Friday, September 23, 2022

Pope and Pol draft


The Pope or the Pol


Hope in the Third Millennium


The Death of the West?


John Paul II versus Pat Buchanan



by John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe


John Walton

Easton, MD


John, thanks for pushing me to read Buchanan’s book. I have a mixed reaction to it. I find it deeply pessimistic, a cry of despair. It is diametrically opposed to the clear teaching – teaching, not commentary – of St. John Paul II, both in its general thrust and in most details. Nonetheless, I found it extraordinarily helpful – a powerful presentation of a viewpoint that had baffled me.


For some months in 2022, I felt that I had lost a large part of my vocation – the ability to see what had happened when people drifted apart, the ability to see a way toward reconciliation. Maybe I could help, or maybe not; but for decades I had quite often been able to see the problems that divided people, and to see both views clearly, and to see some steps toward reconciliation.


But I didn’t understand Trumpism, the views of a very large portion of my country. Now, thanks to you, I think I understand them, at least enough to feel sympathetic.


Buchanan paints a picture of the nation that is coherent and detailed, that pulls together many different strands of life, that reaches back through our history and around the world, with interesting and intelligent insights. He was a political leader, and his job was to develop and promote a compelling vision; he did so, effectively.


His intention was similar to the work of the Pope, who also set out to reach back in history, and look at the whole world, and to form and articulate a vision. Contrasting their visions – in general thrust and also in detail – was not a sterile exercise. I am not sure why I embarked on the contrast, but I found the reading, at each step, intriguing. And I hope I can show you what I saw.


John Cavanaugh-O’Keefe

September 3, 2022




The Contrast: A Hopeful Pope and a Blistering Pol


Reading two texts side by side can offer insights into each. Pope John Paul II wrote Ecclesia in America (The Church in America) in 1999. Pat Buchanan wrote The Death of the West in 2002. The documents addressed similar issues at about the same time.


Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Poland, May 18, 1920. He was ordained in 1946, and consecrated a bishop in 1958. He attended the Second Vatican Council, and contributed to two Council documents – the Decree on Religious Freedom (in Latin, Dignitatis Humanae) and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). In 1964, he was appointed Archbishop of Krakow; in 1967 he became a cardinal; in 1978, he was elected pope.

Like his predecessor, the short-lived Pope John Paul I, he took the names of the popes who led the Vatican Council in order to emphasize his commitment to carry forward the work of the Council.

He supported the labor movement in Poland, Solidarnosc, that was key to the fall of Communism in Europe. He worked to restore unity between Catholics and Orthodox. He pressed for new and fresh explanations of the Church, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a reform of canon law, and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

In preparation for the beginning of the Third Millennium, he summoned five continental synods, and wrote apostolic exhortations after each – Ecclesia in America being the second in the series.


Patrick J. Buchanan (1938 - ) was raised in a large Catholic family in Blessed Sacrament parish, in Washington DC. He attended a Jesuit high school, Gonzaga, and a Jesuit university, St. Louis.

He was a conservative writer, and worked in the Goldwater campaign in 1964. In 1966, when Richard Nixon launched his campaign for the presidency, Buchanan was the first adviser he hired. He helped to shape the strategy that drew support from millions of Democrats. He was unapologetic about his loyal support for Nixon, even after the disgrace that drove him from office; he said that Nixon would have survived the Watergate crisis if he had taken Buchanan’s advice and burned the White House tapes.

He was a prominent news commentator for many years, and he worked in the Reagan White House.

In 1992 and 1996, he ran for the presidency, but lost in the Republican primaries. In 2000, he ran again, as the candidate of a third party, the Reform party. The party was slaughtered, receiving just 0.4% of the vote; but the loss in the election did not measure Buchanan’s impact on conservative thought.

His resistance to immigration has been a part of his work for decades.

He has been accused of racism for decades; even Nixon said that Buchanan supported segregation. The charge depends on how you define racism.


He wrote The Death of the West after his last run for office in 2000. It was published in 2002.


Historical Context for the Continental Synods and Exhortations


In 1989, the Warsaw Pact began to come apart, beginning with the triumph of Solidarnosc in Poland. When Poland broke free of Communist domination, six other nations followed promptly. In 1991, the Warsaw Pact was formally dissolved, and then the USSR also came apart. The USSR had been comprised of 15 nations, Russia and 14 satellite nations. Those 14 newly freed countries included eight in Asia and

six in Europe. The eight Asian nations included five Muslim states and three states south of the Caucasus Mountains, which is part of the border between Europe and Asia. So Europe was, quite suddenly, transformed, with 13 newly independent nations in Europe and three more at the border.


The nations leaving the Warsaw Pact – escaping from domination by Moscow – included Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. The nations that broke out of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) included six in Europe: three on the Baltic Sea – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – and three southwest of Russia – Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. (There were eight nations in Asia that left the USSR: three south of the Caucasus Mountains – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia – and five Muslim nations southeast of Russia: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.) Yugoslavia also began to break in pieces, and Czechoslovakia divided in two in 1993. One nation did not remain independent; East Germany joined West Germany, re-establishing the most powerful non-Communist nation in the Europe.


Europe was transformed. This transformation had started in Poland, where Lech Walesa led Solidarnosc to challenge the dictatorship. During the struggle all through the 1980s, Walesa worked closely with the Polish Pope, St. John Paul II. (Walesa also received immense support from the United States, led by President Ronald Reagan.) The Pope – who was trained and ordained during Poland and Europe’s war with the Nazis – led the Church in a confrontation with Communism. He was among the principal architects of this new Europe.


John Paul II was not one to sit on his laurels while there was still work to be done. After the immense joys of 1991, he plunged right back into the effort to end the schism between the East and the West, which he called the two lungs of the Church. He renewed an ecumenical struggle, to unite God’s people – reaching out to the Orthodox communities, while rejecting various forms of coercive or manipulative "proselytizing.” (The Church today still distinguishes between evangelizing and proselytizing, encouraging the former and rejecting the latter.) He never lost track of his responsibility to cooperate with all people of good will – ALL.


He summoned a special synod of all the bishops of Europe, the Special Assembly for Europe, to ask in a new and fresh way what it meant to be “witnesses of Christ who has set us free.” In his homily at the end of the synod, in December 1991, he focused on the mystery of the Trinity present in human history. St. Paul wrote that those who live in Christ are a “new creation.” But what is the relationship between this new creation and earthly progress? How do we combine or reconcile spiritual truths and historical realities? The Pope said: “The Second Vatican Council recalled that this reconciliation constitutes the permanent mission of the Church; the challenge for all those who, guided by the Holy Spirit, become sons in the Son; the challenge for us, the pastors of the Church.”


Christ has reconciled us with God. Is that reconciliation supposed to have practical meaning in the history of Europe? The Pope asked, “Will [the Church] be able to transfer the reconciliation, with which Christ has reconciled the world to himself, to the interhuman and international dimensions?” This, he said, is a “key question for the future of Europe and the world.”


Christ drives us, said the Pope, to take part in the transformation of Europe – and the world. “May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”


He insisted repeatedly that spiritual realities are supposed to change the lives of individuals and nations. “Driven by the love of Christ, we will walk the paths of the old continent to proclaim the truth that makes us free, inviting everyone to renew themselves interiorly in holiness and justice.”


He exhorted, “Dear Brother Bishops, as you return to your Christian communities, do not cease to be and act as true “witnesses of Christ who has set us free.” This freedom refers to something that the Lord did two thousand years ago, and also to something that the Lord does today in the depths of the heart of a person who follows the Spirit, and also to the tumultuous events unfolding right then in the history of Europe.


“Multiply your initiatives to carry out the new evangelization of Europe,” he cried out. “Let us conclude today to begin again, once again, in the name of Christ, who drives us.”




This was the first synod of Europe. “Synod”: to us today, the word may conjure up a world of spiritual experts, moldy old men half hidden behind long beards and the smoke of their incense, delivering oracles in a list of foreign languages, wagging bony fingers at the sky. Synod! What kind of word is that?


Synod is Greek for a road that we take together. Syn = with. Hodos = road. (Recall Exodus, the road out of Egypt, or out of slavery.) The word emphasizes that the people of God, including the bishops, are all pilgrims on the way to heaven – together.



The Five Continental Synods

Over the next few years, the Pope’s vision and determination expanded. His focus shifted, like a telescope turning from the moon close by to bright stars to the vast mysteries of deep space. He was keenly aware of what was transpiring from month to month in the tumult of a new Europe, but he also considered events measured in centuries and millennia. He had summoned this synod of Europe in what he called, carefully, “Anno Domini 1991.” He spelled it out, and didn’t slide over it with the nearly invisible abbreviation “A.D .” More and more, he fixed his eyes on “tertio millennio Domini” – the third millennium of the Lord’s activity on earth, the third millennium in the “time of the Church.” In the first millennium, for example, Europe as a whole became Christian – not perfect, but aware of the Lord. In the second half of the second millennium, five centuries – just another example – the Gospel was preached throughout America. So what are we supposed to do in the third millennium?


Tomorrow, maybe we’ll have Cheerios for breakfast and mow the lawn. Next week, we celebrate a child’s birthday. Next month, we travel. Next year, we may put an addition on the house. Next decade, the parish may build a school. Next century? What are your plans for 2000 to 2100? No? You haven’t been thinking about that? How about the next millennium? Well, the Pope has been thinking about it, and wants you to think about it.


After the European synod, John Paul II planned and summoned five more synods – continental synods, making plans for the third millennium. He met with the bishops of …

·         Africa in 1994

·         America in 1997

·         Asia in spring 1998

·         Oceania in fall 1998

·         Europe a second time in 1999.

 The topic, at each meeting: evangelization in the next millennium.


The themes were slightly different from one synod to the next:

·         Ecclesia in Africa: on the Church in Africa and its evangelizing mission towards the year 2000

·         Ecclesia in America: on the encounter with the living Jesus Christ: the Way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America

·         Ecclesia in Asia: on Jesus Christ the Savior and his mission of love and service in Asia: “… that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10)

·         Ecclesia in Oceania: on Jesus Christ and the peoples of Oceania: walking his way, telling his truth, living his life

·         Ecclesia in Europa: on Jesus Christ alive in his Church: the source of hope for Europe.


Each of the synods was followed by a “post-synodal apostolic exhortation” – the Pope’s own summary of the synod, with his pastoral encouragement and urging and leadership, with his authority as the Vicar of Christ. Each of these exhortations is addressed to the clergy “and to all the lay faithful” – not to the bishops only, not to clergy only, nor to professional religious folks only, but to all of us. They are not addressed to the all people of good will, like some Church documents; but they are addressed to all Catholics. The letters probably got lost in the mail 99% of the time, but the Pope was trying to talk to a billion people, including you.


Each of the exhortations is a short book, about 25,000 words. Each has an introduction, four to seven chapters, and a conclusion. Each begins with a summary of the background – how the synod came about, a reflection on the new evangelization, and a sketch of life in that continent. Each includes some discussion of the blessings and challenges in that continent, and also some discussion of major moral issues there. Each concludes with prayer, informed by the discussion.


To understand the exhortation addressed to America, Ecclesia in America, it is worthwhile to skim through the key ideas in the other four continental exhortations.


It can be a gross misrepresentation of the Pope’s thought, deforming his message, to pull out the lists of moral issues. His intent is to announce the Gospel. He sees the struggle for justice as a key part of the Gospel – indispensable, but secondary. The Pope is not only a moral guide; he is also a spiritual leader. But recognizing the hazard, we can still make the point: the contrast between his thought and that of another man making claims about morality – Pat Buchanan – can be seen in these lists.


Key issues of social doctrine in Ecclesia in Africa

The first continental synod in the series was in Africa. This exhortation following the synod has seven chapters. Chapter III, “Evangelization and Inculturation,” is noteworthy. The topic is complex and the Pope’s discussion is nuanced. A detail:

“66. Commitment to dialogue must also embrace all Muslims of good will. Christians cannot forget that many Muslims try to imitate the faith of Abraham and to live the demands of the Decalogue. In this regard the message of the synod emphasizes that the living God, Creator of heaven and earth and the Lord of history, is the Father of the one great human family to which we all belong. As such, he [that is, God] wants us to bear witness to him through our respect for the values and religious traditions of each person, working together for human progress and development at all levels.”


In Chapter V, “Building the Kingdom of God,” there is a section exploring “Some worrisome problems.” They include:

·         Restoring hope to youth

·         The scourge of AIDS

·         "Beat your swords into ploughshares" (Is 2:4): no more wars!

·         Refugees and displaced persons

·         The burden of the international debt

·         Dignity of the African woman




A note on the Pope’s language: “inculturation” in America


There is a term used in explaining the work of the Church in the modern world that is not used much outside ecclesiastical circles. The term – together with the idea it refers to – is necessary in order to form a clear understanding of what the Pope says about the Church’s mission in America.


The word refers to a kind of dialogue between a culture and the Gospel. The earliest example is from the Acts of the Apostles, describing St. Paul’s work in Athens. In his speech at the Areopagus, he engaged his Athenian audience: “Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.” (Acts 17:22-23) He began his work by offering a link from what they knew and did to what he knew and wanted to teach.


In the history of the Church, the need for “inculturation” became evident when the Jesuits brought the Gospel to China. The Chinese venerated their ancestors: was that proper filial piety, or pagan worship? The Jesuits and the Dominicans argued about it, and after some back and forth the Vatican decided that the missionaries should oppose the practice. Some people were of the view that this anti-Confucian decision smashed missionary work in China for several centuries. In any case, the decision was reversed by Pope Pius XII in 1939.


In his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, St. John Paul II encouraged inculturation, saying that “today it is particularly urgent.”

The process of the Church’s insertion into peoples’ cultures is a lengthy one. It is not a matter of purely external adaptation, for inculturation “means the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity and the insertion of Christianity in the various human cultures.” The process is thus a profound and all-embracing one, which involves the Christian message and also the Church’s reflection and practice. But at the same time, it is a difficult process, for it must in no way compromise the distinctiveness and integrity of the Christian faith.


Through inculturation the Church makes the Gospel incarnate in different cultures and at the same time introduces peoples, together with their cultures, into her own community. She transmits to them her own values, at the same time taking the good elements that already exist in them and renewing them from within. Through inculturation the Church, for her part, becomes a more intelligible sign of what she is, and a more effective instrument of mission.




Key issues of social doctrine in Ecclesia in Asia


The Asian exhortation has seven chapters. It covers an immense topic! Two thirds of the world’s population is in Asia. Jesus was born in Asia. It is the cradle of the world's major religions—Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism – plus spiritual traditions including Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Sikhism and Shintoism. Inculturation is a major issue here.


Chapter VI, “The Service of Human Promotion,” explores the social doctrine of the Church as applied to Asia. “The social doctrine of the Church, which proposes a set of principles for reflection, criteria for judgement and directives for action, is addressed in the first place to the members of the Church. It is essential that the faithful engaged in human promotion should have a firm grasp of this precious body of teaching and make it an integral part of their evangelizing mission.” (#32) The sections within this chapter are:

·         The Social Doctrine of the Church (#32)

·         The Dignity of the Human Person (#33)

·         Preferential Love of the Poor (#34)

·         The Gospel of Life (#35)

·         Health Care (#36)

·         Education (#37)

·         Peacemaking (#38)

·         Globalization (#39)

·         Foreign Debt (#40)

·         The Environment (#41)


Key Issues of Social Doctrine in Oceania


The exhortation has four chapters. Oceania is vast, about a third of the earth’s surface; but its population is relatively small, and unevenly distributed. There is a rich variety of different cultures; again, inculturation is a major issue for the Church here. “The challenges of modernity and post-modernity are experienced by all the local Churches in Oceania, but with particular force by those in societies most powerfully affected by secularization, individualism and consumerism.” (#18)


Chapter III, “Telling the Truth of Jesus Christ in Oceania,” has four sections: “A New Evangelization,” “The Challenge of Faith Today,” “Hope for Society,” and “Charitable Works.” The section about hope for society has an exploration of issues of justice. And that includes:

·         The Church's Social Teaching (#26)

·         Human Rights (#27)

·         Indigenous Peoples (#28)

·         Development Aid (#29)

·         The Sanctity of Life (#30)

·         The Environment (#31)


The section on charitable works explains what the Church is doing about education, health, and social services.


Key Issues of Social Doctrine in Europe

(this is explored a little more carefully than Africa and Asia and Oceania)


Ecclesia in Europa is particularly interesting for several reasons. (1) It’s from the second European synod; the first was in 1991, before the Pope launched his series of continental synods. The earlier synod was about the immense changes that had just occurred, which the Pope characterizes as “the collapse of the walls”; the second synod is about how to restore hope. That is, while all the other continental synods addressed the new evangelization, this one is about repair – about a renewed evangelization. (2) Pat Buchanan’s book The Death of the West quotes (and mangles) this synod in a noteworthy fashion. Also interesting (3): this exhortation deals with the interplay of social services and social justice in a way that is slightly different from the treatment elsewhere.


For centuries, the history of the Church and the history of Europe were inseparable. Europe, for centuries, was Christian. In 800 AD, the Pope crowned Charlemagne as emperor (of the Roman empire). In 1804, Napoleon caused a stir when he had the Pope witness his coronation as emperor (of France, for the moment); Napoleon crowned himself, while the Pope watched. (At the time, the Pope was perhaps humiliated; in retrospect, Catholics can perhaps be relieved that we didn’t crown the butcher.) In any case, church and state throughout Europe were fantastically intertwined, like some Irish knot.


As the Third Millennium approached, the Pope’s exhortation noted, Europe was becoming increasingly secular. The population of many nations was declining. The theme of this synod, and this exhortation, was hope, “to proclaim this message of hope to a Europe which seems to have lost sight of it.” (#2)


Buchanan quotes an article in the Christian Science Monitor, reporting a fact but not a truth.

In 1999, Pope John Paul II convoked a continental Episcopal Synod to take the pulse of the faith in the Old Continent. The news was not good. Secularism, reported the bishops, “poisons a large section of Christians in Europe. There is a great risk of de-Christianization and paganization of the Continent.” (Buchanan, p. 180)

He should not have referred to the synod this way; it was out of context. The synod did indeed see a problem – but took it as a challenge and outlined a response. Buchanan’s response and the Church’s response could not possibly be more different. The Pope’s exhortation calls for open-ness and hope; Buchanan counsels closed borders and despair. (More on this later.)


Throughout her history, the Church has offered practical hands-on services, feeding the hungry and caring for the sick. Also, throughout her history, the Church has urged leaders and nations to protect the peace and to do justice. These initiatives, personal and social, are sometimes characterized as “social services” and “social justice.” The Church does both. Bureaucrats drawing organizational charts may separate the two; budgets may list these works on different pages. But they spring from the same source, and they complement each other.


Previous synods and exhortations spoke of social justice, and listed specific social concerns (including immigration and the environment, for example), and also listed social services (education, health, care for the poor) elsewhere: two lists. Ecclesia in Europa does not do that. Instead, the Social Gospel permeates the entire exhortation.


The exhortation is founded on the Pope’s faith in the Lord; that is the heart of his pastoral words to people of faith. The focus here is not on the heart of his message; the focus here is on a significant but secondary matter – the way he speaks about social justice.


The letter has six chapters.


Chapter One, “Christ Is Our Hope,” explains some of the challenges to evangelization in Europe: simple bewilderment, a loss of memory and heritage, agnosticism, nihilism, relativism, a weakening sense of solidarity. And yet, John Paul II writes also of a slowly emerging new consciousness and culture that is not national but rather European, that is characterized by a commitment to democratic processes, a spirit of freedom, growing European unity, respect for human rights. “We sincerely hope,” he says, “that, in creative fidelity to the humanist and Christian traditions of our continent, there will be a guarantee of the primacy of ethical and spiritual values.” Further, he sees and applauds a new ecumenism based on truth, charity and reconciliation. The language and concerns of the Social Gospel emerge in the chapter on evangelization.


Chapter Two, “The Gospel of Hope Entrusted to the Church of the New Millennium,” is about matters that might be considered internal church problems – vocations and such. But it also addresses two issues of social justice. First, in this exhortation, as in all the other exhortations preparing for the new millennium, the Pope talks about the relations between the Catholic and Orthodox communities. The great East-West schism has lasted for nearly a full millennium, and we should work unceasingly for unity. The schism is not just a concern for theologians in ivory towers; Putin’s war in Ukraine (in 2022 Anno Domini) draws in part on this ancient and violent relationship. And second, this chapter includes some impassioned language denouncing injustice against women.


Chapter Three, “Proclaiming the Gospel of Hope,” is, obviously, about proclaiming. The key idea in the chapter is that the Church must take great care to maintain a focus on our Lord, Jesus Christ. The message that the Church brings is not an ancient and tested ethical framework; it is simply that Jesus came among us.


But even with this sharp focus on what the Church proclaims, St. John Paul II includes some words about our relations with Muslims, urging deliberate cultivation of “knowledge of other religions, in order to establish a fraternal conversation with their members who live in today's Europe. A proper relationship with Islam is particularly important.” (#57)


There is also a careful and thought-provoking section on inculturation.


Chapter Five, “Serving the Gospel of Hope,” begins with a sober reflection on Revelation: each of the letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation begins, “I know your works” – or words to that effect. The Church is not about good ideas; it’s about loving God and – if that love is real – then also loving our neighbor. The chapter has three sections:

·         I. The service of charity

·         II. Serving men and women in society

·         III. Let us commit ourselves to charity!

Charity: The Pope calls for action, in communion and solidarity, that will strengthen the hope that Europe needs. “For every person, charity received and given is the primordial experience which gives rise to hope. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own.” (#84) He calls for a “culture of solidarity.” (#85)


The section on service has a short catalog of social justice priorities:

·         “Giving new hope to the poor,” which includes confronting unemployment (#87), care for the sick (#88), and protecting the environment (#89)

·         The truth about marriage and the family

·         At the service of the Gospel of life

·         Building a city worthy of man – the Social Gospel makes sense in a secularized culture

·         Towards a culture of acceptance – about immigration.


The section on commitment echoes the words from the opening of Gaudium et Spes, the great pastoral document from Vatican II that provides the most authoritative assertion of the Social Gospel. The Pope says: “The joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of contemporary Europeans, especially the poor and the suffering, must also be your joys and your hopes, your sorrows and your anxieties. May nothing which is genuinely human lack an echo in your heart.” And he cries out:

·         “Be poor yourself and a friend to the poor …”

·         “see in the attitude of Christ, who always defended the truth yet still showed mercy towards sinners, the supreme norm of all your actions …”

·         “in Jesus, at whose birth peace was proclaimed, in him whose death broke down the walls of enmity and brought true peace, be a builder of peace. …”

·         “in Jesus, who is the justice of God, never grow weary of denouncing injustice in all its forms.”


Chapter Six, “The Gospel of Hope for a New Europe,” the Pope calls out insistently for a new culture founded on authentic values, not merely on geography and economic considerations.

109. In the process of transformation which it is now undergoing, Europe is called above all to rediscover its true identity. Even though it has developed into a highly diversified reality, it needs to build a new model of unity in diversity, as a community of reconciled nations open to the other continents and engaged in the present process of globalization.

To give new impetus to its own history, Europe must “recognize and reclaim with creative fidelity those fundamental values, acquired through a decisive contribution of Christianity, which can be summarized in the affirmation of the transcendent dignity of the human person, the value of reason, freedom, democracy, the constitutional state and the distinction between political life and religion.”


He cries out for peace:

Promoting solidarity and peace in the world

111. Saying “Europe” must be equivalent to saying “openness”. Despite experiences and signs to the contrary, which it has not lacked, European history itself demands this: “Europe is really not a closed or isolated territory; it has been built by expanding overseas and meeting other peoples, other cultures, other civilizations”.(172) Therefore it needs to be an open and welcoming Continent, continuing to develop in the current process of globalization forms of cooperation which are not merely economic but social and cultural as well.


The Pope, who supported the Solidarity movement that cracked the power of Communism in Poland and then in a dozen more European nations, cries out:

112. Europe must moreover become an active partner in promoting and implementing a globalization “in” solidarity. This must be accompanied, as a pre-condition, by a kind of globalization “of” solidarity and of the related values of equity, justice and freedom, based on the firm conviction that the marketplace needs to be “appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the state, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied.”

The Europe handed down to us by history has witnessed the rise, especially in the last century, of totalitarian ideologies and extreme forms of nationalism which darkened the hopes of individuals and the peoples on the Continent and sparked conflicts both within and between nations, leading up to the immense tragedy of the two World Wars.In this state of affairs, Europe, with all its inhabitants, needs to work tirelessly to build peace within its borders and throughout the world. In this regard, it must be recalled that “on the one hand, national differences ought to be maintained and encouraged as the foundation of European solidarity, while on the other, national identity itself can only be achieved in openness towards other peoples and through solidarity with them.”


He insists that "the role of international institutions is in many ways decisive.” (#113) He urges that “these same European institutions and the individual states of Europe to recognize that a proper ordering of society must be rooted in authentic ethical and civil values shared as widely as possible by its citizens.” (#114) Together with all the bishops at the bishops of Europe, he calls upon the leaders of Europe:

 “Raise your voices in the face of the violation of human rights of individuals, minorities and peoples, beginning with the right to religious freedom; pay utmost attention to everything that concerns human life from the moment of its conception to natural death and to the family based on marriage: these are the foundations on which our common European home rests; ... respond, with justice and equity and with a great sense of solidarity, to the growing phenomenon of migration, and see in it a new resource for the future of Europe; make every effort to guarantee young people a truly humane future with work, culture, and education in moral and spiritual values.” (#115)

Note well! Ecclesia in Europa is eloquent about defending the unborn, but also – over and over – places the defense of the unborn next to the defense of migrants and refugees.





Ecclesia in America

(sketch only – more in the subsequent contrasts below)


Ecclesia in America was the second in Pope John Paul II’s series of continental synods and exhortations – after Africa, but before Asia, Oceania, and Europe. The quick surveys of the other four should be helpful in understanding this one. The synod with all the bishops of America was in the fall of 1997; the post-synodal apostolic exhortation was given at Mexico City on January 22, 1999.


“America.” St. John Paul II was not ignorant; he was aware that geographers for centuries have thought of North America and South America as separate continents, just as they consider Europe and Asia as separate continents, although they are connected. But he thought of America as a unit – the land where the Gospel was preached beginning in 1492, the land where the principal catechist imparting the Catholic faith was the Virgin of Guadalupe, beginning in 1531 in Mexico. The dominant culture of North America is Eurocentric, at least in its origins; the Pope didn’t argue about that, but he had a different perception.


(Picture a key in a lock. When this key is horizontal, east to west, the door is locked. But when you turn it to a vertical position, north to south, the door is unlocked. In some ways, the Pope’s perception is as simple as that. The history of the United States – its past – is Eurocentric and loaded with problem. The future of the United States is not Eurocentric, or at least it doesn’t have to be. It is – or can be – oriented differently, deeply aware of its connections with the south. Past, future; closed, open; Europe, South America.)


The place where the exhortation Ecclesia in America was given is significant to people who seek to protect immigrants: Mexico City. The date when the exhortation was given is significant to people who seek to protect unborn children: January 22.


The exhortation has six chapters that are almost all captured in the title. The full title of the document is Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America of the Holy Father John Paul II to the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Men and Women Religious, and All the Lay Faithful, On the Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: the Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America. The six chapters are:

·         Chapter I: The Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ

·         Chapter II: Encountering Jesus Christ in America Today

·         Chapter III: The Path of Conversion

·         Chapter IV: The Path to Communion

·         Chapter V: The Path to Solidarity

·         Chapter VI: The Mission of the Church in America Today: The New Evangelization




Sketch of The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization.

By Patrick J. Buchanan. St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY. 2002.


Buchanan identifies and discusses four threats to the survival of Western civilization: Third World immigrant invasions, the dying out of European peoples, the menace of multiculturalism, and the rise of a world socialist superstate. His book has ten hair-raising and dismaying chapters, with an eloquent introduction and afterword. He explains that things are falling apart, and he does not offer a way forward. Nonetheless, he counsels, we must resist with courage.



“Pat, we’re losing the country we grew up in.” This idea, which Buchanan puts in the mouths of his audience, drives the book. Something is awry. Something great is ending. Something is dying. Like Macbeth, Buchanan sees danger from outside and also danger from within – an invasion exacerbated by traitors.


There’s a hint to the problem when Buchanan situates us in time: on the cusp of the “Second American Century.” So what was going on 100 years before Buchanan’s book? It’s not 1776. It’s not the Great Awakening. It’s not the Civil War, beginning or ending. It’s not about slavery. The 20th century was when the United States became a world power – the world power, militarily and economically. This about money and power. No, more: this was our time of unrivaled military power, economic promise, and cultural influence.


The problem is, late in the American Century, there was a cultural revolution, and the nation split in two. Half the nation is rural, Christian, religiously conservative; the other half is socially tolerant, pro-choice, secular, city-dwellers on the coasts. “This chasm in our country,” opines Buchanan, “is not one of income, ideology, or faith, but of ethnicity and loyalty.” America was split by immigrants, a rapidly growing segment of the population. This was no longer a melting pot of Europeans; the “immigration tsunami” was rolling in from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The nation was becoming “a conglomeration of peoples with almost nothing in common.” Millions of Americans began to feel like “strangers in their own land.”


The division deepened: “Not only ethnically and racially, but culturally and morally, we are no longer one people or one nation under God.” The old virtues became sins, and the old sins became virtues. The division became a religious and cultural war. Immigrants, hedonists, Communists, and Democrats joined together. Would this coalition of horror bring the twilight of the West? Or, more simply, will the forces arrayed against civilization cause the outright death of the West?


Chapter One, “Endangered Species”

Buchanan examines the birthrates of Europe nations. They are all falling precipitously, while the population of the world as a whole is rising. “In 1960, people of European ancestry were one-fourth of the world’s population; in 2000, they were one-sixth; in 2050, they will be one-tenth. These are the statistics of a vanishing race.” (Buchanan, p. 12)


Why is this happening? Buchanan blames, first, socialism – if the state cares for the elderly, you don’t need a family to care for you as you age.


To replace a generation, the average child/woman ration – the “fertility rate” – has to be 2.1. When Buchanan was writing in 2001, the fertility rate for Europe as a whole was 1.4.


“Clemenceau’s Revenge.” After World War One, a French leader, Georges Clemenceau, complained that there were too many Germans – twenty million  too many. But in 2000, the birthrate of Germany was 1.3.


“Italy, A Theme Park.” Italy has a stunning variety of old buildings loaded with history. But the fertility rate in 2000 was 1.2.


Russia, the “command post of a Soviet Empire,” was at 1.17. When the fertility rate dips, the population gets older and grayer, but the older grayer people may live longer and keep the total population up. The population will fall, but not right away. In Russia, the population was already falling in 2000.


In Britain, the population rate in 2000 was 1.66.


Buchanan notes that Japan was the first Asian nation to “enter the modern era.” He’s not referring to sunrise on January 1, 1900, or anything like that. He means that Japan is a “developed” nation. Anyway, it’s modern developed fertility rate in 2000 was 1.34. It too was a declining power.


To imagine the coming changes, Buchanan looks at 2050, when Europe will have (is projected to have) a population of 556 million. “Let us look again at the population projections for 2050, and try to visualize what our world will look like. In Africa, there will be 1.5 billion people. From Morocco to the Persian Gulf will be an Arab-Turkic-Islamic sea of 500 million. In South Asia will live 700 million Iranians, Afghans, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis, and 1.5 billion Indians. There will be 300 million Indonesians, and China, with 1.5 billion people, will brood over Asia.” (Buchanan, p. 22)


Demography matters, says Buchanan. “The Death of the West is not a prediction of what is going to happen, it is a depiction of what is happening now. First World nations are dying.” (Buchanan, p. 23) If the birthrate is not reversed – fewer abortions, more births – then “we can begin to write the final chapters of the history of our civilization and the last will and testament of the West.” (Buchanan, p. 24)


Chapter Two, “Where Have All the Children Gone?”

Buchanan examines some possible causes of the dramatic population implosion. The tools for it are easy to find – “The Pill” was invented in 1960 and was used everywhere in America within a decade, and then in 1973 the Supreme Court decided that abortion was a right protected by the Constitution, and medical abortions – produced by something ingested rather than by surgical intervention – became possible. The how is pretty clear; but what’s the why? There was a sexual revolution of the 1960s, but that’s a label, not an explanation. What drove the cultural revolution? Buchanan explores a list of overlapping possible causes.

·         The new economy. There was a massive shift from farms to factories, and women came into this new job market. Urbanization and feminism together changed the economy.

·         End of the “family wage.” It was standard, for some generations, for American employers to pay men higher wages if they were supporting families. A “living wage” meant a wage sufficient to support a family on one salary. This idea was replaced, says Buchanan, by “equal pay for equal work.”

·         The “Population Bomb” Hysteria. A book by Paul Ehrlich brought back the an idea of Thomas Malthus, that geometric growth of population would eventually outstrip the world’s ability to feed people. A failure to control the population of the world guaranteed that global starvation would arrive at some date in the future.

·         Feminism. Buchanan notes that early feminists were anti-abortion, but says that feminism in our time is pro-abortion, anti-male, and anti-marriage.

·         The Popular Culture. Magazines, soap operas, romance novels, and prime-time TV all celebrated the joys of sex far above the happiness of motherhood.

·         The Collapse of the Moral Order. “As late as the 1950s, divorce was a scandal, ‘shacking up’ was how ‘white trash’ lived, abortion was an abomination, and homosexuality the ‘love that dare not speak its name.’ Today, half of all marriages end in divorce, ‘relationships are what life is about, and ‘the love that dare not speak its name will not shut up.”

Taken together, the revolutionary changes are lethal, Buchanan argues. “For the decisions women are making today will determine if Western nations will even be around in a century, and Western women are voting no.”


Chapter Three: Catechism of a Revolution

Buchanan argues that the changes at the end of the 20th century were revolutionary, and that they produce what amounts to a new religion, a new faith. Examples (per Buchanan): the new faith is “of, by, and for this world alone”; all lifestyles are equal; thou shalt not be judgmental; using public schools to indoctrinate children in Judeo-Christian beliefs is forbidden; in politics, the new faith is globalist and skeptical of patriotism.

Two major tenets in the catechism of the revolution:

1.A religion needs devils as well as angels. … To the revolution, Western history is a catalog of crimes—slavery, genocide, colonialism, imperialism, atrocities, massacres—committed by nations that professed to be Christian. The white race is the cancer of human history.

2.The most odious crimes are hate crimes, committed by whites against blacks. Crimes by blacks against whites don’t count as hate crimes.


Chapter Four: “Four Who Made the Revolution”

The four are Lukacs, Gramsci, Adorno, and Marcuse.

Georg Lukacs was a Hungarian writer and thinker whose History and Class Consciousness “brought him recognition as a Marxist theorist to rival Marx himself.” He launched a program of “cultural terrorism” which included a radical sex education program in Hungarian schools, teaching children about “free love, sexual intercourse, the archaic nature of middle-class family codes, the outdatedness of monogamy, and the irrelevance of religion.” (Buchanan, p. 75)


Antonio Gramsci was an Italian Communist who tussled with Benito Mussolini for leadership of the Italian Communist party. Mussolini won, and imprisoned Gramsci. Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks are “blueprints for a successful Marxist revolution in the West,” says Buchanan. He argued that it was a mistake to try to seize power first and then impose a cultural revolution from above. Instead, Marxists should change the culture first, and then power would fall into their laps. (Buchanan, p. 77)


Theodor Adorno was an influential leader of the Frankfort School which was the home of “Critical Theory.” He wrote The Authoritarian Personality, asserting that fascism grows out of a patriarchal culture which flourishes in traditional cultures, that the patriarchal family was the cradle of fascism. (Buchanan, p. 87)







Opposition to this “Critical Theory” runs all through Buchanan’s book; to understand him, you need some grasp it. He writes:

Among the new weapons of cultural conflict the Frankfurt School developed was Critical Theory. The name sounds benign enough, but it stands for a practice that is anything but benign. One student of Critical Theory defined it as the “essentially destructive criticism of all the main elements of Western culture, including Christianity, capitalism, authority, the family, patriarchy, hierarchy, morality, tradition, sexual restraint, loyalty, patriotism, nationalism, heredity, ethnocentrism, convention and conservatism. (Buchanan, p. 80)


Herbert Marcuse offered a patch for the imperfect theories of pioneering Marxists. The “proletariat” failed to carry a revolution forward, but the cultural revolution could find other foot soldiers, such as (in Buchanan’s words) “radical youth, feminists, black militants, homosexuals, the alienated, the asocial, Third World revolutionaries, all the angry voices of the persecuted ‘victims of the West. This was the new proletariat that would overthrow Western culture.” (Buchanan, p. 85)


Buchanan did not consider these four men to be indispensable in fomenting the cultural revolution, but he did think that the four, taken together, offer a clear picture of the “the strategy and the tactics of a successful Marxist revolution in the West, and the culture they set out to destroy is no longer the dominant culture in America or the West.” (Buchanan, p. 92)


Chapter Five: “The Coming Great Migrations”


In chapter one, Buchanan discussed the low birthrates in Europe and the developed world. In this chapter, he explains how the emptying lands will be refilled. Strangers – from Africa, Asia, and Latin America – will move in.


Russia’s low birthrate means their empire may be obliterated first. European Russians will be replaced, Buchanan predicts, by Chinese in the east and Muslims in the south. But the whole of Europe will not be far behind. Europe cannot escape the penalties of childlessness; they will not continue as a great race. In the 22nd century, their civilization will disappear. (Buchanan, p. 109)


The coming catastrophe will be speeded up by euthanasia. The people who assert the “sanctity of life,” like the Catholic Church, do not have the strength to avert the crash. Muslims will pour into Europe and America. Israel cannot stand forever against the overwhelming strength that surrounds them; Israel will be extinguished, and the self-deluded West will also disappear in the twilight. (Buchanan, p. 120)


Chapter Six: “La Reconquista”


This chapter continues the story of non-Europeans immigrating into the United States but focuses on Mexicans.


The chapter begins with a brief history – Anglos taking Texas, then going to war with Mexico and taking the rest of the Southwest and California, then ensuring that the rulers of Mexico treated us with respect. Buchanan notes that “Mexico has an historic grievance against the United States that is felt deeply by her people.” (Buchanan, P. 124)


He distinguishes between Mexican immigrants and previous immigrants, in five ways.

1.The numbers are far larger.

2.They not only from another culture but also from another race.

3.Many of them broke the law to come here.

4.They stay Mexican and do not assimilate.

5.The nation they come into has changed from within, embracing multiculturalism. They and others make cause the USA to break apart into various ethnic enclaves, like the Balkan nations.


He cites American heroes like Ben Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt to back his ideas. He also adds geography to the history lesson: the Mississippi is a gift except when it floods its banks. (133)


He asserts that President Lyndon Johnson weakened the Republicans and strengthened the Democrats is a major shift – not by the bipartisan Civil Rights Act but by the Immigration Act of 1965. (Buchanan, p. 135)


He offers data to assert that immigrants are uneducated and poor; they use social services and lower everyone’s wages; and many are criminals. None of these complaints apply to immigrants from Europe.


He says that what happens at the border forces us to ask: What is a nation? John Jay, in Federalist 2, wrote:

Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established their general liberty and independence. (quoted in Buchanan, p. 144)


This list of sames and similars plus a shared history impresses Buchanan. But, he points out, Americans today don’t measure up to Jay’s standard – nor even any part of it. Now what?


Chapter Seven: “The War Against the Past”


This chapter is an eloquent recital of assaults on the history that Buchanan was taught in school, at home, and in television shows and public celebrations of his time.  It’s an extraordinarily evocative chapter.


The opening several paragraphs:


How does one sever a people’s roots? Answer: Destroy its memory. Deny a people the knowledge of who they are and where they came from.

“If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are,” said Ronald Reagan in his farewell address to the American people. “I am warning of the eradication of … the American memory, that could result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.”

In the Middle Ages, Ottoman Turks imposed on Balkan Christians a blood tax—one boy out of every five. Taken from their parents, the boys were raised as strict Muslims to become the fanatic elite soldiers of the sultan, the Janissaries, who were then sent back to occupy and oppress the peoples who had borne them. For a modern state the formula for erasing memory was given to us by Orwell in the party slogan of Big Brother, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

Destroy the record of a people’s past, leave it in ignorance of who its ancestors were and what they did, and one can fill the empty vessels of their souls with a new history, as in 1984. Dishonor or disgrace a nation’s heroes, and you can demoralize its people. The cause of Irish independence was crippled by the revelation that the great Charles Stewart Parnell was living in adultery with the wife of Captain O’Shea. Baseball almost did not survive the Black Sox scandal of 1919, when popular hero “Shoeless Joe” Jackson was found to have taken money from gamblers and his team had thrown the World Series. The loss of faith was caught in the kid’s lament, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”

Richard Nixon’s New Majority was shattered by Watergate and the resignation of a president and vice president who had carried forty-nine states. The success of Nixon’s enemies in ousting from office a hated adversary became the archetype for the “politics of personal destruction,” the defeat of causes by disgracing their flawed champions. It has become standard operating procedure in American politics.

Cultural Marxists understood this. Their Critical Theory was a prototype of the politics of personal destruction. What the latter does to popular leaders, Critical Theory does to an entire nation through repeated assaults on its past. It is the moral equivalent of vandalizing the graves and desecrating the corpses of its ancestors. (Buchanan, pp. 147-148)


After President Nixon was ousted, Marxists moved from the politics of personal destruction to attacks on an entire nation, by repeated assaults on its past – a lesson from Critical Theory. History texts were deconstructed, reconstructed. Familiar stories of great heroes were scrapped; cynical stories denigrating any hint of heroism took their place.


The cultural shifts irk Buchanan, who wants to retain older American attitudes regarding Native Americans and avoid harsh judgments of Confederate heroes. The old attitudes instilled pride, and that was valuable. At the end of the 20th century, there should have been celebrations of the great deeds of America in the previous 100 years.


Chapter Eight: De-Christianizing America


Buchanan’s opening and closings are clear and to the point. So, chapter eight opens:

In the Great War of 1914-18, Catholic France fought Catholic Austria, and Protestant Germany fought Protestant England. Nine million Christian soldiers marched to their deaths. Yet only Orthodox Russia succumbed to a Communist revolution, and that was more coup d’état than mass conversion. Gramsci concluded that two thousand years of Christianity had made the soul of Western Man impenetrable to Marxism. Before the West could be conquered, its faith must be uprooted. But how? (Buchanan, p. 179)


For Buchanan, this question is not rhetorical. He sets out to answer it.

Gramsci’s answer—a “long march” through the institutions. The Marxists must cooperate with progressives to capture the institutions that shaped the souls of the young: schools, colleges, movies, music, arts, and the new mass media that came uncensored into every home, radio, and, after Gramsci’s death, television. Once the cultural institutions were captured, a united Left could begin the de-Christianization Christianization of the West. When, after several generations, this was accomplished, the West would no longer be the West, but another civilization altogether, and control of the state would inevitably follow control of the culture. (Buchanan, pp. 179-180)

He refers to the work of St. John Paul II:

In 1999, Pope John Paul II convoked a continental Episcopal Synod to take the pulse of the faith in the Old Continent. The news was not good. Secularism, reported the bishops, “poisons a large section of Christians in Europe. There is a great risk of de-Christianization and paganization of the Continent.” [5] Fewer than 10 percent of the young people in Belgium, Germany, and France attend church regularly. There is not a major city in northwest Europe where half the newborns are baptized. (Buchanan, p. 180)  [The footnote, 5: Peter Ford, “Churches on Wane in Europe,” Christian Science Monitor, October 25, 1999, p. 1.]

This refers to the Pope’s fifth continental synod, of five, in preparation for the Third Millennium. This current volume is a contrast of Buchanan’s book and the Pope’s exhortation after the second such synod, regarding America.


Buchanan presents an assortment of stories that show the difference between the way the colonies understood Christianity in America on one hand and the way numerous media describe Church and State today. His point is simple: there has been a huge change. Most Americans in the past considered the nation to be Christian nation with Christian roots and a Christian culture; today, they don’t.


He looks at the clear trend in cases before the Supreme Court. The First Amendment aims for a balance, prohibiting Congress from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion,” but requiring Congress to respect the “free exercise” of faith. The balance shifted in recent history, says Buchanan, from permitting free exercise toward avoiding an establishment of religion; in fact, he says, the Court “reinterpreted the words to justify a preemptive strike on Christianity.”


Buchanan asserts:

Religious rivalry is a zero-sum game. Every gain for one faith is a loss for another. The rise of Christianity was recognized as a mortal threat in Jerusalem by Saul of Tarsus, who held the coats of the men who stoned St. Stephen the Martyr. Islam’s conquest of Arabia and North Africa alarmed Christian Europe. The Reformation and the rise of Protestantism were a crisis for Rome. Where communism triumphed, Christians went to the wall. And when secularism was awarded custody of America’s schools, it was a crushing defeat for Christianity. (Buchanan, pp. 185-186)


“By the twenty-first century,” Buchanan asserts, “the de-Christianization of our public life was complete. Easter celebrations, Nativity scenes, Christmas carols, and Christian books, stories, pageants, and holidays had all but vanished from public schools and the public square.” (Buchanan, p. 188)


Buchanan has an odd section in which he describes reactions to insults to Christians in art work, such as a photograph of a crucifix in a bottle of urine, contrasted with reactions to reactions to insults to Muslims. Christians were mild, and Muslims were violent, he says. He thinks the Muslims got it right: “When Christians were told to ‘turn the other cheek,’ it was for offenses against them, not against God. Christ himself used a whip to drive the money changers out of the temple.” (Buchanan, p. 194)


He responds with exasperation to any suggestion that gay rights resemble civil rights. “The only way the gay rights movement can succeed in making society accept homosexuality as natural, normal, moral, and healthy is to first de-Christianize that society. And, admittedly, they are making headway.” (Buchanan, p. 197-198)


He asserts that the nation has embarked on an experiment that will end in disaster. “The de-Christianization of America is a great gamble, a roll of the dice, with our civilization as the stakes. America has thrown overboard the moral compass by which the republic steered for two hundred years, and now it sails by dead reckoning. Reason alone, without Revelation, sets our course.” (Buchanan, p. 198)


He ends the chapter with an ominous quote from T. S. Eliot:

If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready-made. You must first wait for the grass to grow to feed the sheep to give the wool out of which your new coat will be made. You must pass through many centuries of barbarism. We should not live to see the new culture, nor would our great-great-great-grandchildren; and if we did not one of us would be happy in it.


Chapter Nine: “The Intimidated Majority”


The epigraph at the beginning of chapter nine is threatening and unbalanced remark from Mary Berry, the Chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission: “Civil rights laws were not passed to protect the rights of white men and do not apply to them.” He argues that the white majority has allowed itself to be bullied into impotence, and blames the defeat on conservatives who gave up.

Why did Christians permit their God and faith to be driven out of the temples of their civilization? Why was their resistance so feeble? Napoleon said that God is on the side of the big battalions. But in America the Christians were the big battalions, and they were supposed to be on God’s side. Yet they were beaten—horse, foot, and dragoons. … In his book long March, Roger Kimball, an editor at New Criterion, attributes the rout on the cultural front to a failed conservative movement. (Buchanan, p. 205)


And why were conservatives indecisive? Several reasons:


First, he says, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan and their followers were drawn into politics to fight the Cold War. They were not unprepared, unequipped, untrained for a culture war.


Second, the culture revolutionaries seized control of the media reaching the next generation – MTV, prime-time TV, movies, magazines, schools and colleges – and focused effectively on shaping the values, beliefs, and attitudes of the young. On one side were attractive artists, actors, playwrights, songwriters, and popular; on the other side were talking heads, op-ed page commentators, some radio and TV talk show hosts. This was not a tense competition.


Third, says Buchanan, normal politics seeks compromise and common ground. But a culture war can’t compromise, and the revolutionaries trained in Critical Theory understood that. Conservatives were not ready for savage rhetoric and attack politics. (Buchanan, p. 212)


Fourth, decades of pounding pulverized Christian morale. “Who wants to stand up for family values when the price is public ridicule?” (Buchanan, p. 213)


Fifth, “God-and-country people are raised to respect and obey their rulers,” and so they were obedient when Supreme Court decisions went against them.


Sixth and last, the culture clash is now in the hands of a new generation who do not experience any tension, because they grew up in post-revolutionary culture.


In politics, conservatives were beaten out by the revolutionaries in the competition for the support of blacks.

The degradation of civil rights and the merger of that movement with the cultural revolution compounds the risks of the balkanization of America. For, where FDR’s New Deal coalition was based on economics, the haves versus the have-nots, the new Democratic coalition is based on bloc voting and ethnic politics. (Buchanan, p. 220-221)


Will Western nations reverse the decline? Probably not, Buchanan admits. “That may be too much to expect of an intimidated people.”


Chapter Ten: “A House Divided”


The book ends about where it began: ““This used to be a helluva good country. I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it.” Buchanan lifts a quote from Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider, 1969. Civilizations come and go, and this one may do the same – even though the West is the most advanced civilization in history and the United States is the most advanced nation.


He says that the West and the United States face four clear and present dangers:

·  a dying population

·  mass immigration of peoples of different colors, creeds, and cultures, changing the character of the West forever

·  the rise to dominance of an anti-Western culture in the West, deeply hostile to its religions, traditions, and morality

·  the breakup of nations and the defection of ruling elites to a world government


The Democrats are a total loss, and the Republicans are reluctant warriors. The great battles will not be political anyway. The struggle that will matter is moral, intellectual, and spiritual. The adversary is not another party, but another faith, another way of seeing God and man.


Of the four dangers, the population crisis is the most immediate and the most dangerous. How can this danger be overcome? Well, actually – there’s no way out. There are a few social policies that may patch things a little temporarily – a return to the family wage, more help for women raising children, etc. But economic tinkering is no substitute for a revival of religious faith.


There are some social policies that might slow the invasion from outside, and buy some time for more assimilation:

·  limit immigration to a quarter of a million annually

·  suspend the program (H-1B) designed to bring in more skilled workers

·  refuse to permit another amnesty program

·  deport illegal aliens

·  seek out and expel terrorists

·  English only in the classroom

·  Do not offer statehood to Puerto Rico

·  Increase the Border Patrol

·  Penalize businesses that hire illegal aliens

·  Do not expand NAFTA


Protect the sovereignty of the United States! The creation of a world government is a Christian heresy, Buchanan declares. “Our loyalty to our own families, countries, church, and culture comes first. So the lines are drawn in the battle of the century. Patriotism or globalism.” (Buchanan, p. 239)


And how can Americans protect their sovereignty, defying extinction?

·  Oppose new funding to the IMF and World Bank

·  Reject the International Criminal Court

·  Abolish the World Trade Organization

·  Oppose any expansion of NATO

·  Withdraw all American ground forces from Europe and Asia


And how can America recover from the culture war? Buchanan does not offer a clear way to prevail in the culture war; that may be over – lost. But the new culture may be frail, like the governments of France after the heady days of revolution. So maybe families and small groups can retain virtue and wait it out.


Is there are hope of advancing a political agenda that may support a new culture one day? Perhaps it makes sense to resist without a clear goal in sight:

·  Resist the Imperial Judiciary

·  Scrap the tired old leadership

·  Confront and defy political correctness

·  Counter “hate crime” propaganda with truth

·  Pass pro-life laws

·  Launch referenda and initiatives, the citizens’ routes to legislation

·  Defund the cultural revolution with boycotts

·  Devolve – break up centralized power, weaken national governments

·  Launch new efforts to censor filth

·  Keep teaching history

But in the end, maybe this is the end. Maybe Western civilization is dying.


Buchanan asks: If Christianity gave birth to the West and undergirds its moral and political order, can the West survive the death of Christianity? If that faith is dying, what holds the West together? Racial solidarity cannot; it’s a memory. The “mystic chords of memory” can’t; American don’t share memories anymore. Democracy is good, but it’s too weak to unite.


He concludes: “Absent a revival of faith or a great awakening, Western men and women may simply live out their lives until they are so few they do not matter.” (Buchanan, p. 266)





The Contrasts between the Pope and the Pol


Sorting out four categories: similarity, difference, agreement, disagreement


Pope John Paul II and Pat Buchanan both wrote about the future of America. This is a similarity.


Pope John Paul II wrote about “America” referring to North and South America as a unit. Pat Buchanan wrote about “America” referring to the United States. They use the word “West” in wildly divergent ways. These are differences,


Pope John Paul II and Pat Buchanan both considered abortion to be a serious evil in America. This is an agreement.


Pope John Paul II defended the right to immigrate. Pat Buchanan considered migration to be a catastrophic problem, often illegal. This is a disagreement.


There are some similarities that aren’t agreements, and there are some differences that aren’t disagreements. There are four categories to sort out. Similarities and differences (define “America” and “West”) may be interesting but aren’t particularly important; it’s the amount of agreement or disagreement that matters. Of course, differences in approach may lead to disagreements.


When I set out to contrast the two books, I did so because of the disagreements, the areas where the Pope and the Pol hold opposite views, or nearly opposite view. They agree, more or less, about abortion and family life. They disagree about nearly every other significant social issue. Put another way: Buchanan is unaware of, or opposed to, or at best neutral concerning the significant Magisterial teaching on a long list of topics. He went to a Catholic elementary school (Blessed Sacrament), a Catholic high school (Gonzaga), and a Catholic university (St. Louis) – but his thinking is untainted by the Catholic social doctrine from Pope Leo through the Second Vatican Council to the present.




The sketches of the JPII’s Ecclesia in America and Buchanan’s The Death of the West are above. What follows is an effort to see the similarities and differences, the agreements and disagreements, in an organized and coherent way. This will go straight through the Pope’s exhortation, noting differences from Buchanan’s book along the way. This will not cover every section in the exhortation, but rather only those that raise clear questions about contrasts.

Ecclesia in America has an introduction, six chapters, and a closing. There are significant contrasts throughout, but they are most obvious in the introduction and in chapter five, on solidarity.


Contrasting the introductions


Pope John Paul II, starting his reflections on America, recalls that we recently celebrated 500 years of the Church in America. He sees people rejoicing and praising and celebrating.



Rejoicing in the faith received and praising Christ for this immense gift, the Church in America has recently celebrated the fifth centenary of the first preaching of the Gospel on its soil. The commemoration made all American Catholics more deeply aware of Christ's desire to meet the inhabitants of the so-called New World so that, gathering them into his Church, he might be present in the continent's history. The evangelization of America is not only a gift from the Lord; it is also a source of new responsibilities. Thanks to the work of those who preached the Gospel through the length and breadth of the continent, countless sons and daughters have been generated by the Church and the Holy Spirit. Now, no less than in the past, the words of the Apostle echo in their hearts: “If I preach the Gospel, I have no reason to boast. It is my duty: woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” This duty is founded on the Risen Lord's command to the Apostles before he ascended into heaven: “Preach the Gospel to all creation.” (JPII, #1)


Pat Buchanan sees something else. His time frame is similar, but his emotions are quite different – losing, lament, sadness, and melancholy.



“Pat, we’re losing the country we grew up in.” Again and again in the endless campaign of 2000 I heard that lament from men and women across America. But what did they mean by it? Why should sadness or melancholy—as though one’s father were dying and there were nothing to be done—have crept into the hearts of Americans on the cusp of the “Second American Century”? (Buchanan, p. 1)


What is the “West”?

Pope John Paul II thought about and prayed about the original East-West schism every day of his life, it seems. The original East-West split was a tussle about the Roman Empire. The Roman republic became an empire at the time of Julius Caesar, it and grew for some centuries under subsequent emperors – ruled from Rome. But as the empire crumbled, the government split; there were rulers in Rome, and rulers in Constantinople. Eventually, centralized power in Rome crumbled away under repeated onslaughts by Germanic tribes until it was almost meaningless, while Constantinople maintained some centralized power. There was a similar split in the Church: the popes in Rome and the patriarchs in Constantinople drifted apart in their thinking. Who had the authority to teach definitively about matters of faith? In 1054, they “excommunicated” each other. This split between Orthodoxy in the East and Catholicism in the West troubled the Pope to the core. His fourth encyclical was about the “apostles to the Slavs” – which includes Poles. When the brothers Cyril and Methodius brought the Gospel to the Slavic people, in the last century of the first millennium, they set out from Constantinople and returned to Rome. They were key figures in the Pope’s life, and they lived with differences but no contradictions between the East and West. Jesus prayed for the unity of her followers, and this unity is supposed to be a mark of the Church’s authenticity – but it was broken for a full millennium. John Paul II longed for a return to unity, and end to this East-West split, the schism between Catholics and Orthodox; he refers to this in every one of the continental exhortations.

Buchanan’s introduction doesn’t quite clarify what the “West” is. He says it’s dying, whatever it is. But what is it? It’s America and Europe. It’s Christian – nor completely, but predominantly – at least in its roots. It’s a civilization, a culture. And it’s an ethnic bloc – European and therefore white – although Buchanan doesn’t quite say that. It’s First World territory, but may slip to Third World.

Consider this paragraph:

“Russia, with a shrinking population of only 114 million, will have largely disappeared from Asia. Almost all Russians will be west of the Urals, back in Europe. Western Man, who dominated Africa and Asia in the first half of the twentieth century, will have disappeared from Africa and Asia by the middle of the twenty-first except perhaps for tiny enclaves in South Africa and Israel. In Australia, a nation of only 19 million, where the white birthrate is now below replacement levels, the European population will have begun to disappear.” (Buchanan, p. 22)

If I understand this paragraph, “Western Man” = white = European.


By contrast, JPII says the following about “The Eastern Catholic presence.”

Immigration is an almost constant feature of America's history from the beginning of evangelization to our own day. As part of this complex phenomenon, we see that in recent times different parts of America have welcomed many members of the Eastern Catholic Churches who, for various reasons, have left their native lands. A first wave of immigration came especially from Western Ukraine; and then it involved the nations of the Middle East. (JPII, #17)

Ecclesia in America, #1

“Rejoicing in the faith received and praising Christ for this immense gift, the Church in America has recently celebrated the fifth centenary of the first preaching of the Gospel on its soil.” JPII, #1


The opening sentence is different from Buchanan in three ways.

Pondering America, the Pope rejoices; pondering America, Buchanan prepares for death (see his title)..

The Pope sees gifts; Buchanan sees things we might lose (see his title).

The Pope celebrates a 5th centenary; Buchanan is puzzled by melancholy “on the cusp of the Second American Century.” (p. 10)


Pope: “the so-called New World” – this phrase explains promptly why the Pope thinks of North and South America as a unit.  They were new to the Church in 1492, and evangelizing the “New World” began that year. Buchanan, by contrast, sees the North and the South as separate, and wants to push them farther apart.

America is God’s Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming,” wrote Israel Zangwill, the Russian-Jewish playwright, in his famous 1908 play The Melting Pot. But the immigration tsunami rolling over America is not coming from “all the races of Europe.” The largest population transfer in history is coming from all the races of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and they are not “melting and reforming.”  (Buchanan, p. 3)


The Pope says, “The evangelization of America is not only a gift from the Lord; it is also a source of new responsibilities.”

Buchanan says that the globalist agenda that is a threat to the survival of America includes support for foreign aid. (p. 54)



Text Box: “progressio” = development = new name for peace
In an encyclical entitled Populorum Progressio, St. Paul VI made a huge contribution to the Church’s teaching about social justice. When the Church since his time uses the word “progressio” in Latin or development in English, the whole powerful encyclical comes to mind.
This is some of the new vocabulary for a new culture in a new millennium.
The progressive development of peoples is an object of deep interest and concern to the Church. This is particularly true in the case of those peoples who are trying to escape the ravages of hunger, poverty, endemic disease and ignorance; of those who are seeking a larger share in the benefits of civilization and a more active improvement of their human qualities; of those who are consciously striving for fuller growth.
With an even clearer awareness, since the Second Vatican Council, of the demands imposed by Christ's Gospel in this area, the Church judges it her duty to help all men explore this serious problem in all its dimensions, and to impress upon them the need for concerted action at this critical juncture.

Ecclesia in America, #2


The Pope says that he first proposed the idea for the synod of the American bishops when he was visiting Santo Domingo on October 12, 1992 – 500 year to the day after Columbus landed there.

I proposed a synodal meeting, with a view to increased cooperation between the different particular Churches, so that together we might address, as part of the new evangelization and as an expression of episcopal communion, the problems relating to justice and solidarity among all the nations of America.

The purpose of the synod was to cooperate in addressing “justice and solidarity” issues.


The word “solidarity” has a history, linked to the labor movement, that goes back decades and decades in the United States, but it’s also an evocative word in global history because of the Poles. The defeat of the Soviet Empire was initiated by Solidarnosc, led by Lech Walesa and supported by the new Polish Pope. So we can ask: is “solidarity” in Buchanan’s lexicon, baptized by the Pope; or is it, in his mind, a term and idea used by the left? And in fact, the word shows up four times in Buchanan’s book. He uses it, but it’s a pleasant word, not a word of power.


The first is a reference to a Communist “delusion”:

Their land, faith, families, icons, and Mother Russia all meant far more to the Russian people than any international workers’ solidarity. The Soviets were deluding themselves, Gramsci concluded. (p. 76)


The second is a nostalgic reference to the unity in America during World War II, when Buchanan was a young child (born in 1938):

There was a spirit of solidarity and unity then unlike any we have known since. We were truly one nation indivisible and one people. (p. 149)


The third and fourth are about various suggestions, which he rejects as hopeless, for what might still unite the West:

What are the ties that bind? Some say racial solidarity. But the past five hundred years have been an endless chronicle of European peoples slaughtering one another … (p. 265)

A common belief in democracy is too weak a reed to support the solidarity of the West. (p. 266)


Ecclesia in America, #3.

The Pope explains the theme for the synod and exhortation: encountering Jesus, the way of conversion, communion, and solidarity. Do these words and concepts – Jesus, encounter, conversion, communion, solidarity – show up Buchanan’s thought?


Catholic culture is everywhere in the book, but is Jesus? There are 13 references to the “Jesus.” Most are references to art in the culture wars, or quotations; but there is one thoughtful remark about a parable. Buchanan draws on the teaching of Jesus to understand how a society or people can be replaced (p. 97). How about “Christ”? There are 16 uses of the word, most in references to works of art or other details of the culture wars, or in quotations. But there are two places where Buchanan’s thought draws on the Lord. One is about schools: “In the New Testament, Christ holds out a hellish punishment for any who would destroy the belief of ‘these little ones.’” (p. 152) The other is about how to respond to insults to the Lord: “When Christians were told to ‘turn the other cheek,’ it was for offenses against them, not against God. Christ himself used a whip to drive the money changers out of the temple.” (p. 194)


It is perhaps unfair to look for the language of a mission that is specifically the work of the Church – encounter, conversion – in a book about politics and society. What about “communion” or the idea of community? Buchanan’s view of the Pope’s vision is clear: throughout his book, Buchanan makes the case for division.


The Pope’s hopes for America are based on these five:

·         first, of course, the living person Jesus Christ

·         encounter with the Lord

·         conversion

·         communion

·         solidarity


Buchanan is deeply committed to a Catholic culture, but it is wrong to dismiss his view as solely cultural. He does draw on the Lord’s teaching in his own thinking. It’s not fair to look for religious terms – encounter, conversion – in political writing. “Solidarity” is part of his thinking, but he sees it as a delusion, or – at best – as something good but weak. He is opposed to the Pope’s ideas about communion or unity.



Communion or community versus division


Buchanan doesn’t write much about Latin America or South America; he talks instead about “Mexico.” And his attitude toward Mexico is unremittingly contemptuous or hostile. He approves of America’s wars of conquest (p. 60) and says wistfully that we used to think clearly the struggle: “After the Alamo the Mexicans had it coming.” (p. 150)


He sees the growth of South America as a grim threat, not a blessing.

The prognosis is grim. Between 2000 and 2050, world population will grow by more than three billion to over nine billion people, but this 50 percent increase in global population will come entirely in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, as one hundred million people of European stock vanish from the earth. (p. 12)


He uses “Mexico” as a unit of measure for the global population explosion that threatens to swamp the West. More Mexicos: this is apocalyptic doom.

But as Europe is dying, the Third World adds one hundred million people—one new Mexico—every fifteen months. Forty new Mexicos in the Third World by 2050, while Europe will have lost the equivalent of the entire population of Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway—and Germany! Absent divine intervention, or a sudden desire on the part of Western women to begin having the same-size families as their grandmothers, the future belongs to the Third World. As T. S. Eliot wrote in “The Hollow Men”: “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.” (p. 13-14)


He opposes NAFTA, saying:

The history and culture of Mexico and of our Southwest are inseparable, but we remain separate and distinct nations—neighbors, not brothers. And as that most American of poets, Robert Frost, wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” (p. 236)


Emphatically, Buchanan is not looking for the communion or community or unity between North and South America that the Pope speaks about. He is firmly in favor of division.

Ecclesia in America, #5


The Pope emphasized this, so it is repeated here:


Contributing to the unity of the continent

6.       In Santo Domingo, when I first proposed a Special Assembly of the Synod, I remarked that “on the threshold of the third Christian millennium and at a time when many walls and ideological barriers have fallen, the Church feels absolutely duty-bound to bring into still deeper spiritual union the peoples who compose this great continent and also, prompted by the religious mission which is proper to the Church, to stir among these peoples a spirit of solidarity”. I asked that the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops reflect on America as a single entity, by reason of all that is common to the peoples of the continent, including their shared Christian identity and their genuine attempt to strengthen the bonds of solidarity and communion between the different forms of the continent's rich cultural heritage. The decision to speak of “America” in the singular was an attempt to express not only the unity which in some way already exists, but also to point to that closer bond which the peoples of the continent seek and which the Church wishes to foster as part of her own mission, as she works to promote the communion of all in the Lord. [Emphasis added.]


Note especially:

·         The Church feels absolutely duty-bound to stir among these peoples a spirit of solidarity.

·         The drive for unity is a mission that is proper to the Church.

·         The decision to speak of “America” in the singular was an attempt to point to a bond which the Church wishes to foster.


It is difficult to find any support in Buchanan’s book for this unity. It is fair to object that the Pope’s letter is about evangelization, and that was not what Buchanan was focusing on. However, the Pope who fought Nazis and then Communists has always connected the work of the Church and the development of the surrounding civilization and culture. When he speaks of solidarity, he means solidarity among the bishops and faithful Catholics north and south: true. It is also true that he presses for the unity of the two continents – for all people, on all levels of human experience.


Chapter One, “The Encounter with the Living Christ,” includes sections 8-12.


The Pope asserts that Jesus Christ, this person, offers the definitive answer to the questions that trouble the people on the continent – not just offers the answer, but is the answer. Obviously, that’s a “religious” assertion. But note: the questions that the Pope addresses are not limited in any way, and are – in particular – questions about building a civilization.

God’s grace also enables Christians to work for the transformation of the world, in order to bring about a new civilization, which my Predecessor Paul VI appropriately called “the civilization of love”. … Jesus Christ is thus the definitive answer to the question of the meaning of life, and to those fundamental questions which still trouble so many men and women on the American continent. (JPII, #10)


JPII asserts that America is still a melting-pot of peoples. He asserts further that this melting-pot is, in the American experience, connected to “the mestiza face of the Virgin of Tepeyac” – a brown face from Mexico. He asserts further that the Virgin of Guadalupe is venerated as the Queen of all America” – America, singular.

The appearance of Mary to the native Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in 1531 had a decisive effect on evangelization. Its influence greatly overflows the boundaries of Mexico, spreading to the whole Continent. America, which historically has been, and still is, a melting-pot of peoples, has recognized in the mestiza face of the Virgin of Tepeyac, “in Blessed Mary of Guadalupe, an impressive example of a perfectly inculturated evangelization.” Consequently, not only in Central and South America, but in North America as well, the Virgin of Guadalupe is venerated as Queen of all America. (JPII #11)


Recall that Buchanan states the opposite:

The largest population transfer in history is coming from all the races of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and they are not “melting and reforming.”  (Buchanan, p. 3)

Also, Buchanan urges intolerance, explicitly, as the price of a success “rising religion.”

Militancy, martyrdom, and, yes, intolerance are the marks of rising religions and conquering causes. Early Christians who had accepted death rather than burn incense to Roman gods were soon smashing those Roman gods—no equality for them. Baptizing Clovis, the bishop of Reims admonished the king of the Franks, “Bend your neck. Burn what you worship, worship what you burn!” Not very ecumenical, Your Grace. Protestant monarchs and Catholic kings alike did not flinch at burning heretics or drawing and quartering them at the Tyburn tree. The Christianity that conquered the world was not a milquetoast faith, and the custodians of that faith did not believe all religions were equal. One was true; all the rest were false.  (Buchanan, pp. 120-121)


The poor and the powerful

When the Pope speaks about the encounter with Jesus, he says it occurs in three places: in Scripture read in the light of Tradition, and in the sacred Liturgy, and in the people with whom Christ identifies himself.

The Gospel text concerning the final judgment (cf. Mt 25:31-46), which states that we will be judged on our love towards the needy in whom the Lord Jesus is mysteriously present, indicates that we must not neglect a third place of encounter with Christ: “the persons, especially the poor, with whom Christ identifies himself.” At the closing of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI recalled that “on the face of every human being, especially when marked by tears and sufferings, we can and must see the face of Christ (cf. Mt 25:40), the Son of Man.” (JPII, #12)


Buchanan does look beyond Europe and the United States and see people whom he recognizes as worthy companions, as people who are not identical to Westerners but are for some reason very similar. When he lists the dying nations of the developed world, he includes Japan.


Buchanan’s view of Japan matters. Japan isn’t European. It isn’t Christian. It doesn’t teach Greek and Roman classics and other parts of Western culture to high school students. But it’s a significant player in Buchanan’s understanding of the “West” – because it is undeniably a successful and influential developed nation, part of the “First World” not the Third World. It is committed to some of the ideals that Buchanan prizes: freedom, free market, free enterprise.

But with American assistance and by copying American methods and ideas, postwar Japan became the most dynamic nation on earth. By 1990, her economy was the second largest, half the size of the United States economy, though Japan occupied an area smaller than Montana—an extraordinary achievement of an extraordinary people. (Buchanan, p. 20)


The Pope invites those who seek the Lord to encounter him in Scripture and in the Liturgy – and in the poor. This is different from Buchanan’s understanding of the world. He is interested in the rich and powerful.





Chapter II, “Encountering Jesus Christ in America Today,” includes sections 13 to 25.


On ecumenism

JPII asserts:

The presence of other Christian communities, to a greater or lesser degree in the different parts of America, means that the ecumenical commitment to seek unity among all those who believe in Christ is especially urgent. (JPII, #14)


Regarding unity with Orthodox communities, the Pope is hopeful, determined, active – aiming for unity, intending to heal the ancient East-West split.

The Eastern Catholic presence

17. Immigration is an almost constant feature of America's history from the beginning of evangelization to our own day. As part of this complex phenomenon, we see that in recent times different parts of America have welcomed many members of the Eastern Catholic Churches who, for various reasons, have left their native lands. A first wave of immigration came especially from Western Ukraine; and then it involved the nations of the Middle East. … The universal Church needs a synergy between the particular Churches of East and West so that she may breathe with her two lungs, in the hope of one day doing so in perfect communion between the Catholic Church and the separated Eastern Churches. Therefore, we cannot but rejoice that the Eastern Churches have in recent times taken root in America alongside the Latin Churches present there from the beginning, thus making the catholicity of the Lord's Church appear more clearly. (JPII, #17)


Buchanan’s thought is very different:

Religious rivalry is a zero-sum game. Every gain for one faith is a loss for another. … The Reformation and the rise of Protestantism were a crisis for Rome. (Buchanan, pp. 185)



Regarding Globalization


JPII is clear and eloquent about the problems with globalism:

If globalization is ruled merely by the laws of the market applied to suit the powerful, the consequences cannot but be negative. These are, for example, the absolutizing of the economy, unemployment, the reduction and deterioration of public services, the destruction of the environment and natural resources, the growing distance between rich and poor, unfair competition which puts the poor nations in a situation of ever increasing inferiority. …

And what should we say about the cultural globalization produced by the power of the media? Everywhere the media impose new scales of values which are often arbitrary and basically materialistic, in the face of which it is difficult to maintain a lively commitment to the values of the Gospel. (JPII, 20)

But he also asserts:

The ethical implications can be positive or negative. There is an economic globalization which brings some positive consequences, such as efficiency and increased production and which, with the development of economic links between the different countries, can help to bring greater unity among peoples and make possible a better service to the human family. (JPII, 20)


Buchanan, by contrast, has nothing good to say about globalism, ever. His view is uniformly negative. For example:

But the new culture rejects the God of the Old Testament and burns its incense at the altars of the global economy. (p. 6)


Conversion and politics

One of the striking aspects of the Pope’s call to conversion is his attitude towards “the social dimension of conversion.” In his view, conversion is not just a matter between an individual and God; it includes the way a convert treats neighbors. But even putting it that way is too limited: conversion should affect the way a Christian operates not only in personal relationships but also within society. The Pope says:

27. Yet conversion is incomplete if we are not aware of the demands of the Christian life and if we do not strive to meet them. … Fraternal charity means attending to all the needs of our neighbor. “If any one has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” (1 Jn 3:17). Hence, for the Christian people of America conversion to the Gospel means to revise “all the different areas and aspects of life, especially those related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good”. It will be especially necessary “to nurture the growing awareness in society of the dignity of every person and, therefore, to promote in the community a sense of the duty to participate in political life in harmony with the Gospel.” Involvement in the political field is clearly part of the vocation and activity of the lay faithful. [Emphasis added.] (JPII, #27)


Buchanan’s view is different. Here’s his description of what happened after the United States annexed Texas.

Eight years later, in his final hours in office, Pres. John Tyler decided to write his own page in history by annexing the Texas republic, denying the honor to Jackson’s protégé, James K. Polk, who had won the White House on a pledge to bring Texas into the Union. An enraged Mexico now disputed the U.S. claim to all land north of the Rio Grande. To back up that claim, Polk sent Gen. Zachary Taylor to the north bank of the river. When Mexican soldiers crossed and fired on a U.S. patrol, spilling American blood on what Polk claimed was American soil, he demanded and got a swift congressional declaration of war. By 1848, soldiers with names like Grant, Lee, and McClellan were in Montezuma’s city. A humiliated Mexico was forced to cede all of Texas, the Southwest, and California. To ease the anguish of amputation, the U.S. gave Mexico fifteen million dollars. Mexicans seethed with hatred and resentment. (Buchanan, p. 124)


Ulysses S. Grant was indeed in Mexico, but he did not think the American presence there was justifiable, or even morally neutral. He thought it was evil enough that the Civil War was a punishment for it.

To us it was an empire and of incalculable value; but it might have been obtained by other means. The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times. (Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant (p. 28).


Guilt and Repentance


As fair-minded and mostly Christian folks, they concede that there is truth in the indictment of America’s past. Our fathers did participate in slavery. We did practice segregation. Our treatment of the Indians was not what one should have expected of people to whom the Sermon on the Mount was divine command. But, having internalized a guilt that gnaws at their souls, these Republicans, in their lifelong quest for absolution, are easy prey for confidence men like Jackson and Sharpton who run the Big Sting.

The truth? In the story of slavery and the slave trade, Western Man was among the many villains, but Western Man was also the only hero. For the West did not invent slavery, but it alone abolished slavery. Had it not been for the West, African rulers would still be trafficking in the flesh of their kinsmen. Slaves, after all, were the leading cash crop of the friends of Mansa Musa. In Mauritania and Sudan today, slavery has returned, to the deafening silence of intellectuals who have built careers on the moral shakedown of America and the West. America was a segregated society, but in no other nation do people enjoy greater freedom, opportunity, and prosperity than here in the United States. (Buchanan, p. 220)

Buchanan is perhaps a little too gentle about the evils of slavery.  But also: don’t miss the bait and switch! He asks:  What about the way we treated Native American tribes? Then he answers: Well, we ended slavery of Africans. The Pope’s approach is different.

The social dimension of conversion

27. Yet conversion is incomplete if we are not aware of the demands of the Christian life and if we do not strive to meet them. In this regard, the Synod Fathers noted that unfortunately “at both the personal and communal level there are great shortcomings in relation to a more profound conversion and with regard to relationships between sectors, institutions and groups within the Church.” (70) “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20).

Fraternal charity means attending to all the needs of our neighbor. “If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” (1 Jn 3:17). Hence, for the Christian people of America conversion to the Gospel means to revise “all the different areas and aspects of life, especially those related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good.” It will be especially necessary “to nurture the growing awareness in society of the dignity of every person and, therefore, to promote in the community a sense of the duty to participate in political life in harmony with the Gospel.” Involvement in the political field is clearly part of the vocation and activity of the lay faithful. (JPII, #27)



The unity of the continent


The closing paragraph in Ecclesia in America, chapter III, about conversion, asserts once again the Pope’s view that America – America singular, the continent – should be unified.

The Catholic Church, which embraces men and women “of every nation, race, people and tongue” (Rev 7:9) is called to be, “in a world marked by ideological, ethnic, economic and cultural divisions”, the “living sign of the unity of the human family.” In the multiplicity of nations and the variety of ethnic groups, as in the features common to the entire continent, America presents many differences which cannot be ignored and which the Church has the duty to address. Thanks to effective efforts to integrate the members of the People of God within each country and to unite the members of the particular Churches of the various countries, today's differences can be a source of mutual enrichment. As the Synod Fathers rightly affirmed, “it is most important that the Church throughout America be a living sign of reconciled communion, an enduring appeal to solidarity and a witness ever present in our various political, economic and social systems.” This is a significant contribution which believers can make to the unity of the American continent. (JPII, #32) [Emphasis added]



Chapter IV: The Path to Communion


This chapter includes section #33 to #51. There are just three sections that are noteworthy in contrasting the Pope and Buchanan.


Regarding cooperation with Mexico

In discussing ways that the bishops’ conferences could cooperate fruitfully, the Pope said:

Areas in which it seems especially necessary “to strengthen cooperation are the sharing of information on pastoral matters, missionary collaboration, education, immigration and ecumenism.” (JPII, #37)

I note this because it led to an interesting document, “Strangers No Longer,” from the US and Mexican bishops writing together, about immigration, published exactly four years after Ecclesia in America. The Pope’s exhortation was given in Mexico City on January 22, 1999; the bishops’ pastoral letter was published in Mexico City on January 22, 2003.


At this same time, Buchanan wrote this, echoing the language of pro-choice advocates:

 The U.S. Border Patrol should get the manpower it needs to police our borders, and Americans alone should decide whether and when our national family should be enlarged. (Buchanan, p. 236)


Regarding family life, the Pope said:

Many insidious forces are endangering the solidity of the institution of the family in most countries of America, and these represent so many challenges for Christians. Among them we should mention the increase in divorce, the spread of abortion, infanticide and the contraceptive mentality. Faced with this situation, we need to reaffirm “that the foundation of human life is the conjugal relationship between husband and wife, a relationship which, between Christians, is sacramental”. (JPII, #46)

This is a point of agreement. Buchanan said many things like this.


Regarding other religions


Regarding other religions, the Pope said:

51. As for non-Christian religions, the Catholic Church rejects nothing in them which is true and holy. (192) Hence, with regard to other religions Catholics intend to emphasize elements of truth wherever they are to be found, while at the same time firmly bearing witness to the newness of the revelation of Christ, preserved in its fullness by the Church. (193) Consistent with this attitude, they reject as alien to the spirit of Christ any discrimination or persecution directed against persons on the basis of race, color, condition of life or religion. Difference of religion must never be a cause of violence or war. Instead persons of different beliefs must feel themselves drawn, precisely because of these beliefs, to work together for peace and justice.

“Muslims, like Christians and Jews, call Abraham their father. Consequently throughout America these three communities should live in harmony and work together for the common good. The Church in America must also work for greater mutual respect and good relations with the native American religions”. (194) A similar attitude should be fostered with regard to the followers of Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions who have come to America as a result of recent waves of immigration from the East. (JPII, #51)


Buchanan, by contrast, refers to a novel that many people consider to be among the most objectionable bit of racism ever published as prophetic. He asks whether Islam will prove to be “indigestible” in “what was once Christendom.”

The Camp of the Saints, Jean Raspail’s 1972 novel about an invasion of France by an armada of destitute Third World people, whom Europe, paralyzed by its egalitarianism and liberalism, is powerless to resist, appears to have been prophetic. History has begun to imitate art.

Europe appears unable to stop these millions from coming and taking the jobs opening up as the war generation passes away. Indeed, employers will demand they be brought in. So will the growing millions of seniors and elderly. And as the millions pour into Europe from North Africa and the Middle East, they will bring their Arab and Islamic culture, traditions, loyalties, and faith, and create replicas of their homelands in the heartland of the West. Will they assimilate, or will they endure as indigestible parts of Africa and Arabia in the base camp of what was once Christendom? (Buchanan, p. 99-100)



+++   Two notes on ecumenism, from Tertio Millennio Adveniente   +++


Meeting the challenge of secularism

With regard to the former [meeting the challenge of secularism], it will be fitting to broach the vast subject of the crisis of civilization, which has become apparent especially in the West, which is highly developed from the standpoint of technology but is interiorly impoverished by its tendency to forget God or to keep him at a distance. This crisis of civilization must be countered by the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty, which find their full attainment in Christ. (Pope John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, #52)


Meeting the challenge of dialogue with the great religions

53. On the other hand, as far as the field of religious awareness is concerned, the eve of the Year 2000 will provide a great opportunity, especially in view of the events of recent decades, for interreligious dialogue, in accordance with the specific guidelines set down by the Second Vatican Council in its Declaration Nostra Aetate on the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions.

In this dialogue the Jews and the Muslims ought to have a pre-eminent place. God grant that as a confirmation of these intentions it may also be possible to hold joint meetings in places of significance for the great monotheistic religions. (Pope John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, #52)




Chapter V: “The Path to Solidarity”


The chapters includes 14 sections, from #52 to #65. There are many significant points of contrast, in almost every section.


The sections in Chapter V are:


52.   Solidarity, the fruit of communion

53.   The Church's teaching, a statement of the demands of conversion

54.   The Church's social doctrine

55.   The globalization of solidarity

56.   Social sins which cry to heaven

57.   The ultimate foundation of human rights

58.   Preferential love for the poor and the outcast

59.   Foreign debt

60.   The fight against corruption

61.   The drug problem

62.   The arms race

63.   The culture of death and a society dominated by the powerful

64.   Discrimination against indigenous peoples and Americans of African descent

65.   The question of immigrants



#52: Solidarity, the fruit of communion


The chapter begins with an eloquent explanation of the link between communion and solidarity: solidarity is the fruit of communion. This is explained by referring to Matthew 25, the passage about the Last Judgment, listing specific works of mercy. (Matthew 25:31-46 is the passage that St. Augustine used most in his work explaining Christianity.)

52. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40; cf. 25:45). The awareness of communion with Christ and with our brothers and sisters, for its part the fruit of conversion, leads to the service of our neighbors in all their needs, material and spiritual, since the face of Christ shines forth in every human being. …

For the particular Churches of the American continent, this is the source of a commitment to reciprocal solidarity and the sharing of the spiritual gifts and material goods with which God has blessed them, fostering in individuals a readiness to work where they are needed. Taking the Gospel as its starting-point, a culture of solidarity needs to be promoted, capable of inspiring timely initiatives in support of the poor and the outcast, especially refugees forced to leave their villages and lands in order to flee violence. The Church in America must encourage the international agencies of the continent to establish an economic order dominated not only by the profit motive but also by the pursuit of the common good of nations and of the international community, the equitable distribution of goods and the integral development of peoples. (JPII, #52) [emphasis added.]


The Pope’s description of solidarity includes an international component. Buchanan is firmly opposed to this. Regarding international agencies, he said:

As people return their allegiance to the lands whence they came, transnational elites pull us in the opposite direction. The final surrender of national sovereignty to world government is now openly advocated. From Walter Cronkite to Strobe Talbott, from the World Federalist Association to the UN Millennium Summit, the chorus swells. At Maastricht in 1991, fifteen European nations, including France, Italy, Germany, and Great Britain, decided to begin converting their free-trade zone into a political union and transferring their sovereign powers to a socialist superstate. In 2000, the president-elect of Mexico came here to propose a North American Union of Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Though the erasure of our borders would mean the end of our nation, Vicente Fox was hailed in the U.S. media as a visionary … (Buchanan, p. 4)


+++   A note on the “culture of solidarity”   +++


Taking the Gospel as its starting-point, a culture of solidarity needs to be promoted, capable of inspiring timely initiatives in support of the poor and the outcast, especially refugees forced to leave their villages and lands in order to flee violence. The Church in America must encourage the international agencies of the continent to establish an economic order dominated not only by the profit motive but also by the pursuit of the common good of nations and of the international community, the equitable distribution of goods and the integral development of peoples. (JPII, #52)


Culture of life, of death, or work, of solidarity: the Pope paints with broad strokes. He is ambitious, because he focused on the trying to discern the Lord’s plan for the Third Millennium. A new culture in a new millennium may need new vocabulary for its new concepts. Unpack just one sentence carefully.


The Church in America must encourage …

the Church has a role to play here


… the international agencies of the continent …

The Pope intends to work with organizations like the UN


… to establish an economic order …

The Pope intends to help shape the economy


… dominated not only by the profit motive 

the profit motive is not totally illegitimate, but it has limitations


… but also by the pursuit of the common good …

Sometimes the pursuit of the common good is dismissed as dangerous “socialism.” Regardless of such confusion and fear, the Pope expects the Church to pursue the common good


… of nations and of the international community …

the Pope’s teaching is not only for individuals, but also for society, on many levels


… the equitable distribution of goods …

“equitable” isn’t “equal” – but it is opposed to radically imbalanced distribution of goods


… and the integral development of peoples.

“development” – the new word for peace in the teaching of St. Paul VI – is a whole complex idea


The ”culture of solidarity” must be seen together with promoting a “culture of life.” A culture of life, of work, of solidarity: to limit the impact of a culture of death – to limit and then contain and then defeat it, and then to replace it – requires a new civilization with all its components.


#53-54: The Pope’s request for the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church


In the middle of contrasting Ecclesia in America and The Death of the West, is it necessary to take a detour to another massive work? No, but understanding the Pope’s exhortation to America includes his perception that many people – in America and elsewhere – need help grasping the extent and the strength (and the wisdom) of the Church’s social doctrine. It was during his work on helping America prepare for the Third Millennium that the Pope decided to ask that this Compendium be prepared.

54. Faced with the grave social problems which, with different characteristics, are present throughout America, Catholics know that they can find in the Church's social doctrine an answer which serves as a starting-point in the search for practical solutions. Spreading this doctrine is an authentic pastoral priority. …

To this end, it would be very useful to have a compendium or approved synthesis of Catholic social doctrine, including a “Catechism”, which would show the connection between it and the new evangelization. The part which the Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes to this material, in its treatment of the seventh commandment of the Decalogue, could serve as the starting-point for such a “Catechism of Catholic Social Doctrine.” (#54)


This call for a social doctrine compendium was issued in 1999. The Compendium was in fact published and presented to Pope John Paul II in 2004, after Buchanan’s book. It is a collection of previous teaching, organized by subject matter; nothing in it was new teaching. So the fact that it came out after Buchanan’s book is not significant; this was all teaching that had been available to Buchanan – and to all Catholics and to all people of good will – for years. It was a growing body of thought, beginning in 1891 with Pope Leo’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, which opposed Communism but supported labor unions.

The Compendium is not short like the Ten Commandments, nor familiar like the Ten Commandments, nor ancient like the Ten Commandments. But the Compendium is careful to connect the dots: the teaching in the Compendium is an elaboration of teaching already found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, specifically in the Catechism’s explanation of the Seventh Commandment. This unfamiliarity does not diminish its authority. The Compendium (#80) asserts: “Insofar as it is part of the Church's moral teaching, the Church's social doctrine has the same dignity and authority as her moral teaching. It is authentic Magisterium, which obligates the faithful to adhere to it.”

The Compendium, without notes and appendices, is over 100,000 words. But chapter 4 does outline the teaching. “The permanent principles of the Church's social doctrine constitute the very heart of Catholic social teaching. These are the principles of: 

·         the dignity of the human person,

·         the common good; 

·         subsidiarity; and 

·         solidarity.  [Compendium, #160]


To understand its scope (without taking a few weeks or months to read the whole thing carefully), it’s worthwhile to skim the chapters.

There’s an introduction, a dozen chapters, and a conclusion.

·         Introduction: An Integral and Solidary Humanism

·         Chapter One: God’s Plan of Love for Humanity

·         Chapter Two: The Church’s Mission and the Social Doctrine

·         Chapter Three: The Human Person and Human Rights

·         Chapter Four: Principles of the Church’s Social Teaching

·         Chapter Five: The Family, The Vital Cell of Society

·         Chapter Six: Human Work

·         Chapter Seven: Economic Life

·         Chapter Eight: The Political Community

·         Chapter Nine: The International Community

·         Chapter Ten: Safeguarding the Environment

·         Chapter Eleven: The Promotion of Peace

·         Chapter Twelve: Social Doctrine and Ecclesial Action

·         Conclusion: For a Civilization of Love

The Pope remarks that the Church’s social teaching is not familiar to most people – but should be. It is particularly important for people who social or political responsibilities – like, for example, Catholics who run for office or write books about the future of American or Western or global society.

The Church's social doctrine is an indispensable reference point for a totally integrated Christian formation. The insistence of the Magisterium in proposing this doctrine as a source of inspiration for the apostolate and for social action comes from the conviction that it constitutes an extraordinary resource for formation; “this is especially true for the lay faithful who have responsibilities in various fields of social and public life. Above all, it is indispensable that they have a more exact knowledge... of the Church's social doctrine.” This doctrinal patrimony is neither taught nor known sufficiently, which is part of the reason for its failure to be suitably reflected in concrete behavior.

The formative value of the Church's social doctrine should receive more attention in catechesis. Catechesis is the systematic teaching of Christian doctrine in its entirety, with a view to initiating believers into the fullness of Gospel life. The ultimate aim of catechesis “is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ”. (Compendium, #528-529) [Emphasis added.]

The list of disagreements between Buchanan and the Compendium – and, therefore, section #54 in Ecclesia in America – would be very long. And that, actually, is the reason for contrasting Ecclesia in America and Buchanan’s The Death of the West. The contrast seems to show that this doctrinal patrimony was either not taught or not grasped sufficiently by the author of Death of the West.


#55: The globalization of solidarity


The Church in America is called not only to promote greater integration between nations, thus helping to create an authentic globalized culture of solidarity, (204) but also to cooperate with every legitimate means in reducing the negative effects of globalization, such as the domination of the powerful over the weak, especially in the economic sphere, and the loss of the values of local cultures in favor of a misconstrued homogenization. (JPII, #54)


Buchanan’s view of globalization and solidarity have already been explored, above. He is deadset against globalization, and considers solidarity to be a nice but weak sort of thing. Recall his declaration: “Our loyalty to our own families, countries, church, and culture comes first. So the lines are drawn in the battle of the century. Patriotism or globalism.” (Buchanan, p. 239)


#56: Social sins which cry to heaven

The list here of sins that cry to heaven may be startling:

The Church's social doctrine also makes possible a clearer appreciation of the gravity of the “social sins which cry to heaven because they generate violence, disrupt peace and harmony between communities within single nations, between nations and between the different regions of the continent.” Among these must be mentioned:

·         the drug trade

·         the recycling of illicit funds

·         corruption at every level

·         the terror of violence

·         the arms race

·         racial discrimination

·         inequality between social groups and

·         the irrational destruction of nature.

It is possible that Buchanan would be pleased to see the Pope criticizing “neoliberalism” as one cause of the problem here. However, there are two interesting differences between the Pope and Buchanan here. One is the use of the term “social sin”: the term is important to the Pope but never used by Buchanan. And the second is the context in which the two men think about the scourge of drugs.

Whenever the church speaks of situations of sin or when the condemns as social sins certain situations or the collective behavior of certain social groups, big or small, or even of whole nations and blocs of nations, she knows and she proclaims that such cases of social sin are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins. It is a case of the very personal sins of those who cause or support evil or who exploit it; of those who are in a position to avoid, eliminate or at least limit certain social evils but who fail to do so out of laziness, fear or the conspiracy of silence, through secret complicity or indifference; of those who take refuge in the supposed impossibility of changing the world and also of those who sidestep the effort and sacrifice required, producing specious reasons of higher order. The real responsibility, then, lies with individuals. (Pope John Paul II, 1984, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, #16)


Note also that the Pope lists the drug trade in a list of social sins that are mostly violent, with some theft. By contrast, Buchanan discusses drugs as part of a destructive lifestyle, along with sexual abuses.

As has often been true in history, a new moral code was crafted to justify the new lifestyle already adopted. As they indulged themselves in sex, drugs, riots, and rock and roll, the young Jacobins had the reassurance of their indulgent and pandering elders that, yes, indeed, “This is the finest young generation we have ever produced.” (Buchanan, p. 31)


#57: The ultimate foundation of human rights


The foundation is “dignity.” The language here is not quite the same as standard American political jargon. But in the Pope’s thinking and writing, the concept of “dignity” is fundamental. And it corresponds roughly to one interpretation of the American concept of “equality.” The concept of equality, in American political discourse, is admittedly a little slippery. It seems to me that there are three separate meanings for the word. Buchanan points to two: equality before the law (which he embraces), equality of attainment (which he rejects), and equality as a child of God – understood by Christians as plain fact or as a metaphor by others. The Church usually uses the word dignity to refer to this third meaning of the word “equality.”

It is appropriate to recall that the foundation on which all human rights rest is the dignity of the person. “God's masterpiece, man, is made in the divine image and likeness. Jesus took on our human nature, except for sin; he advanced and defended the dignity of every human person, without exception; he died that all might be free. The Gospel shows us how Christ insisted on the centrality of the human person in the natural order (cf. Lk 12:22-29) and in the social and religious orders, even against the claims of the Law (cf. Mk 2:27): defending men, women (cf. Jn 8:11) and even children (cf. Mt 19:13-15), who in his time and culture occupied an inferior place in society. The human being's dignity as a child of God is the source of human rights and of corresponding duties.” For this reason, “every offense against the dignity of man is an offense against God himself, in whose image man is made.” This dignity is common to all, without exception, since all have been created in the image of God (cf. Gen 1:26). (JPII, #57)


Buchanan does not notice or embrace the concept of equal dignity. (Recall, for example, his dismissal of Catholic Native Americans who wish to immigrate into the USA: he calls them invaders.) He uses “equality” in two ways, and does not have a word that corresponds to the Pope’s concept of “dignity.”

The equality the revolution [i.e., the cultural revolution of the 1960s and beyond] preaches is a corruption of Jefferson’s idea “All men are created equal.” Jefferson meant that all were endowed by their Creator with the same right to life, liberty, and property, and all must be equal under the law. He rejected egalitarianism. As he wrote John Adams in 1813: “I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talent.” / Measured by virtues and talents, it is more true to say that “no two men were ever created equal.” What America is about is not equality of condition or equality of result, but freedom, so a “natural aristocracy” of ability, achievement, virtue, and excellence—from athletics to the arts to the academy—can rise to lead, inspire, and set an example for us all to follow and a mark for us all to aim at. Hierarchies are as natural as they are essential. (Buchanan, pp. 62-63)


#58: Preferential love for the poor and the outcast


The Church intends to ensure that no one is marginalized.

The Church in America must incarnate in her pastoral initiatives the solidarity of the universal Church towards the poor and the outcast of every kind. Her attitude needs to be one of assistance, promotion, liberation and fraternal openness. The goal of the Church is to ensure that no one is marginalized. The memory of the dark chapters of America's history, involving the practice of slavery and other situations of social discrimination, must awaken a sincere desire for conversion leading to reconciliation and communion. (JPII, #58)


This stands in stark contrast to Buchanan’s ideal, that the West be exalted and most of the world be marginalized. Note the way Buchanan explains Europe’s decline vis-à-vis the rest of the world – without even pretending to try to understand the perspective of everyone else.

The reels of history are now running in reverse. The great retreat of the West, begun with the collapse of Europe’s empires after World War II, reaches climax this century, as the second great Islamic wave rolls into Europe and the peoples of Central Asia and China reclaim what the czars took from them in centuries past. By 2050, Russia will have lost slices of Siberia and will have been pushed out of the Caucusus and back over the Urals into Europe. “If a clod be washed away by the sea,” wrote the poet Donne, “Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were … therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (Buchanan, pp. 106-107)


But wait! Buchanan is re-writing – and distorting – Donne! His quote about the continent of Europe is a sliver of the whole! The meditation he quotes is about the whole of mankind, not Europe; Europe is a large example, no more! Done writes, at the beginning of Meditation XVII:

Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume …

How can Buchanan possibly use Donne as an argument for lifting one piece out of the whole? The mis-quote is immensely revealing of a fantastically determined Euro-centrism, against all Christian wisdom.


#59: Foreign debt


The bishops of Asia and Africa as well as America decried the burden of international debt, which can impose burdens that threaten human dignity. Ecclesia in America notes carefully that the problem is complex, often caused in part by corruption within the nations receiving aid. The synod “does not mean to place on one side all the blame for a phenomenon which is extremely complex in its origin and in the solutions which it demands.”


At the same time, it would be unjust to impose the burden resulting from these irresponsible decisions upon those who did not make them. The gravity of the situation is all the more evident when we consider that even the payment of interest alone represents a burden for the economy of poor nations, which deprives the authorities of the money necessary for social development, education, health and the establishment of a fund to create jobs. (JPII, #59)


Buchanan, by contrast, is dismissive. It’s another item in his list of the marks of the globalist ideology, his great enemy. “Support for the UN, foreign aid, treaties to ban land mines, abolish nuclear weapons, punish war crimes, and forgive the debts of poor nations are the marks of progressive men and women.” (Buchanan, p. 54)


#60. The fight against corruption

#61. The drug problem


Both of these reflect a difference, but not necessarily a disagreement, between the Pope and Buchanan. Both men oppose both of these evils. The difference is, the Pope views them as social sins, a category of thought that Buchanan doesn’t use.


See above, on section #56.



+++   Buchanan’s marks of globalism   +++


Buchanan’s remark about foreign debt comes in a list of issues, six of them.

In politics, the new faith is globalist and skeptical of patriotism, for an excessive love of country too often leads to suspicion of neighbors and thence to war. The history of nations is a history of wars, and the new faith intends an end of nations. Support for the UN, foreign aid, treaties to ban land mines, abolish nuclear weapons, punish war crimes, and forgive the debts of poor nations are the marks of progressive men and women. Whenever a new supranational institution is formed—the World Trade Organization, the Kyoto Protocol to prevent global warming, the new UN International Criminal Court—the revolution will support the transfer of authority and sovereignty from nations to the new institutions of global governance. (Buchanan, p. 54)


Buchanan’s list of progressive wrongs includes support for six items:

(1)    the UN

(2)    foreign aid

(3)    treaties to:

(a)    ban land mines

(b)    abolish nuclear weapons

(c)    punish war crimes

(d)    forgive the debts of poor nations


Regarding the UN: Every pope has supported the United Nations, since inception. See especially Pope Paul VI’s speech at the UN in 1965

(I have said repeatedly that the popes supported the League of Nations. That is an error. They supported the concept when it was formed; they did not support the League of Nations itself.)


Regarding foreign aid: The Church’s magisterial teaching about foreign aid is forceful but nuanced. The Church calls for foreign aid, but with respect for subsidiarity and with attention to development. See Gaudium et Spes #83-90


Regarding land mines: the Vatican was among the first signatories to the land mine ban treaty in 1997. See


Regarding nuclear weapons: The Catholic Church has supported efforts to prevent nuclear war since World War II. See also Gaudium et Spes, 81: ( “It is our clear duty, therefore, to strain every muscle in working for the time when all war can be completely outlawed by international consent. This goal undoubtedly requires the establishment of some universal public authority acknowledged as such by all and endowed with the power to safeguard on the behalf of all, security, regard for justice, and respect for rights.”


With regard to war crimes: “There is also present within the international community an International Criminal Court to punish those responsible for particularly serious acts such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. The Magisterium has not failed to encourage this initiative time and again.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, #506)



Regarding debt forgiveness, see JPII #59, which is entitled “foreign debt.” This is in his short list of seven specific issues that are a challenge to solidarity.


For six out of six, Buchanan’s view is opposed to the clear and explicit teaching and leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.




#62. The arms race

Neither man focuses carefully and extensively on the arms race in the two documents at hand. But the Pope says, briefly: “One factor seriously paralyzing the progress of many nations in America is the arms race. The particular Churches in America must raise a prophetic voice to condemn the arms race and the scandalous arms trade.” And Buchanan says, briefly, in a list of the awful ideas from progressive culture warriors: “Support for the UN, foreign aid, treaties to ban land mines, abolish nuclear weapons, punish war crimes, and forgive the debts of poor nations are the marks of progressive men and women.” (Buchanan, p. 54)


But there’s more to note here.


Buchanan points out the advantages of having nuclear weapons: “The only nuclear nation ever attacked was Israel, by pin-prick Scud strikes from an Iraq that was being demolished.” (p. 108) He notes also: “As the North Koreans have shown the world, even a rogue nation can get a respectful hearing from the United States if it can build an atom bomb.” (Buchanan, p. 108)


Buchanan has a peculiar attitude towards America’s principal opponent since World War II. He sympathizes with Russia, because it is another European and traditionally Christian nation that built an empire, and then lost it to hordes of barbarians – to non-Christian peoples of color. He argues that Russia should join the West in shoving back against the rest of the world. In this context, he could easily make an argument for nuclear disarmament, but he doesn’t. He writes:

As for Israel’s military might, it has no more halted her retreat than military superiority halted the retreat of the West. Did Russia’s twenty thousand nuclear weapons prevent the loss of Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the rest of Moscow’s empire in the Caucasus and Central Asia? (Buchanan, pp. 119-120)

If he doesn’t think that nukes protect an empire, and protecting empires would end the conflict between Russia and the rest of the West, why not mention how good it could be to get rid of the nukes that America and Russia have pointed at each other? It’s a curious omission.



#63. The culture of death and a society dominated by the powerful


This section is about abortion, mostly. And for the most part, they are in agreement, although, again, the Pope thinks of abortion as a social evil arising within a culture – the culture of death – not principally as the sin of a woman and a doctor.


Added to that, the Pope sees the problem in terms of power, at least in part, and Buchanan does not.


But mostly, they agree here.


#64. Discrimination against indigenous peoples and Americans of African descent

The Holy Father says:

If the Church in America, in fidelity to the Gospel of Christ, intends to walk the path of solidarity, she must devote special attention to those ethnic groups which even today experience discrimination. Every attempt to marginalize the indigenous peoples must be eliminated. This means, first of all, respecting their territories and the pacts made with them; likewise, efforts must be made to satisfy their legitimate social, health and cultural requirements. And how can we overlook the need for reconciliation between the indigenous peoples and the societies in which they are living? (JPII, #64)


Buchanan is unimpressed. He says he opposes racism, but he does not believe the problem is as serious or as prevalent as some would say.

Countering Hate Crimes Propaganda with Truth. Rather than just oppose hate crimes laws designed to demonize white males, conservatives should insist that the Justice Department report annually on all interracial violent crimes, including gang assaults and gang rapes, by race and victim, and break down all sex crimes against children into the heterosexual and homosexual. If it is true that white males commit a disproportionate share of interracial crimes, we ought to know. If it is untrue, let us find out who does. (Buchanan, p. 257)


The difference in perception here may be conflicting data sets. But it may be that Buchanan is unaccustomed to seeing social evils. It is in the nature of social evils that personal participation in them is much more likely to be a sin of omission than commission. See (again) the Pope’s words on social sin:

Such cases of social sin are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins. It is a case of the very personal sins

·         of those who cause or support evil or who exploit it;

·         of those who are in a position to avoid, eliminate or at least limit certain social evils but who fail to do so out of

o   laziness,

o   fear or the conspiracy of silence,

o   through secret complicity or indifference;

·         of those who take refuge in the supposed impossibility of changing the world and also

·         of those who sidestep the effort and sacrifice required, producing specious reasons of higher order.

(Pope John Paul II, 1984, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, #16)



#65. The question of immigrants


The teaching of the Church is clear:

In its history, America has experienced many immigrations, as waves of men and women came to its various regions in the hope of a better future. The phenomenon continues even today, especially with many people and families from Latin American countries who have moved to the northern parts of the continent, to the point where in some cases they constitute a substantial part of the population. They often bring with them a cultural and religious heritage which is rich in Christian elements. The Church is well aware of the problems created by this situation and is committed to spare no effort in developing her own pastoral strategy among these immigrant people, in order to help them settle in their new land and to foster a welcoming attitude among the local population, in the belief that a mutual openness will bring enrichment to all.

Church communities will not fail to see in this phenomenon a specific call to live an evangelical fraternity and at the same time a summons to strengthen their own religious spirit with a view to a more penetrating evangelization. With this in mind, the Synod Fathers recalled that the Church in America must be a vigilant advocate, defending against any unjust restriction the natural right of individual persons to move freely within their own nation and from one nation to another. Attention must be called to the rights of migrants and their families and to respect for their human dignity, even in cases of non-legal immigration. (JPII, #65) [Emphasis added.]


Which passage would one pick to show the contrast between the Pope and Buchanan on this point? Most of Buchanan’s book is a repudiation of this clear and authoritative teaching.



Chapter VI: The Mission of the Church Today: The New Evangelization


The chapter goes from section #66 to #76. There are three points in it that are noteworthy in an effort to see the difference between the Pope’s teaching and Buchanan’s thesis.


The new evangelization in America must include a new focus on the formation of consciences on the basis of the Church's social doctrine.

After establishing this fundamental truth that must ground everything the Church does, he makes a startling demand. He discusses the ways the Church serves the poor, with a preferential option for the poor; but his ideas swerve unexpectedly. In order to serve the poor, the Church must catechize leaders as well. Sometimes, he says, the pastoral care of the poor was “marked by a certain exclusiveness,” and so “the pastoral care for the leading sectors of society has been neglected and many people have thus been estranged from the Church.” The Church cannot fight the spread of secularism effectively without them. There are still many leaders who are committed to building a just and fraternal society. His challenge, then:

Pastors will face the not easy task of evangelizing these sectors of society. With renewed fervor and updated methods, they will announce Christ to leaders, men and women alike, insisting especially on the formation of consciences on the basis of the Church's social doctrine. (JPII, #67) [Emphasis added.]



Text Box: +++  How many Christians know the principles of the Church’s social doctrine?   +++
And with respect to the Church of our time, how can we not lament the lack of discernment, which at times became even acquiescence, shown by many Christians concerning the violation of fundamental human rights by totalitarian regimes? And should we not also regret, among the shadows of our own day, the responsibility shared by so many Christians for grave forms of injustice and exclusion? It must be asked how many Christians really know and put into practice the principles of the Church's social doctrine. (St. John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, #36)

The new evangelization in America must aim for a new culture.

My Predecessor Paul VI widely remarked that “the split between the Gospel and culture is undoubtedly the drama of our time”. (263) Hence the Synod Fathers rightly felt that “the new evangelization calls for a clearly conceived, serious and well organized effort to evangelize culture.” …

In America, the mestiza face of the Virgin of Guadalupe was from the start a symbol of the inculturation of the Gospel, of which she has been the lodestar and the guide. Through her powerful intercession, the Gospel will penetrate the hearts of the men and women of America and permeate their cultures, transforming them from within. (JPII, #70)


On freedom

Presenting the Gospel of Christ in its entirety, the work of evangelization must respect the inner sanctuary of every individual's conscience, where the decisive and absolutely personal dialogue between grace and human freedom unfolds. (JPII, #73)


Text Box: +++   Signs of Hope   +++
There is also need for a better appreciation and understanding of the signs of hope present in the last part of this century, even though they often remain hidden from our eyes. In society in general, such signs of hope include: scientific, technological and especially medical progress in the service of human life, a greater awareness of our responsibility for the environment, efforts to restore peace and justice wherever they have been violated, a desire for reconciliation and solidarity among different peoples, particularly in the complex relationship between the North and the South of the world. In the Church, they include a greater attention to the voice of the Spirit through the acceptance of charisms and the promotion of the laity, a deeper commitment to the cause of Christian unity and the increased interest in dialogue with other religions and with contemporary culture. (St. John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, #46)


I set out looking for similarities and agreements, and differences and disagreements, between Ecclesia in America and The Death of the West. Along the way, I realized there’s another large and significant category: the ideas proposed by the Pope that are unknown to ignored by of simply dismissed by Buchanan.


Key similarities:

·         a deep love of America

·         a deep respect for Western culture

·         a concern about serious problems threatening America and the West


Key differences:

·         what’s “America”?

·         what’s the “West”?

·         what are the threats?

·         Buchanan focused on the past century, while the Pope focused on the coming millennium

·         Buchanan was near despair, but counsels courageous resistance

·         JPII is full of hope, and counsels determined global cooperation


Key simple skips:

·         social doctrine, a body of thought

·         social sin, a key concept

·         inculturation, a key concept

·         the continental synods and exhortations, for sure

·         all papal and magisterial teaching in the past 150 years, possibly

·         the concept of solidarity

·         Pope St. Paul VI’s concept of “progressio,” or development, the new name for peace


Key agreements:

·         the right to life of the unborn

·         the immense value of family life

·         subsidiarity (although I didn’t focus on it)


Key disagreements:

·         globalism versus nationalism

·         arms race

·         immigration

·         equality

·         ecumenism, especially regarding Muslims

·         preferential love for the poor


The thing is, Buchanan speaks as a Catholic, and calls for Catholic unity against threats to the West. But he often denounces Church teaching as complicit in the assault on the West – not explicitly, probably ignorantly, but still directly and forcefully.


His ideas are not shaped by the Church. He recalls a body of thought – “Christendom” or something like it – that is very different from the Catholic Church since Pope Leo, and especially since Vatican II. In many important ways, his ideas the clear teaching of the Church (the Magisterium of the Church) are diametrically opposed.




John, I’m immensely grateful to you for pushing me to read Buchanan’s book. He is eloquent and clear, and I saw how his ideas hang together. I understood many parts of conservative Republican perception of America today that had baffled me. That was a great gift.


But there’s a fork in the road.


Buchanan values loyalty. He was loyal to Nixon, and he’s loyal to a version of America, and a version of the West. But I think he’s wrong about America, and wrong about the West, and opposed to the Catholic Church. I intend to be loyal to the Lord and to the Church he guides, and to follow her teaching and leadership.