Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Search the Remnant Newspaper
Monday, January 4, 2021

INTEGRALISM in the FACE of the GREAT RESET: An Interview with Dr. Alan Fimister

By:   Diane Montagna
Rate this item
(18 votes)
Dr. Fimister Dr. Fimister

January 4, 2021 — On the 29th of December, Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, issued a proclamation in which he called upon the people of the US to observe the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket, with appropriate ceremonies and in commemoration of the life and legacy of the great martyr to the liberty of the Church.

What is the nature of that liberty? Is it an empty space in which man’s speculations and sentiments about the end of human life, and the means by which it is to be attained, may be given the fullest possible scope for variation and novelty? Or is it the power to discover and embrace the means appointed by God to worship him? Upon the answer to that question hangs the compatibility, or otherwise, of the concept of religious freedom so famously espoused by the Second Vatican Council, with the traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ.

Classical liberals such as John Courtney Murray, SJ, neo-conservatives such as George Weigel and traditionalists such as Archbishop Marcel Lefebve, all read the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae, so as to create a radical discontinuity between it and the traditional teaching on the social kingship of Christ.

A new book, Integralism: A Manual of Political Philosophy,  published in 2020 by English Dominican Thomas Crean, O.P and Dr. Alan Fimister, Assistant Professor of Theology at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, has insisted on the compatibility of the concept of religious liberty properly understood, with a restored Christendom in all of its medieval vigor.

Is this really plausible? Is the social kingship of Christ really compatible with the US Constitution, and does it really matter if it is or not? And how does Christ’s universal kingship harmonize or conflict with the new spirit of globalism abroad in the world?

On the 6th of January, the very day on which the three kings knelt before the King of Kings, the United States Congress must decide whether or not to certify the decision of the electoral college to hand the presidency to Joe Biden, thereafter the 46th and “second Catholic president.” The partisans of globalism promise, as a sequel to the Wuhan virus, a “Great Reset” of the world as we now know it.

Catholics are not called on to defend the status quo, so what sort of new modeling of society should they be pursuing? We sat down with Dr. Alan Fimister to ask. We also discussed the nature of integralism, the attacks of papal advisor Fr. Anthony Spadaro, SJ on its recent resurgence, and the ever-darkening signs of the times.

In this interview [see full text below], Dr. Fimister, who is also Director of the Dialogos Institute and author of Robert Schuman: Neo-Scholastic Humanism and the Reunification of Europe (2008), responds to neo-conservative and overt liberal criticism of the new book as unamerican, and integralism’s compatibility, or otherwise, with the possible alternative path offered by the MAGA movement and Trump presidency.

Here below is our interview with Dr. Alan Fimister.

Diane Montagna (DM): Dr. Fimister, there has been much concern of late in Christian circles about a so-called ‘Great Reset,’ a renewed attempt to establish a new world order off the back of the covid-19 epidemic. You and your co-author, Fr Thomas Crean, in your new book Integralism: A Manual of Political Philosophy, aim at very different sort of great reset for the western world. Perhaps I might begin by asking you, what is integralism?

Dr. Alan Fimister (AF): Integralism is a term which appeared in the nineteenth century, particularly in Spain, in order to denote the opposite of liberalism. One of the earliest instances of a sort of definition of integralism as a principle came in Spain. There was a priest who wrote a book called Liberalism is a Sin, and it was offensive to various bishops who felt it made their lives difficult with the more secular regime emerging in Spain. Another priest wrote an attack on this book called Integralism on Trial and sent his book and the original book, Liberalism is a Sin, to Rome in the hope of getting Liberalism is a Sin condemned or put on the Index. Instead, the Congregation for the Index replied that Liberalism is a Sin was free of all moral and doctrinal error, which could not be said for the other book. That was under Leo XIII.  

Integralism is available now at
fimister book

Liberalism is the ideological continuation of the Enlightenment, and the Enlightenment is a movement to eliminate divine revelation as a source of public policy and public law. So, broadly conceived, liberals are people who are trying to ensure the continued triumph of the Enlightenment over Western civilization. Liberalism purports to be neutral between religious claims and to exclude them from influence over the public sphere, supposedly allowing them to carry on as they wish in the private sphere. In fact, it is not neutral because its very exclusion of religious claims from the public sphere implies that there is something about religious claims that makes them uniquely subjective and inappropriate as sources of public policy and public law.

What do you mean by this?

Well, this implies that we can’t be certain of (and publicly demonstrate) the truth of religious claims, and therefore it would be unfair to make them the source of public policy and of public law, because you’d be imposing entirely subjective claims for which there’s no definitive evidence on people who don’t necessarily agree with them. Whereas other sorts of claims that can’t be demonstrated from first principles, like anthropogenic global warming, are often used as a source of public policy and public law, on the basis that “that’s what the science says.” The claim that there is anthropogenic global warming is not something you can demonstrate like Pythagoras’ theorem; it relies on evidence. But it’s considered to be sufficiently demonstrable that it’s reasonable to legislate on the basis of it, even if that legislation alters and affects the lives of people who don’t agree with it, because it’s their fault they don’t agree with it. They jolly well ought to have followed the evidence like the legislature has.

They “don’t believe in science,” they will be told…

Exactly. But of course, were that true, that would in itself mean that religious claims are false because God couldn’t possibly hold you to some precept which you can’t know the existence of with any certainty. That would be unjust. But to suppose that God exists and yet doesn’t require us to worship him also makes no sense, so there’s an incipient concealed atheism in the supposed claim of neutrality. So, liberalism involves an assertion that the kind of things which, according to its view of the world, are capable of certain knowledge, are the real purpose of human life, and therefore nihilistic hedonism is ultimately the ideology lurking behind the disingenuous claim of neutrality.

And what is integralism?

Integralism means, literally, that truths relating to God and our duties to him should be principles of public policy and public law and should be integrated fully into the whole of human life, including the civil order.

In fact, liberalism is also integralist in the sense that it wants its nihilistic hedonistic presuppositions fully integrated into the civil order — to the point where, if you oppose nihilistic hedonism, you can be prosecuted as a hate criminal. But it has only introduced these things very slowly, since the period following the Enlightenment, in order to avoid compromising too much its pose of neutrality. So, early on, things like divorce were pushed through, and then abortion and contraception and the legalization of homosexual acts and pornography. But only now have they reached the point of claiming marriage equality for non-procreative masturbatory acts and prosecuting people for denying that these things are wholesome and good.

Abortion up to the moment of birth would be another example…

Yes, although that came surprisingly early in the process. Peter Hitchens thinks the reason for this is that revolutionaries are always keen to have the people dip their hands in blood so that they’re complicit in the revolution and can’t turn back. You would have thought that killing babies would have come very late, because it seems so outrageous. But I think they thought it was worth spending some capital to get that in early, in order to make as much of the population as possible complicit in their revolution against nature.

How, then, would you sum up Integralism?

Essentially, integralism is summed up in paragraph 2244 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And integralism is, as that suggests, just a term for the orthodox position in Catholic theology concerning the temporal order. It’s a bit like the term “iconodule” or a “dyophysite.” Iconodule means people who think it’s okay to venerate icons, as opposed to iconoclasts, so it’s just orthodoxy on a particular subject. “Dyophysite” means people who believe Christ has two natures as opposed to people who say He only has one, so it just refers to orthodoxy in a particular area. So integralism just refers to orthodoxy in regard to the Church’s teaching on the temporal order. The root of the term is “integral,” meaning that Christianity should be fully integrated into all aspects of human life, rather than being segregated from politics.

Paragraph 2244 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) reads: “Every institution is inspired, at least implicitly, by a vision of man and his destiny, from which it derives the point of reference for its judgment, its hierarchy of values, its line of conduct.” That’s basically making the point that liberalism and all other views about the organization of the temporal order are all integralism, that is, they all want everything to conform to what they think is true.

CCC 2244 continues: “Most societies have formed their institutions in the recognition of a certain preeminence of man over things. Only the divinely revealed religion has clearly recognized man’s origin and destiny in God, the Creator and Redeemer. The Church invites political authorities to measure their judgments and decisions against this inspired truth about God and man.” For political authorities “to measure their decisions and judgments against this inspired truth about God and man,” is for them to be integralist.

The text goes on: “Societies not recognizing this vision or rejecting it in the name of their independence from God” — so not just people who overtly reject it but also those who just don’t recognize it — “are brought to seek their criteria and goal in themselves or to borrow them from some ideology. Since they do not admit that one can defend an objective criterion of good and evil, they arrogate to themselves an explicit or implicit totalitarian power over man and his destiny, as history shows.” CCC n. 2244 therefore sums up what integralism is.

Is integralism compatible with the United States Constitution? This of course entails the issue of the proper understanding of the relation between Church and State.

One thing which is often of great confusion and which often arises is that people imagine that integralism requires some sort of preference for hereditary monarchy, and that is not true.

Integralism considers — in line with Leo XIII’s teaching in Diuturnum — that forms of government are “indifferent matters.” It’s a bit like whether you should drive on the left side of the road or the right side of the road, or how many pennies there should be in the pound. It’s the sort of thing a society needs to fix on an answer to, but it’s much less important what answer they fix on than that they fix on an answer. There isn’t a right or wrong answer.

St. Thomas Aquinas held that there is, in the abstract, a best form of government, but that particular conditions (cultural, historical, geographical) in different places will mean that this abstract answer is probably not the right answer in all or even most cases. Now, the United States Constitution is actually very close to what St. Thomas describes as the abstract answer. If you read the Summa Theologiae,  Part I-II, Q. 105, article 1, where he asks whether or not God made good arrangements for rulers in the Old Testament, he lays out what he considers to be the best form of government in the abstract, and basically there’s nothing in the article which differs from the US Constitution.

The Fall of Romefall of romeIt happened before. It can happen again.

Is it true that the US Constitution is close to the Constitutions of the Dominican Order?

Yes, and there’s an historical reason for that. At the beginning of the thirteenth century, King John of England was forced to agree to Magna Carta, one of the most important provisions of which was that he couldn’t raise taxes without the counsel of the whole realm. But there was no mechanism for obtaining the counsel of the whole realm laid down in Magna Carta, and this is where the “no taxation without representation” principle on which the American Revolution was fought comes from originally. Later in the century, King John’s son, Henry III, ended up in a long series of conflicts with his barons over this principle, and the opposition to him was led by Simon VI de Montfort, son of the Simon V de Montfort, who led the Albigensian Crusade. Simon VI de Montfort knew St. Dominic as a child and his father knew him very well. In the course of these conflicts, the institution known as Parliament was created in order to provide the counsel of the whole realm. The first time it ever met was in the Dominican House in Oxford under the auspices of Simon VI de Montfort. The second time it met, which was also under the auspices of Simon de Montfort, it established a proto bi-cameral structure with the rulers of the different parts of the realm – the Lords, and the representatives of the people who were ruled in the different parts of the realm the Commons — and this seems to have been modeled on the Dominican Constitutions, which early in that century were the first to introduce a structure of that nature.

Then, of course, when the American Revolutionaries were constructing their own constitution, partly because it was what they were familiar with, and partly because their original claim was that their traditional liberties as English subjects were being violated by George III, they naturally produced a constitution to replace the British system of government which was very similar to the British system, but with the hereditary elements eliminated. But the hereditary elements were precisely the elements which had been added when the Dominic Constitutions were adapted at the creation of Parliament. So, in a way, unbeknownst to themselves, they were reverse engineering the Dominican Constitutions.

Very interesting. Why do you suppose people think integralism is incompatible with the US Constitution?

One reason why people think there is an incompatibility is because they mistakenly think there is a special preference for hereditary monarchy, which there isn’t. Now, in the book, we give arguments for why St. Thomas’s abstract best universal form is the best, and we give arguments for why there are advantages to a hereditary element in a constitution. But there are also disadvantages as well, so we just try to show why reasonable people could have different views in different times and places about what the best form of government would be in those places. We don’t try to especially favor hereditary monarchy at all.

Now, the other reason why people think there might be a conflict is because they often suppose that the First Amendment of the US constitution is in conflict with integralism — because integralism is precisely the integration of Christianity and the Catholic Faith into all areas of civil life, and that seems to be what’s precisely forbidden by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. There are a number of things to be said about that: one is that although there’s some truth to this claim, that the First Amendment exists as a barrier to the use of revelation in public life, it wasn’t put in there in order to render the United States irreligious. It was put in there, as Fulton Sheen pointed out, because most of the US States, as former colonies, had established religions at the time the Constitution was passed and a good while afterwards, but they weren’t the same one in each case. So, it would have created a problem to have a federally established religion, and early on it was much clearer that the sovereign entities were the states rather than the federation. Of course, that’s not how things appear now, but that’s due to a lot of different factors over the course of the history of the USA. There is nothing in the Constitution, as it ought to be understood by an originalist, to prohibit the establishment of a religion, indeed of Catholicism, in all 50 states.

But would this have to be done by each of the individual states rather than by the federal government?

It could be done federally, but it would have to be done federally by a Constitutional amendment, and that is not forbidden by the First Amendment. The First Amendment only prevents Congress from passing a federal law about the establishment of religion. It doesn’t prevent a Constitutional amendment to establish a federal religion. So, even without a Constitutional amendment, all 50 states could adopt Catholicism in principle — if they wanted to — as their established religion. The Supreme Court might obstruct them, but if it did so it would not be acting on the basis of originalism but on the basis of a judicial activism. If Catholicism were to be established as the religion of the US federally, it could be done by means of a Constitutional amendment. And it’s clear that, in principle, there’s no legal barrier to that intended by the US founders, or many of them. Just to quote George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789:

It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor… acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Later in the same proclamation, Washington says:

We may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed —to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord —To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us—and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.”

So, it’s clear that Washington acknowledged the duties to God of the USA as an entity. It’s just that, as a Protestant, he imagined that the precise way of doing this is a matter of opinion and not certain knowledge. Because Protestantism is false, God doesn’t afford supernatural certainty about its truth, and therefore Protestants rightly suppose that their particular religious convictions are a matter of opinion, because they are – they’re a matter of false opinion. Therefore, it’s reasonable to suppose that one shouldn’t legislate on the basis of such opinions in such a way as to compel other people, or inconvenience them, because one thinks there is no certainty in the question.

Contrast this with the people who legislate on the basis of climate change, who think there is certainty in the question sufficient that, if it inconveniences people who don’t agree with it, that’s their fault for not agreeing with it.

But, of course, the problem with Washington’s in-some-respects completely reasonable position is that, in the end, it unravels, because why would God institute means for worshiping him and then fail to give us the means of knowing certainly what they were? So unfortunately—although he means well and is two thirds right about the whole business—as you can see from that Thanksgiving Proclamation, the logic of the position ultimately dissolves the rest of the two thirds he’s right about and leads finally to atheism. This is precisely what De Tocqueville said about the United States, that its Constitution was such as to lead people to become Catholics or atheists.

Can you say more about this?

Well, there’s one remark he made in private correspondence and one remark he made publicly in Democracy in America. In the latter, he said that people in democratic times are either inclined to want to reject all religion or to seek some reliable public source of authority in religion, and so as there is only one body that even claims to be a reliable source in religion, i.e. the Catholic Church, they tend to become Catholics or atheists. This is what De Tocqueville says:

America is the most democratic country on earth, while, at the same time the country where, according to reputable reports, the Catholic religion makes the most progress. At first sight this is surprising. Two distinctions must be made: equality persuades men to judge for themselves. On the other hand, it gives them the taste for and conception of a single simple social power which is the same for everyone. Men who live in Democratic times are, therefore, predisposed to slide away from all religious authority. But if they agree to such an authority, they insist at least that it is unique and of one character for their intelligence has a natural abhorrence of religious powers which do not emanate from the same centre and they find it almost as easy to imagine that there is no religion as several [...] our descendants will tend increasingly to divide into only two parts, some leaving Christianity entirely and the others embracing the Church of Rome.”[1]

But in private correspondence, he said that the Catholics in the US, while they were very happy to make use of the neutrality of the State, disapproved of it.[2] While the Protestants were happy to make use of it but approved of it. As a result, the Catholics were flourishing, and the Protestants were becoming more and more doctrinally diffuse and essentially boiling down to a sort of nothingness. The fact that the Catholics didn’t approve of religious neutrality as an absolute final goal, but as a reasonable position while there was religious pluralism, was key to the progress they were making.

One of the difficulties in the US is that, from the 1960s onwards, this stance has shifted to a sort of per se approval of religious pluralism. Since then, the progress which the Church had been making up until that point began to dissipate. In fact, if the Catholic Church had continued to progress in the way that it was progressing up to that point, the US would be a majority Catholic country by now. Hamish Fraser the famous former Communist leader in Scotland who converted to Catholicism perceived this danger in the USA and accused American Catholics of being ‘Protestants who go to mass’ and (despite his conservative liturgical views) held that the difficulties that arose in the Church in the sixties and seventies did not arise from the liturgy but from a failure to uphold the Social Kingship of Christ in the fifties and earlier. The liturgical trouble were merely symptoms in his view.

What view does your new book take towards international and supranational bodies?

We’re a bit nervous and reticent about international bodies in the book, and the reason for that is that nature impels people to create communities. In fact, it doesn’t just impel them to create communities but brings human beings into existence already in society. The very fact that man is both male and female already makes clear that man is hardwired to be a social animal, to come out of a family and to exist within a broader society in which new families can be formed.

But nature also allows man to perceive the existence of God and the fact that we need to render worship to him. And of course, when we discover the means God has instituted to worship him, we discover from that the universal brotherhood of the human race. But that’s a truth of divine revelation. Natural reason sends us to go and find out what the true religion is, but it’s when we find out what it is that we find the truth of our universal brotherhood. So if we were rationalists and imagined that we didn’t need to go and find out what the true religion is, which of course is a terrible error — rationalism being the belief that natural reason contains all truths that need to be known or can be known, whereas instead natural reason tells us to go and find out the various truths that it can’t tell us — or if we just erred concerning what the true religion is, or didn’t bother to try and find out what it was, then we’d find that our loyalties and attachments were limited to our own particular nation or city rather than universalized.

The problem is that if you create secular universal institutions that professedly surpass the nation or the particular state, then you end up with them having no rationale. What that institution will then try to do is to turn itself into a national state, precisely because it doesn’t have a natural rationale. It will therefore try to crush the sovereignty of its constituent elements. But those constituent elements have arisen out of nature, whereas it hasn’t arisen out of nature; it’s an artifact, and therefore it will be particularly open to corruption or to ideological hijacking, because what you’ve accidentally created is a sort of anti-church. It will naturally be particularly hostile to the Church, because it will see the authentic universal community of man as a threat to its own claims and pretentions. So, it will want to destroy national particularity and culture and sovereignty, and it will also want to destroy the Catholic Church, just because of its own instinct for self-preservation.

Pius XI warned about this in his opening encyclical, Ubi Arcano, at the time of the establishment of the League of Nations. His warnings have been vindicated since World War II, with the direction in which the United Nations and other international and supranational organizations have taken.

Benedict XVI says in Caritate et Veritate: 

As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbors but does not make us brothers. Reason, by itself, is capable of grasping the equality between men and of giving stability to their civic coexistence, but it cannot establish fraternity. This originates in a transcendent vocation from God the Father, who loved us first, teaching us through the Son what fraternal charity is.”

Elsewhere in the same encyclical, he writes:

The human community that we build by ourselves can never, purely by its own strength, be a fully fraternal community, nor can it overcome every division and become a truly universal community. The unity of the human race, a fraternal communion transcending every barrier, is called into being by the word of God-who-is-Love.”

Benedict XVI here is really just making the same point as Pius XI was making all the way back in the 1920s; namely, that if you try and build a secular international order you will just be trying to rebuild the Tower of Babel.

Would you say that this idea has been realized in the annual meetings of globalists in Davos or in the United Nations?

Well, it’s certainly true that because there’s no organic national or civic community keeping an eye on, or holding to account, the institutions of secular international bodies, they are peculiarly prone to corruption and being hijacked by oligarchies. And of course, insofar as the Church becomes secularized, or particular institutions within the Church become secularized, they become open to the same threat.

Getting back to the “Great Reset” — the project of Klaus Schwab and theme of the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Meeting. This group has its own particular ideas about what a “Great Reset” would look like. How would an integralist envision a “Great Reset”?

Well, I think the local, national, and international institutions of the Western world as they now stand are so riddled with the presuppositions and errors of the Enlightenment, and the corruptions of human nature without grace, that it’s very hard to imagine a kind of macro-institutional reform causing them to cease to be problematic. I fear, unfortunately, things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. But part of the purpose of the book is to set out an objective in order to facilitate coherent political deliberation. What is last in execution is the first in intention, meaning that you don’t even know what the right first steps to take are unless you know where you’re going. We need to know what a Christian Order would look like on the basis of first principles before we can create a concrete particular Christian Order in any given place and time. That’s what the book is intended to lay out.

A lot of people have complained regarding the book that it doesn’t given a list of practical steps to take, but the reason for that is that those practical steps are prudential questions and the concrete institutional appearance of any given Christian polity is an indifferent matter. So, it would be completely incorrect to lay out a series of practical steps. It would be purposely misleading and a usurpation of the proper autonomy of the temporal order and of statesmen in some happy Christian future to try and lay down the particular form that their commonwealth would take in one place or another, because that would depend on the various circumstances. We are precisely trying to lay out the abstract principles on which any Christian Order would need to be established rather than the concrete details.

For whom is the book intended?

Integralism is intended for a student of political philosophy who wants to know what the Catholic political philosophical tradition is. It’s for any educated lay person, by which I mean a non-professional academic rather than a non-ordained person, who just wants to know the answers to these questions which concern all human beings. It’s therefore intended for quite a wide readership; it’s not the Ladybird Book of Catholic political philosophy, but it strives not to be any more technical or obscure than is absolutely required in order to be correct.

Father Anthony Spadaro, who is generally thought to be close to Pope Francis, has criticized the idea of integralism publicly (in an article published in La Civiltà Cattolica in July 2017) as a form of fundamentalism inspired by “an ecumenism of hate.” How can he say this if, as you insist, integralism is just a term for orthodoxy on one particular area of catholic doctrine?

I think there’s been a problem in the Church as a result of the misinterpretation of Vatican II’s document on religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae. The respected philosopher, Professor Thomas Pink, has definitively shown that the motivations of Paul VI and other actors in producing that document were grounded in Jacques Maritain’s political philosophy. I don’t agree with Maritain’s political philosophy, but Maritain was no idiot and what he had to say is far closer to the truth than, for example, John Courtney Murray who was trying to reconcile Catholicism with classical liberalism. That is, Murray was actually trying to claim that religious questions are outside the competence of the state per se. Of course, beyond the recognition of God and of the religion He has appointed, religious questions are outside the competence of the state but this is because divine revelation has said they are and has assigned them to the spiritual power not because they are interminable in themselves or because the temporal is some sort of necessary evil.

Maritain and Paul VI therefore did not believe that there was anything wrong with medieval Christendom; they just thought that it wasn’t the expedient form of organization for the present. So, the Vatican II document on religious liberty does not at all endorse classical liberalism. It just describes what the religious competence of the state would be when not united to the spiritual power. But it does say that it’s not changing anything about the teaching of the Church concerning the requirements for that union. It doesn’t say what those requirements are and instead proceeds to describe the competence of the State when not united to the spiritual power. Unfortunately, in fact, disastrously, it’s been assumed since it was promulgated to be teaching some kind of classical liberal doctrine that the state should have nothing to do with religion, which it certainly doesn’t say, and which would be in irreconcilable conflict with definitive previous teachings of popes and councils.

As a result, people think that integralism is a problem, instead of just being the orthodoxy on these questions established definitively by Quanta Cura, the infallible Bull of Pope Pius IX which accompanied the Syllabus of Errors. People often spend a lot more time on the Syllabus of Modern Errors but in fact Quanta Cura is a higher-ranking document which engages papal infallibility, and at least on one point defines a dogmatic question. Newman, in his letter to the Duke of Norfolk, gave Quanta Cura as an example of an obviously infallible papal document. And Newman wasn’t at all enthusiastic about the definition of papal infallibility (or Quanta Cura for that matter) so he wasn’t predisposed to imagine questionably infallible documents were infallible. Quite the contrary.

The attempt to interpret Dignitatis Humanae as endorsing classical liberalism sets up an impossible conflict between this document and the previous magisterium which is historically inaccurate, and which doesn’t exist. I think Fr Spadaro is sufficiently far gone that, for him, the term ‘integralism’ is just a boo word or bogy man with which to taint the efforts of those in US who are making common cause with men of good will to defend the innocent. We should not look for nuanced criticism from that quarter.

Is the MAGA movement compatible with integralism?

Insofar as the political phenomenon of Trump represents a reaction against the feeling by Western politicians that they can set aside the interests of their own citizens in favor of a secular utopian international order that just happens to coincide with the interests of very wealthy corporations, then there is some overlap there. Integralism precisely insists on the universal moral obligations of both individuals and families and states, so it could never be seen as nationalist in that sense, but just as St. Paul says that he who doesn’t provide for his own family is worse than an unbeliever — charity begins at home. Thus, the principle obligation of national rulers is to care for their own subjects, not to serve some supposed universal humanity, which is actually a cover for the narrow interests of an international oligarchy.

Is there anything you wish to add?

Because of the fact that integralism in its most realized form as it was in the High Middle Ages – I don’t mean in terms of the concrete social forms but in terms of the legal identification of the Church with the whole of organized society — brings about a community of the baptized whose citizenship is an effect of baptism and its rights are partially suspended by loss of communion with the Roman Pontiff, people have rather disingenuously suggested that advocating integralism would be to advocate the depriving of non-baptized persons of their citizenship. But that is not at all proposed by the book. We don’t lay down the mechanism by which one would arrive at a fully Integralist order, and in the case of Europe, that took many centuries and coincided with great hardship that resulted from external factors.

One should never do evil that good may come of it, so one would never want to deprive someone of their rightful possessions including their right of citizenship in order to achieve some desirable goal. Therefore, the criticism that integralism advocates depriving non-baptized people of their citizenship is a preposterous telescoping of the probably centuries-long time scale that you’d be looking at for the restoration of an Integralist order. On the other hand, someone who’s really a classical liberal and who’s trying to deflect from the orthodoxy of this position by attacking integralism, is effectively saying that even if every single citizen of, for example, the USA voluntarily and spontaneously converted to Catholicism, they still ought not to fulfill their obligations as a civil community to the one true religion and the Church of Christ. This position is clearly incompatible with the teaching of Vatican II and of the other definitive documents that we mention in the book. In other words, if you hold that religion is of itself outside of the competence of the State to the point that the state cannot recognize the true religion as an entity, this would mean that, even if everybody converted to Catholicism completely freely, and you just happened to live in a society where everybody happened to convert to Catholicism, you should still maintain civic neutrality. But Vatican II says that its declaration on religious liberty does not change the traditional teaching of the Church concerning the obligations of individuals and societies to the true religion and the one Church of Christ. So, it’s clear that such a classically liberal position is not compatible with Catholic teaching. If you look at Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Libertas, he actually says explicitly that liberalism is Satanic. In paragraph 14, he writes:

If when men discuss the question of liberty they were careful to grasp its true and legitimate meaning, such as reason and reasoning have just explained, they would never venture to affix such a calumny on the Church as to assert that she is the foe of individual and public liberty. But many there are who follow in the footsteps of Lucifer, and adopt as their own his rebellious cry, ‘I will not serve’; and, consequently substitute for true liberty what is sheer and most foolish license. Such, for instance, are the men belonging to that widely spread and powerful organization, who, usurping the name of liberty, style themselves liberals.”

Liberalism comes from the Enlightenment, which is not unrelated to Lucifer, the light-bearer. The Enlightenment arose from the Reformation because, by making the Bible the sole principle of doctrine, it made it impossible to determine what divine revelation is, because everybody interpreted it differently and the Protestants didn’t agree on any authority to determine what the correct interpretation was. Therefore, it made the idea of divine revelation as a principle of public policy and public law absurd, there was nothing determinate to be the principle. Consequently, once the French absolutist government, under Richelieu frustrated the Habsburgs’ attempts to defeat the Reformation on the battlefield, the Reformation morphed into the Enlightenment which was a movement to eliminate divine revelation as a principle of public policy and public law. The ‘Enlightenment’ ended in the bloodbath of the French Revolution and from that emerged liberalism the creed of the those who wanted to carry on pursuing the bloody ideals of secularism.

And this is where we are today?



[1] De Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. London: Penguin, 2003. (Gerald Bevan trans.) 519-20.

[2] Alexis de Tocqueville: “Protestants of all persuasions—Anabaptists, Quakers, and a hundred other Christian sects—this is the core of the population. This church-going and indifferent population, which lives day to day, becomes used to a milieu which is hardly satisfying, but which is tranquil, and in which the proprieties are satisfied. They live and die in compromises, without ever concerning themselves with reaching the depths of things; they no longer recruit anyone. Above them is found a fistful of Catholics, who are making use of the tolerance of their ancient adversaries, but who are staying basically as intolerant as they have always been, as intolerant in a word as people who believe. For them there is only truth in a single point; on any line one side or another of this point: eternal damnation. They live in the midst of civil society, but they forbid themselves any relationship with the religious societies that surround them. It even seems to me that their dogma on liberty of conscience is pretty much the same as in Europe, and I am not sure that they would not be persecuting if they found themselves to be the strongest. These people are in general poor, but full of zeal, their priests are completely devoted to the religion of sacrifice they have embraced; they are not in effect businessmen of religion, as are the Protestant ministers.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Selected Letters on Politics and Society, ed. Roger Boesche (University of California Press: Berkeley, 1985), 50-51.

[Comment Guidelines - Click to view]
Last modified on Tuesday, January 5, 2021