Book Review

Who Are You? What Is Your Faith?
America's 21st Century Alt-Right and Catholic Social Doctrine

by Marcelle Bartolo-Abela
Hope and Life Press (6 April 2017)
ISBN: 978-0997792881

Book CoverThis is a very fair book. It reminds us that being Catholic is being neither right nor left. One of the great joys of belonging to this Church is that our outlook is always universal: that is what being Catholic is.

In the past, there seems to have been a widespread assumption that a Catholic in the US will  vote for a Democratic candidate. Rather like Catholics in the UK who generally voted Labour. So when these parties became virulently "pro-choice", Catholics, even those who took their faith seriously, continued to vote for these parties.

But ought Catholics identify themselves with the Right as an alternative? When one looks at the long term pro-life outcomes of various Republican governments, they are not that good. As for Conservative governments in the UK, they have quite frankly been a disaster.

As the author so clearly argues, Catholic social doctrine means respect for the human person from natural conception till natural death. Why do African Americans have a disproportionate number of abortions? Poverty and hopelessness surely play an important role. I would also argue that historically, the organization founded by Margaret Sanger was racist and eugenic. Have these organizations learned from past mistakes? It is really worrying when rich American billionaires start telling Africans how many children they should have. Is this not the new imperialism?

I think this book needs to be read by those of us who have been more or less driven in a conservative direction by the virulent hostility of the Left when it comes to the issue of abortion. One of the clearest images of recent activity by the Democratic Party is of Senator Feinstein  rebuking a judge for being Catholic. Will the Left not give pro-lifers breathing space?

As for the Alt-right, it might as well be Alt-left. The philosophical underpinnings appear to be libertarian rather than respect for customs and institutions, more Ayn Rand than Burke. Richard Spencer, who apparently coined the term Alt-right, is pro-abortion. He describes pro-lifers as "radically dysgenic, egalitarian, multi-racial human rights thumpers". He appears to be an atheist who thinks Christianity might serve some utilitarian purpose by binding communal tribes together. Tribalism and Catholic social doctrine simply do not mix. As for Milo Yiannopoulos, once senior editor of Breitbart News, he has apparently got "married" to a man named John. Catholics can surely have nothing to do with this movement.

So how to sum up? "Put not your trust in princes" is one good way. My own view is that politics is an increasingly rotten business and Catholics are simply called to live out the full social doctrine of the Church in their environment, perhaps away from the lure of politics. 

This book quite rightly tells us to be cautious regarding the Right. In my view, the Left is no better.

Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan