Medievalist Roman Catholics And Enlightenment Evangelical Protestants Are Co-Belligerents But Different At The Core

There is a strain of medievalism within conservatism, at least that part spawned by Michael Novak, Russell Kirk, William Buckley. These were all early lights in the conservative resurgence of the 1950s. Conservative Protestants found their place in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment traditions. Though both were conservatives, they yielded distinctly different ways of “doing conservatism.”

There runs within the Protestant version a deep strain of secularism and the high wall between church and state. Within medievalist conservatives there is a much more organic relationship between church, state, and civil society, one less dependent on rationalism and Enlightenment ideas with its emphasis on the atomized individual and his rights. The one thousand years of the Church Age, from the fall of Rome in 410 AD to the Protestant Reformation, 1517, forms for medievalist conservatives the apex of Western civilization, a societal consensus that integrated all the variegated aspects of life into one whole in the center of which set the church, not so much as institution as the gathering up into one whole the fullest of what it meant to be human without fracturing off the parts into unrelated domains of human concerns.

Dr. Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, is unapologetically a medievalist who looks upon the fragmentation brought about by the Protestant Reformation as the great wound in the medieval soul. So argued GK Chesterton, as well. They both are examples of that medievalism which birthed the conservative resurgence of the 50s.

Michael Novak’s role was to make a place for capitalism within the conservative renaissance, something the RC Church was particularly skeptical of. The RCs essentially were of the opinion that capitalism and Protestantism were baked into the same loaf. As a hierarchy the RC Church has not fully embraced capitalism here in America, and in other lands maintains a critical distance. So while Protestant conservatives and RC conservatives are co-billegerants in the political and cultural sphere, they do not easily mix.

Pat Buchanan and Justice Scalia are other examples of RC conservatives whose vision of conservatism embraces an organic whole of culture, society, government and church. Here is an article from the Imaginative Conservative, a website rooted in the thought of Russell Kirk. By the word ‘imaginative’ there is reference to a whole world grasp of a rightly ordered society rather than to the bare rationalism of the Enlightenment. It is a knowing by the soul, that which fits the soul and enables it to flourish.

Here is a recent posting at the Imaginative Conservative, which is rooted in the thought of Russell Kirk. This will give you some idea of the RC “brand.”

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