Integralism and the Lamb that was Slain

Over at Church Life Journal I have an article up responding to a critique of integralism by Timothy Troutner. I give an exposition of the goods of hierarchy and obedience, and how true freedom and equality depend on them. I argue that the exercise of temporal power for spiritual ends can be a good, albeit secondary, instrument in aiding persons toward their final end. The article was rather long as it was, so I didn’t have time to go into the specific instances of the use of such power that Troutner mentions, and distinguish the good ones from the bad ones. So, as a sort of addendum to my article, I will briefly consider four of them here: 1) the possession of slaves, 2) the burning of heretics, 3) the persecution of Jews, and 4) the “Mortara Case.”

1) Slavery, as classically understood, is the subjection of a man to a master for the private advantage of the master. This is an evil institution. It is a violation of man’s rational nature, by which he is ordered to participation in the common good. This institution was nearly universal in pagan antiquity, but was actually much reduced and rolled back in Christendom. No true integralist would defend it. But slavery as understood by liberalism is any subjection of one man to another without the consent of the one subjected. And this we cannot condemn. For the subjection of one man to another for the common good is essential to the that order which is the form of political life. Every single man on earth should be subject to some other man. (Except the Supreme Pontiff who is not subject to anyone on earth, although he is subject to Christ in Heaven).

2) All the baptized are subjects of the Church, and she should treat them prudently, as an abbot treats his monks. Sometimes this includes punishing them if they violate their baptismal obligations. The Church should be careful not to scrape off the rust too violently, lest she break the vessel. But she must also be mindful of Heli, who neglected to punish his sons, to the great detriment of the common good. In certain circumstances, this can mean that she needs to call in the secular arm to put heretics to death. This power can be abused, but it also has a legitimate use. In fact, one of the errors of Martin Luther, condemned by Pope Leo X is the proposition “That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.”

3) Unbaptized Jews are not subject to the jurisdiction of the Church. The Church prays for the Jews, that they might come to know their Savior. But she has always forbidden that they be coerced to receive the faith. It is a great and terrible scandal that Jews were often persecuted by Christians. But it was a scandal recognized as such at the time, and condemned by ecclesiastical authorities.

4) The Mortara Case did not involve the kidnapping of a Jewish child, but rather the rescuing of a Christian child from the custody of those who would have defrauded him of the inheritance that he was promised in Baptism by teaching him to deny Christ. This has been amply demonstrated by Fr. Romanus Cessario.


18 thoughts on “Integralism and the Lamb that was Slain

  1. Thank you for this response, Pater Edmund. I would like to respond to this part:

    “It is a great and terrible scandal that Jews were often persecuted by Christians. But it was a scandal recognized as such at the time, and condemned by ecclesiastical authorities.”

    This seems to establish a 1:1 correspondence between:

    1.) That which we today would designate as persecution of Jews by Christians.

    2.) What ecclesiastical authorities enjoined regarding Jews.

    Popes and ecumenical councils imposed a great many impediments on Jews. The ghetto, special garments, restrictions on employment, etc. To my knowledge, Jews were always segregated during the period of integralism, and the champions of integralism supported the traditional impediments and segregation. “Jewish emancipation” was a movement of the Enlightenment and of Napoleon.

    There was a category of social and economic impediment that Church authorities approved of, and justified as necessary for preserving the Faith of Christians.


  2. “Slavery, as classically understood, is the subjection of a man to a master for the private advantage of the master. This is an evil institution. . . . This institution was nearly universal in pagan antiquity, but was actually much reduced and rolled back in Christendom.”

    I think this is too cursory an account. Until the 19th century, theologians did not condemn slavery *as such* as a inherently immoral. They did not identify the state of slavery as necessarily directed solely to the master’s private advantage, without regard for the slave. The predominant tradition was to justify slavery on several titles. Cardinal Dulles described and defended this tradition in First Things (

    “Slavery was practiced by almost every known society until modern times. Throughout the biblical era, Noonan shows, slavery was taken as a given, although the Israelites practiced rather mild forms of slavery and did not permanently enslave their compatriots. Jesus, though he repeatedly denounced sin as a kind of moral slavery, said not a word against slavery as a social institution. Nor did the writers of the New Testament. Peter and Paul exhort slaves to be obedient to their masters. Paul urges Philemon to treat his converted slave Onesimus as a brother in Christ. While discreetly suggesting that he manumit Onesimus, he does not say that Philemon is morally obliged to free Onesimus and any other slaves he may have had.

    For many centuries the Church was part of a slave-holding society. The popes themselves held slaves, including at times hundreds of Muslim captives to man their galleys. Throughout Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages, theologians generally followed St. Augustine in holding that although slavery was not written into the natural moral law it was not absolutely forbidden by that law. St. Thomas Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin were all Augustinian on this point. Although the subjection of one person to another (servitus ) was not part of the primary intention of the natural law, St. Thomas taught, it was appropriate and socially useful in a world impaired by original sin.

    The leaven of the gospel gradually alleviated the evils of slavery, at least in medieval Europe. Serfdom did not involve the humiliation and brutality people today ordinarily associate with slavery. Moral theologians recognized that slaves, unlike mere chattels, had certain rights even against their masters, who no longer had over them the power of life and death, as had been the case in pagan antiquity.

    For St. Thomas, slaves (servi) had the right to food, sleep, marriage, and the rearing of their children. Provision had also to be made for them to fulfill their religious duties, and they were to be treated with benevolence. With the conquest of the New World and the enslavement of whole populations of Indians and Africans, theologians such as Bartolomé de Las Casas and Cajetan began to object to the injustices of subjecting conquered peoples and of engaging in the lucrative slave trade. Some prominent Catholics of the early nineteenth century, including J.M. Sailer, Daniel O’Connell, and the Comte de Montalembert, together with many Protestants, pressed for the total abolition of slavery. . . .

    Although the popes condemned the enslavement of innocent populations and the iniquitous slave trade, they did not teach that all slaves everywhere should immediately be emancipated. At the time of the Civil War, very few Catholics in the United States felt that papal teaching required them to become abolitionists.

    Bishop John England stood with the tradition in holding that there could be just titles to slavery. Bishop Francis P. Kenrick held that slavery did not necessarily violate the natural law. Archbishop John Hughes contended that slavery was an evil but not an absolute evil. Orestes Brownson, while denying that slavery was malum in se, came around to favor emancipation as a matter of policy.

    In 1863 John Henry Newman penned some fascinating reflections on slavery. A fellow Catholic, William T. Allies, asked him to comment on a lecture he was planning to give, asserting that slavery was intrinsically evil. Newman replied that, although he would like to see slavery eliminated, he could not go so far as to condemn it as intrinsically evil. For if it were, St. Paul would have had to order Philemon, ‘liberate all your slaves at once.’ Newman, as I see it, stood with the whole Catholic tradition. In 1866 the Holy Office, in response to an inquiry from Africa, ruled that although slavery (servitus) was undesirable, it was not per se opposed to natural or divine law. This ruling pertained to the kind of servitude that was customary in certain parts of Africa at the time.

    No Father or Doctor of the Church, so far as I can judge, was an unqualified abolitionist. No pope or council ever made a sweeping condemnation of slavery as such. But they constantly sought to alleviate the evils of slavery and repeatedly denounced the mass enslavement of conquered populations and the infamous slave trade, thereby undermining slavery at its sources.”

    Based on this survey, slavery seems to belong in the same category as the death penalty: Tradition and the Magisterium don’t support a categorical rejection of “servitus” (using the common definition of the term) as intrinsically immoral. The Church teaching imposes grave duties on slave masters toward the good of their servants, so the “classical definition” you provide wouldn’t apply. Nonetheless, insofar as the slave was a subject of a private master who could sell or rent the slave’s labor without the slave’s consent, all normal people would still call this slavery.

    Your definition, with the specification “for the private advantage of the master,” with the understood specification of *sole* advantage of the master, is too restrictive. It’s like this:

    Slavery for the sole private advantage of the master:”servitus simplex”::tyranny:monarchy


  3. Sorry for the italics. I inserted a comment in brackets saying that I was skipping some content about Popes opposing slavery in various specific contexts. WordPress interpreted the bracketed comment as the “italics” command.


  4. Egads, I was writing poorly last night. In my first post above, I wrote this:

    “This seems to establish a 1:1 correspondence between:

    1.) That which we today would designate as persecution of Jews by Christians.

    2.) What ecclesiastical authorities enjoined regarding Jews.”

    What I meant was, your position seems to imply, at least by omission, that ecclesiastical authorities condemned as wrong everything that “we moderns” today would condemn as wrong. In fact, the same ecclesiastical authorities that condemned forced baptisms (an oxymoron) and pograms *also* enacted a number of measures that would today be judged as anti-Jewish, such as social segregation.

    Here’s a clear issue for integralists: would non-Christians be able to vote in an integralist state? If the integralist state is subject to the Church, how would people who are not personally subject to the Church through Baptism be worthy of exercising citizenship in an integralist state?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, those are interesting question. The history tells of many different examples depending on circumstances: how many persons in a given community are baptized etc. Rome under Theodosius the Great was much different than France under Louis IX. These are matters that cannot be fully solved in the abstract.


  5. “Slavery, as classically understood, is the subjection of a man to a master for the private advantage of the master. This is an evil institution.”

    I would posit a more precise definition of slavery: slavery is just a particular and highly institutionalized instance of treating human beings as property. Understood in this sense it is certainly evil, owing from the fact that treating human beings as things rather than persons is always and everywhere evil.

    The Church’s traditional teaching on slavery, which Olaus Ouisconsinensis brings up above, hinges I think on the servant-slave distinction: the servant is treated as a person subject to a contingent earthly authority, while the slave is treated as nothing but an object – the sole purpose of which is to provide utility. The former institutionalized relationship (master & servant) is not intrinsically immoral, and in fact has the potential to be virtuous, while the latter institutionalized relationship (slave owner & slave) is intrinsically evil due to the objectification / propertyification of the slave. The Church correctly does not condemn the institution of master & servant, regardless of whether it is nominally referred to as “servitude” or “slavery”. But the Church correctly and unequivocally condemns the treating of persons as property which has moral implications far beyond the institution of slavery to issues such as usury, capitalist wage labor, treating one’s own body as one’s property (i.e. “her body, her choice” defenses of abortion), etc.

    I think it’s important for Catholics to be precise when talking about what we mean when we condemn slavery, especially since the evil at the heart of slavery – treating other human beings as property – is still rampant everywhere and hasn’t ceased being evil simply in the jettisoning of its institutional character.


      • Indeed, Pater, this is a crucial point that I considered elaborating upon further in my original comment but figured it was long enough as it is.

        Our concept of property has become damaged by modern philosophy, which treats property as things subject to arbitrary will as opposed to things falling under legitimate jurisdiction in carrying out a mandate of stewardship. Frankly, nothing should be treated as property in the modern sense of the term, let alone human beings. A classically grounded understanding of property is one in which possessing the authority of property-owner carries with it the moral obligation of stewardship toward the thing which is owned.

        Of course, we human beings have detested this classically grounded understanding of property for centuries, because we detest the idea that we cannot be God, and we especially detest the idea that we cannot be God even in our own little circumscribed “personal” domains. Ironically though, our attempts to act as a little tinpot God over our respective domains lead us to become the opposite of Christ. Because Christ is perfectly loving, perfectly giving, perfectly humble, incapable in virtue of His perfect goodness of treating a person as a thing. So in attempting to be like God in terms of the dominance of our will over some domain, we make ourselves the opposite of God.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Olaus Ouisconsinensis asks:

    “Here’s a clear issue for integralists: would non-Christians be able to vote in an integralist state? If the integralist state is subject to the Church, how would people who are not personally subject to the Church through Baptism be worthy of exercising citizenship in an integralist state?”

    A better question is, should anyone be able to vote in an integralist state?

    Sure, liberalism and democracy may not be intrinsically connected, but whether they are or not isn’t particularly relevant to the gargantuan task we find ourselves faced with. In our actual societies they are in fact deeply and inextricably connected. It is one thing to acknowledge the possibility in principle of drinking alcohol (or shooting heroine) in moderation, and another entirely to suggest that Tom and Joe in particular, each with their own histories of alcoholism, should drink a glass of wine every day.

    Is decoupling liberalism and democracy possible in principle? Maybe. Maybe several centuries of unified public repudiation of liberalism and unequivocally non-democratic rule could make mass elections of some sort ‘safe’. But why would such a society even be interested, at that point?


  7. Dear Pater Edmund,

    I wanted to thank you for this article and your writings on integralism in general. You’ve really taught me a lot.

    I think what holds people back from accepting integralism is often some kind of fear; at least, that’s what it was for me. Associating “non-liberalism” necessarily with “no rights and freedom at all”. (I found parts VI and VII of your article helpful for seeing how hierarchy is necessary for securing justice and rights and freedoms.)

    I would have two questions (if you have time to answer, I know priests are busy and don’t want to bother you) :

    1) Concerning the Mortara case: What would you say if Christian parents fell away from the faith and started teaching their baptized children atheism, or agnosticism, or something else? Would you say that an integralist state should intervene in this case? What about parents who simply stopped caring about teaching their baptized children anything about God?

    2) A more general question: What could family law look like in an integralist state, in your opinion? In your article at Church Life Journal, you mentioned the “series of rebellions of subjects against their rulers— […] wives against husbands, and so on”. What would be women’s position in an integralist state – in the family and the state?

    Concerning the question of slavery (these are just some thoughts, maybe not thought out very well) : If we distinguish these two things, as done by Olaus above:

    A) the master having total rights over the slaves, even to kill them, separate them from their families, maim them, rape them, etc.
    B) forced labor; the master can tell the slave where and what to work and the slave is not allowed to quit and leave, or to keep the fruits of his labor to himself, or make free decisions about his work

    we see the following:
    A) has been clearly condemned and sanctioned by the Church from Antiquity on. B), on the other hand, not so clearly, and still existed in medieval serfdom; serfs could not legally leave the estates of their lords.
    It also still exists in other contexts; mainly in prison. This is something different, though; depriving someone of liberty as punishment is not the same thing as simply depriving him of liberty like that.
    Natural law is quite clearly against A); but would it not also be against B) (unless in the context of punishment)? The reason for that being: Wouldn’t men *naturally* have a right to the fruits of their own labor? St. Thomas writes: “So that one man is master of another as his slave when he refers the one whose master he is, to his own—namely the master’s use. And since every man’s proper good is desirable to himself, and consequently it is a grievous matter to anyone to yield to another what *ought to be one’s own*, therefore such dominion implies of necessity *a pain inflicted* on the subject; and consequently in the state of innocence such a mastership could not have existed between man and man.” (Summa Theologiae I,96,4) It seems to me as if it should follow from this that forced labor is against natural law, even if St. Thomas doesn’t say so clearly. Maybe in certain periods of world history a case could have been made that the immediate abolition of slavery would have been difficult, and it should be tolerated for some time as other injustices must sometimes be tolerated if they can’t be abolished – but wouldn’t it still have been against natural law, per se?
    Is this making sense? Sorry for the long rambling.

    – Crescentia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response, Crescentia.

      To your questions:

      1) Christian parents are under the Church’s jurisdiction, so she tries to guide them to the fulfillment of their obligations towards their children by persuasion, rewards and (when necessary), punishments. In other words, if they are neglecting the Christian education of their baptized children the Church tries to get them to change their behavior, rather than depriving them of custody.

      2) I think there are certain elements of familial society that are determined by natural law, but that most elements are actually dependent on custom. So what family life would look like will depend a lot on circumstances and the development of particular societies, the form of economic organization, and so on. In an integralist society there would be an emphasis on the essentials which belong to natural law, and an attempt to foster customs in accord with natural law, but that still leaves a lot of scope for diversity. Family life in an agrarian society will obviously be different than in an urban society and so on. For an excellent discussion of the functions of the family and what natural law determines about family relations, see Beatrice Freccia’s Josias essay:

      On slavery: St. Augustine and St. Thomas agree, I think, that sense B only comes about as an effect of sin, and is therefore, in a sense, a punishment.


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