Integralism in Three Sentences
Here are the three sentences:
Catholic Integralism is a tradition of thought that rejects the liberal separation of politics from concern with the end of human life, holding that political rule must order man to his final goal. Since, however, man has both a temporal and an eternal end, integralism holds that there are two powers that rule him: a temporal power and a spiritual power. And since man’s temporal end is subordinated to his eternal end the temporal power must be subordinated to the spiritual power.
The crucial proposition is the first. By 'end of human life' is meant the ultimate or final goal or purpose of human life, not its cessation or stoppage. It is presupposed that all human lives share the same final purpose. And what might that be? For a traditional Catholic, the Baltimore Catechism gives the answer:
LESSON FIRST ON THE END OF MAN 1. Q. Who made the world? A. God made the world. 2. Q. Who is God? A. God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things. 3. Q. What is man? A. Man is a creature composed of body and soul, and made to the image and likeness of God. 6. Q. Why did God make you? A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.
The Catholic integralist is making the following claims.
First, every human life has an ultimate purpose. Second, the purpose is not different for different people: all, regardless of race, sex, or any other difference, share the same purpose. Third, the final common purpose is known and not open to doubt or debate: it is not a matter of conjecture or speculation or private opinion. Fourth, the final common purpose is to know, love, and serve God in this world, and to be happy with him in the next. And of course the Catholic integralist is committed to the presuppositions of these claims, namely, that there is a God, that he created everything distinct from himself, that man has a destiny that transcends this life, and so on.
Suppose that all of the above claims and presuppositions are true. Then the political order here below must subserve the divinely ordained eternal order. The temporal power, the State, must be subordinated to, and therefore cannot be separated from, the true church, the Roman Catholic Church. If so, classical liberalism, with its commitments to religious liberty, free speech, the right to dissent, and separation of church and state, is an erroneous and pernicious political philosophy.
One consequence of this view seems to be that state power can be justifiably used to coerce dissidents. Some of them hold that human life has no purpose at all. Others hold that it has a purpose but one that is determined by the individual. Still others think that there is a common ultimate purpose but that it is secular and humanistic and therefore atheistic.
And then there are those classically liberal theists who hold that when it comes to the final purpose of human life and how to attain it, there is reasonable belief, but no knowledge. If there is no knowledge in this area then coercion of atheists, agnostics, and non-Catholics could not be justified. Finally, there are those who, while holding that there is knowledge in this area, knowledge that justifies the coercion of dissidents, reject the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Among them are Protestants and the adherents of Judaism and Islam.
My view is that we ought not stray too far from the classically liberal view of the Founders. We do not know that the Catechism worldview is true. Only if it were known to be true could it be justifiably imposed via the awesome and coercive power of the State. In a well-ordered Republic, the dissent of secular humanists, atheists, and non-Catholic theists ought to be tolerated. At the same time, State power must never be used to violate the consciences of Catholics by, say, forcing them to support the grave moral evil of abortion on demand with their tax dollars.
Government by its very nature is coercive. Angels we are not, and so we need the necessary evil of government. I stand for limited government and limited coercion. My position, call it American conservatism, is a balanced one, avoiding as it does the extremes of anarchism, libertarianism, socialism, communism and ‘wokeism’ as well as the various form of reaction whether of the alternative right or the throne-an-altar variety.
So that's this cradle Catholic’s take on Catholic integralism. It is a non-starter.