Populists play off John Paul II against Francis, Europe

Daniele Palmer: In Rome conference, populists, conservatives play off John Paul II against Francis, Europe

National populists argue for Catholicism’s “inherent” nationalism and Euroscepticism as the American and European far-right seek to expand their influence.

At a conference held in Rome earlier this week, the “National Conservatism” movement brought together Catholic traditionalists with populist political figures from Europe and the United States, with the aim of fleshing out the Church’s “message of sovereignty”, said the group’s founder and political theorist Yoram Hazony.

“We are here to create an alliance of free nations”, said Hazony, one which will be constructed “from a biblical perspective.”

Having taken place merely four days after the UK’s official exit from the European Union, Brexit was hailed as “fruit of God’s grace”, Hazony extolled to a thunderous audience, to which he then added: “God bless independent Britain, let your future be no less remarkable than your past.”

The theme of the conference, which bore the title “God, Honor, Country”, was the relationship between US President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II.

The Polish pontiff was hailed as a harbinger of nationalism and anti-communism, whose “theology of the nation” littered the speeches of many speakers at the conference.

The conference was attended bye among others, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Italian far-right MP Giorgia Meloni, and the rising star of French national populism Marion Maréchal-Le Pen.

The presence of renowned Catholic traditionalists and Christian conservatives, like the Italian historian Roberto De Mattei and US author Rod Dreher, was to provide “authority” to the anti-European and nationalist tenets the “National Conservative” movement seeks to expose, said a conference organiser that intends to remain anonymous.

The “brand” of Catholicism exposed during the event, one for which the legacy of John Paul II was seen to provide the building blocks of a “global order of Christian civilisation”, is that of a “new humanism”, said the French far-right politician Marion Maréchal-Le Pen.

“We defend all the needs of the human soul: order freedom, obedience, responsibility, hierarchy, honour, security”, said Maréchal-Le Pen.

She added that national populism is in line with the “social Catholicism” of the 19th century.

Rooting their nationalism within Catholicism is considered of utmost importance, much like Evangelical Christians in the US have attempted to identify US President Donald Trump as a biblical prophet.

Catholicism’s “refusal of relativism” and belief in a “universal ethic and natural law”, one for which the nation-state is sacred and a mere outworking of the family, renders it a source for “self-preservation of society”, said Maréchal-Le Pen.

But the Catholicism that was discussed was that of the traditionalists, and so one highly critical of Pope Francis. In fact, De Mattei stressed that the current Pope has “renounced being a spiritual leader”.

“Pope Francis has become the political leader of the international left”, said De Mattei at the conference.

One American delegate at the conference, ex-US ambassador and one-time advisor to George W. Bush, compared Francis to Trump, arguing that they are the “two most unlikely allies in pursuit of anything in common”, unlike the “likeminded” Reagan and John Paul II.

Instead, Pope Francis mere “elevates contemporary preoccupations to the level of religious duties”, and therefore is unable to combat the “rising totalitarianism”, emphasised Hughes.

Much like Reagan and John Paul IV, US President Donald Trump was hailed as a key political figure in the fight against what Dreher defined as the “pink police state”.

American Evangelicals have often defined Trump as a biblical prophet. Perceptions of the US present were not dissimilar at the conference.

In fact, the national-populist movement was hailed as the “direct inheritor of the glorious revolution of the 1980s and of 1989”, said Christopher Demuth, one of the organisers of the event.

And undergirding this movement is nationalism, which “is an inherently peaceful doctrine” according to Alexandre Pesey, founder of the French conservative think tank Institut de formation politique (IFP). It is “the only truly peaceful doctrine”.

The “National Conservative” movement will meet next year in Washington, D.C. for another conference.

Next on Novena:

European Bishops: “Brexit will not succeed in shattering EU-UK fraternal relations”

Hungarian Bishops bash Budapest district mayor for suggesting far-right PM Orbán a “frightening… white nationalist”

Bannon’s “gladiator school” idea for ultra-Catholics infects France

Hungarian Catholics denounce country’s collapse into “mafia State of hatred”, PM Orbán’s descent into “religious insanity”

Catholic, other Churches turn blind eye to Christian-nativist populist slide in Hungary

Francis deplores “suffocating resentment” behind European populisms

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Daniele Palmer is a freelance journalist. He studied history in London and is preparing to do a PhD at Cambridge on French Political Thought. He currently works from Rome as the Vatican correspondent for Where Peter Is: https://wherepeteris.com/author/daniele-palmer/