In an intelligent piece on six different Christian responses to political liberalism, Jake Meador, the energetic editor of Mere Orthodoxy, vice-president of The Davenant Trust, proper football blogger, and old-fashioned Magisterial Protestant, gives serious attention to Catholic Integralism. He also features Catholic Integralism in an amusing quiz: What Political Theology Are You?
It pleases me that the term “Integralism” has caught on a little in the blogosphere in recent years. The term had fallen somewhat out of use after Vatican II in languages other than French, but its German equivalent was used in an essay of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s, from which David Schindler adopted the English form for his classification of different Catholic responses to political liberalism in Heart of the World, Center of the Church. Balthasar and Schindler had used the term in a pejorative sense, but I adopted it with commendatory sense first in an obituary on Ronald McArthur and then in a long essay in defense of the idea. I have unfolded the idea of Catholic Integralism further with other writers over at The Josias.
One reason that serious, Magisterial Protestants like Meador are glad to see work being done on Catholic Integralism is that they agree with much of the Integralist critique of liberalism. But another reason, I think, is that Protestant political theology was largely developed in polemical Abgrenzung to the Catholic Integralist tradition. Thus, having Catholic Integralist to whom they can point helps them expound their own position.
Predictably, Meador agrees with one of the standard objections that has always been brought against Integralism. Namely, that it does not preserve the distinction between spiritual and temporal power; that it does not render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Integralism, so the objection has gone for centuries, pays lip-service to the dyarchy of powers, but really it is monarchical, striving for a universal monarchy of the Pope over all other powers. JA Feil at The Josias and P.J. Smith at Semiduplex have both posted responses to Meador, defending Integralism against that objection. They both argue that Integralism does really preserve the distinction of the two powers. The temporal end is indeed subordinate to the spiritual end, but the Integralist tradition, even in its strongest formulation by Pope Boniface VIII, never took this to mean that the temporal power is subordinate to the spiritual power the way a lesser officer is subordinate to the general in an army. There is nothing that a lesser officer does that is outside the authority of the general. But Integralists have always accepted the teaching that by the will of Christ, the spiritual power only judges the temporal when the temporal acts directly contrary to the supernatural end. They have always upheld Pope Gelasius’s teaching in Tractate IV that the reason for this limitation is that Christ wanted to give a remedy to human pride:
For Christ, mindful of human frailty, regulated with an excellent disposition what pertained to the salvation of his people. Thus he distinguished between the ofﬁces of both powers according to their own proper activities and separate dignities, wanting his people to be saved by healthful humility and not carried away again by human pride, so that Christian emperors would need priests for attaining eternal life, and priests would avail themselves of imperial regulations in the conduct of temporal affairs. In this fashion spiritual activity would be set apart from worldly encroachments and the ‘soldier of God’ (2 Tim 2:4) would not be involved in secular affairs, while on the other hand he who was involved in secular affairs would not seem to preside over divine matters. Thus the humility of each order would be preserved, neither being exalted by the subservience of the other, and each profession would be especially ﬁtted for its appropriate functions.
The actual application of this teaching was the cause of a great deal of tension in the Middle Ages, and in part the Reformation was born out of the desire of doing away with that tension. And what was the result of the Reformation? It was thought by some that a more perfect independence of Christian magistrates would actually make Europe more Christian. But the “human pride” of the Protestant magistrates, unchecked by a superordinate spiritual power, had free reign. At first many of them tried to promote spiritual ends. But eventually, contrary to their intention, those magistrates (and their Catholic imitators) contributed to the rise of the secular culture of the modern West that only recognizes temporal ends.