A reader writes:

Mark, here’s a short article by Russell Kirk that I think you’ll find worth a read:

Written in 1986 but still timely, especially since I am of the opinion that Russell Kirk trumps the spokesman of The Thing that use to be Conservatism, especially in comboxes. Good quotes:

“I am not implying that conservative folk should set to forming a conservative ideology; for conservatism is the negation of ideology. The conservative public man turns to constitution, custom, convention, ancient consensus, prescription, precedent, as guides—not to the narrow and fanatical abstractions of ideology.”

“The ideologue cannot govern well; but neither can the time-server. Conservative people in politics need to steer clear of the Scylla of abstraction and the Charybdis of opportunism. So it is that thinking folk of conservative views ought to reject the embraces of the following categories of political zealots: … Those who instruct us that “the test of the market” is the whole of political economy and of morals. … Those who assure us that great corporations can do no wrong.”

Just to be clear, my interest in conservatism begin and ends with its intersection with the Catholic faith. Where conservatives are interested in furthering Catholic teaching and the kingdom of God in his holy Church, I welcome their help. Where they have interests that are not particularly germane to the faith, I don’t have a burning interest. And where they have human dogmas that oppose the faith, I stand with the Church and in opposition to them. I think exactly the same way about Progressivism. I regard political systems as human mechanisms which are to be used to further the kingdom of God and tossed aside as a broken tool would be and replaced with whatever works and is not immoral. Kirk, a serious Catholic, had his head screwed on straight about that point too so he has much to teach us. But no human tradition, party or ideology is, in my view, owed any loyalty any more than a wrench or screwdriver is. If it works in furthering the Church teaching or works of mercy or growing in virtue, great. Let’s use it. Otherwise, blow it off and find a better tool.

  • tz

    A large number of the deviations are from neo-conservatives, turning Roman Catholicism into Neo-Catholicism. as there an earlier might-makes-right, or is it might-makes-the-right (banksters and torture) heresy?

  • J. H. M. Ortiz

    Ideology as described by the 20th-century philosopher Yves Simon — a system accepted without evidence and for a practical purpose — is indeed to be avoided. But let’s be wary too about falling into an unprincipled consequentialism that denies that a human act is good, bad, or indifferent through being the kind of human act which it is. (We all know intuitively that to cheat, for instance, is wrong.)

    • J. H. M. Ortiz

      “Human act” here means one that’s deliberate, intended, voluntary (as distinct, for instance, from involuntarily though knowingly increasing the rate of one’s breathing when running).

  • Ted Seeber

    I am almost to the point where I say that either, is inviting in material cooperation with evil. Consequentialism is never a good way to preserve one’s soul.

  • ivan_the_mad

    I like your comments here. It reminds me of something Ron Paul said, that if the president really obeyed the Constitution then the issue of his party affiliation is moot. Likewise, it oughtn’t to matter your political disposition if the teachings of the Church always have primacy in your thought.


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