Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Catholics, Monarchists, and America

I used to admire some of the writings of self-proclaimed "Bad Catholic" John Zmirak, but more recently he seems to have gone off the Americanist deep end, constantly berating traditional Catholics for not being...well, liberal enough. The article rightly excoriated by Rorate Caeli here is ridiculous. Some of the activities he describes in horror sound fun (and do not offend this Anglican heretic). And John Rao (who identifies himself in the comments) is right about the Statue of Liberty. The sad thing is that Mr. Zmirak used to write lovingly about the Habsburgs and deplore the French Revolution, but seems to have shifted his worldview to be more in line with the Tea Party, mocking "quietist" Catholics who dare to suggest that there might be more worthwhile activities than partisan politics. He also thinks that 19th-century popes were wrong to side with Protestant and Orthodox monarchies against nominally Catholic revolutionaries, as if they didn't have good reasons for fearing revolutionary violence more than non-Catholic conservatism. In what may be deserving of a Worst Analogy of 2013 award, he writes of his scorn for traditional Catholics who supposedly "condemn the American founding because so many Founders were Freemasons" but fail to "denounce the nation of Spain, which was founded by Arian Visigoths." (I don't even know how to comment on such an absurd comparison.)

While at my own Episcopal church (despite the regrettable U.S. flag in the chancel) I get to write commentary for a Coronation Concert and be graciously and publicly thanked as a monarchist by the [Canadian] Rector, my fellow American monarchists in the Roman Catholic Church too often get less sympathetic treatment. Recently one friend told me about how when he tried to promote interest in Blessed Karl of Austria at his former parish, he was told by laity "we're not interested in anyone who was an enemy of the United States" and by the priest that there was "no place for European royalty" there. Apparently some Conservative American Catholics (TM) just can't stand it when any of their co-religionists deviate from the Ireland/Gibbons party line. God forbid that anyone look beyond 1776 for inspiration. In particular, some U.S. Latin Mass quasi-traditionalists, aware of the controversial links between the SSPX and French royalism, seem to be anxious to purge their movement of anything deemed politically "weird" or "European"--despite (if they're of the "indult"/"Summorum Pontificum" persuasion) supposedly priding themselves on having remained loyal to Pope John Paul II, who beatified Emperor Karl. 

Despite such cowardly efforts, the online media is noticing American monarchists, as already noted on this blog in November, many of whom are indeed Catholic.  One even sees apparently serious proposals to amend American republicanism in a way influenced by monarchist ideas. Are U.S. conservatives "obsessed with monarchies"? Well, perhaps I am, though I don't call myself a "conservative." Mr. Lewis's article doesn't reflect much knowledge of what serious monarchists actually believe. (I for one have little patience for the right-wing Putin cult.) But the fact that it exists at all may be vaguely encouraging. And to pick on John Zmirak once more, if he really believes (correctly) that European conservatives can't be anti-monarchical unless they're Swiss or Venetian, would he say that to the many French, German, Austrian etc. "conservatives" who (unfortunately) obviously disagree, or does he just like to belittle American monarchists (most of whom do not in fact demand that the USA as we know it become a Monarchy)? I for one have never claimed to belong to the American "conservative" tradition based on idolization of the "Founding Fathers." But if some people who do come from that background are beginning to see the merits of monarchy, or at least the defects of republicanism and democracy, good for them...and welcome to the club!


Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson said...

What if the majority of the population decide to reject Monarchism and declare a Republic? Are they not entitled to do so? Peacefully?

Theodore Harvey said...

No. The idea that the majority should always get its way is a democratic one, not a monarchist one, and I do not claim to be a democrat. That said, it would not be possible in practice for a monarchy to last long without the consent of a majority of the population.

While republicans in a particular country with a monarchical heritage may have the _ability_ to force their country's monarchists to live in a republic against their will, I do not accept that they have the moral _right_ to do so. I will always side with monarchists against republicans, even if monarchists are in the minority.

David Votoupal said...

Almost no monarchy was ever abolished with the consent of the majority of the population, and even those that were (Greece and Italy) have serious questions of fairness about them.

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson said...

Iceland declared itself a Republic with 98%+ of the vote 70 years ago.

And no monarchist is forced to live here against their will. The Monarchy survived in Denmark.

Are you saying Icelanders did not have the basic human right to choose their own government?

Does Catalonia not have a right to declare their own Republic?

It's not always about majority-minority. Minorities should not be mistreated. But...isn't it a bit arrogant to think that people will continue to adhere to antiquated traditions, without ever questioning them?

If a referendum were held to re-instate a monarchy and it won, it should be respected. And vice versa.

Of course there is always the danger of Democracy turning into Mob rule, but in educated societies that is harder to bring to life.

So shouldn't people exercise their right to choose what kind of political system they want?

Theodore Harvey said...

I do not accept the premise that monarchy is "antiquated," and I do not accept the premise that there is a "basic human right to choose their own government" which was unknown for most of history. And if there is such a right, than how are my rights not being violated by the United States government if I would prefer to live in a monarchy?

I don't particularly mind Iceland being a republic as it had a sort of republican tradition in the Middle Ages so one could say that republicanism is authentic there. And the Danish monarchy survived in Denmark. But I am totally opposed to republican separatism in Catalonia. There are already far too many republics in Europe and the last thing we need is another one.

Theodore Harvey said...

Anyway I don't think you really understood the point of this post which is about whether Americans and especially American Catholics can or should be monarchists (and critical of the American form of government) at all. None of which has much to do with Iceland.

Bill said...

Mr. Harvey,

This may surprise Catholic Americans who believe that the American Revolution was a good ting.