Responses to Questions on Monarchism from Traditional Catholics, Part III

from Monarchism and Other Marginal Political Philosophies (FishEaters, January 16, 2006)

I've noticed that within Trad circles, certain political philosophies are often represented, in particular, Monarchism, Distributism, and in Europe, extremely far-right philosophies (Egs: National Front).

As it concerns Monarchism, I'm truly curious how self-affirmed Monarchists define the philosophy and would apply to a modern, cultural-political context? What would be its benefits, and why is it conceived as essentially Catholic? I think that most people would deem it unfeasible.

*I used the word "Marginal" in the post heading in a numerical sense -- I think even Monarchists would agree that most people don't have a Monarchist political sensibility.

First of all, I'd like to point out that whether a proposition is "feasible" or "popular" ought to have very little if any bearing on whether a Catholic, or any principled traditionalist or conservative, embraces it. A total ban on abortion, for example, is not politically speaking a "realistic" goal in the United States, still less in most Western European countries, but is nevertheless what all Catholics must theoretically advocate.

Also, while it is true that the media characterize the French National Front as "extremist" and "far-right," as far as I'm concerned the FN's position that France should not allow itself to be overrun by Muslims and other foreigners is simply common sense; it is the position of "mainstream" European politicians that Europeans must welcome the dissolution of their societies in the name of multiculturalism and bend over backwards to accommodate immigrants that seems insane and truly extremist to me. Strictly speaking, in a traditional sense the FN is really not all that right-wing, since to be truly right-wing in a French context would be to demand the total repudiation of the French Revolution and the restoration of the pre-1789 ancien regime. While this is not the FN's official position, its coalition does include monarchists, and so if I were French I would have no problem supporting Le Pen.

I have addressed the topic of monarchism here before, most recently on the Martin Luther King thread, but for convenience I will re-post the links I advised tradcatholicmom to visit in order to understand more fully the beautiful relationship between Catholicism and monarchism.

Charles Coulombe Archives (see especially the Monarchy FAQ and Coronations in Catholic Theology)
Nicholas Wansbutter, The Sublimity of Monarchism
Solange Hertz, Democracy, Monarchy, and the Fourth Commandment; Global Democracy and the Rise of the King of Darkness; Beyond Politics (scroll down to pages 108-112)

Now, a personal note: as the old timers on this forum know, but others may not, I, while quite sympathetic to traditionalists, am not actually Catholic myself, nor have I yet made a commitment to convert, though I attend mass at an SSPX chapel every Sunday and, like the pro-Catholic French monarchist agnostic Charles Maurras whose quotation appears in my signature, consider myself an ally of traditional Catholics. Therefore I have to concede a certain lack of qualification to speak with authority on what Catholics ought to believe; nevertheless, having relied heavily on thoroughly Catholic sources, writers, and friends in developing my opinions, I have no doubt that the political conclusions I have reached are also those which would make the most sense for any traditional Catholic, and which would if anything be strengthened by my conversion. I will also note that it was precisely because of my monarchist beliefs that I was introduced to traditional Catholicism: my first Latin mass was a requiem in honor of King Louis XVI of France.

I have explained in depth my own monarchist beliefs from a secular perspective in two articles: Why I am a Monarchist (1999) defends symbolic constitutional monarchy as currently practiced in countries such as the United Kingdom and Spain; Monarchy and Ideology, Part II: A Case for Traditional Monarchy (2002) defends the older kind of monarchy in which a hereditary sovereign actually governs, though not without limits on his power.

I hope you will explore all of the above links thoroughly, but nevertheless I will add a few points. Contrary to popular myths about "tyranny" versus "freedom," the fundamental disagreement between monarchists and republicans is not one of how much power rulers should have, or how widely that power should be distributed. Many monarchists, such as myself, actually advocate a more limited and decentralized government than many republicans. What is more crucial, however, is the question of on what principles the government should be founded. Hereditary monarchy very visibly bases government and society on the idea of the family, with the determination of the next of state revolving on the thoroughly natural process of human reproduction. Republicanism, on the other hand, places the democratic system itself at the center of the operations of government, with the determination of the next of state revolving on the entirely artificial and man-made process of elections. Seen in this light, there can be no doubt as to which system is more edifiying and poetic. Monarchy quite properly reminds us the foundation of society is the family, whereas Democracy erroneously replaces the idealization of the family with the idealization of the modern state and its processes.

One recent illustration of the inherent weakness of democracy from a Catholic point of view can be found in a statement Pope John Paul II made towards the end of his life, in which he praised democracy in theory while lamenting modern democratic governments' routine violation of the natural law as exemplified by the legalization of abortion. The Pope's leftist critics correctly pointed out that this amounted to saying that democracy is only acceptable as long as it doesn't contradict the morals of the Catholic Church, which is not really democracy. If one applies democratic principles consistently, there can be no natural law, because no authority would have the right to overrule the "will of the people," the very concept on which democracy is founded. In contrast, for a Christian monarchist to acknowledge that even the king cannot legitimately overrule the natural law involves no such contradiction of principles at all, since the coronation of a Christian monarch by a bishop implicitly reinforces the superiority of the law of God from which the monarch's authority derives.

Responses to Questions on Monarchism from Traditional Catholics