catholicism no longer had a raison d’être. Today, Catholics in politics are not the bearers of a Catholic political doctrine but are, rather, exponents of the various options of political post-modernity, usually all encompassed within the liberal democratic universe. This leads to the paradox that Catholics today are the first and most zealous apologists for liberal-democracy and its developments, while completely forgetting the radical irreconcilability between liberal-democracy and res publica christiana, between ideological modernity/post-modernity and Christianity.
We cannot obscure the fact that the age-old battle between Christendom (the “essential” West) and the Revolution (the West as modernity/ideological post-modernity) has been won by the Revolution, which today poses as the West tout court, while also claiming to embody what Christians themselves should heartily desire. Such is the defeat that there is no temporal Power today which embodies political Catholicism, and Catholics themselves have long since been induced for the most part to identify and side with their own greatest secular enemy: ideological modernity/post-modernity assumed to be the “one West.” A collective Stockholm syndrome that has been dulling the minds of most people for decades.
A sine qua non condition for any discourse about political Catholicism is the denunciation of this collective Stockholm syndrome and overcoming it. There can be political Catholicism only where Catholics once again start thinking according to the categories of the Catholic Doctrine of the Church (and not according to the ideological paradigms of modernity/post-modernity) and fighting for the establishment of the res publica christiana (and not for the system of liberal-democracies), conceiving freedom and people according to the politico-legal tradition of Christianity, and understanding the State according to what, for example, Leo XIII taught in Immortale Dei.
Wanting to summarize the essential basics of political Catholicism in a few points, we could list:
– the Social Kingship of Christ;
– the foundation of all authority in God, including political authority;
– the distinction but not separation between res publica and Church;
– the primacy of the spiritual over the temporal and the potestas in temporalibus of the Church;
– the public duties of religion;
– classical natural law and the principle of legitimacy (of origin and exercise);
– ethical-finalistic conception of law and politics;
– politics finalized to the metaphysically understood common good;
– the principle of subsidiarity in the recognition of family and social bodies, their ends and related natural-traditional freedoms;
– the organic and hierarchical conception of society and res publica;
– the deep unity of society in the unity of Christian Truth.
Insofar as self-evident, this does not call for any demonstration of the incompatibility of each and every point above with the ideological-(geo)political system called the West, with its premises, values, and constitutional systems.
If the Stockholm syndrome means thinking about ourselves as Catholics “on the side of the liberal-democratic West,” it would also be seriously naïve and grave to uncritically chose other ‘Powers’ now active on the world stage as models. Unfortunately, no temporal Power today embodies political Catholicism, and none can be taken as a model.
Certainly there are countries where the critical sense toward liberal ideology, “new rights,” and globalization is more developed, where transhumanist dystopia and capital-socialism of social control are openly judged as dangers to be offset. It should certainly be noted that even a Great Power like Russia, in its political leadership and in the church hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate, as well as in its widespread culture, reveals a high degree of critical awareness about the ideological-political system of the modern/post-modern West. The Russian political system today projects itself as alien to the liberal laicism and radical drifts of the West, and with due intent and purpose the Russian Federation acts in harmony with the Russian Orthodox Church, looking upon itself as an expression of a Civilization of which Christianity is an essential note. All this cannot but be observed with interest.
Present-day Russia, however, is laden with contradictions, not only on the level of political practice but also on the level of ideology, contradictions that make the “Russian model” a heterogeneous mixture of the modern and the anti-modern, the ideological and the traditional, the revolutionary and the counter-revolutionary. That said, even if such contradictions were resolved in favor of tradition (and this is, of course, desirable), the Russian Empire would adopt the profile of a Caesarea-Byzantine Power, that is to say, a sort of Eastern Roman Empire restored to its post-1054 consistency.
It would certainly be an interesting counterpart, would certainly offer numerous opportunities for understanding and convergence without, however, being identifiable as a Power expressing political Catholicism. Political Catholicism is something else, it is that socio-political-economic-legal tradition stratified over the centuries of the Latin Middle Ages (and continued in the Baroque age, especially in the Habsburg dominions of Spains and the Empire) that the Social Doctrine of the Church has distilled in the great social documents of popes such as Leo XIII.
For all too long political Catholicism has disappeared from the world stage, for all too long has genuine political Catholicism been surrogated by a liberal-democraticism, with greater or lesser grafts of socialism, abusively dressed up as Catholicism. The process is nothing new, and dates back at least to the late 18th century, then developing in the 19thcentury with liberal Catholicism and social Americanism until the victory of the liberal-Masonic powers (England, the U.S., France and Italy) in World War I and the consequent process of the assimilation of political Catholicism to liberal-democracy. A process that after the Anglo-American victory in World War II underwent a powerful and almost unimpeded acceleration. For 70 years we have now witnessed the accomplished assimilation of political Catholicism to liberal democracy, that is, the suicidal extinction of political Catholicism.
The current crisis of globalization and single polarity (U.S. global hegemony after the collapse of the USSR), as well as the internal simmering of the West itself (consider Trumpism in the U.S. and the sovereign-populist movements in Europe) unveil interesting scenarios for a re-emergence of political Catholicism on the level of the popular masses and, in perspective, of the selfsame geopolitical projections.
A prerequisite for the emergence of political Catholicism is the interruption of any dependence on the liberal-democratic (or rather modern/post-modern) ideological universe, which implies taking one’s distance from all those international institutions that constitute a structure actually protecting liberal-democracy, in order to be able to think politics and law once again according to classical and Christian categories. It is necessary to overcome any inferiority complex with respect to ideological modernity, rid ourselves of the Stockholm syndrome, and start working again for Christendom, for the res publica christiana.
It is also necessary to have the political courage to ask certain disruptive questions, such as whether commitment to res publica christiana is compatible with membership in NATO, the EU, the OECD or the Council of Europe. Or whether, rather, commitment to res publica christiana does not demand a commitment to emancipate oneself from supranational institutions that are the expression of an ideological paradigm, the secular liberal-democratic one, so irreconcilable with the traditional conception of political Catholicism. To pose the question without any complexes and answer it truthfully, without self-censorship.
In this, it is interesting to note that we already have examples of conservative-populist governments with clear Christian identity connotations, that have understood the need to think alternatively about the liberal-democratic paradigm and position their country along a geo-strategic line other than that of the Anglo-sphere; among others, the Orban government in Hungary and the Bolsonaro government in Brazil. Then there are numerous African governments of Christian inspiration that now openly seek socio-political-cultural paths alternative to that of the liberal West, which is recognized as incompatible with Christianity and traditional (African) values.
The U.S. itself is simultaneously the decision-making center (political, economic, military, cultural) of the West understood as Revolution, as ideological modernity/post-modernity, and also the arena of a lively cultural-political battle where the very idea of that same ideological West is being challenged. Trumpism, now a phenomenon far more important than Trump himself, represents this historic opportunity in the U.S. to question the “Western” model that has been imposed for at least the past hundred years. From an intellectual viewpoint there are very advanced critical peaks inside the Trumpian world that go so far as to question much of the “Western” ideological system, bringing with them, instead, paradigms proper to Christianity and classical SDC (7). Trump is far from expressing a Catholic political idea, but the movement around him finally allows the hitherto hegemonic idea of America and the West to be questioned and, thus, offers space and gives political dexterity to outspokenly Catholic thought in the traditional sense.
Catholics must be able to seize the opportunities offered by the historical moment to break out of liberal democratic captivity and begin to think politics again according to the categories of Catholic Doctrine. The modalities of this can only vary from country to country, from situation to situation. What is possible in Hungary may not be so in France, what is possible in a Catholic African country may not be so in a NATO country, what may be possible in Brazil may not necessarily be feasible in an EU country, what may be hoped for in a traditionally Catholic Nation is different from what is realistic to pursue in traditionally Protestant Nations. With different, even very different ways, times, tactics and tools, however, from country to country everywhere, Catholics have the historical responsibility to grasp the present crisis of the modern/postmodern West and take advantage of it to shake off the ideological shackles of liberal democracy and its disturbing developments. Only by emancipating itself from the modern/postmodern ideological West does it make it possible for the “essential” West to re-engage with the world and open up possibilities for a renewed Christianity. To the Catholics of today the task of such an undertaking!
1) To understand the radical dissolving force of Protestantism and its essential irreconcilability with Christian Civilization, we refer to three texts among many that deserve mention: J. Maritain, The Three Reformers; P. Correa de Oliveira, Revolution and Counterrevolution; D. Castellano, Martin Luther. The cockcrow of modernity.
2) Magisterial condemnations of liberalism are numerous and unparalleled in harshness, from Gregory XVI’s Mirari vos to Pius XI’s Ubi arcano Dei after Blessed Pius IX’s Quanta cura. The words of Pope Leo XIII, who points to Lucifer as the progenitor of the liberals, suffice: “But already there are very numerous emulators of Lucifer – who uttered that impious cry “I will not serve” – who in the name of freedom practice absurd and blunt license. Such are the followers of that doctrine so widespread and powerful that they have wished to give themselves the name of Liberals by drawing it from the word liberty” (Libertas praestantissimum).
3) To get an account of “Western values” it is not necessary to refer to the now famous homily of Patriarch Cyril I of Moscow (Here is the “scandalous” homily of the Patriarch of Moscow – Aldo Maria Valli), it is sufficient to consider the very self-consciousness of the Atlantic powers: MI6 (the British Secret Intelligence Service) chief Sir Richard Moore wrote on Feb. 25, 2022: “With the tragedy and destruction unfolding so distressingly in Ukraine, we should remember the values and hard won freedoms that distinguish us from Putin, none more than LGBT+ rights.” The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan finds no better way than to hoist the rainbow flag of gay pride over the embassy in Kabul shortly before the unseemly American withdrawal from the country. And one could go on with dozens or hundreds of additional examples.
4) With the collapse of the USSR, Soviet Marx-Leninism was defeated, but not Marxism tout court (or even Marx-Leninism per se) that had taken up permanent residence in the West, where it had originated and had later spread eastward. Diamat, or dialectical materialism taken as the official philosophical system of the USSR, is certainly not the speculatively strongest and most corrosive form of Marx-Leninism, it was rather a “stabilized” version of it in order to provide a conceptual and methodological scaffolding for the then Soviet regime. Other forms of Marxism are social-democracy (Second International) so widespread in continental Europe, Gramscism (Italian interpretation of Marx-Leninism from the Third International), Trotskyism (Fourth International). Interestingly, the Fourth Communist International, theorizer of the “permanent world revolution” was held in 1938 in France in the presence of representatives of the major powers of Europe and America, Maoism, Marx-Freudism, etc. It is a common but no less serious and misleading mistake to identify Marxism with Sovietism alone (on Diamat see the 1948 essay Soviet Dialectical Materialism by Father G.A. Wetter s.j.), forgetting that the intrinsic perversity of communism is linked not to a statehood (the Soviet one) but to an atheo-materialist ideological paradigm contrary to truth and justice present as much in Soviet Diamat as in social-democratic, liberal-socialist, Gramscian, Trotskyist, Maoist, Marx-Freudian, etc. thought.
5) Let us not forget the deep connection between the U.S. and Communist China for at least 50 years. It was the U.S., in an anti-Soviet function, that fostered the geopolitical and economic rise of communist China from the 1970s onward, again the U.S. that wanted China in the WTO to make it a globalization player, again the U.S. (+ Western Europe) that promoted China’s industrialization over the last 30 years by making the communist giant “the global manufacturing industry.”
6) Interesting to note what Professor Giuliano Di Bernardo, philosopher of science, former Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy, then founder and Grand Master of the Grand Lodge Regular of Italy (the only Italian Masonic obedience recognized by the Grand Lodge of England), stated on August 15, 2020 on the TV program Bookmark (link) about China, world government, Covid pandemic, transhumanism, one-divine, etc.: (link)
7) By way of example only, we point to the volumes Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick J. Deneen and The Tyranny of Liberalism by James Kalb and the article The Catholic Case for Secession? by Eric Sammons (link) See also the doctrinaire elaboration in legal-constitutional and jus-philosophical fields by Professor Adrian Vermeule.