Vatican attack on integralism

Antonio Spadaro SJ and Marcelo Figueroa at Civiltà Cattolica accuse conservative Catholics and American Evangelicals of practicing an “ecumenism of hate”.  The article is, or at least should be, an embarrassment to all Catholics.  Really, the awfulness of the thing, the offensiveness fortified by intellectual incompetence, must be read to believed.

So, what’s the significance of this?  Not, as Rorate Caeli emphasizes, that it is anti-American.  Not the denunciations of “Islamophobia”, the vacuous appeals to “inclusion”, the uncritical embrace of stereotypes promoted by the Church’s enemies, the unproven attribution of incipient violence to critics of liberalism–all that is, unfortunately, par for the course with Rome during this wretched pontificate.  What matters most is not even the outrageously unjust insults directed at large numbers of Protestants.  Catholics attacking Protestantism almost never describe their ostensible target accurately.  This is because the real target is usually some rival faction of Catholics, and this is certainly the case here.

The real target is Catholic Integralism and the doctrine of Christ’s Social Kingship, which the authors counter with an extreme secularism.

A third element, together with Manichaeism and the prosperity gospel, is a particular form of proclamation of the defense of “religious liberty.” The erosion of religious liberty is clearly a grave threat within a spreading secularism. But we must avoid its defense coming in the fundamentalist terms of a “religion in total freedom,” perceived as a direct virtual challenge to the secularity of the state.

Suppose I were to say that religious freedom should be allowed to the extent it doesn’t challenge the Catholicity of the state, the need for the True Religion to be publicly established and Christ’s social kingship properly recognized.  Non-Catholics could reasonably worry that quite a bit of restriction might be justified with that exception.  Catholics, however, would at least grant that the ideology limiting religious freedom is actually true, and since the state ultimately must operate on some set of beliefs, it is good that they the ones the state has chosen are true beliefs.

But now a semi-official Vatican newspaper says that secularism should be the established religion.  Now, for a long time, Christians were told that they must tolerate secularism to have religious liberty, but now it turns out that Christian practice must be curtailed in the name of secularism, which is now to be pursued for its own sake.  Neutrality being impossible; secularism must ultimately mean established atheism.  And established atheism banishes more than Revelation from the public world; the authors accuse Christians who protest the state’s violations of natural law, such as its promotion of abortion and sodomy, of having a nostalgia for theocracy.  Clearly, only a very narrow range of moral reasoning (basically coterminous with utilitarianism) is compatible with the secularity of the state.

“The first thing we have to do is give a voice to our Churches,” some say. The real meaning of this type of expression is the desire for some influence in the political and parliamentary sphere and in the juridical and educational areas so that public norms can be subjected to religious morals.

Of course they should.  Public norms should be subjected to true morality rather than false morality.

Rushdoony’s doctrine maintains a theocratic necessity: submit the state to the Bible with a logic that is no different from the one that inspires Islamic fundamentalism. At heart, the narrative of terror shapes the world-views of jihadists and the new crusaders and is imbibed from wells that are not too far apart.

Of course, because it’s common sense that the state should be guided by truth rather than falsehood or raw will.  This is a variation of the “You know who else believed the sky is blue?  HITLER!” argument.

Some who profess themselves to be Catholic express themselves in ways that until recently were unknown in their tradition and using tones much closer to Evangelicals.

Uh huh.  Can anybody check out the writings of Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius XI, or any of their predecessors, and show me where they asserted “the secularity of the state”?  I think any reader will find these gentlemen a tad more theocratic than American Republicans.  This is not because the popes were sinful or power-hungry, but because they were following out the basic logic of Christianity (or, really, the logic of any comprehensive ethical belief system).  If Christianity is true, it is true for “us” collectively, not just individually.

Thus, readers won’t be surprised that the aspirations attributed to Pope Francis are the sole guild the authors give for the Catholic tradition.  In the reign of Francis, the sum total of the precepts of our religion are whatever the current pope said this morning.  Now, to his credit, Pope Francis hasn’t actually attempted to give us a set of doctrines out of his own head to replace our 2000 year tradition, so lacking that his sycophants reduce Catholicism to the Pope’s alleged desires.

Francis wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church.

I’m not sure what “institution” means there, but are they really accusing the Pope of wanting to cut the Church off from cultures?  When did inculturation become a bad thing?

Is this a big deal?  Yes, because the social kingship of Christ is a big deal.  It’s not a secondary doctrine; it is the foundation of all the Church’s social teaching (indeed, implied by the very existence of such teaching) and the first principle of the Orthosphere.

8 Responses

  1. Hey, lookie there, they just published something against the express ex Cathedra proclamation of a pope. That’s an automatic excommunication if I ever saw one.

  2. Certainly, as it is understood in France, « Intégrisme » is quite unconnected with “Throne and Altar” Conservatism. Rather it was an attack on certain, mostly Jesuit Neo-Scholastics who talked of a “natural order,” governed by Natural Law, consisting of truths accessible to unaided human reason, as something that can be kept separate from the supernatural truths revealed in the Gospel. They saw the political and social order as having its own autonomy and argued that right reason can legitimately arrive at valid conclusions without recourse to supernatural revelation as their necessary source or sanction.

    It was this teaching Jacques Maritain had in mind when he insisted “Integral political science . . . is superior in kind to philosophy; to be truly complete it must have a reference to the domain of theology, and it is precisely as a theologian that St. Thomas wrote De regimine principum . . . the knowledge of human actions and of the good conduct of the human State, in particular, can exist as an integral science, as a complete body of doctrine, only if related to the ultimate end of the human being. . . the rule of conduct governing individual and social life cannot, therefore, leave the supernatural order out of account (The Things that are not Caesar’s)

    So, too, Maurice Blondel, who declared that we must never forget “that one cannot think or act anywhere as if we do not all have a supernatural destiny. Because, since it concerns the human being such as he is, in concreto, in his living and total reality, not in a simple state of hypothetical nature, nothing is truly complete (boucle), even in the sheerly natural order”

    The saw that to hold otherwise would be to justify the liberal privatisation of religion, as irrelevant to public policy.

  3. M. Paterson-Seymour’s definition of integralism is much closer to the original thing, a resistance to theological modernism that was not directly political. I’m pretty sure, though, that when Spadaro attacks integralism, he has these guys in mind:

  4. @MPS

    I think there is a considerable overlap between French Integralism and “Throne and Altar” Conservatism. Many in the Catholic hierarchy were enthusiastic supporters of Maurras, who they saw–falsely–as an ally against the secularists. This extended all the way to the Papacy.

    “Even at the time the Holy Office was forced to examine the morality of the Action Francaise and after long delays reported to the Pope that the movement’s moral principles were not compatible with the Catholic faith. In spite of this, Pius X decided not to publish the condemnation. Marc Sangnier, the faithful Catholic democrat, was disowned, but Charles Maurras, the avowed atheist, was allowed immunity. Seldom has political sympathy influenced more clearly a papal act, or refusal to act. ”

    (Pope John, Meriol Trevor)

    Integralism is basically “Catholic Sharia”, where the State attempts to Catholicise a society from the “top, down”. With certain caveats, Blondel saw that this killed the faith over the long term, and he has been proven to be right. Slazar and Franco’s attempts at shoring up Catholicism worked as long as the state was an enthusiastic supporter, as soon it dropped the ball, public Faith crumbled. As I understand him, Blondel felt that the way to Christianise a society would be to do it from the “bottom, up”. I’m in broad agreement with this.

    The Catholic Taliban are in many ways the mirror image of the Social Justice Warriors they so despise. Both aim at a capture of state power to socially engineer their respective faiths. Both effectively view man as a material to be shaped.

    This is a very complicated topic, not really suited towards a combox discussion, but despite what I have said above, I do feel that the state has some legitimacy at pushing a moral code up to a certain point.

    A good example of this are Putin’s laws on homosexuality. Orthodoxy is hostile to homosexuality and an Integralist Russia would ban it outright. Putin’s approach has “restrained” the Orthodox church without repudiating it. Clearly he wants Orthodoxy to be the default Russian religion but he also recognises that it can’t control all spheres of public life. There is a “public space” outside its reach which is administered by the secular state. Homosexuals are left unmolested in this space but the advocacy of their lifestyle, the open solicitation of partners is banned and punished. Homosexuality–which is recognised as a degeneracy–is tolerated rather than accepted. This approach avoids the persecution of the gays while at the same time repudiating them.

  5. @MPS

    Just in case there is any confusion, I thought that the article in Civiltà Cattolica while having some legitimate criticisms of Integralism was appalling in lots of other ways.

  6. @Rhetocrates — which proclamation would that be?

  7. “With certain caveats, Blondel saw that this killed the faith over the long term, and he has been proven to be right. Slazar and Franco’s attempts at shoring up Catholicism worked as long as the state was an enthusiastic supporter, as soon it dropped the ball, public Faith crumbled.”

    This makes no sense. Previous Catholic rulers were far more authoritarian in religious matters than Salazar and Franco, who never executed anyone for heresy, in contrast to St. Louis IX, St. Pius V and St. Thomas More. If government support for Catholicism “killed the faith,” the faith would have died long before the 20th century.

    According to the Church’s infallible teaching, Christ gave Her the power to use physical coercion in support of the salvation of souls. He also gave Her an “indirect power” in temporal affairs, so that She can order the state to employ its might in support of Her goals. Christ would not have done so if it never made sense to use that power.

    St. Augustine initially oppsed the suppression of the Donatists, but he changed his mind when he saw that many who were forced into Catholicism became sincere and devout Catholics after a while.

  8. […] Bonald emphasizes the illogical and dangerous Vatican attack on integralism. […]

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