The Catholic Case Against White Nationalism

white nationalism

White nationalism and postmodernism constitute a kind of yang and yin in Western politics. Where the latter has fed for many years the worldview of the progressive left, the latter can be called the unconscious “default” position of the populist right. More to the point, the anti-Western bias of postmodernism (of which intersectionality is an American offshoot) is one of an array of perceived threats to white identity and dominance driving the resurgence of white nationalism. But no matter how much of Europe’s Christian legacy it appropriates to itself, Catholics cannot espouse white nationalism in good conscience.

What is White Nationalism, Anyway?

Before going further, perhaps we should define white nationalism so we’re all talking about the same thing:

White nationalism concedes the belief that white people constitute inter alia a metaculture distinct from other races. I say “concedes” because this belief exists in postmodern-intersectionalist progressivism as well. However, no single, coherent definition of “whiteness” prevails; in the U.S., the most common is that of a person of European non-Jewish ancestry, though some consider European Jews white. To make these distinctions, white nationalists often refer back to racial models long abandoned by anthropologists, going back as far as the late 19th century. It’s apparently not enough that you think you’re white.

According to Eric Kaufmann of London’s Birkbeck University (as phrased by New York Times writer Amanda Taub), “White supremacy is based on a racist belief that white people are innately superior to people of other races; white nationalism is about maintaining political and economic dominance, not just a numerical majority or cultural hegemony.” White nationalists believe America’s national identity depends on white people maintaining social dominance and is threatened by multiculturalism, not necessarily because white people are superior but because Western European social structure is founded on white cultural values.

In other words, you don’t have to believe people of color are inferior, although “race science” is making a disturbing comeback. You just have to believe that “they don’t belong here and are wrecking it for the rest of us.” While some might consider this a semantic shell game, it does form a basis for compromise between the John Q. Skinhead neo-Nazi and the Joe Schmuckatelli whose father or grandfather proudly fought against the Nazis in World War II. The end result of their efforts would be the same: a sign on the Statue of Liberty reading “For Whites Only.”

Where I Come From

Although I can be pigeonholed as white, I’ve never had any personal sympathy for white nationalism. For one thing, I may not be 100% white myself. My maternal great-grandmother, Justiniana (Casados) Cronin, was a Mexican born when New Mexico had been an American territory for less than 50 years; however, she claimed to be pure Spanish. Old Mexico had abolished its racial classification system in 1821, but the racism behind it still lingers. Recently, one of my aunts had her DNA checked and discovered a slight trace of Native American genes. If Great-Grandma Annie ever knew of it, she never admitted to it.

(I doubt whether the rest of the Casados family ever denied a racial distinctiveness. The story goes that shortly after I was born in Albuquerque, my mother and another aunt took my brother and me to visit some relatives in nearby Bernalillo. While they were chatting with a couple of cousins, the paterfamilias came in, took one look, and asked — quite loudly and in English — “Who are the gringos?”)

Growing up urban Catholic in the 1970s meant growing up identifying as part of an ethnic group: Irish, Italian, Polish, etc. Only WASPs — White Anglo-Saxon Protestants — were generically white, we thought. It also meant growing up in the aftermath of the 1960s, as we Americans wrestled with several massive cultural paradigm shifts, especially the shift in our racial paradigms. A history buff from an early age, I had learned enough about America’s history and about the Holocaust in Europe to foreswear racism by the age of 12 and eventually come to question the validity of race as an analytical tool.

Of course, to really study the ugly side of American history is to learn about more than racism and anti-Semitism. You can hardly study things like the American (“Know-Nothing”) Party or the Ku Klux Klan without encountering nativism and anti-Catholicism. Besides their religion, the Casadoses and the Cronins had in common the fact that white Protestant America didn’t want them. A descendant of immigrants, I believed and still believe nativism to be un-American and un-Christian, an elitist rejection of the brotherhood of man. Even with today’s security concerns, I still believe in the lamp lifted beside the golden door.

The Secular Case: Race is a Myth

My first objection is that, whether it’s found in the postmodern narrative or the white nationalist narrative, “whiteness” is an arbitrary, fictitious concept manufactured by historical and cultural cherry-picking. The real Europe comprises a variety of culturally distinct groups, most of whose histories can’t be fully reconciled within a single racial narrative. The notional unity of race obliterates the real variety of peoples whose differences powered Europe’s long history of internal wars and rebellions.

That the myth of race exists at all is less due to the facts of history and more despite the facts. By its nature, it was intended to explain Western Europeans’ technological and economic dominance as a function of the white man’s genetic superiority. However, the idea that “our tribe is better than their tribe” is by no means a “white” or “European” invention; cultural pride (in the sinful sense of pride) finds expression across national, cultural, linguistic, religious, and even ideological borders. Imperialism may be a European word, but Europeans don’t hold the copyright on conquering other peoples and supplanting their cultures.

To use a boxing metaphor, Western technology and economic strength simply gave Western European imperialism weight and reach advantages.

Where postmodernism errs by using “whiteness” to give people of European descent a monopoly on humanity’s worst traits, white nationalism errs by assuming that culture is meant to be static, something preserved unchanged for the ages. But culture qua culture is supposed to be flexible, to adapt to changing survival conditions. A culture that doesn’t change as needed is a culture doomed to extinction, as is a culture that changes in counterproductive ways. Only dead things are preserved in amber or in stone. Not only can we not resurrect some idealized historical period, but it’s also neither necessary nor desirable.

The Catholic Case: “No Longer Jew or Greek”

So far, we’ve covered only the secular arguments against white nationalism. Where the secular arguments emphasize the regional ethnic group as prior in concreteness to the racial group, the Catholic argument emphasizes the individual as prior to all social groups. Our unity as such is found not in language or culture or technology but rather in our common origins as creatures and children of God, expressed through our common descent from Adam and Eve (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1934). Due to our common origins, we are also all subject to the same legacy of original sin and potentially saved through Christ’s redemptive sacrifice.

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus … (Romans 3:22-24)

From the Christian personalist perspective, the individual human is more than the sum of their ethnicity, religion, sex, orientation, or any other demographic. These things all contribute to our personal uniqueness but are insufficient in themselves to describe or explain us. In a 1968 letter to his friend Henri de Lubac, Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation, indeed in a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human person.” Reduction of your identity to some social class, regardless of motivation, voluntarily participates in that degradation.

The Christian Law of Love expresses itself in the duty of hospitality: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35). All nations need laws for the common good. Nevertheless, the need for public order should not be used as a pretext for ethnic or religious discrimination, especially when the discrimination is directed towards creating a homogeneous society. Rather, the charity and mercy which impel us to welcome the stranger also impel us to uphold his fundamental human dignity.

… [W]ith respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language or religion, is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent. (Gaudium et Spes 29.2; cf. CCC 1935)

Conclusion

The Roman playwright Terence (Publius Terentius Afer, c. 195 – 159 BC) wrote, “I am a man, and nothing that concerns a man do I deem a matter of indifference to me” (The Self-Tormentor 1:1). Those who wish us to pride ourselves on our European cultural legacy ought to remember that belief in the universal brotherhood of man has been part of that legacy even when it wasn’t universally affirmed. At the same time, it’s a part of the European cultural legacy precisely because it’s part of our common human patrimony of natural law.

Catholicism is not a “white” religion. Indeed, we call ourselves “Catholic” because katholikos, its Greek root, means “universal”, as the gospel message we preach is meant for all nations (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). There is no room in that gospel message for the myth of race, let alone the dangerous ideology of white nationalism. If we are a Christian nation in more than name only, then we cannot be a nation “for whites only.”

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12 thoughts on “The Catholic Case Against White Nationalism”

  1. No one in American politics is espousing an anti-white narrative.
    No American politician espouses an anti-white narrative.

    Take your pick.

    You insist that is rational for white people to be racist. I suppose I have no answer to that.

    1. Anthony S. Layne

      “You insist that is rational for white people to be racist. I suppose I have no answer to that.” Wow, from a “no true Scotsman” to an equivocation to a straw man all in one thread. If you read what I really wrote instead of trying to decode it, you’ll see that at no time did I say it was rational for anybody, white or otherwise, to be racist. What this thread has been about was your personal refusal to believe that anyone outside of academia could be passing along an anti-white narrative. At the end of the day, I can only put my conclusions out there; I can’t make you believe what you don’t want to believe. But let’s at least not pretend this argument has ever been about white racism being rational. Unless, of course, you think it’s racist to believe other people judge you poorly because of your race … which would really be irrational.

  2. “the resurgence of white nationalism is driven in part by the anti-white narrative propagated by many radical leftists.”

    You should point out that this is an irrational reaction. Anti-white narratives are not espoused by anyone in American politics. They have no influence anywhere except in certain parts of academia.

    1. Anthony S. Layne

      On the theory that “what happens in academia stays in academia”? Sorry, that baby has already crawled out of the crib.

    2. Give me some kind of evidence that ant-white narrative has crawled out of academia.

      To repeat: no American politician espouses an anti-white narrative.

    3. Anthony S. Layne

      You “repeat”? You didn’t say “politician” the first time around. Your contention was broader: “not espoused by anyone outside academia”. Are those the only two career paths — academic or politician? Of course, the statement you quoted originally simply said “many radical leftists”; I made no claims about the extent of their presence in the government.

      Of course, the only politicians who would openly espouse the anti-white narrative at this time would likely never see the inside of a legislative chamber or executive office. On the other hand, political activists and writers, especially bloggers, can do so with relatively little fear of losing whatever jobs they have. They don’t even have to have college degrees (not everyone with a degree is an academic, of course). Nor does everyone who holds an opinion necessarily spew it for public consumption as we chatterati do. If you discount such people because they’re not academics or politicians and therefore don’t “have influence”, then you’re missing the point entirely — they’re the influencees. And they have votes, too. I said the baby has already climbed out of the crib; you’re shifting the boundaries of the crib.

    4. No one in American politics is espousing an anti-white narrative.
      No American politician espouses an anti-white narrative.

      Take your pick.

      You insist that is rational for white people to be racist. I suppose I have no answer to that.

  3. The author thinks he and his family can ignore the animus against the caucasien race and peacefully survive.
    The storm clouds have already formed Mr Layne. Your type are despised even inside the Church. Ask any Spanish speaking bishop. To him, you do not even exist. Bet on it.

  4. What you say is all very well but I’m reminded of the saying “you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you”. Right now, generic, generalized, all encompassing “whites” are under attack from the Left as the root of all evil, and targeted for marginalization and destruction in whatever way possible. This “White Nationalism” is the inevitable reaction, however flawed.

    1. Anthony S Layne

      “The Left” is just as generic and all-encompassing as is “whites.” But yes, as I said in the lede, the resurgence of white nationalism is driven in part by the anti-white narrative propagated by many radical leftists.

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