Thursday, May 25, 2023

Two Forms of Catholic Nationalism – James M. Patterson

As a religious minority, American Catholics had to find a way to fit into a Protestant cultural hegemony, and there have been two strategies proposed over the years. The predominant strategy was one of Americanization, and proponents were dubbed “Americanists.” The American hierarchy, working within this framework, articulated a Catholic republicanism complementary to American institutions. Some even insisted that Catholicism was the best source for perfecting American republicanism! Even so, Catholic Americanists stopped short of a full-fledged nationalism. As John D. Wilsey has shown, American nationalists have generally seen the nation itself as having a divine mission, owing to its exceptional character and place in the world. American Catholics could not easily fit into this mission for reasons I explain below. Rather, Americanists appealed to patriotism, urging Catholics to love their country for its many gifts, and to feel a corresponding obligation to contribute as loyal citizens and to support its administration of justice. 

The alternative strategy was one of cultural separation. This separation did not involve a radical removal or loss of contact with the broader world, but there was a separation of ethnic cultural practices and beliefs bound up in their ancestral Catholicism. The separationists regarded America as inferior—and probably heretical; hence, they sought to retain as much of their old beliefs and institutions as they could. Over time, separationists began to lose contact with the old world, but their displeasure with America remained and found expression in the endorsement of foreign nationalisms over American nationalism.


Put me down as an Americanist, though sometimes I wonder if that's not futile and naïve. Hungary is for Hungarians.

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