Is Integralism Catholic Sharia? A Question and Answer Catechism

By John Zmirak Published on June 4, 2018

Last week I burned some bridges by writing tough but constructive criticism about the orthodox Catholic subculture. I pointed to some trends that seem to run in parallel, reinforcing each other. I’ve seen some angry feedback, so I know that I touched a nerve. No, I didn’t say that all or even most of the grads of small Catholic colleges are:

  • Rejecting American freedom in favor of fantasies about a Catholic theocracy.
  • Embracing collectivist economic views which they falsely infer from Catholic social teaching.
  • Disdaining well-paying work that might support families, because they insist on careers in the arts, the Church, or education.
  • Emerging deep in debt, marrying spouses with equal debt.
  • Having children nine months and five minutes apart kids on public assistance (Medicaid, food stamps, WIC). And
  • Claiming that as their “right” using Humanae Vitae and poorly understood Catholic social teaching about a “just wage” as pretexts.

But some do. You know who you are.

Like Muslims in Paris

What alarms me about the nexus of all these pathologies? How much it mirrors Muslim immigrant enclaves in Western Europe. There, people unsuited (or unwilling) to take part in the modern economy lean on their sense of theological “otherness.” Of superiority, in fact. They see the public benefits that the “infidels” provide them as their due. Some even call it “jizya,” the tribute Muslims demand of non-believers whom they’ve conquered. I’ve heard or read Catholics say something quite similar of America. That non-Catholics not as “open to life” ought to pay taxes to feed, medicate, and educate the kids of Catholics who are.

Because the Muslim analogy is what awoke me to this problem, I focused on Integralism. That’s a newly fashionable but ill-defined school of thought in some Catholic circles. It rejects the Anglo-American tradition of freedom and focus on individual rights. Integralists follow Notre Dame’s Patrick Deneen. They dismiss all that as “Liberalism.” They reduce the American founders to mere parrots of John Locke. And John Locke turns out to be a thin fig leaf for Thomas Hobbes. Hence the ACLU and Planned Parenthood prove to be right about the Constitution, and Justice Scalia dead wrong.

America was hopeless from its founding, so we’re exempted from duties as active citizens. Instead we should focus on creating an alternate program that’s based explicitly on Catholicism. Once all we see around us has collapsed into heaps of rubble, then we can think about implementing it. But we’re off the hook for now, and free to indulge our fantasies. 

Following the responses to my piece, I’ve seen some questions that ought to be answered. Not everyone is clear on what exactly “Integralism” means. Or why we can reject it without surrendering to contemporary secularism, wrapping our altars in rainbow flags.

If you enjoy these questions and answers, please check out my book-length response to a wide array of Catholic queries, CatechismThe Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Catechism.

An FAQ on Integralism and Liberalism

Q: Isn’t the Liberalism that’s threatening Christians with prison or ruin for rejecting same-sex marriage evil? Don’t you as a Christian, much less a Catholic, reject all that?

A: It is evil, but it isn’t Liberalism. At least not in the Classical sense of that word, as America’s founders or most of its patriotic Christians would recognize it. What you’re speaking of is Progressivism. Its roots lie not in the Magna Carta, Richard Hooker or even John Locke. Instead, it draws on Rousseau, Marx and Freud. It doesn’t just want to leave adults free to follow their consciences. No, it wants to reshape those consciences, and train people’s children to escape their parents’ churches. Its notion of “freedom” isn’t “free of state coercion.” Rather it’s “free of negative influences, free from unpleasant experiences.” It’s a nanny-state view of the world. It sees citizens as shrubberies, and social elites as the gardeners with shears.

Q: What of the “Liberalism” that the European Union claims to stand for, when it tries to undermine popular elections and governments, from Italy to Poland?

A: Again, Progressives have hijacked the word. A Classical Liberal would leave citizens free to own guns for self-protection. To home-school or otherwise school his children. To vote on the best immigration policy for his country, and expect his rulers to implement it. Citizens would stay free to associate as they liked, even if some chose exclusive clubs. They’d be free to speak, even if it hurt someone’s widdle feelings. Or criticized his intolerant religion. Or pointed out that his “gender transition” was a sign of mental illness.

Q: What do you say to that argument that even Anglo-American freedom was bound to end up like this?

A: That it’s plainly wrong. Our version of Christian Liberalism, as the founders saw it, depended on the morality of the people. Even on their religiosity, specifically their Christianity. And their respect for Natural Law. Washington, Adams, even Jefferson explicitly said so. An originalist judge reading the Constitution would see that, and not use the document to saw off the limb on which it rested. Without self-control, liberty is impossible, as Edmund Burke warned us.

We’ve been the victim of false, willfully dishonest readings of our Constitution. Go back to the Supreme Court’s attack on school prayer. Then forward to Roe v. Wade, Griswold v. Connecticut, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, and Obergefell v. Hodge. In each case, the court majorities perverted the language of American liberty to promote Progressive goals. It’s not our job to pretend that they were honestly reading our Constitution.

We’ve been the victim of false, willfully dishonest readings of our Constitution. Go back to the Supreme Court’s attack on school prayer. Then forward to Roe v. Wade, Griswold v. Connecticut, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, and Obergefell v. Hodge. In each case, the court majority tortured the language of American liberty to promote Progressive goals. It’s not our job to pretend that they were honestly reading our Constitution. Then to reject it as a result. People do a great job of perverting the Bible too, when it suits them. That doesn’t mean we burn it.

Q: Why do you support an absolute separation of church and state, when you see what it has led to?

A: First of all, I don’t. We never had that in America before the 1960s. What we had was a tolerant, de facto Protestant country. It wisely avoided picking sides in the fight among the churches, and relied on people to make positive law based on Natural Law. That’s the code of ethics any honest person could in theory deduce for himself. But only provided he accepted a few core premises. The key ones? That reality is intelligible, that God exists, and that man is more than an animal.

Accept those, and we have the tools to argue fruitfully about every moral question. Reject them, and we aren’t opponents having an argument, but enemies fighting for power. Even John Locke accepted Natural Law, though some say in a truncated form. (That’s an issue for scholars to hash out. It really doesn’t matter. Locke wasn’t our Muhammad and we need not do what he said.)

There’s nothing wrong with a tolerant confessional State for a Catholic country where the people overwhelmingly want it. Vatican II doesn’t oppose that and neither do I. There are several examples of such tolerant states, such as 19th century Austria, and Poland for most of its history.

The Law Writ on the Human Heart

Q: So you think Natural law is the only proper basis for legislation? Not the Bible, or the teachings of the Church?

A: Exactly. It’s quite demanding enough. The central case that the popes make against abortion, pornography, divorce, even contraception, is based on Natural Law. When our society accepted all those ills, it wasn’t rejecting the Vatican or even Christianity. It was rejecting reason itself. And blowing up the foundations on which our experiment in ordered liberty rested. No wonder people are going crazy now, with daydreams of theocracy.

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Q: But Divine Revelation is a higher authority than reason. Why shouldn’t it guide us?

A: Because not everyone has access to it. Yes, Revelation was made publicly, and we should announce it to the world. But whether or not someone accepts it, believes it? That depends entirely on the mystery of divine Grace. You can’t reason out Christianity on your own, as you can philosophical questions. It’s a gift that comes from a Person. Neither you nor I know whether or not a given person has yet received that grace. We can’t know. He might not even know himself. It’s between him and God.

So it’s wrong for us to make laws that coerce people to act in ways they can only sincerely act if they’ve gotten that grace, and accepted faith. That’s why the Church never forced people to convert. Why popes condemned the forced baptism of Jews. We were acting in the spirit of Jesus’ own words on the subject: “And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.” (Matt. 10:14)

If the Church starts using coercion, doesn’t it become part of the State? Or a rival mini-state?

Q: Hasn’t the Catholic Church in the past cooperated with the government in coercing baptized Christians? Don’t authoritative Church documents grant the Church, and the State, the power to silence heretics, by force if necessary?

A: Vatican II renounced that power. It said that both Divine Revelation and Natural Law demanded religious freedom. It said that “within due limits,” people must be permitted to act alone, and in groups, following their conscience. The Catholic Catechism says the same thing.

Did Vatican II Have a Secret, Esoteric Doctrine?

Q: But what are those due limits?

A: That’s something for us to argue about. It’s well short of permitting human sacrifice, or polygamy, or other acts that violate the Natural Law. But to say that “due limits” would let us go back to outlawing Protestant churches (as Franco did, citing previous Church teaching)…. What would that make of the Council’s own words? Of every statement by subsequent popes defending religious freedom? Wouldn’t we see them as rank deceptions? If the Church secretly reserved the right to persecute anyone whose parents baptized him, unless he repeated Catholic orthodoxy? Vatican II would be exposed as Muslim style Taqiya, concealing Catholic sharia.

Q: Hasn’t Catholic scholar Thomas Pink argued that the Church simply denied the State the right to use coercion? But it left a loophole to use coercion itself?

A: Yes, he argued that. There are several key reasons why that doesn’t make sense. From a Catholic perspective, it’s completely unsupported by anything any pope has said since the Council. Pope John Paul II explicitly apologized, on behalf of the Church, for abuses of fellow Christians’ religious freedom. No pope has agreed with Pink. In fact, no bishop of any diocese anywhere in the world has endorsed his argument, or anything like it, in 50 years since Vatican II. If Pink is right, then the Church has been teaching a grossly misleading account of religious freedom for my entire lifetime, with no dissenters in good standing. Why should we trust it? Even Archbishop Lefebvre never made this argument. He bluntly claimed that Vatican II had taught heresy. That raises plenty of problems of its own, of course.

Let’s leave that aside. If the Church starts using coercion, doesn’t it become part of the State? Or a rival mini-state? Since Pope Gelasius, we’ve clearly distinguished between the “spiritual sword” the Church wields, and the “temporal sword” of the State. This would collapse them. Into a quite literal theocracy. In the dictionary sense of the term.

Q: So you’re saying that there’s a change between what the Church did from AD 400 or so, and sometimes supported with documents from councils and popes, and what it has taught since Vatican II?

A: That’s obvious, but this is a change in practice, not in infallible doctrine. We need to deal with that change, and perhaps prune back — as I’ve argued elsewhere — our notion of how far the Magisterium extends.

There is zero evidence, zero, that the Apostles or any Church father before Constantine argued for the Church to use force against Christian dissenters. That means it’s not part of the sacred, oral Tradition they got from Jesus. (Unless it was a Gnostic-style secret.) There’s nothing whatsoever in the New Testament that supports it. That’s why medieval popes who wanted to persecute were reduced to claiming that they’d inherited the authority of Moses to police the creed of the Hebrews. So that popes could cite Old Testament passages to justify religious coercion.

So when we see papal or council documents defending the right to persecute, they are not passing on divine Revelation. They are making Natural Law arguments. They are saying that reason tells us the true religion should prevail in its purest form. This serves the Common Good. So the State should serve the Common Good by suppressing errors, and silencing heretics.

There’s just one problem there: The Natural Law won’t show you WHICH religion is true. That requires the free gift of divine Grace to each human soul. Nor will reason alone prove conclusively the claims of one Christian church over another. So Natural Law’s authority ends here. It has to throw up its hands, leave people to argue these questions freely, and trust God to sort it out. Of course, the Church can expel people, strip them of the authority to preach, excommunicate them. But violent coercion? That’s the sword of the State. And Vatican II said explicitly that the State has no business here.

Thomas Pink wrote that the papal or council statements which made these natural law arguments were teaching infallibly the Church’s right to compel the baptized on doctrine. Oxford scholar John Finnis disagrees. (You read their exchange in this pricey, scholarly book.)

Strong Integralists need to to account for this: Five popes in a row, not one of whom read Vatican II as they did. (John Paul I died before saying much.) Neither Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, nor Francis has deviated from the teaching of Vatican II. Not one has asserted the supposed loophole giving the Church theocratic authority. No bishop of any diocese does today. In fact, Benedict XVI wouldn’t accept reunion with Lefebvre’s split-off bishops unless they conceded his reading of Vatican II, which defends religious freedom with no theocratic loophole.

How About an FDA for Religion?

Q: But aren’t you saving souls for all eternity by preventing people from teaching heresy? We don’t let drug companies sell medicines that are toxic, or even ineffective. If you won’t say that for religion, aren’t you saying it’s less important? Or at least implying that?

A: We have rational, objective tests for safety and efficacy of medicine. Since these questions of Revelation exceed the bounds of natural law, argument can’t resolve them. We solve them within the Church by deferring to authority. But that authority is precisely what Christian dissenters contest, either who it is (the pope?) or what it says (how to read the bible). Again, it’s a question, even from a strictly Catholic point of view, of whether God gave someone the Grace to believe our Faith. Or not. We don’t know, and have no right to use force against people in our ignorance.

If we agree with Vatican II that both Revelation and Natural Law demand religious freedom, then we see that stripping it from people is evil. We can’t do evil in order to accomplish good. If we were willing to do that, we might as well drown every child at his baptism. We’d be stuffing heaven with saints.

Nor is it clear, even from a Catholic perspective, that using force to turn sincere Protestants into insincere nominal Catholics is spiritually beneficial. Not to them, and not to us. We have long lists of martyr saints. Not so many inquisitors.

Q: But why do you insist on referring to Integralism as Catholic “sharia”?

A: Because the analogy is, alas, precise. In each case, you’ve got people claiming the religious authority to go beyond the dictates of reason. Based on their own beliefs, which they can’t prove to you rationally. Which even they don’t know if God has given you the Grace to accept. Proposing to make laws backed by the pistols and prisons of the State, enforcing beliefs you can only decide in the quiet of your conscience. And now, after Vatican II ruled out the State suppressing heresy, some want the Church to use force to do it. That theocratic collapse of the two swords into one is particularly Islamic.

Freedom Backfires. But So Does Tyranny.

Q: Doesn’t accepting the principles of Liberalism lead to secularism, and the abandonment of Natural Law?

A: Certainly that has happened in many places. But is it the fault of Liberalism? What happened in countries where Integralism held sway? The Spain of the Inquisition? The France of Louis XIV which took Protestant children away from their parents? Each one saw violent anti-Christian revolutions that ended in brutal civil wars. In each case, Catholic restorations gave way to anti-clerical governments. Secularists pointed to (and exaggerated) the abuses of the Integralists as weapons against all Christians. Poland never persecuted Protestants. Is it worse off today than Spain? Or better? As Protestant scholar Rodney Stark argues, the Church in Latin America didn’t really get around to catechizing the common people until spurred by Protestant competition. Now Catholic life there, while not a monopoly, is much more vibrant.

In a system where clergymen get special privileges and the Church wields undue power, power hungry people want to become priests and bishops. Ordinary people who end up in such roles are subject to great temptations, since power corrupts. Look at Ireland, where even though religious freedom reigned, priests, bishops, and religious were almost above the law. The abuses they inflicted on innocent children, the resentment they provoked with their privileges, led to this horrible backlash. Now abortion will be legal in only the Catholic part of Ireland. Just think about that.

Nor are modern Integralists exempt from such temptations. The Society of St. John was founded on Integralist principles. Its goal was to build “Catholic cities” that lived in separation from our failing secular culture. I won’t recount the sordid tale of how that order was dissolved after sex abuse complaints. Or how its partisans covered up for the guilty. You can go read it here if you have the stomach for it. But some of the worst people in that cover-up (take note of the names) were loud advocates of Integralism.

I’m not, of course, suggesting that advocates of Integralism support any such abuses. My point is that Integralism can’t escape fallen human nature, and, if anything, is more likely to cultivate some of the vices it supporters hope to avoid.

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  • Sarah Pierzchala

    Great, as ever! Mr. Zmirak, do you have an opinion on the justification of taking food assistance for large families, if those families are also homeschooling and saving the taxpayers on average 10,000.00 a year per child? I haven’t seen this angle addressed anywhere and wondered what you thought of it.

    • Zmirak

      You raise a good point, but MUCH better to address it via tuition tax credits than make Catholics dependent on the State, don’t you think?

      • Sarah Pierzchala

        I agree with that approach (as the one I described also tends to also foster a Sharia mindset)! Too bad homeschoolers were specifically targeted and penalized in the recent tax bill when the Dems rejected Sen.Cruz’s proposal for tuition savings accounts….

        • Zmirak

          I completely agree, and wrote about it at the time!

    • Ol Buck

      “…justification of taking food assistance for large families”

      What “justification” is necessary to allow…. children…. to eat? True enough that Paul said that those who refuse to work will not eat. But we’re not talking about that here.

      • Sarah Pierzchala

        The “Safety Net” of food assistance is a wonderful resource for families in difficult circumstances, not a long-term financial strategy. Ever see “Cinderella Man”?

        • Ol Buck

          You are not wrong about it not being a sound financial strategy. But if there were more redistributism and, above all, stronger family and community networks, perhaps there would be more risk-taking in our economy… and in the average American’s family life. That fertility rates are plummeting despite unemployment being at 3.8% is a sign of serious trouble in our society.

          That is one reason I find this line of attack on young families so bizarre and, frankly, both socially and economically counter-productive. These families are among the few that are raising new generations of Catholics. New generations of souls to, hopefully, evangelize the world and flood Heaven with citizens. And from a bottom-line perspective, new workers who will be holding up the safety nets of Social Security and Medicare for our rapidly aging nation.

          • Sarah Pierzchala

            I’m not attacking large families—on balance, there is far more that is wonderful and hopeful about this mindset than in the worldly, anti-life, me-first culture. But we needn’t have a reflexive, “it’s all good because it’s counter cultural” attitude and ignore the problems. I was raised and am raising 5 kids in this community. The children from these families grow up to have just as many problems/successes, strengths/weaknesses as kids from the main culture —and sometimes even reject the Church and the idea of having their own families based on their own chaotic or traumatic childhood experiences. So the “large, traditional Catholic families are saviors of society” argument is not without complications. Also, some of these kids think it’s perfectly ok to go on welfare (I’ve witnessed this), so they aren’t exactly contributing to the tax base… 🙂

          • Ol Buck

            Not you, but John seems to have quite the obsession over what amounts to like ten people that are on Twitter. And I’m guessing it’s because he’s had some unpleasant run-ins with them.

            I do think it is “perfectly OK” to be on assistance…if you need it! Obviously the goal is to not need it. No one in my circle fits what you or John have described, I must concede, but I’m not doubting your lived experience. I’m sure it’s out there. The world has all kinds.

            That said, no I don’t think large trad families are the savior of the world. There is but one savior. And we all deserve some criticism when we fall short of the kingdom. Traditionalist Catholics, young or old or in between (like me!) are no different from anyone else. I just find it really strange that Zimrak spills so much digital ink on the subject and places so much emphasis on the alleged refusal on the parts of these people to take blue collar jobs, when, once again, he *writes for a website for a living*

            Look, the only reason I’m debt-free and can support my family with my middle-class white collar job is because my parents were wealthy enough to pay for my college education and I got started debt free. Huge leg up over my peers, all of whom were told they HAD to go to college to get a good job… which meant they HAD to take out massive loans.

            To be frank, if I had the skills to be a craftsman or something, I’d absolutely do it. Those people get paid extremely well and contribute a heck of a lot to society. And with the number of churches that are un-doing their old “wreckovations” I’d have plenty of work.

          • Zmirak

            Thanks. I agree. Google my piece “The Shame of the Catholic Subculture” for more on that.

  • Ol Buck

    “We need to deal with that change, and perhaps prune back — as I’ve argued elsewhere — our notion of how far the Magisterium extends.”

    So I’m supposing you believe the Church’s teachings, for instance, on sexuality or female ordination is, likewise, up for grabs? Or is it just as it pertains about what you are supposed to do with your money… leaving aside, of course, Christ’s demand that we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the ill and imprisoned and, most of all, take in the stranger.

  • Chris Ferrara

    Every Pope who taught on the subject before 1962 held, based on reason itself, that the State has a duty to defend and protect the true religion revealed by God within the sphere of state competence. Even Vatican II, in Dignitatis humanae, continues to affirm “traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.”

    That means, in Catholic countries, restraining those who publicly attack the Catholic religion and thus undermine the common good, as well as both public and personal morality, endangering not only the temporal but the eternal welfare of souls. It is absurd to argue that the state has the right to restrain lies about consumer goods or the reputation of another but no right to restrain lies about Christ and His Gospel that have disastrous temporal and eternal consequences. As Pope Saint Pius X insisted in line with the constant teaching of the Church:

    “That the State must be separated from the Church *is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error.* Based, as it is, on the principle that the State must not recognize any religious cult, it is in the first place guilty of a great injustice to God; for the Creator of man is also the Founder of human societies, and preserves their existence as He preserves our own. We owe Him, therefore, not only a private cult, but a public and social worship to honor Him.

    “Besides, this thesis is an obvious negation of the supernatural order. It limits the action of the State to the pursuit of public prosperity during this life only, which is but the proximate object of political societies; and it occupies itself in no fashion (on the plea that this is foreign to it) with their ultimate object which is man’s eternal happiness after this short life shall have run its course.

    “But as the present order of things is temporary and subordinated to the conquest of man’s supreme and absolute welfare, it follows that the civil power must not only place no obstacle in the way of this conquest, *but must aid us in effecting it.* The same thesis also upsets the order providentially established by God in the world, which demands a harmonious agreement between the two societies.”

    This is not a matter of “forcing Protestants to be Catholics”–the straw man argument advanced by Locke and others–but rather of requiring Protestants living in Catholic countries to respect the religion of the people and the laws and institutions that arise from it. Indeed, Locke called for the non-toleration of Catholics by the State precisely in order to defend his notion of true religion against Catholic claims. The right principle of social organization, applied to the wrong religion (Locke’s “reasonable Christianity”).

    Vatican II did not, and could not, change the truth about the Christian constitution of the State and the moral duty of the state toward the true religion as affirmed even by the Council.

    Moreover, as I show in my book Liberty, the God that Failed, even a movement of evangelical Protestants during the Civil War epoch condemned the religious “neutrality” of the Republic, which is actually an anti-theology of the State, calling it the “original sin” of the Founding. This movement sought in vain to have the Preamble of the Constitution amended to recognize the revealed will of Christ to be the supreme law of the land, which of course it must be, as the Church’s traditional teaching maintains. The movement’s leaders warned that if the nation’s organic law did not recognize the Kingship of Christ, America would become a “Christless, godless blank.” A place where the majority declares that children may be murdered in the womb, the sale of contraception and pornography must be allowed, sacramental marriages can be negated by civil courts, and sodomy is a constitutional right everyone is forced to respect.

    A prophecy fulfilled, but also an eminently easy prediction, as Orestes Brownson observed in his landmark essay about how the Republic of the late 1800s was already on “the declivity to utter barbarism” because the Church was not the conscience or the soul (to allude to Leo XIII’s teaching) of the State.

    I am sad to see Zmirak parroting the tired old story that Lockean liberalism tells about itself. And this amidst the civilizational ruins the Protestant principle of private judgment, and Lockean liberalism as its political philosophy, have produced.

    • Ol Buck

      “I am sad to see Zmirak parroting the tired old story that Lockean liberalism tells about itself.”

      Sad, yes, but not surprising. Because the bottom line is the bottom line. That’s where it all begins and ends with this line of belief.

      “Mater Si, Magistra No” on one side over sex, and on the other side, money. The Faith something different altogether.

      • Craig Roberts

        It can only be the folly of hubris to actually believe that the Church is capable of providing a superior alternative to our messy systems of politics. Every time this has been tried in history it has been an unmitigated disaster. If the Church had it’s way we would still be ruled by the divine right of kings.

        It is the Church’s duty to provide a loyal opposition to the power of the state…not to collude with it.

        • Matt

          The Divine Right of Kings is neither Catholic doctrine nor theory. It is a Protestant abuse.

          • Craig Roberts

            Perhaps. The point is that the Church does not make politics better. It just makes the Church worse.

          • Matt

            Perhaps nothing. And if Christ’s Holy Church is only a detriment to the political life of man, then what good is it? How could the Truth of Christ poison our common life?

            The Church can become involved in political life in unhealthy ways, sure, but also in healthy ways.

          • Craig Roberts

            True. But I think this is what Christ meant when he said he came to divide people (Matthew 10:34). His law is above the laws of society. His freedom extends beyond the bounds of our civil, common life.

            “When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.” (John 6:15)

          • Matt

            And yet society should bow to His law. Christ refused to be crowned by people because they expected Him to be the King on their terms, sure, and it is true that His Kingdom, the Church, should not be a secular kingdom.

            Christ’s Kingdom is above secular kingdoms in that it rules over them and judges, not in that it ignores them.

          • Craig Roberts

            The genius of Jesus is that he puts everybody on the spot as individuals. He judges us for who we are, not what tribe we belong to. He knew that there was more to life than identity politics. That gives us the freedom to turn our backs to the world and thank Him for being Him and not for some temporal and temporary existence.

            Salvation was a collective endeavor until he blew everything up. If you weren’t a Levite there wasn’t much you could do besides pray, pay, and obey. Now everyone can play.

            “Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.” -John the Baptist (Matt 3:9…the other Matt.)

          • Chris Ferrara

            Caesar must render unto God no less than his subjects. Even more so, as rulers are especially accountable before Him.

          • Craig Roberts

            While I understand your objections in theory, I would ask that you consider what you propose by asking yourself a simple question: Would you want our current pontiff to be able to wield any sort of substantial political influence?

            I didn’t think so. Case closed.

          • Chris Ferrara

            The current Pope DOES wield substantial political influence–for the benefit of the secular state he is supposed to be opposing in its depredations against the Faith. And the world loves him for it.

            We need a Pope the world does not love. A Pope and a hierarchy who would rouse the sleeping giant of the Church into social action against the evils of the secular state could literally renew the face of the earth.

            Romano Amerio has rightly observed that “Faith in Providence thus proclaims the possibility that the world might rise and be healed by a metanoia which it cannot initiate but which it is capable of accepting once it is offered.”

          • Craig Roberts

            If the Church can’t find someone competent to sit in the chair of Peter, what makes you think it can contribute to finding worthy candidates for lower positions of power?

          • Matt

            Not hardly. The lesson to be learned there is not “Rulers shouldn’t rule”, but rather that incompetent rulers shouldn’t.

          • Bryan

            “The lesson to be learned there is not “Rulers shouldn’t rule”, but rather that incompetent rulers shouldn’t.”
            You will have these until Christ returns. In the meantime, you have to have a system of dealing with the good ones and the bad ones at the same time without compromising the rulers or the ruled. Since power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, you are more likely to have incompetent or, worse, outright evil, rulers than whatever your conception of “good” rulers is.

          • Matt

            And so? What would you suggest?

          • Bryan

            Mr. Zmirak’s position seems as good as any place to start.

          • Craig Roberts

            The same people saying that the pope is a dope are calling for the Church to be in charge of finding heads of state. Do see the disconnect? If the Church can’t find a worthy successor to the Chair of Saint Peter, what makes you think it could discern the qualities required for lower positions of power?

          • Matt

            Do you think that’s what we mean, that we want the pope to pick heads of state? Not at all. Catholic social teaching doesn’t envision the pope dealing that directly in politics.

          • Craig Roberts

            OK,my bad. Then what role would the Church play?

          • Matt

            Others can speak to this better than I can, but as I understand it Divine Law is to be the given in terms of a society’s laws. The pope is the authoritative teacher of Divine Law, so it would be the pope’s responsibility to guide nations in what principals must underlie their laws. And the nation would need to listen and obey, so long as the pope’s guidance was in harmony with Divine Law.

            The civil authorities would be responsible for determining how best to enact laws that conform to God’s Law within their own unique context. Safe freeway speed limits may vary depending on context, but the Divine Law “Thou Shalt Not Kill” will be the starting point for civil authorities in determining the law. Civil leaders could inherit their position, as with the monarchy, or they could be elected by the people. It’s up to the people of that country to decide how their leaders are selected, but in either case the rulers do not derive their authority from the consent of the governed, but rather from Christ. I am a little hazy on to what extent the pope has the authority to depose a wayward ruler, and how wayward he would have to be in order for it to be legitimate. I would welcome further insight. This is not my area of expertise.

          • Craig Roberts

            That’s great in theory, but all it takes is some enviro-whacko pope to declare that air conditioning kills poor people and the whole house of cards fall down. You’re thinking “Pfft…that’s ridiculous.” I would have thought the same thing before the reign of pope Francis!

          • Matt

            As i said, the pope has to be teaching in accord with Divine Law and not spouting his own opinions for it to be authentic teaching. I will leave it to you to decide the prudence of Pope Francis’s statements regarding air conditioning.

          • Craig Roberts

            If you want further insight just study the Protestant reformation. Some scholars, historians, and theologians would have you believe that it was all about doctrinal differences. But whatever doctrinal differences there may have been were used by kings and princes as a pretext to consolidate their power and wealth. Instead to sending taxes, treasure and troops to support Rome, many rulers decided to break ties under the cover of doctrinal differences.

            And when the Church tried to exert its influence it often backed the wrong side leading to disastrous results. For example, annulments were relatively common for royalty when unfortunate circumstances meant accommodations had to be made to insure that a ruler not be deposed. But if Rome decided that it would prefer a competing ruler to prevail it would withhold the annulment to deny the current king an heir. These are the types of political maneuverings that led to the English Reformation.

            It’s not pretty, the history of the Church’s forays into politics. But it serves as a cautionary tale for those that would grant the Church more say in the governing of nations.

          • Matt

            We wouldn’t abolish the presidency simply because presidents make errors, or fatherhood because dads are imperfect. Besides, your account is incredibly selective. The cooperation between altar and throne gave us the unprecedented peace and prosperity of Europe under Christendom. Failures can be expected in any endeavor, but the successes are glorious.

          • Craig Roberts

            Of course. It’s the ‘integralists’ that are calling democracy a failure. I’m saying that if you look at history they have no superior alternative.

          • There is a rational reason why the book, “The Thirteenth, the greatest of all centuries” received its title.

            Read it and quit Americanism

          • Richard Malcolm

            The integrist critique commonly offered right now is not that it is democracy that is a failure, but rather that liberal democracy has failed. Democracy did not come into being only during the Enlightenment.

          • Craig Roberts

            I’m all for going back to only allowing male landed gentry to vote. Seriously. I probably couldn’t even qualify as ‘gentry’ but wouldn’t care if I couldn’t vote.

          • Craig Roberts

            I’m not sure what type of ‘democracy’ they are espousing.

          • Richard Malcolm

            Well, recall that democracy as a form of government dates back (at least) to Classical Greece. Aristotle lists it as one of the basic types of government – concluding along the way that the ideal is a government which mixes types.

            What about liberalism? It’s not the same thing. Patrick Deneen defines it as government that “conceive[s] humans as rights-bearing individuals who could fashion and pursue for themselves their own version of the good life,” wherein “opportunities for liberty [are] best afforded by a limited government devoted to ‘securing rights,’ along with a free-market economic system that gave space for individual initiative and ambition.” Liberalism is a concept of the Enlightenment. The very idea of rights (in the sense of natural rights) is basically unknown until the 17th century in Europe.

            You can have a liberal state which is not terribly democratic (though generally most liberal states have claimed to be both), and you can also have illiberal states which can be partly or wholly democratic.

            For example: we can identify officially Catholic states pre-dating the Enlightenment – and thus liberalism – which employed democratic structures to varying degrees. The Roman Empire of Late Antiquity, certain Italian city states, medieval England (with first its Witanagemot and latter its Parliament), early modern Poiand, and Austria Hungary all employed democratic forms in varying ways (invariably in combination with monarchy and aristocracy) while still being illiberal states.

            As for male landed gentry – that’s basically what America and Britain (both admittedly liberal or proto liberal polities) had in the 18th and early 19th century, and it didn’t work out too badly for them – but those were still governments which were partially democratic in nature. It’s just that the democracy, to the extent it was part of the political regime, was based on a highly selective suffrage.

          • Matt

            I myself wouldn’t go so far as to call representative democracy a failure, although it tends to absolutize the will of the people, which is both wrong and structurally unsound. Look at the damnable abortion ban repeal in Ireland, for example.

            If we say that the medium is the message, then the very idea of popular vote seems to contain within it the message that the majority actually determines what is right or wrong.

            On the other hand, systems that rely on the leadership of some individuals (elected or not) I think do better at reminding those with authority that their authority is held in trust and given to them from God. These authorities have the responsibility of determining how timeless truths should be embodied in the civil law of their own society. Human societies which were created by God, the Church and the family, rely on hierarchies, and I think man-created societies should do likewise.

          • Matt

            Agreed. The doctrine of the Social Kingship of Christ is entirely self-evident if we accept the premise “Christ is real”.

            If Christ is real then He is the King. If Christ is King, then He is King of everything. If he is King of everything, then everything owes Him obedience. Seperating the state from Christ is completely illogical.

          • Chris Ferrara

            Which was the constant teaching of the Church before the current confusion.

          • Andrew Mason

            Except it is a doctrine from Catholic France not a Protestant one.

          • Matt

            Not true. Louis XIV certainly embraced the idea, but that doesn’t make it a Catholic doctrine any more than it makes Louis the gold standard of Catholic monarchs. The theory of the Divine Right of Kings emerged from the Protestant Reformation.

  • Ineverleavecomments

    Looking forward to the book length breakdown of this new cluster#%^ … but I need a Venn diagram to keep the jihad welfare integralists vs. the sharia Catholic integralists straight in my mind (there seem to be at least two groups here, pro and con-crony socialism). That’s another topic.

    Glad you have started using the term progressive when you might have otherwise said illiberal…because “liberal” as short for “classical liberal” IS INCREDIBLY CONFUSING because liberal usually means progressive except when it doesn’t.

    Finally, I think the “welfare jihadi”/Muslim analogy for integralists Catholics has a lot more mileage than it appears, at first glance. I have never understood why Catholics who went to Catholic colleges think they are too good for basic, low level natural law arguments on different social or economic topics-(why do I need reason if I have CST to do my thinking for me!) … and this calls to mind a person whose God is not subject to reason.

    Write more stuff about this!
    As I’ve said before, in the future, middle school kids will have to write easy, 5-paragraph essays about this yet unnamed Catholic heresy having to do with natural law and the American founding (I think American integralists are totally different from the European ones) and they will be the only people to care about this (and once the homework is turned in they will get to stop caring and move on with their lives). I think this q &a style really helps the fifth grader of the future write their heresy essay.

    • Ol Buck

      “I think this q &a style really helps the fifth grader of the future write their heresy essay.”

      Yes, it really lays bare the heresy of Americanism that John expresses.

  • Craig Roberts

    Very interesting. Thank you. Perhaps the best thing the Church can do is simply oppose the abuse of power. History has shown that the Church cannot collude with the state without becoming a part of the problem.

  • Kathy

    Just a lighthearted observation I made when chuckling at the book cover of the nuns frolicking in the water…their habits look very similar to burkas. Very fitting considering the article.

  • But why do you insist on referring to Integralism as Catholic “sharia”?

    Because Dr. Z. is an Americanist whereas the great Father Fenton described integralism as true Catholicism.

    One can be a Catholic Integralist or a proponent of the American heresy.

    O, and the Founding Fathers of America were Masons and Deists, not Christian

  • But to say that “due limits” would let us go back to outlawing Protestant churches (as Franco did, citing previous Church teaching)….

    The first Proddy Church allowed to be built in Rome was in 1872 (I didn’t realise Franco was so old)

    De. Z. is always a fun read but his polemics are often bereft of historical facts when they are not disingenuous. He knows better and some of us know he knows better,

    Many of his complaints were anticipated and rejected by the great Pope Leo XIII who taught – and it is still Catholic Doctrine – that Staes MUST offer public worship to God and defend the one True Religion which, he pointed out, ain’t too hard to identify.

    As far as Dr. Z’s appeals to Vatican Two for authority it was merely a pastoral council that is not binding because it taught no binding doctrine

    • Chris Ferrara

      Zmirak is a bit of a bungler on historical facts. For example, he speaks of an “Anglo-American” tradition of Lockean liberalism apparently without realizing that Locke had to write the Two Treatises anonymously for fear of consequences, that he fled to Holland under suspicion of high treason, that Hobbes’s Leviathan was banned, and that Locke’s own works were burned at Oxford.

      The co-founders of political liberalism were both widely viewed as subversives by their English contemporaries, and both Hobbes and Locke were outed as dangerous foes of orthodox Christianity. Locke’s attack on Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics is ultimately an attack on reality itself–a rank nominalism shrouded in studied ambiguity. Locke is “the confused man’s Hobbes.” No wonder Voltaire hailed Locke incessantly.

      By the way, Franco did not “ban Protestant churches.” They were allowed to exist so long as they were not constructed with overtly ecclesial facades and there was no proselytization of Catholics.

      Having read this article and the prior one Zmirak links to, I note a pronounced confusion of categories. Several of the positions he includes in his grab bag of “integralist” ideas are actually rejected by traditionalists. Open borders, for example, which is a Modernist desideratum relentlessly promoted by Francis. Also the welfare state. His claim that there exists a large group of integralist welfare mothers is simple calumny.

      Zmirak now claims he merely argued in the prior piece that only “some”
      grads of small Catholic colleges fit within his conspicuously ad hoc definition of “integralism.” No such limitation appears in the article, however. Quite the contrary, he expatiates with reckless abandon against “the danger of Catholics falling into mindless tribalism,” “too many Christians [who] today reject America itself as a side-effect of ‘liberalism’,” the “pig in a poke young people are buying when they embrace ‘illiberalism’ or ‘integralism'” and “the brave new anti-American, ‘integralist’ Catholic.”

      All in all, a rather cheap and shallow polemic from someone of such obvious talent.

      • I just bought your book “Liberty, the God that failed” and I imagine your response here is but a teeny shadow of the substance to be found in your book.

        Keep up your great work, Sir.

      • J.Z. promotes a heresy that was condemned in the Syllabus of Errors- the separation of Church and State.

        That is the same position of Barry Lynn of the AU – Americans United for the separation of church and state.

        To be fair to Mr. Lynn, he is a protestant and can be expected to imbibe and regurgitate error.

        As for J.Z. he is the Barry Lynn of the Americanist Catholic.

        O, and he is shorter and balder than Mr. Lynn

  • The comments here are so encouraging! American secularism has clearly run its course and ended exactly where traditional Catholicism predicted, paralyzed and prostituted, as has protestantism if measured by church attendance. Our best course forward is to restore the Church by abrogating Vatican II and then evangelizing with courage and energy, joining and supporting the beginning efforts of Hungary and Poland, and I am given to understand Austria, and perhaps Italy may be beginning to wake, although the battle against Liberalism will be heavy cross lifting indeed if Ireland is the most current measure. What a third party we could build here, though, on these ruins! Our people still believe in God, perhaps the last in the West, if the recent Pew poll is an indication. We could offer the Faith and arable land–South Korea has a land program with tech help and infrastructure and gave away ten thousand acres two years ago.

    One looks for SSPX every day to ride over the horizon leading the absolutely necessary fight against the Council, but no, they seem happy functioning as a rather tardy news aggregator. If only they could shake off their neo-con Resistance!

    We must not give up hope. But we must focus our efforts and widen our pro-life efforts to include broader political demands.

    • Ol Buck

      There’s no need to abrogate Vatican II, if that were even possible. Dignitas Humanae is not a stumbling block. Integralism does not demand a Catholic monarchy or even a republican form of government within a confessional state. It merely demands that we orient ALL of our politics toward the truth as taught by the Church. There’s no reason to restrict the free exercise of religion of others. We’ve always been stridently against forced baptism/conversion.

      But perhaps there are ways to make an alliance of sorts out there. Maybe, for instance, pushing for limited commerce on Sundays and frame it as both a spiritual issue but also one that supports, for instance, retail and service workers. It’s ridiculous to me that I can have all of my weekends, but the average Joe who works at the grocery or big box store is working for $12 an hour on Sunday morning…

  • Ed

    The essential problem is that Liberalism doesn’t in fact do what it says on the tin. Liberal systems claim to be neutral and to hold out no idea of the “good life”, leaving people to pursue the good as they see it, but in practice a government simply can’t function without assuming some kind of shared understanding of the good life among its subjects, and a general consensus about what is beyond the pale. If half the population enjoyed having their houses flooded every six months then the government would struggle to justify spending money on flood defences.

    People in the West increasingly think that individualistic hedonism provides the good life, and that public policy should enable their pursuit of it. Our governments may not explicitly endorse such a view, but they take it as their starting point. Any governmental attempt to limit individualism in the interests of, say, family stability ends up being expressed in hedonistic terms (“married men earn more”, “divorce is bad for children’s mental health” etc.), because those are the terms in which most people think.

    This means in practice that “liberal” or “neutral” governments end up pursuing that particular idea of the good, often quite
    single-mindedly, without really being aware that they’re doing so.

    The lesson for us is that we shouldn’t shy away from presenting an alternative idea of the good life and then saying that government should help us achieve it. It’s obviously too much to expect a specifically Catholic vision of the good to
    triumph in current conditions, but if a general consensus could be formed among religious believers, who then acted in a joined-up way politically, I think civilised life could be maintained.

    If nothing else, it might help our opponents to realise they are not as neutral as they like to think they are, and reaxmine their assumptions.

  • James

    I don’t often agree with you, especially on issues of immigration, but you are absolutely right here.

    That being said, I don’t think you or your fellow contributors have fully grasped the flaws of integralism or how it has historically led to an anti-clerical backlash.

    Although claiming their positions are based on reason, many conservative Christians have put a certain understanding of the Natural Law at practically the same level as Divine Revelation, creating a de facto “Christian Sharia”.

    For example, claiming that opposition to contraception is a matter of reason, not doctrine, when, in reality, only a small number of Catholics share this understanding. When people are unconvinced of the “reasonableness” of this position, apologists frequently turn to bad logic, such as consequentialism, or pure theological arguments, such as the fallen nature of man, as to why people are unconvinced. Another example is how Christians have fought same-sex marriage tooth and nail, while quietly accepting divorce. That most Christian leaders (and most people in-general) are far more likely to struggle with keeping their marriages together than to struggle with same-sex attraction makes this choice of battles seem awfully self-serving.

    Given this reaction, it should not be surprising when people conclude that “Natural Law” is a mere smokescreen for theocratic priorities and that Christians are not really interested in having any sort of “reasonable” discussion. If reason is no longer a basis for law, then all that is left is power.

    The backlash is coming and the demographic trends show that it is inevitable. An entire generation sees the American church as no more than a power-hungry political faction and will treat it accordingly.

    • Richard Malcolm

      An entire generation sees the American church as no more than a power-hungry political faction and will treat it accordingly.

      With rare exceptions they’re certainly not an edifying bench of bishops. But they’re also about as far removed from integrist traditionalists as it’s possible to be. Mostly, they’re conventional American liberals.

      • Ol Buck

        Specifically, right liberals and left liberals.

        Even those that I think are pretty good, such as Chaput or Tobin (not the NJ one!), are merely right liberals. They’re not integralists at all.

        Maybe the closest to come to truly understanding and defending every aspect of the “seamless garment” is Gomez.

        • Richard Malcolm

          Specifically, right liberals and left liberals.

          And Michael Novak, Richard John Neuhaus, and George Weigel were both at different points!

  • Richard Malcolm

    Even if we credit that Dignitatis Humanae and post-conciliar papal pronouncements concretely disavowed the stances in question (a point I am not willing to concede), the difficulty with the position, adopted not just by you but also Fr Martin Rhonheimer (and come to that, a broad spectrum of both conservative and liberal Catholics in America post-1965), that pre-conciliar teachings on Church and State were merely reformable and contingent, is that Tridentine popes pretty consistently used language indicating that *they* did *not* see these teachings as reformable. If Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, and Pius XI could be so far off base in pronouncing on this subject as to (erroneously) suggest that the reformable is irreformable, how does this not open up every other teaching they promulgated to grave question as well?

    • Zmirak

      I am willing to subject every teaching in what is by many considered the Ordinary Magisterium to two tests: 1) Apostolicity and 2) Consistency throughout the centuries. Indeed, I think those ARE the classical tests. Unless you’re saying those teachings were ex cathedra which I have NEVER seen asserted in any pre-Conciliar authority. As far as I can see these were fallible explanations of natural law, subject to correction.

      • Richard Malcolm

        I think I’m clear on your tests (though see my post above for my concern about them). But I feel my question remains unanswered, Dr. Z. How does the Magisterium of the Church provide us a way to differentiate between reformable and irreformable teachings of the pre-conciliar period when pope after pope spoke emphatically as if none were reformable?

        To put it more colorfully, I fear we’re left to say this: “Yes, Gregory XVI and Pius XI threw around anathemas like pancetta, but only pay attention to the ones involving justification and the reliability of Scripture and ignore all the ones on religious liberty and property rights of the Church.”

        It raises a fundamental question of the witness of the Church’s teaching authority. We’re asked to believe that Tridentine and Medieval Popes could err not only on the substance of their teachings in these areas, but also err in their belief, backed up with anathemas, that these teachings were not reformable in the way Murray, Rhonheimer, Zmirak, Rahner et al now say they are.

    • That meaning of sacred dogmas…must always be maintained which Holy Mother Church declared once and for all, nor should one ever depart from that meaning under the guise of or in the name of a more advanced understanding

      is SO Vatican 1 infallible yuckiness

      So what if several of those encyclicals taught that if one taught contrary to them they’d be automatically excommunicated?

      But we ARE supposed to be obedient to the pastoral council Vatican two which destroyed Catholic Doctrine in D.H.

    • From “War Against Being” Blog

      Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger has been the Prefect for the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith since 1982. He is considered by most to be the second most important man in the Vatican. He is also considered to be the bastion of orthodoxy and traditional Catholicism among the hierarchy.

      The year 1982 also saw the publication of Cardinal Ratzinger’s book Principles of Catholic Theology. The book contains an Epilogue On the Status of Church and Theology Today. Part B is titled Church and World: An Inquiry into the Reception of Vatican Council II. The text focuses primarily on the Vatican II document the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” (Gaudium et Spes), which the Cardinal calls “a kind of summa of Christian anthropology.” The following is of immediate interest to our subject:

      “If it is desirable to offer a diagnosis of the text (Gaudium et Spes) as a whole, we might say that (in conjunction with the texts on religious liberty and world religions) it is a revision of the Syllabus of Pius IX, a kind of countersyllabus. Harnack, as we know, interpreted the Syllabus of Pius IX as nothing less than a declaration of war against his generation. This is correct insofar as the Syllabus established a line of demarcation against the determining forces of the nineteenth century: against the scientific and political world view of liberalism. In the struggle against modernism this twofold delimitation was ratified and strengthened. Since then many things have changed. The new ecclesiastical policy of Pius XI produced a certain openness toward a liberal understanding of the state. In a quiet but persistent struggle, exegesis and Church history adopted more and more the postulates of liberal science, and liberalism, too, was obliged to undergo many significant changes in the great political upheavals of the twentieth century. As a result, the one-sidedness of the position adopted by the Church under Pius IX and Pius X in response to the situation created by the new phase of history inaugurated by the French Revolution was, to a large extent, corrected via facti, especially in Central Europe, but there was still no basic statement of the relationship that should exist between the Church and the world that had come into existence after 1789. In fact, an attitude that was largely pre-Revolutionary continued to exist in countries with strong Catholic majorities. Hardly anyone today will deny that the Spanish and Italian Concordats strove to preserve too much of a view of the world that no longer corresponded to the facts. Hardly anyone today will deny that, in the field of education and with respect to the historico-critical method in modern science, anachronisms existed that corresponded closely to this adherence to an obsolete Church-state relationship…..

      Let us be content to say here that the text serves as a countersyllabus and, as such, represents, on the part of the Church, an attempt at an official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789.”

      These words of Cardinal Ratzinger are absolutely astounding. Cardinal Ratzinger places himself and Gaudium et Spes in direct contradiction – countersyllabus – to the central teachings of Blessed Pius IX and St. Pius X. This, however, is a gross understatement. He actually places himself and this non-doctrinal document in direct opposition to the absolutely consistent teaching of at least nine Popes in dozens of documents covering a period of almost 175 years. Further, his statement that there was a new “ecclesiastical policy” under Pope Pius XI which somehow foreshadowed the “countersyllabus” teaching of Cardinal Ratzinger and Gaudium et Spes is simply false. In order to thoroughly dispel this error, I quote again the following words from Pius XI’s encyclical on The Kingship of Christ:

      “He, however would be guilty of shameful error who would deny to Christ as man authority over civil affairs, no matter what their nature, since by virtue of the absolute dominion over all creatures He holds from the Father, all things are in His power…. “His (Christ’s) empire manifestly includes not only Catholic nations, not only those who were baptized, and of right belong to the Church, though error of doctrine leads them astray or schism severs them from her fold; but it includes also all those who are outside the Christian faith, so that truly the human race, in its entirety is subject to the power of Jesus Christ.’ Nor in this connection is there any difference between individuals and communities whether family or State, for community aggregates are just as much under the dominion of Christ as individuals. The same Christ assuredly is the source of the individual’s salvation and of the community’s salvation: Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.”

      Cardinal Ratzinger cannot have directly contradicted all these magisterial documents of so many Popes without at the same time attacking the integrity and sanctity of the Magisterium. On May 24, 1990 Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published an Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian. The Cardinal also presented to the press a fairly long statement regarding the structure and purpose of the document. This statement was also published in Part III of his book The Nature and Mission of Theology. It contains the following passage:

      “The text also presents the various forms of binding authority which correspond to the grades of the Magisterium. It states – perhaps for the first time – that there are magisterial decisions which cannot be the final word on a given matter as such but, despite the permanent value of their principles, are chiefly also a signal for pastoral prudence, a sort of provisional policy. Their kernel remains valid, but the particulars determined by circumstances can stand in need of correction. In this connection, one will probably call to mind both the pontifical statements of the last century regarding freedom of religion and the anti-Modernists decisions of the beginning of this century, especially the decisions of the then Biblical Commission.”

      Can any of us imagine telling Popes Pius VI, Pius VII, Leo XII, Pius VIII, Gregory XVI, Blessed Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, or Pius XI (or any of the other almost innumerable Popes who taught against religious indifferentism) that their condemnations and teachings were provisional and in need of correction?

      Pope St. Gelasius (492-496), in his epistle Licet Inter Vari pens the following instruction, profoundly applicable in the case of Cardinal Ratzinger;

      “What pray permits us to abrogate what has been condemned by the venerable Fathers, and to reconsider the impious dogmas that have been demolished by them? Why is it, therefore, that we take such great precautions lest any dangerous heresy, once driven out, strive anew to come up for examination, if we argue that what has been known, discussed, and refuted of old by our elders ought to be restored? Are we not ourselves offering, which God forbid, to all the enemies of the truth an example of rising again against ourselves, which the Church will never permit….Or are we wiser than they, or shall we be able to stand constant with firm stability, if we should undermine those [dogmas] which have been established by them?” (Denzinger, 161)

      It might be argued that what was taught by these Popes does not involve dogma. Is it not dogma that God is Supreme Being, that we are created by Him out of nothing, and that He has the absolute right to supreme Sovereignty and Dominion over every human individual and institution? Is it not dogma that Jesus Christ established only one true Church, that there is only One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, and that outside the Church there is no salvation – this despite the fact that no one will be condemned “who has not the guilt of deliberate sin” (Pius IX – Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, Denzinger, 1677)? Is it not dogma that just as Christ possesses Universal Sovereignty over all individuals, He also possesses this same Sovereignty over all nations; and that a nation will be blessed or cursed accordingly as it accepts this Sovereignty and God’s plan for divine order in this world? Is it not absolutely integral to Catholic dogma, therefore, that there is no such legitimate thing as “separation of Church and State”? Is it not absolutely integral to Catholic dogma, therefore, that there is no such thing as a “right” to religious error or a “right” to claim existence as a legitimate Christian religion or world religion outside of the Catholic Church?

      The Oath Against The Errors Of Modernism began as follows:

      “I ………….firmly embrace and accept all and everything that has been defined, affirmed, and declared by the unerring magisterium of the Church, especially those chief doctrines which are directly opposed to the errors of this time.” Further on: “I also subject myself with the reverence which is proper, and I adhere with my whole soul to all the condemnations, declarations, and prescriptions which are contained in the Encyclical letter “ Pascendi” and in the Decree “Lamentabili”…..”

      Pope St. Pius X designates the magisterium as “unerring”, and includes in this unerring magisterium the condemnations, declarations, and prescriptions of both Pius X’s Syllabus and his encyclical Pascendi (On the Doctrines of the Modernists). Cardinal Ratzinger, on the other hand, states that probably for the first time in Church history we can now accept that there is a part of the magisterium which is infallible and permanent, and there is another part that is fallible, and can be seen as provisional and superseded . The Cardinal further states that among these provisional and superseded teachings are the very ones which Pope Pius X declares to be part of the “unerring” magisterium . If Cardinal Ratzinger’s statements are to be considered in any way the mind of the Church, may we not say with Pope St. Gelasius : “Are we not ourselves offering, which God forbid, to all the enemies of the truth an example of rising again against ourselves, which the Church will never permit?” Are we not, in fact, denying the very Being of God by denying the Being and Nature of the Church which He founded?

      Further, Pius X, in his Motu Proprio Praestantia Scripturae, issued Nov 18, 1907, declared ipso facto excommunication upon any who would contradict or “endeavor to destroy the force and the efficacy” of these documents:

      “In addition to this, intending to repress the daily increasing boldness of spirit of many Modernists, who by sophisms and artifices of every kind endeavor to destroy the force and the efficacy not only of the Decree, “Lamentabili sane exitu,” which was published at Our command by the Sacred Roman and Universal Inquisition on the third of July of the current year, but also of Our Encyclical Letter “Pascendi Dominici gregis,” given on the eighth of September of this same year by Our Apostolic authority, We repeat and confirm not only that Decree of the Sacred Supreme congregation, but also that Encyclical Letter of Ours, adding the penalty of excommunication against all who contradict them; and We declare and decree this: if anyone, which may God forbid, proceeds to such a point of boldness that he defends any of the propositions, opinions, and doctrines disproved in either document mentioned above, he is ipso facto afflicted by the censure imposed in the chapter Docentes of the Constitution Apostolicae Sedis of the Apostolic See, first among those excommunications latae sententiae which are reserved simply to the Roman Pontiff. This excommunication, however, is to be understood with no change in the punishments, which those who have committed anything against the above mentioned documents may incur, if at anytime their propositions, opinions, or doctrines are heretical; which indeed has happened more than once in the case of the adversaries of both these documents, but especially when they defend the errors of modernism, that is, the refuge of all heresies.”

      We have two choices. We may believe Pope St. Pius X, the only Pope to be canonized since the 16th century, who largely dedicated his Papacy to the extirpation of these errors from the Catholic Church. Or we may believe Cardinal Ratzinger who says that the teachings and condemnations of this Pope have been superseded, thus falling into the category of those who “endeavor to destroy the force and efficacy” of these documents and their teachings and decrees. According to the decree of Pope Pius X, of course, Cardinal Ratzinger would be in a state of automatic excommunication. Whether or not this decree has been abrogated certainly lies outside my competence to judge. The fact, however, remains: Cardinal Ratzinger’s statements are clearly anti-magisterial to a massive degree.

      • Richard Malcolm

        Hi Joe,

        I don’t disagree that Ratzinger’s comments here are problematic.

        Fortunately, they are not magisterial, having been uttered as a private theologian; but even so, it’s something I really would like to have seen him tease out and clarify. What did he really mean by “countersyllabus?” If he thought these doctrines of Pius IX really were reformable, what was his basis for thinking so – and what are we to make of the fact that Pius pretty obviously seemed to say they were not, given that he expressed them with the classic formulation of anathemas that have been the traditional markers of announcing a formal teaching?

        Likewise, what did he really mean by “an attempt at an official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789?” Are we really just talking about a temporary, pragmatic accommodation with a new political situation where confessional states are simply impossible in these countries under president circumstances? Or is the reconciliation in the form of new doctrine?

        Ratzinger to my knowledge has never clarified these issues. But then, you will also notice that he never directly answered the dubia on religious liberty submitted by Archbishop Lefebvre to the CDF in 1986, either.

  • BXVI

    I think some serious thought needs to be given to what becomes of the Social Magisterium – from Rerum Novarum to Laudato Si – if we declare “integralism” in all forms off limits. To the extent the Church’s Social Magisterium is not based exclusively on natural law, but rather on revelation, the implication is that it must all be set aside by Catholics when they enter the public square because otherwise they would be attempting to impose “Catholic Sharia” (as you imply) on nonbelievers.

    • Zmirak

      The “social Magisterium” either extends back to AD 33 or it’s a myth. No new Magisterium descended from heaven in 1870. Google my “Myth of Catholic Social Teaching” for my argument on why “social Magisterium” is just a bad analogy, nothing more. Catholic social teaching is like Catholic architecture or literature, not like Catholic doctrine.

      • BXVI

        So what is your position? Must Catholics ignore the Social Teaching of the Church (“so-called”) when they step into the public square in order to avoid being integralists attempting to impose “Catholic Sharia” on non-believers? Must all Catholics justify their public policy positions exclusIvely on natural law? Or not? Which is it?

        • Zmirak

          Yes, and yes.

      • Richard Malcolm

        I’m still left with the question of where the Magisterium has expressly formalized this Apostolicity test for its doctrines.

        And think about how many non-CST doctrines would face a bumpy road with such a test. You can find kernels, mostly, of Tridentine-era dogmas and doctrines on justification, the sacraments, orders, papal infallibility, and the Marian dogmas, but some of these are a hard push given the paucity of documentation we have from the First Century.

      • Chris Ferrara

        “The “social Magisterium” either extends back to AD 33 or it’s a myth. ”

        You’ve just eliminated practically the entire development of Catholic doctrine and dogma over centuries of papal and conciliar teaching. Your starting point of 33 AD for authentic doctrine is ridiculous. How about 431 at the Council of Ephesus? Too late in the game for you?

        The 19th century social encyclicals apply fundamental and unchanging moral principles to emerging circumstances in a post-Christian social order. The Syllabus of Errors applies the same moral principles to new and disastrous forms of polity and political ethics that had never existed before.

        You might as well argue that the condemnation of the Pill is a myth because we never heard of such teaching before Pius XI.

        It is absurd to pronounce a “myth” a vast body of teaching the Popes have insisted is binding in conscience.

      • DamianD

        “the Church’s social doctrine has the same dignity and authority as her moral teaching. It is authentic Magisterium, which obligates the faithful to adhere to it”
        -Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2037

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