Monday, May 4, 2009

SSPX bishop rebukes monarchists

Given all the trouble that SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson has caused his fellow traditional Roman Catholics and the Pope this year, I suppose monarchists should be grateful that he has suddenly decided to distance himself from us. Nevertheless, given the traditionally strong association between the SSPX and French royalism, it is surprising to learn that Bishop Williamson has "never felt entirely comfortable around monarchists." It seems to me that in declaring that kings are "insufficient," the bishop is jousting with straw men; I am not aware of any monarchist claiming that the restoration of kings per se would instantly solve all our problems.

It is all very well, and hardly inappropriate for a bishop, to emphasize humanity's need for the "King of Kings," but that very title implies that there ought to be earthly kings under Him, and the bishop ignores the fact that even if everyone were to embrace the Roman Catholic faith, the question of what sort of temporal government is best would still be a pertinent one! Bishop Williamson is missing the point: no one denies that "kings alone are not enough"--as if any monarchy could exist without a complex patchwork of factors that certainly includes religion. But that doesn't mean that the revolutionary destructions--which he himself admits were "ghastly"--of ancient Christian monarchies such as those of France and Russia are not in themselves evils that must be remedied if the Christian world is to have any hope of genuine rebirth. Temporal Kings and Queens are not sufficient, but they are necessary; necessary in their embodiment of Tradition and Continuity, concepts which are integral to any authentically Christian worldview. Saying that because monarchy per se is not the only thing we need, there is no point in being a monarchist, is as absurd as saying that because one needs other ingredients besides sugar to bake cookies, there is no point in buying sugar if one wishes to bake cookies. Yes, Europeans need more than just the restoration of their monarchies, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a good start!

If Bishop Williamson is not a monarchist, but also opposes the contemporary democratic political order, then one naturally wonders what sort of government he would support. Roman Catholicism, like my own tradition of Anglicanism but unlike the more extreme forms of Protestantism (not to mention Islam), does not demand "theocracy;" the Church has always taught that there is a legitimate need for a political sphere distinct from (though ideally allied to) the Church. Faith in the "King of Kings" may be enough for salvation, but it is not a specific blueprint for civil society as long as we're alive on this planet.

Traditionalists of Bishop Williamson's ilk often seem like they would prefer some sort of conservative Catholic dictatorship, of the sort likely to be called "clerical fascist" by its enemies. Not only do I as an Anglican monarchist find that model profoundly unappealing, but it seems to me that if they reject traditional monarchy in favor of "Catholic strongman" authoritarianism, right-wing Roman Catholics--for all their alleged conservatism--are ironically reflecting the essentially modernist mentality that they have the right to judge and to a certain extent choose (though perhaps by bullets rather than ballots) their head of state. Rejecting hereditary monarchy because it cannot guarantee (as if any system could) that every ruler will be a devout Catholic, they embrace key errors of the very modernists they claim to detest: that we are now in a "new era" for which "new solutions" must be found, that "you cannot turn back the clock," and that any insistence that older political forms remain valid and valuable is nothing more than a "nostalgia trip," a "distraction."

Bishop Williamson and other non-monarchist trads will not like being told (especially by an Anglican) that they resemble modernists or liberals, but in this one area, at least, they do. (Indeed, throughout the 20th century it has been the European "Right"'s acceptance of the abolitions of monarchies that has served to consolidate the gains of the egalitarian Left, which hates the Altar at least as much as the Throne.) I hope that my Roman Catholic monarchist friends will join me in saying to them: we do not want your Dollfusses, your Salazars, your Tisos, your Francos; we want Bourbons, Hapsburgs, Witttelsbachs, and Braganzas, and we cannot envision any "Social Kingship of Christ" that does not include the legitimate temporal rights of the latter.


Matthias said...

While I see some benefit to the "Catholic Strongmen" in that they were better then the alternatives at the time, I agree wholly. In fact, I dare say I would prefer a traditional protestant monarch (say in England) over an authoritarian Catholic dictatorship where monarchy once existed. Kingship is a type of Sacrament that makes present to the world the Reign of Christ's eternal Kingship and until Bishop Williamson and the traditionalists as a whole realize this, they will have little if no success in restoring traditional values or morality to society.

Aaron Traas said...

Amen and amen! Though the social reign of Christ isn't explicitly predicated on the reign of Christian kings, it's difficult to imagine His reign sustaining without them.

After the SSPX is regularized, I hope that Williamson continues to spout out at the mouth; people will just learn to ignore him faster.

Anonymous said...

Though I sometimes like Bishop Williamson's uncompromising attitude, here I agree with you. Though Sapin and Portugal were served well by authoritarian Catholic dictators, one of whom restored the country's monarchy, dictatorship can only be a short term solution, since there is no established succession. Though states without a monarchy to restore might benefit if more dictators follow the Jean-B├ędel Bokassa model and found royal dynasties, it would be preferable to reinstate former monarchies for the sake of continuity.

Michael E. said...

@Matthias: Kingship isn't a sacrament, but I agree that it's a holy office and speaking as a Catholic with Traditional leanings, I agree that a monarchy is immensely preferable to any kind of Catholic strongman. The main thing to be preferred with the latter is if the Church has greater freedom and autonomy to the alternative--and especially if it leads to a monarchy or monarchical restoration, like with Franco in Spain.

I think the trouble is that after World War I the formal and material right wing have in practice split up, so that monarchies have become materially more left wing, and materially right wing governments have more often not been monarchical.

@Aaron: True about Christ's social reign--not all governments must be monarchical (San Marino comes to mind) but monarchy best reflects the Holy Trinity.

I would prefer that Bishop Williamson repent of any ways in which he led people astray, rather than what you said, though.