At first glance, nationalism and patriotism seem synonymous. However, the concepts are two poles, two extremes, two irreconcilably antagonistic ideas. Patriotism expresses a sense of fidelity to a people and especially to its traditional authority. It is a virtue close to filial piety, by which children love, honor and serve their parents. Indeed, the word “patriotism” [patria] comes from “pater,” which means “father.”
Thus, the nation is a large family, and the love of one’s nation – or patriotism – is very similar to one’s love for family members. This love of family does not necessarily cause conflicts with other families. Generally, family love is a peaceful sentiment. Likewise, patriotism should not cause war, but generate cordiality among peoples, if only because it is a typical Catholic virtue, which only appeared and developed under the influence of the Church.
On the contrary, nationalism is collective selfishness, a nation’s self-worship, a most stupid arrogance and a brutally established way of life.
While patriotism is of Catholic origin, nationalism is radically pagan. While patriotism produces friendly coexistence, nationalism produces slavery. While patriotism is proper to human nature, nationalism is viscerally inhuman. Patriotism is the fruit of Christian charity, which developed fully during the Crusades. Nationalism is a rather recent invention of the Masonic conspiracy over the last two centuries. Its remote cause is the Protestant Pseudo-Reformation, which initiated the breakup of the unity of Christian peoples.
In this regard, an article by Christopher Dantas summarized the ideas of the British publicist Reinhold Aris. This publicist posits sound concepts together with others that completely distort spiritual and historical reality.
He believes nationalism was a nineteenth-century disease that severely jeopardized civilization in the twentieth century. He claims nationalism stems from Luther’s revolt. These ideas are sound.
However, some other ideas are not true. Reinhold Aris states, for example, that Luther was only the expression and instrument of a profound rupture already pre-existing within Christian civilization. This affirmation is tantamount to saying, though not explicitly, that the Church had already failed and Luther was merely a proclaimer of this latent failure. Moreover, the same publicist does not present the reestablishment of Catholic unity as a solution to the evil of nationalism. He deems it unfeasible and proposes instead adopting an internationalist order based on the theory of a super-state, which brings together several states.
All this is wrong and dangerous. Firstly, Luther was not merely the overt expression of a latent state of affairs. Luther was a worker on a project that was two centuries in the making, dating back to the members of the Renaissance’s tenebrous Roman Academy as well as to Hus, Wycliffe, Marsilius of Paula, Ockham and others. These figures paved the way upon which Luther forged ahead. They dealt most violent blows against Christendom.
Therefore, what happened during Luther’s time was not an internal weakening of the spirit of the Church but an expression of an external onslaught systematically waged against Her through the ages. Thus, if the Church is still unable to bring all peoples together in one Christendom, it is not because she lacks vitality–she still possesses the same vitality with which She shaped the Middle Ages. The real reason is the continuation of this increasingly violent external combat waged against the Church. However, there can be no doubt that the Church will ultimately triumph.
What should one think of the super-sate that Aris proposes as a remedy for nationalism? The best that can be said is that this super-state will be a body without soul or consistency, destined to crumble.
Editor’s note: The commentary below was taken and slightly adapted from an article from the Brazilian Catholic weekly newspaper, Legionário of January 18, 1942. The author makes a timely distinction between nationalism and patriotism applicable to the present.