Catholic Vitalism


This article was written on 02 Apr 2016, and is filled under Uncategorized.

The Future of Catholicism Part 5: Paleo-Catholicism

Once I began to see the inauthenticity of the Neo-Con option, I turned my sights to proponents of the ‘Third Way’: the Distributist vision of Chesterton, Belloc; Richard Weaver. John Senior. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. Caelum et Terra. Thomas Storck. David Schindler. Eric Brende. The New Catholic Land Movement. Catholic Homesteaders.

In 2010 I quit the ‘Education Factory’. I could no longer in good conscience accept a paycheck to participate in an institution which in practice contradicted its own stated goals: things were getting worse in the classroom: what little vibrancy in these boys was replaced with a dulled use of psychotropic drugs, the constant showing of movies in the classroom, they were sucked into the virtual reality of the Internet.

I gave a paper: what’s the difference between a virtual experience and a real one? Not a single student noticed that the virtual experience wasn’t REAL.

This group, so tiny that even many engaged Catholics are unaware of its existence, are folks who have become aware of the compromises of Neo-Conservative Catholicism and refused to participate in them.

The History of Paleo Catholicism

An illustrious history: English Catholic revival/ Catholic Land Movement: illustrious pedigree: Chesterton, Belloc, McNabb, Eric Gill. In Europe: Catholic Action. In America: Catholic Worker Movement.

Definition of Distributist Catholicism

Anti-television. Anti-consumerism. Anti-usury. Anti-industrialism. Agrarianism.

The historical ‘Failure’ of Paleo Catholicism: In Europe, Second World War (‘Third Way’ was lost). In America, the economic ‘boom’ of the 1950s and 1960s- the apparent triumph of Enlightenment economic theory, reinforced by Cold War prejudice.

Critique of Paleo-Catholicisim

The ‘Benedict Option’ idea put forward by Rod Dreher (link): Many of the Neo-Cons seem to be absolutely dismissive of this idea- I think they misunderstand what Dreher’s suggesting completely, and see him as proposing a withdrawal from society, like the Amish. But I think he’s suggesting something much less radical- I think he’s saying that maybe it’s time to realize that the ‘culture war’ is a losing battle on the political level, and that Christians are going to need to create communities of support and solidarity within society.
My criticism of many of the efforts to embody this (including our attempt at running a restaraunt) was that it was often quixotic. My criticism of what I call the ‘Visionary’ Paleo Catholics is that they talk a good talk, but maybe they’re too reticent to live out what they talk about. For example, the Caelum et Terra folks never actually attempted to create a physical community, but were content instead with having a magazine. their project ended because I think that just wasn’t enough.

Two wings

The obvious analogy is the Amish; however I use the term ‘Neo-Amish’ because these folks attempt (often heroically) to live out this teaching without the support of community, with little direct help  from other Neo-Amish Catholics. This individualism is yet another way of accidentally retaining the Enlightenment. Imprudence: making life harder than it needs to be. This is an exhausting proposal.

Critique of ‘medievalism’, ‘utopianism’. Fantasy world: Lord of the Rings.

Yes, there are great blogs. Yes, there are individual academics. Of course, the sacraments are there for us. But, as far as I know, there is no real community that is attempting this in the United States.

Sociological Analysis:

Paleo-Catholics represent a very tiny group in America: I’m guessing several thousand families or individuals. There are two sub-groups: Visionary Paleo-Catholics: academics and priests, who by the nature of their vocations are able to sustain a deeply counter-cultural critique without losing their jobs and Quixotic (Neo-Amish?) Paleo-Catholics.

The number of Visionary Paleo-Catholics is, thanks to the Catholic blogosphere and colleges, growing. Thomas Storck says there is more interest among Catholics than there has been since the 1950s. The surprisingly popular candidacy of Bernie Sanders, especially among young, educated voters, in the current Presidential nomination cycle, seems to imply that young Americans aren’t as enthusiastic about Capitalism as their parents were. But very few of these folks, because of their indoctrination into Liberal morality, see the Church as their ally.


Distributist Catholics are those who see the aggressor for what he is, a ruthless, sneaky monster. They are further disturbed by the reactions of their fellow siblings, who have, either failed to understand the depth of the attack, or who have responded in ways which have only worsened the situation. They take one of two responses: hiding in their room journalling about what went wrong, or mounting a quixotic counter-attack against the invader, with the hope that Dad will intervene and help them win the day. Frequently, the result has been a disheartening failure. The invader crushes, ridicules, and punishes, and the other siblings join in his mockery, and Dad seems deafeningly quiet.


  1. Hope and Despair: Notes from ‘The Future of Catholicism’ Symposium, The Thomistic Institute | Catholic Vitalism
    April 9, 2016

    […] and then argued against the what he called the ‘Neo-Catholic’ (I prefer the term ‘Distributist Catholic’) critique of the American Project, especially in regard to the founding fathers of the […]

  2. […] and then argued against the what he called the ‘Neo-Catholic’ (I prefer the term ‘Paleo-Catholic’) critique of the American Project, especially in regard to the founding fathers of the […]

  3. […] Catholics’ assessments of Modernity. He quite correctly recognizes the recent emergence of Paleo-Catholicism as a rejection of the Neo-Conservative brand of Catholicism which preceded it and which […]

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