Yves Simon’s Correspondence with Charles de Koninck and Jacques Maritain on the Common Good

My last post reminded me of a correspondence between Yves Simon and both de Koninck and Maritain on the common good that my father translated some years ago. So I got permission from my father to post it at The Charles De Koninck Project. It’s a fascinating correspondence, and gives a lot of details about the controversy over de Koninck’s book. Consider, for example, this description of a party at Simon’s house in South Bend:

After the lecture there was a party at my house. I had told W[aldemar Gurian] to open fire. He didn’t delay. Hardly had De Koninck sat down when he got the fatal question right in the solar plexus: Who are these personalists? De K[oninck] hesitated visibly and showed a little less Belgian good nature and a little more reserve. He mentioned a Californian review (do you remember, The Personalist, which Mounier discovered four or five years after launching Esprit); Adler and Farrel; Garrigou-Lagrange (with insistence), Fr. Schwalm, the author of lessons in social philosophy. As for Esprit—he did not know it; Maritain—he did not know him. When we insisted that the whole world believed Primacy of the Common Good was directed against you, he asked if the ideas of Maritain are such that one could recognize them in the personalism he described: the common good as mere instrument, etc. We insisted that many readers have the impression that you shared these idiocies. In private conversation I told De K[oninck] twice that, whatever his intentions may have been his book was being exploited “as an instrument of defamation,” that I would not want to have this on my conscience, and that he should publish an article or a note to put an end to this. His objection: “But then I would have to read Maritain! I don’t have the time.” Gurian could not believe that he has not read you. As for me, I believe it readily.

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10 thoughts on “Yves Simon’s Correspondence with Charles de Koninck and Jacques Maritain on the Common Good

  1. Also, do you have any information on the “forthcoming” book on the common good? As in when it will publish and who will publish it? I’d be very interested in reading/reviewing it.

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  2. I, for possibly contingent reasons, have read quite a bit of Maritain, and have absorbed his anti-integrist thinking. For me integrism is not, thus, a nice sounding word. But that is neither here nor there. It is like Father Waldstein telling us, in an as yet incompletd piece, that he thinks Islam is an ugly religion and at the same time that he doesn’t feel himself called overcome his essential ignorance about that same religion. It may be that these are truly his sentiments regarding Islam. It is just that I don’t feel that he is helping anyone by making them public. It is like telling the world that one thinks about one’s personal conviction that oriental people look funny. Are we to be integrists then or not? Or are we just talking about a question of style, and about pleasing those whom you happen to hang out with? Pope Francis has told us that the confessional state is to be avoided as an evil, that the time of the confessional state has passed, and thank God. This seems to reflect the ideas of Maritain regarding democracy and human rights before the fact of a factually pluralist world. I feel that Maritain and Pope Francis are on the right track. The discourse of St. John Paul II about human rights and the dignity of the person also seems to take much from Maritain. So, integrists, help me out. What exactly is this integrism that you defend? I understand your idea this way: that integrism means that the state/polis must serve the common good, which at the deepest level is the final end of man, eternal salvation. That the state will finally have to be measured by that standard. And thus the confessional state should always be regarded as the ideal. and can never be rejected as such. Maritain would say, I believe, that such ideas confuse the political and the ecclesial, and represent theocratic conceptions which have never been authentically Christian. it is obviously true that the state ought to serve the common good; the problem lies in what understands by “must” and how one will defend the sanctuary of conscience, democracy and religious freedom. If one looks at the recent documents of Papal Magisterium regarding the social doctrine of the Church, they seem to represent a position very far from integrism. Have they endorsed Maritain’s positions? In one way they have not: these documents are increasingly Evangelical in their tone and their motivations. They do not sing the praises of the Secular State. They give us an Evangelical vision of social existence. He who would be the greatest among you must be the servant of all. This seems to be the right way forward.

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    • Perhaps because my conscience is bothering me and because I am chaotic, I sometimes go back to read my comments and in this case I have noticed an error. The unfinished essay “Islamophiliosis” to which I referred, was hastily “read” and drastically misread. My apologies for what I implied in refering to it. The non-rigorist and decent attitude toward Islam expressed in that article does not harmonize with my conception of “integralism” but perhaps it does harmonize with Father Edmund’s conception. I still do not think that I grasp entirely that conception of his. It is not clear in my mind.

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        • As to what integrism is, you are right that it means that “the state/polis must serve the common good.” But this is in fact deeply rooted in Evangelical teaching. In Luke 22 we read:

          «And he said to them: When I sent you forth without purse or bag or shoes, surely you did not lack for any­thing? They said: Nothing. But he said to them: But now, let him who has a purse, take it; let him who has a bag, likewise; let him who has no sword sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you, this that has been written must be fulfilled in me: He was even counted among the outlaws. For what is said about me comes to fulfillment. They said: Lord, here are two swords. But he said to them: It is enough.»

          St. Bernard of Clairvaux, commenting on this passage writes:

          «Wherefore should thou try again to wield that sword which thou wert commanded of old to replace in its scabbard? Nevertheless, he who would deny that the sword belongs to thee, has not, as I conceive sufficiently weighed the words of the Lord, where He said, speaking to Peter, ‘put up thy sword into the scabbard’. For it is here plainly implied that even the material sword is thine, to be drawn at thy bidding, though not by thy hand. Besides, unless this sword also appertained to thee in some sense, when the disciples said to Christ, ‘Lord, behold here are two swords’, He would never have answered as He did, ‘it is enough’, but rather, ‘it is too much.’ We can therefore conclude that both swords, namely the spiritual and the material, belong to the Church, and that although only the former is to be wielded by her own hand, the two are to be employed in her service. It is for the priest to use the sword of the word, but to strike with the sword of steel belongs to the soldier, yet this must be by the authority and will of the priest and the direct command of the emperor, as I have said elsewhere.»

          And his interpretation was confirmed by the solemn, ex cathedra teaching of Pope Boniface VIII in Unam Sanctam.

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