Short Notes on the Family and the City


by Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist.

The following article is the first in a series of translations from the works of Jacques de Monléon (1901-1981). Along with his friend Charles De Koninck (1906-1965), de Monléon was a key figure in Laval School Thomism. So much so, in fact, that the school was sometimes called the “de Monléon-De Koninck School.”[1]

De Monléon was born in 1901 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera. He was sent to the Catholic boarding school Collège St. Jean in Fribourg, Switzerland (where Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a fellow pupil). He then studied at the university of University of Aix-Marseille, earning degrees in law (1922/1923) and philosophy (1924). He then moved to Paris to continue his philosophical studies. In Paris he became close to Jacques Maritain.[2] But after a few years he began to diverge from Maritain. One point on which he disagreed with Maritain was the question of “moral philosophy adequately considered” (that is, on whether moral philosophy can be properly scientific without being subalternated to theology).[3] De Monléon was moving towards what he saw as more consistently Thomistic position. He was therefore happy to be invited to the Universty of Laval in Quebec in 1934.

Thomism of the strict observance was established in Quebec by Msgr. Louis-Adolphe Pâquet (1859-1942), who had studied under Cardinal Satolli in Rome. Paquet wrote a commentary on the Summa in Latin,[4] and an intransigently ultramontane-integralist treatise on ecclesiastical public law, written in French.[5] As dean of the faculty of theology at the University of Laval, Pâquet steadily expanded the teaching of philosophy, until it was possible to establish a full pontifical faculty of philosophy.[6]

It was during the expansion of the teaching of philosophy that Laval hired De Koninck and de Monléon. Through a miscommunication they both arrived to fill the same position. In the end, both were retained—De Koninck as professor of natural philosophy, and de Monléon to lecture in political philosophy and ethics. De Monléon was, however, to split his time between Quebec and the Institut Catholique in Paris. Pâquet was originally skeptical of the two laymen, since he thought scholastic philosophy should be taught by clerics, but he was soon won over by their love of St. Thomas.[7]

De Koninck and de Monléon became dear friends. They wrote many letters to each other during the months of each year that de Monléon spent in France. Florian Michel has analyzed their correspondence, showing how they developed the typical theses of Laval School Thomism in the philosophy of science and in political philosophy together.[8]

When De Koninck was appointed dean of the philosophy faculty in 1939, he and de Monléon also began to develop the pedagogical approach that was to become typical of the Laval School. It was an approach that emphasized the importance of learning step by step and in the proper order. The role of the teacher was to lead the students by the hand from the common conceptions of the truth naturally known to all to the first principles of reality. Thus de Monléon wrote to De Koninck:

We [have hitherto] certainly not [been] Thomistic in the way we teach. […] It is indisputable that we proceed in the manner of mathematicians and idealists. […] We immediately plunge poor little immature minds into the dark depths of being and non-being. […] One must lead such minds by the hand if one is allowed to forge such a twisted image. Manuducere. Sicut Zoé (my dear little Zoé[9]) manuducit pueros suos.[10]

This emphasis on the order of learning seems also to have led indirectly to less emphasis on publication in the Laval School, since “leading by the hand” was felt to be something that required personal contact. And, as it turned out, they were to feel that their few publications were often misunderstood. They did, however, begin the Journal Laval théologique et philosophique.

It was in Laval théologique et philosophique that the following “Short Short Notes on the Family and the City” were first published. Later they were included in the volume: Personne et Société, Overtture Philosophique (Paris: Editions L’Harmattan, 2007). Many thanks to Alessandra Fra of L’Harmattan for permission to publish this translation. The translation was originally made by a group of tutors at Thomas Aquinas College for a seminar on Catholic Social Teaching. Many thanks to Anthony Andres for permission to publish the translation on The Josias.

The nature and scope of political authority, and its relation to the incomplete community of the family, is a key issue in recent debates among integralists.[11] I am convinced that de Monléon’s profound reflections can contribute key insights to this debate. A printable version of the essay can be found here.

Short Notes on the Family and the City

Jacques de Monléon

1. – We know that many very eminent authors do not recognize the essential difference between domestic society and political society. Plato, for example, writes: “Well, then, surely there won’t be any difference, so far as ruling is concerned, between the character of a large household, on the one hand, and the bulk of a small city on the other? – Not at all. – So, in answer to the question we were asking ourselves just now, it’s clear that there is one sort of knowledge concerned with all of these things, and whether we call it the science of kingship or political science or household management makes no difference.”[12] The nineteenth century political philosopher, Louis de Bonald, writes in a similar vein: “Such is the likeness, or rather the complete identity that everyone recognizes between domestic and public society, that from the most ancient times kings have been called the fathers of their peoples.”[13] And the same idea is found in Fustel de Coulanges’s The Ancient City, and this opinion is the one of its directive principles: “Family, brotherhood, tribe, city, are societies in exactly the same way, and are born one from another by a succession of federations.”[14] Continue reading “Short Notes on the Family and the City”

Does Fratelli Tutti Change Church Teaching about the Death Penalty?

by Gregory Caridi

Not moments after Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli tutti was published, many began pointing to its statements on the death penalty. In particular, Fr. James Martin appears to believe that, with this document, Church teaching has been “definitively” changed on this question. He writes:

Pope Francis’ new encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti,” does something that some Catholics believed could not be done: It ratifies a change in church teaching. In this case, on the death penalty.

There are many things wrong with this statement, particularly canonically, but we should focus on the most fundamental problem: Church teaching cannot be “changed” in the way he and many others regularly imply. The Church is not an authority that creates truth. It does not write down a rule book of what has been made true and what has now been made false. The Church identifies something as true, in a way an historian or a mathematician may do so. In other words, the Pope could not change a moral truth any more than he could change an historical one. The Pope, along with the bishops, certainly have the power above all others to identify truth in this way, but no one has power to make a thing false which was once true. What is true, particularly with this issue, is of course complex, but one can be absolutely certain that whatever is true cannot one day be made false, or vice versa.

The problem with Fr. Martin’s position is not merely that it’s incorrect; it’s that it undermines itself. If the teaching can be “changed” from X to Y, then there is no reason that it couldn’t be changed from Y back to X, turning the Teaching Office of the Church into something like an adversarial political process where sides lobby for their position to win out. This is not only entirely contrary to the basic fundamentals of the Church’s teaching authority, it runs afoul to the entire theme of fraternal love, submission and cooperation that carries throughout the document. The kind of thinking employed here has unfortunately plagued our civil law for generations, and it is truly disheartening to see it be promoted in the ecclesiastical space.

What’s perhaps most unfortunate about Martin’s comments and framing is that Pope Francis expresses his most nuanced approach to the question of the death penalty in this document. He moves beyond the bare question of whether capital punishment is, in principle, permissible as a matter of a moral fact to whether it is adequate in recognizing the fullness of Christ’s love. The Holy Father does not directly engage the long-established tradition that recognizes its legitimacy; he instead moves beyond, appealing to a tradition within the Church which transcends bare moral truth, to love beyond the minimal, especially when it comes to something that so cuts off the other.

This is not a “change” in Church teaching any more than “love thy neighbor” is a “change” from “the Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked.” Opposing the death penalty is to love despite and beyond any underlying moral truth, which by itself would be inadequate in expressing Christ’s unending outpouring of forgiveness and mercy.

It is unquestionable that Pope Francis, and so the Church, is opposed to capital punishment in both the personal and the political, especially when rooted in vengeance or a desire to derive pleasure from another’s punishment, but the Holy Father does not appear to be writing any sort of philosophical treatise or “definitively” defining some sort of new church teaching. He calls on us instead to dig into why he wants us to oppose the practice and to recognize that the tradition of doing so has always existed in the Church. Any statements about a “change” in Church teaching, on either side, are to miss his point entirely.

Vital Error: Energy, Personalism, Pluralism, and the Triumph of the Will

by John Rao

Nineteenth and early twentieth century Catholicism was rich in militant initiatives pursuing global evangelization outside the older borders of Christendom as well as spiritual and socio-political revivification of the troubled lands within them. These initiatives were stimulated by a general movement of Catholic revival vigorously opposing an Enlightenment-inspired secularization of European and American lands that had already begun before 1789, and which was intensified and spread still further due to the violence and warmongering of the French Revolution.

Continue reading “Vital Error: Energy, Personalism, Pluralism, and the Triumph of the Will”

The Josias Podcast, Episode XXV: Questions & Answers

Our new technical editor, Chris, moderates a discussion with the editors of questions raised by our listeners.

Nota bene: In the discussion of distributism at the 1:10 mark when Pater Edmund said “that’s what integralism is all about” he meant to say “thats what distributism is all about.” A slip of the tongue.

Bibliography and Links

Music: W.A. Mozart, Serenade 13 in G Major, KV 525, “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” II. Romanze. Performed by the Camerata Salzburg under the direction of Sándor Végh.

Header Image: “Hans Christian Andersen,” by Kirill Chelushkin.

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The Josias Podcast, Episode XIX: Justice

Justice, according to St. Thomas, is the perpetual and constant will to render each one his right. Distributive justice, commutative justice, potential parts, quasi-integral parts, debt, cannibalism—in this episode, the editors cover it all.


Music: “An die Musik, by Franz Schubert, performed by Matthias Goerne (baritone) and Helmut Deutsch (piano).

Header Image: Circles in a Circle (1923), by Wassily Kandinsky (detail).

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Ang Integrismo sa Tatlong Pangungusap

Ang Integrismo Catolico ay isang tradisyon ng kaisipan na itinatanggi ang paghihiwalay ng liberalismo ng politika mula sa pakikialam sa huling layunin ng buhay ng tao, at naniniwala naman na dapat patnubayan ng pamamahalang politikal ang tao patungo sa huling layuning niya. Ngunit dahil nahahati sa dalawa ang layunin ng buhay ng tao – isang pansamantala o temporal, at isang walang-hanggan – naniniwala ang integrismo na may dalawa ring kapangyarihan na namamahala sa tao: ang kapangyarihang temporal, at ang kapangyarihang espiritwal. At dahil naman ang layuning pansamantala ay nakapasailalim sa layuning walang-hanggan, nararapat lamang na ang kapangyarihang temporal ay ipasailalim rin sa kapangyarihang espiritwal.

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The Josias Podcast, Episode XVI: The Resurrection of Christ and the Society of the Blessed

The editors are joined by special guest Daniel to discuss the Resurrection of Christ. Along the way they explore what it means for Christ to be New Adam, the necessity and fittingness of the Resurrection, and the meaning of the Resurrection both as the cause of the order of human society and the principle of the life to come. A very blessed Easter Season to all our readers and listeners!


  • The Gospel according to St. Mark, chapter 16
  • The Gospel according to St. John, chapters 20-21
  • The Gospel according to St. Luke, chapter 3:23-38
  • The Apocalypse of St. John, chapter 21
  • Genesis, chapters 27-45
  • The Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans (all of it)
  • The First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 15
  • St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, IIIa qq.53-56
  • Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi


Heinrich Ingaz Franz von Biber, Missa Salisburgensis, performed by Vaclav Luks with Collegium 1704

Header Image:Matthias Grünewald, The Ressurection of Christ (detail from the Isenheim Altarpiece).

If you have questions or comments, please send them to editors(at) We’d love the feedback.

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The Relations of the Spiritual and Civil Powers

Henry Edward [Manning], Archbishop of Westminster

Henry Edward Manning (1808-1892) was one of the most important figures in the formation of modern Catholic Social teaching. A convert from Anglicanism, Manning was enthroned as the second Archbishop of Westminster in 1865, fifteen years after the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in England. In 1875 he was made a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. Manning had a life-long interest in political economy, and his intervention in the London dock-strike of 1889 was one of his many contributions to the Catholic response to the ‘social question’ of the 19th century.

But another life-long interest of his was the relation of Church and state. He often discussed this question with the politician William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898). As young men Manning and Gladstone had been friends, and they continued corresponding for most of their lives—their correspondence fills four volumes. But in their positions the two men grew apart—Gladstone’s shift from Toryism to liberalism occurring at approximately the same time as Manning’s conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism.

Gladstone was enraged by the First Vatican Council’s definition of Papal infallibility in 1870. In 1874 he published a polemical pamphlet entitled The Vatican Decrees in their Bearing on Civil Allegiance: A Political Expostulation, in which he argued that the Council had laid down ‘principles adverse to the purity and integrity of civil allegiance’. Manning responded with a pamphlet of his own entitled The Vatican Decrees in their Bearing on Civil Allegiance, in which he refutes Gladstone by showing that in part Gladstone misunderstands the Roman position, and in part is simply wrong about the nature of the Church.

In the second chapter of his pamphlet Manning lays out the Catholic position on the relation of the spiritual and temporal powers. While there are a few disputable points—Manning accepts the positions of Bellarmine and Suarez on the origin of civil society and the indirect nature of the pope’s temporal authority (both possible but disputable positions)—the chapter is on the whole a good summary of ‘integralism’. The whole of the chapter is reproduced below.

The relations of the Catholic Church to the Civil Powers have been fixed immutably from the beginning, because they arise out of the Divine constitution of the Church and of the Civil Society of the natural order.

Continue reading “The Relations of the Spiritual and Civil Powers”

O integralismo em três frases.

O integralismo católico é uma tradição de pensamento que insiste que o poder político deve guiar o homem ao seu último fim, rejeitando a separação liberal entre a política e os fins da vida humana. Porém, porque o homem tem um fim eterno e um fim temporal, o integralismo afirma que existem dois poderes que o governam: poder eterno e poder temporal. Por causa da subordinação do fim temporal do homem ao seu fim eterno, o poder temporal é obrigado a ser subordinado ao poder espiritual.

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