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Thomas E. Woods, Jr. and the Neo-Confederate Catholic Right

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

Thomas Woods is an increasingly influential  player on the Catholic Right. In this and a subsequent post, we will consider how his world view is   incompatible with both Catholic Social Justice principles and American history.

Over the years, this column has looked at the many facets of the Catholic Right, including neo-cons, paleo-cons, Bill Donohue, Opus Dei, and more. We now come to the Neo-Confederate Catholic Right, a peculiar variation of libertarianism, which focuses almost exclusively on economics while maintaining most, if not all of the social conservative culture war issues such as opposition to reproductive rights and marriage equality. Indeed, this movement employs the long discredited states’ rights theory of nullification — the notion that any state has the right to ignore any federal court order or law which that state has deemed unconstitutional.

Among the Catholic Rightists beating the drum for nullification are Pat Buchanan, Thomas DiLorenzo, Thomas Fleming and Thomas E. Woods, Jr.  All four advocate states’ rights, a seething resentment of Abraham Lincoln, and as Rachel Tabachnick recently highlighted, Woods is a key member of the pro-secession League of the South, Traditional Catholicism (save possibly DiLorenzo) and Austrian-school, libertarian economics.

Woods is a convert to the type of Catholicism sought by many on the Catholic Right. As such, he is a vocal proponent for a return to a pre-Vatican II mindset. He is extreme in his economic libertarianism as well as secession and nullification.  While nullification has a long and dark history on matters of race in the U.S., it is also looming as an issue for reproductive rights and marriage equality.

It is therefore no surprise that among Woods’ admirers is the influential Opus Dei priest C. John McCloskey. The former Ivy League-Wall Street laissez-faire apostle-turned-prelate has himself ruminated on the appeal of secession to achieve theocracy.  In his infamous futuristic dystopian essay 2030: Looking Backwards he gleefully imagines a violent separation from the United States:

The tens of thousands of martyrs and confessors for the Faith in North America were indeed the “seed of the Church” as they were in pre-Edict of Milan Christianity. The final short and relatively bloodless conflict produced our Regional States of North America. The outcome was by no means an ideal solution but it does allow Christians to live in states that recognize the natural law and divine Revelation, the right of free practice of religion, and laws on marriage, family, and life that reflect the primacy of our Faith. With time and the reality of the ever-decreasing population of the states that worship at the altar of “the culture of death,” perhaps we will be able to reunite and fulfill the Founding Fathers of the old United States dream to be “a shining city on a hill.”

What McCloskey describes as “by no means an ideal solution” has a more accurate, more commonly-held description: Treason.

And yet there is more than a hint of hypocrisy in McCloskey’s admiration of Woods – especially his libertarian economic outlook.  Catholic writer Angus Sibely has observed, Woods is a devotee of über-libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard. A closer examination of Rothbard beliefs reveals why this is problematic.

First, Rothbard is the father of anarcho-capitalism, the basis of Woods’ economic philosophy.  It is such an extreme philosophy that even law enforcement and the courts would be privatized; taxation would be replaced by either private payments or insurance settlements. Rothbard is on record saying “the entire theory of labor unions is deeply flawed.” As Angus Sibley explains, it is the very antithesis of Catholic economic teachings:

Most practical methods of reducing inequalities are repugnant to libertarians. Labor unions are hated because they obstruct the worker’s freedom to agree his own contract with his employer. … Redistributive taxation (higher tax rates on higher personal incomes) “is a mode of disguised expropriation of successful capitalists and entrepreneurs” according to Mises, while his admirer Murray Rothbard stated that “Taxation is Robbery” and that “the libertarian favors the right to unrestricted private property and free-exchange”.

Hayek rejected outright the principle of distributive justice: “the results of the individual’s efforts are necessarily unpredictable, and the question of whether the resulting distribution of incomes is just or unjust has no meaning.”  Catholic teaching flatly repudiates such nonsense. Leo XIII (Rerum Novarum, §45) spoke of “a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner”, and he strongly commended (#49) workers’ associations, of which “the most important of all are workingmen’s unions.” John Paul II (Centesimus Annus, §20) observed that “unions… are indeed a mouthpiece for the struggle for social justice, for the just rights of working people.”

But what is all-too-conveniently glossed over by Woods, McCloskey and others — is Rothbard’s shocking and idiosyncratic view on abortion.  It is a view that is consistent with extreme libertarianism, but is very far from any other pro-choice thought I have ever heard. Rothbard’s view suggests a deep fissure on the conservative spectrum that they would rather we not see.

Most fetuses are in the mother’s womb because the mother consents to this situation, but the fetus is there by the mother’s freely-granted consent. But should the mother decide that she does not want the fetus there any longer, then the fetus becomes a parasitic “invader” of her person, and the mother has the perfect right to expel this invader from her domain. Abortion should be looked upon, not as “murder” of a living person, but as the expulsion of an unwanted invader from the mother’s body. Any laws restricting or prohibiting abortion are therefore invasions of the rights of mothers.  [Emphasis added]

We need to understand why Woods and McCloskey’s Neo-Confederate philosophy of nullification and secession is so appealing to some on the Catholic Right so we can not only better answer them, but sharpen the contrast with just alternatives. Those tasks will be tackled in subsequent posts.

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4 Responses

  1. Thomas Woods wrote for the “Southern Partisan” magazine. One of his articles was a lengthy attack on the Enlightenment castigating it as an attack on the South.

    I have a bibliography of his writing at: http://www.templeofdemocracy.com/ThomasEWoods.htm

    He also wrote for the “Southern Patriot,” official publication of the League of the South.

    He had an article in the “United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine,” and articles in “Chronicles” magazine.

    Thomas Woods isn’t merely ultraright. He represents a pre-Modern form of reactionary thinking that is prior to the Enlightenment.

    I also direct you to this article.

    Click to access ConfederateChristianNationalism.pdf

    The article is more focused on the Calvinist side of Confederate Christianity.

    There is an Anglican & Roman Catholic Confederate Christian movement also.

  2. I would suggest a better understanding of history before posting an article purporting to be a scholarly evaluation of both a person and an ideology. The principle of nullification was, in fact, never used to support slavery. It initially appeared as a reaction to the alien and sedition acts passed by Adams in 1798. This principle was then used later, most famously in Wisconsin, to support those who felt that the fugitive slave acts passed by the congress were unconstitutional. These people believed that all people have the right to fair trial, regardless of race. They also felt that no man could be forced by an over-reaching government to assist in enforcing law which were unconstitutional. The principle assisted citizens of a state by interposing the state government between them and the federal government. Without this interposition, the citizen would not have been able to resist federal tyranny.

    As for men such as Tom Woods, whom you attempt to slander in your article. You could only wish to aspire to the scholastic excellence they represent. While you may not agree with their premise, which is your right, you do yourself a disservice by not attempting to match argument for argument. While he does appear to ascribe to the principles of Austrian economics, it is a logical fallacy to assume that he agrees with all the ideas presented in Murray Rothbard or Ludwig von Mises’ works. Do discover his opinions you would have to either ask him yourself or read his woks in depth. To do otherwise is a sign of intellectual dishonesty.

    It is apparent in the way you describe the subjects of your article that you are not, in fact, interested in an honest debate. Instead, you would prefer to put up straw men, placed under banners such as neo-confederate, which you can then tear down in the name of “tolerance”. This form of “tolerance” is unique in that it is only willing to accept those positions which it agrees with and finds all others intolerable.

  3. […] the first post in this series, I discussed the push for secession and nullification Catholic Right Neo-Confederates, notably by […]

  4. THE TRADITION DILEMMA

    Contemporary believers in Jesus Christ are sometimes caught in the bog of man-made tradition, just as were the scribes and the Pharisees.

    Matthew 15:1-9 Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus…9 ‘ But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men’.”

    Jesus said the scribes and Pharisees were transgressing the commandments God for the sake of their own traditions. Do believers do that today?

    SOME TRADITIONS OF MEN

    1.Some men say that Jesus is just one of many ways to salvation.
    The dilemma being that Jesus does not concur with this teaching of men.

    Acts 4:10-12 ….by the name of Jesus Christ…12 And there issalvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

    2. Some say that men are saved by believing in Jesus, alone.
    The problem is Jesus disagrees with this doctrine of men.

    Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved……

    MORE TRADITIONS OF MEN

    1. Men are saved by grace alone
    2. God selected a few men to saved and all others will burn in hell.
    3. Water baptism is not essential for the forgiveness of sins.
    4. Believing in God is a work and it is not essential for salvation.
    5. God forces a preselected few to have faith so that they may be saved.
    6. Repentance is not essential for salvation. (Repentance means to make the commitment to turn from sin and turn toward God.)
    7. Water baptism is a work of the Law, or a good work, or some work not known and is therefore not essential in order to have sins forgiven.
    8. Men are saved the minute they believe in Jesus.
    9. Once men are saved they can never be lost.
    10. Men can pray to or through the Virgin Mary and other dead saints in order to have their requests granted by God the Father.
    11. God will save all mankind.
    12. Men are saved by faith only.
    13. The Bible is not the only place men can find God’s commands for mankind.
    14. Extra-Biblical sources such as catechisms, creed books, new so-called revelations from God, writings by the early church fathers, Bible commentaries, and other books written by men are infallible sources for God’s truth.
    15. Infants can be baptized before they believe in Jesus.
    16. Men share the first man, Adam’s, sin and are therefore guilty of original sin.
    17. Men teach that priests have the authority to forgive sins.
    18. Men do not believe that only God can forgive the sins that are committed against Him.
    19. Some teach, and believe that Christians can continue in their sinful lifestyle and still enter the kingdom of God.
    20. Some teach that a loving God will not send those who reject Jesus as the Christ, into a lake of fire.

    Mark 7:7-8 ‘But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ 8 NEGLECTING THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD, YOU HOLD TO THE TRADITIONS OF MEN.”

    Teaching for doctrine the traditions of men can present a dilemma, a problem, a predicament, a quandary, a difficult situation, a perilous quagmire.

    THERE IS AN ESCAPE FROM THE DOCTRINES OF MEN. IT IS REPENTANCE. True repentance only occurs when pride is replaced, with trusting Jesus for the truth. BELIEVING THAT THE BIBLE AND THE BIBLE ALONE IS GOD’S WORD.

    ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT THINGS FOR MEN TO SAY, IS, I WAS WRONG!

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. Google search>>>steve finnell a christian view

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