ROME — More and more Dutch Catholics are opting for populist politicians and parties, a new report asserts, despite repeated warnings from Pope Francis of the dangers of populism.
Last week, populist legislator Thierry Baudet (pictured), founder and leader of the Forum for Democracy political party, “surged into the Dutch political mainstream as the biggest winner in nationwide elections,” and according to Katholiek Nieuwsblad, is “the new face of Dutch populism,” appealing to many Catholics who have felt politically homeless.
Like many European populists, Baudet is against mass migration, anti-establishment, Eurosceptic, and skeptical of climate change as it is popularly conceived. He has been an outspoken critic of the “cartel party,” in reference to the elite Dutch political establishment.
Pope Francis has said populism has its roots in egotism, compared populists to Hitler, and insisted that populism is not the answer to the problem of mass migration. Nonethless, despite the pope’s ongoing criticism of populism, nationalism, and the pro-sovereignty movement, Catholics in countries such as Italy have largely ignored his political advice, turning to candidates they believe will be good for the country.
Katholiek Nieuwsblad interviewed three Dutch practicing Catholics who sympathize with Forum for Democracy, whom the newspaper described as a former member, a ‘dormant’ member and an active member of the party.
The former member, Michiel Hemminga, is a philosopher and prolife who is sympathetic to many of the party’s positions, but critical of others.
Forum for Democracy suffers from a certain ambiguity in its platform, Hemminga said, and some of its positions are untenable for a Catholic. While their opposition to overreach from the European Union (EU) and to unchecked migration is clear and a viable option for Catholics, on other issues tensions cannot help but arise.
“According to one of the party’s plans, at a certain point all religious people should agree to the fact that the Dutch law is above their own religious beliefs,” Hemminga said. “For me as a Christian that’s not an option. I’m not suddenly going to support gay marriage or abortion, because it’s the law.”
Erik van Goor, a Catholic convert, publicist, and blogger is an early member of Forum for Democracy, who has hopes that the party will be able to shake up the current political system.
“When I understood that a political party was in the making, I was very enthusiastic about it. I don’t know what the future holds for the party, but I do think the current system needs a breakthrough. Geert Wilders hasn’t been able to do that, but I hope Forum for Democracy will,” he said.
“People are becoming more and more secular and liberal,” van Goor said. “We run the risk of living in a world where you cannot think or say anything that is opposed by the mainstream media.”
Forum for Democracy draws many people who worry about the whole “gender craze,” he said, attracting many conservatives “who feel abandoned by a liberal left policy.”
Another convert to Catholicism, Zlata Brouwer is a “dormant” member of Forum for Democracy, who appreciated the party’s commitment to preserving Dutch culture.
“When I received my religious education, I studied the moral and cultural roots of our Western culture and how they are intertwined,” Brouwer said.
“But we throw away our own culture. Although Forum for Democracy is not a Christian party, I believe it’s the only party who tries to preserve our culture, our democracy, for future generations,” she said.
Although there are positions espoused by Baudet that she disagrees with, as a whole she finds him more convincing than the other candidates.
“I don’t think he’s acknowledging the true origin of what he likes to preserve. My hope is that one day he will, perhaps if he gets married and starts a family,” she said. “You need only to look at the history books to realize that the traditional marriage and the family are essential to all things created within a culture.”