Can you be a Catholic and a nationalist?

Can you be a Catholic, in line with Catholic social teaching, and still advocate for nationalism?

PS: When I say “nationalism,” I mean the idea that people and governments should have a strong preference for their own nations

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Great question. I would not look at today’s politics as very influential. Nationalism comes and goes cyclically. It precipitated WWII. Afterwards Breckenridge was engaged in to foster a global system to prevent WWIII and now nationalism is back. The actual observers and experiences of a world of millions and millions dead and blown up to rubble have had their observations muddled and lost over time.
But CATHOLOCISM has its own back and forth.
Jesus while alive states his ministry is for Jews.( Save for the woman at the well and Centurian)
Resurrected, it changes to proclaim the Gospel to everyone. Paul’s message was a " catholic" church for all living " en Christu"
Then they reach Constantine and the church virtually begins to merge with nationalism and empire.
It really is a mixed history. That said, I do not think nationalism is consistent with Paul’s writings and the Apostolic and Desert Fathers Christian faith. The Desert Fathers specifically fled the cities and state.
It is in these early centuries that our Theology takes shape. Atonement and a coherent theology of the whole from Genesis begins.
Jesus did not commission Gospels and died suddenly. The writing and selection process of the 4 Gospels takes place first informally then formally. The other books with Revelations last.Hellenistic pre- Christ Christian thought is interwoven into a theology from the times of Paul and John’s writings.
All catholic, which was coined to describe the faith before Catholic became a proper noun.
Constantine definitely changed things substantially. The " shift" is a fact. And today we practice what has long been without an appreciation of the difference. We have a Corporate church with the very best of that idea but also some not so good.
I would say the message of the Gospel post ressurection is a Gospel for everyone that hungers. That is a Universal message that is lost whenever Christ loves us not them.


As long as human rights are upheld and certain groups are not treated differently than others but that is not likely.

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And Jesus saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
Matthew 22:20-22

Paul himself regularly relied on his Roman citizenship for a defense of his rights and fair justice. There is nothing in the New Testament to suggest one should abandon one’s national heritage or membership/citizenship, or abandon one’s duty to seek the success or well governance of one’s nation/state.


It truly depends upon how you define nationalism.
Most nationalist political movements tend to prefer the nation or group they belong to and seem to feel that those of other groups are inferior. The National Socialists of pre-World War II Germany preached hate of all they considered to be non-German who lived in Germany.


IMO, to a point, yes. However, if the two clash, then basic Catholic social teachings must prevail as Jesus said we cannot serve two masters.


I think the following is a good summary of this issue:

Pius XI, Ubi Arcano Dei Concilio

  1. The inordinate desire for pleasure, concupiscence of the flesh, sows the fatal seeds of division not only among families but likewise among states; the inordinate desire for possessions, concupiscence of the eyes, inevitably turns into class warfare and into social egotism; the inordinate desire to rule or to domineer over others, pride of life, soon becomes mere party or factional rivalries, manifesting itself in constant displays of conflicting ambitions and ending in open rebellion, in the crime of lese majeste, and even in national parricide.

  2. These unsuppressed desires, this inordinate love of the things of the world, are precisely the source of all international misunderstandings and rivalries, despite the fact that oftentimes men dare to maintain that acts prompted by such motives are excusable and even justifiable because, forsooth, they were performed for reasons of state or of the public good, or out of love for country. Patriotism - the stimulus of so many virtues and of so many noble acts of heroism when kept within the bounds of the law of Christ - becomes merely an occasion, an added incentive to grave injustice when true love of country is debased to the condition of an extreme nationalism, when we forget that all men are our brothers and members of the same great human family, that other nations have an equal right with us both to life and to prosperity, that it is never lawful nor even wise, to dissociate morality from the affairs of practical life, that, in the last analysis, it is “justice which exalteth a nation: but sin maketh nations miserable.” (Proverbs xiv, 34)

  3. Perhaps the advantages to one’s family, city, or nation obtained in some such way as this may well appear to be a wonderful and great victory (this thought has been already expressed by St. Augustine), but in the end it turns out to be a very shallow thing, something rather to inspire us with the most fearful apprehensions of approaching ruin. “It is a happiness which appears beautiful but is brittle as glass. We must ever be on guard lest with horror we see it broken into a thousand pieces at the first touch.” (St. Augustine de Civitate Dei, Book iv, Chap. 3)


Yeah I think it depends what type of nationalist you mean. That said, isn’t there the concern of putting country before God (not that I have any right to talk, look at my status)? I think patriotism and fighting for your country is okay but watch for idolatry (something I could learn myself).


Render unto Caesar.
Render unto God.


As other have said, it depends on the definition. So to further the discussion, and it is a good discussion, I submit the first paragraph from Wikipedia is a pretty good summary:

I think it is worth asking if the large nation-states as have developed during the last 500 years or so have really been that great of thing. A large degree of subsidiarity went by the wayside. I would argue, perhaps counter-intuitively, that the rise of the nation state has also dimensioned solidarity overtime. We equate our central governments with our nation, and that is not necessarily a good thing. Would we be better off with smaller states, eg I am Bavarian as opposed to German, I am Castillian as opposed to Spanish, Norman as opposed to French, or Texan as opposed to American.

It seems to me this would be better. Would we have more warfare? perhaps. Would the wars be as large as the Napoleanic, WWI, WWII, etc? I doubt it. Would we be better off with loosely formed confederations? It seems likely. Would we care more about our local communities and look to solve problems at that level? Most certainly

All of these opinions do not imply an answer to the thread titel question is no. It just says that nationalism is not all it is cut out to be.

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I would advise reading the

Compendium of the Doctrine of Social Doctrine of the Church

To understand Church teaching on this matter.


Do you have a particular paragraph number(s) in mind?

I’d begin with chapters 8 and 9, however, the entire document is important.

I certainly would second the advice to Catholics to read the Compendium of Social Doctrine. I have read most of it (if not all) and it is an excellent resource. I have referenced it in the past on this forum. However, without specific references, it does not really help in advancing the discussion on this thread. My guess is the idea that we should all go back and read that book, and then come back and discuss will not work out too well.

One can probably address the question in light of this part of the Catechism:

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Of course. The church supported nationalists like Franco, Pinochet, and others.


Those were not exactly examples to be proud of. And thankfully the Church does not seem to be backing the current crop of nationalists.


Franco and Pinochet were great albeit flawed men who did what they had to do to save their country’s from a horrendous evil. They weren’t saints but they weren’t devils either.

There are no current nationalists. Even trump at the end of the day is pusher of liberalist ideas. He is not a nationalist or a reactionary in the proper sense of the word.


If you mean a Catholic and a Patriot, St Joan of Arc was both.


You’d perhaps be on firmer ground with Salazar. In terms of right-wing dictators, where do you draw the line? Mussolini? Tiso? Pavelić?

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