What is patriotism?

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Dear Brother in Christ and Mary Most Holy: We are a group who consider ourselves fervent defenders of our patriotic traditions. From here a question arises for us: is it right to praise countries that historically have behaved as enemies of our homeland? Is this against patriotism?


A good patriot is someone who has the virtue of “patriotism”.

Patriotism is the general duty imposed by that part of justice which is called “legal justice” and consists of “love and piety towards the land of our elders or ancestors”. It manifests itself mainly in four ways[1]:

  • Love of predilection for the place of one’s birth above all other nations; compatible, however, with respect for all of them and universal charity.
  • Respect and honor for its history, tradition, institutions, language, symbols, etc.
  • Service: which consists mainly in the faithful observance of its legitimate laws, above all, those relating to tribute and taxes, a condition for growth and aggrandizement; in the disinterested and loyal performance of public offices required by the common good; in military service, etc.
  • Defense against his pursuers and internal or external enemies.

Two vices oppose true patriotism:

  • By excess, exaggerated nationalism, sometimes called ‘chauvinism’, which exalts its own country as if it were the supreme good and despises other countries unjustly and even with de facto Some of its manifestations are xenophobia, racial discrimination, idolization of patriotic symbols or elements.
  • By defect, a stateless internationalism, that is to say, the internationalism of people without a homeland who do not know or acknowledge their own country with the false argument of being citizens of the world.

For this reason, many people, being great patriots, have had no qualms in praising other countries for what is praiseworthy about them and that many times it is in no short supply (one can consider their saints, their great thinkers, the great monuments of faith, etc.). Every country, on the other hand, has other things that cannot be praiseworthy: its own defects, its political and historical blunders, etc. In this respect, every country, including our own, is subject to praise and criticism, depending on the good or bad acts of its children. To deny it is not rational and therefore it is not virtuous either and, as Saint Thomas says, everything that goes against reason is vicious.


In Christ and the blessed Virgin Mary,
Fr. Miguel A. Fuentes, IVE


[1] Cf. Royo Marín, Teología Moral para Seglares [Moral Theology for the Laity], tomo 1, nnº 861-863.


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