Consider Protestantism

Although NRx is ostensibly Catholic and seeks another ‘Restoration’, as a minimalist I tend to identify more with the simple, plain ascetic of Protestantism than the ostentatiousness of Catholicism.

…But first a synopsis to understated the origins of the acrimony between Catholicism and Protestantism, in the context of NRx. The ‘beef’ with Protestantism dates back half a millennia, beginning with The Protestant Reformation – a schism from the Roman Catholic Church initiated by Martin Luther and continued by other early Protestant Reformers in 16th-century Europe – largely inspired by Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, a searing indictment of Catholicism. Oliver Cromwell, arch-nemesis of NRx, became a Puritan in the 1630s and was the ‘Lord Protector’ of the Commonwealth of England following the execution of King Charles I (in which he was signatory of Charles’ death warrant), until his death of natural causes in 1658. This is also related to the English Civil War (1642–1651), a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians (“Roundheads”) and Royalists (“Cavaliers”). The Royalists returned to power in 1660, and Cromwell’s corpse was exhumed and beheaded. The Restoration would prove short-lived. The Glorious Revolution, which overthrew King James II of England, ended the era of absolute monarchism once and for all in England. The Glorious Revolution of 1688, followed by the 1689 Bill of Rights and the 1701 Act of Settlement, resulted in a constitutional monarchy that restricted the power of the English monarchy. NRx, in it’s opposition democracy, seeks to restore an absolutist Catholic monarchy.

But even absolute monarchies need to have some flexibility, such as in the case when there is severe mental illness that impairs the ability of the monarch to function, a notable example being Charles VI of France. Charles’ loss of power lead to chaos and conflict in France, eventually leading to the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War, which lasted from 1407 until 1435, beyond Charles’ reign. This underscores the potential fragility of absolute monarchies, due to the lack of redundancy and difficulty of transfer of power.

But is it possible to have a secular-type monarch, or a monarchy with elements of Protestantism while at the same time rejecting 95% of democracy, save for a set of laws? In the history of Europe, Catholic monarchs outnumber Protestant monarchs by a 2-1 ratio. Past examples of Protestant monarchs include the kingdoms of Prussia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

Catholicism is the dominant religion of South Europe, which struggled with debt and recession since 2007. Same for South America. Russia, whose church is Eastern Orthodox, a denomination of Catholicism, like Brazil has fared poorly due to commodity dependence and falling energy prices. Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Italy – all predominantly Catholic countries – suffered severe financial distress during the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, whereas the Nordic countries fared much better.

According to the Transparency International, Protestant Northern Europe ranks among the least corrupt. Catholic countries, such as East Europe and South America, rank higher.


To gain some perspective, let’s look at it globally: an outfit called Transparency International tracks corruption and perceptions of it world-wide and ranks them according to a uniform standard. The latest survey of 2012 puts the Philippines in the bottom half, at no. 105. (out of 174 countries ranked)

Now here’s where it gets interesting: when I was doing research for this paper, I noticed that very few Catholic-dominated countries could claim to have low levels of corruption, as per this index. Only Switzerland is in the top 10, and one can argue that it is a very secular state with divorce and reproductive health laws in place. Italy hovers near the bottom of the first half, at no. 72. Spain though, fares better at no. 30. But for countries who shared the same trajectory as the Philippines – conversion through colonization – the results are dismal; South and Central American countries land in the bottom half. Is there a correlation here? Is there a pattern?

Also, the so-called ‘Protestant Worth Ethic’, as described by Max Weber, may have also played a role in the success of Protestant countries (United States, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland) relative to Catholic ones.

In spite of religion, a lot of these Catholic countries have signs of moral decay, which the church is powerless to control. Whereas in America pornography is still heavily regulated, and the media is heavily regulated by the FTC for ‘obscenity, indecency & profanity’, borderline-porn is not uncommon in Spain, Brazil and Italy, where it’s readily visible in newspapers and TV.

Weber traced the origins of the Protestant ethic to the Reformation, though he acknowledged some respect for secular everyday labor as early as the Middle Ages.[6]:28 The Roman Catholic Church assured salvation to individuals who accepted the church’s sacraments and submitted to the clerical authority. However, the Reformation had effectively removed such assurances. From a psychological viewpoint, the average person had difficulty adjusting to this new worldview, and only the most devout believers or “religious geniuses” within Protestantism, such as Martin Luther, were able to make this adjustment, according to Weber.

In the absence of such assurances from religious authority, Weber argued that Protestants began to look for other “signs” that they were saved. Calvin and his followers taught a doctrine of double predestination, in which from the beginning God chose some people for salvation and others for damnation. The inability to influence one’s own salvation presented a very difficult problem for Calvin’s followers. It became an absolute duty to believe that one was chosen for salvation, and to dispel any doubt about that: lack of self-confidence was evidence of insufficient faith and a sign of damnation. So, self-confidence took the place of priestly assurance of God’s grace.

Because Calvinism, unlike Catholicism, didn’t guarantee salvation for all, this created an incentive for people to find other ways to be ‘saved’, such such as by accumulating wealth. This could explain why the economies of Protestant countries tend to reward individualism, and why Protestant countries are more economically successful.

From Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, By Lawrence E. Harrison:

Part of the problem with Catholicism is the relative ease of absolving sins, which means that there is less accountability for malfeasance, whereas Protestantism is more punitive.

Brazil recently impeached former president Dilma Rousseff for corruption, but ironically anti-corruption minster Fabiano Silveira also resigned shortly after due to…corruption charges, and that seven of the new ministers have corruption charges on them. Not to single out Catholicism, Turkey, another low-IQ country like Brazil, is also a hotbed of graft and incompetence. In America, the Tea Pot Dome scandal and Watergate are still a big deal, to give you an idea of how rare corruption is compared to the everyday corruption in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and Turkey, which fills volumes.

Additional sources:

Protestant v Catholic: which countries are more successful?
Why is Spain so corrupt?

The religion of bribes

There definitely is a corruption problem in Catholic countries that needs to be addressed.