Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira: Breaking the silence


During a conversation, someone allegedly said to Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira: “You are a bit famous.” With the quickness he never lacked, the Catholic leader replied, “Actually, I have a reputation for being unknown.”

Renewed interest

In fact, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s public life was a rollercoaster of long periods of silence and ostracism and moments of fierce media smear campaigns. He met both silence and slander. But now, more than twenty-five years after his death, we see the veil of silence gradually lift as academic studies of his life and work increase. Today, no one can write a history of twentieth-century Catholicism without mentioning Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira and the Tradition, Family, Private Property (TFP) movement he founded.

Brazilian and American interest

TFP’s documentation service has collected no less than 173 books and academic theses from the last ten years devoted to or significantly mentioning the Brazilian leader. These studies mainly come from Brazilian universities. However, the number of publications from American and European academic centers is also increasing. We recently broke the news about the 2021 book by Prof. Benjamin Cowan of the University of California at San Diego. The work with the title Moral Majorities Across the Americas: Brazil, the United States, and the Making of the Religious Right explains the Brazilian leader’s role in creating international religious law.1

The impact of TFP

Using previously unpublished documents, Cowan shows the central role of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in the traditionalist response to the Second Vatican Council. This role has long been overlooked by researchers who usually emphasize the appearance of other figures. According to Cowan, the group of TFP members then in Rome “played an important and, in a sense, seminal role in the politics of traditional Catholicism, nationally and transnationally, during and after the Council.” New academic research is now revealing the importance of this role.

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The founder of the counter-revolution

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira is particularly distinguished in the doctrinal field, where he emerges as a master of contemporary counter-revolutionary thinking. In his in-depth study of the concept of revolution, Karol Kasprowicz of the Polish University of Lublin repeatedly cites the Brazilian leader as one of the “classic thinkers” in this field.2 In the book Histoire des Traditionalists by Yves Chiron (Tallandier, Paris 2022) a whole chapter is devoted to him. “The figure of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira stands out among the forerunners of traditionalism,” affirms the author. He also mentions the book In Defense of Catholic Action, which Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira published in 1943, when he was president of the Catholic Action in Sao Paulo. This work, according to Chiron, is the first “indictment of the progressive errors that spread in Catholic action and society.”

Great international influence

Another recent study is Zivilisationismus und straight Untergangsvorstellungen in Poland, Deutschland and Österreich by Jos Stübner (Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, 2021). The author reports on the action of some European TFPs, inspired by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, especially in the fight against the so-called LGBT agenda. Monica Cornejo Valle of the Universidad Complutense in Madrid published a similar report on the actions of the TFPs in Poland and Spain. The study was recently published in London under the title We don’t want rainbow terror: Religious and far-right sexual politics in Poland and Spain (Palgrave MacMillan, UK, 2022). Cornejo Valle says: “The international network inspired by TFP… is the most effective anti-LGBT organization.”

Main opponents of the LGBT agenda

Neil Datta comes to the same conclusion in the study Modern Crusaders in Europe. Traditional family and property: Analysis of a transnational, ultraconservative, Catholic-inspired network of influence. The European Parliamentary Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Rights, a powerful Brussels-based lobby group, produced the study. The group can count on the support of thirty members of the European Parliament and has links to the International Planned Parenthood Federation. According to the study, the TFPs have become one of the leading forces to counter the LGBT agenda in Europe: “They succeed in influencing the European centers of power.”

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False right

Anyone familiar with the work of the Brazilian thinker knows the term “false right”, used to denote a certain type of pseudo-counter-revolutionary reaction that actually misleads the good into attitudes and positions that ultimately lead to the revolutionary process of favoritism . Luis Herrán Ávila from the University of New Mexico wrote an interesting study on this topic. It has the title The False Rights: Conflict and Convergence in Mexico’s Post-cristero Just After the Second Vatican Council. (Cambridge University Press, March 2022). The author acknowledges Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s perfectly balanced position regarding the traditionalist and counter-revolutionary struggles. He points out that the Brazilian thinker has not fallen into sedisvacantism or the right-wing trap of adopting a pro-Nazi or esoteric position.

The silent force behind the Brazilian right

Another important study is by Professor Georg Wink from the University of Copenhagen. The book has the title Brazil, Land of the Past: The Ideological Roots of the New Right (Bibliotopia 2021, Cuernavaca, Mexico). With a wealth of documentation, the author shows how the conservative reaction sweeping Brazil – and usually attributed to other individuals – is in fact the result of the decades-long work of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira and the TFP. Erika Helgen’s work is also noteworthy Religious conflict in Brazilpublished in 2020 by Yale University, which contains numerous references to the construction of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira.

Read also: A global culture war that the West must win

Traditionally Catholic

The Modern Memory of the Military-Religious Orders – Engages the Crusades (Routledge, London & New York 2022) also deserves a mention. The author, Luiz Felipe Anchieta Guerra, describes Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s role in “the emergence of political medievalism, that is, the use of medieval symbolism in the political sphere.” According to him, this phenomenon is a characteristic of the new world law. From the USA we call The Rise of the Catholic Alt-Right by Dominic Wetzel of Kingsborough College in New York (2020). The essay traces the rise of the traditionalist Catholic right that has risen from obscurity in the United States. He concludes that this development would not have been possible without the decisive contribution of the American TFP.

The principles still apply

We conclude this necessarily brief sample with the study of Giselle Zanotto titled Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira: A scholar of reaction, activist of conservatism and crusader of counter-revolution (Universidade Estadual de Maringá 2019). Zanotto explains that Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s thinking and action are difficult to classify according to rigid academic criteria. It can better be considered a comprehensive and deep reaction against the revolutionary process in all its aspects. Hence the qualification “the crusader of the counter-revolution”. The closing words of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s philosophical self-portrait come true: “I am sure that the principles to which I have devoted my life are as relevant today as ever, and that they will guide the world in the coming centuries. The skeptics will smile, but the smiles of the skeptics have never hindered the triumphant march of the faithful.”

Updated September 8, 2022.

This article was previously published on TFP.org

  1. The role of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in the creation of international religious law
  1. Karol Kasprowicz, Reflections on Historiography and Revolution TheoryUniversity of Lublin 2020.

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