Anglo-American Originalism: A Satire

Author’s Note: One evening, I was reading the Federalist Papers and fell into a trance, no doubt hypnotized by the blessings of Liberty, such as the taxing power. In my trance, I was, I believe, shown this piece, which represents originalism as it perhaps is in another world. Given Adrian Vermeule’s attack on our founding documents of the 1980s, I thought the time was right to reveal what had been shown to me.

One hears much today about the Anglo-American conservative tradition, consisting of such nice, liberty-loving men as Edmund Burke, Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall, and Joseph Story. There are any number of other names that are enrolled—enshrined, even—among the heroes of the Anglo-American conservative tradition. It is not uncommon to read people waxing very tender about the common law and all the innovations of the common-law courts. Prose poems to limited government, due process, and liberty are thick on the ground. 

At The American Mind, for example, some of the leading lights of the conservative movement have turned to the Anglo-American conservative (legal) tradition to answer Adrian Vermeule’s “common-good conservatism” argument from The Atlantic. Vermeule wishes to jettison originalism in favor of a robust judicial and legislative approach ordered to the common-good. One would have thought that Catholics would acknowledge Vermeule’s approach as just about the only approach on offer. Indeed, the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et spes, which might fairly be called the Church’s great approach to modernity, calls for the state to seek the common good and total well-being of its citizens (nos. 74–75). One would be sorely disappointed in that expectation, though. This leads to endless, unedifying recitations of all the old chestnuts about the Anglo-American tradition. 

But the Anglo-American tradition, one surmises from all these interventions, is no older than 1687 or so, except for occasional fragments of earlier times. One might hear about Magna Carta or the Habeas Corpus Act 1679 (31 Car. II c. 2). One might, if one listens closely, hear whispered the names of Bracton or Coke. But for the most part, history begins in 1687. However, to begin the Anglo-American tradition on the cusp of the so-called Glorious Revolution is to do violence to the tradition. One example of this tradition, which leaps off the page and offers a rebuttal to Vermeule, is the long history of common law and the statutory punishment of heresy in England. These laws, which have a surprising source, spanned Catholic and protestant reigns. 

The punishment of heresy is a significant component of the English tradition and part of the Anglo-American tradition. Vermeule’s critics seem, therefore, to be missing a golden opportunity to meet Vermeule on his own turf. He calls for common-good conservatism: a strong president assisted by strong administrative organs and a compliant judiciary ordering the state to the common good in accordance with Catholic doctrine and right reason. A deep understanding of Anglo-American tradition, rooted in the lived laws and customs of England and the United States, demonstrates conclusively that the government already has the sort of power Vermeule seeks—and more. Why not answer Vermeule by reminding him of the English tradition of burning? This common-law tradition, which spanned centuries, made its way into American common law. One need not jettison the jurisprudential achievements of the 1970s and 1980s for the state to have the sort of power Vermeule seeks. To recover the whole Anglo-American tradition, therefore, is to find the perfect answer to Vermeule.

The tradition begins in some sense with Frederick II, the great Hohenstaufen emperor, who promulgated decrees against heresy. Known by their incipits, Commissi and Inconsutilem (MGH Legum II, ed. Pertz, pp. 288, 327), Frederick’s decrees are part of a tradition of imperial legislation against heretics. For example, Justinian’s Codex begins with a long decree about orthodoxy and heresy (1.1). Frederick’s decrees, however, are marked by their salutary severity, imposing the death sentence upon heretics. This is one of history’s ironies, considering that Innocent IV, at the Council of Lyons, deposed Frederick for, among many complaints about Frederick’s personal conduct and public administration, the crime of heresy. Of course, the laws themselves were not tainted by their association with the infamous Hohenstaufen. Following Frederick’s death, Boniface VIII ratified these constitutions specifically with the decretal Ut inquisitionis negotium (c.18 in Sexto 5, 2). 

As an aside, Frederick II’s value as an integralist model becomes clearer in this context. Indeed, it is necessary to consider Frederick in the same breath as St. Louis IX, recently the subject of Andrew Willard Jones’s (mostly) excellent Before Church and State. Whatever happened later, Boniface’s approbation demonstrates clearly that, when Frederick promulgated Commissi and Inconsutilem, he was acting in a manner congenial to the Roman Church. More than that, he was acting in a manner that the pope felt all rulers in the west should emulate. One can deplore Frederick’s disagreements with Innocent III, Gregory IX, and Innocent IV while still admiring the actions he took that later met with the Church’s approval. Simply pointing to the ultimate dispute between Frederick and Innocent IV is inconsistent with the Church’s actual attitude toward the great Hohenstaufen. 

Frederick’s decrees, of course, were imperial legislation, not applicable in other realms of their own force. However, Bishop William Lyndwood, the eminent English canonist, held that Boniface VIII’s decretal made them part of the common law of the west. In his Provinciale, as Maitland and Pollock have noted, Lyndwood had to answer the question why heretics were burned in England. Lyndwood found the answer in Archbishop Thomas Arundel’s January 1408 constitution Reverendissimae, in the phrase “poenas in jure expressas” of the first chapter, Quod nullus. Expanding upon the phrase, Lyndwood pointed to the decretal Ut inquisitionis negotium and the constitutions Commissi and Inconsutilem. In other words, the punishments found in the law, according to Lyndwood, were the imperial punishments endorsed by Boniface VIII. 

From our vantage point, this is an amazing argument. By means of the canon law, Pope Boniface VIII made Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II’s constitutions Commissi and Inconsutilem binding in England, so that Archbishop Arundel could simply allude to them in his constitution Reverendissimae. To put it another way, the Pope inserted into English common law the decrees of the Holy Roman Emperor. 

Today, it is a hopeless, thankless task to get anyone to read Pope St. John Paul II’s canons 1311 and 1312, stating the Church’s right to coerce the faithful even in terms of temporalities, much less John Paul’s assertion in his constitution Sacrae disciplinae leges that the 1983 Code, which presumably includes canons 1311 and 1312, presents the true ecclesiology even of the Second Vatican Council. One hears flowery rejections of ecclesiastical coercion, even from people who might otherwise be expected to scan the Code of Canon Law and John Paul’s apostolic constitution promulgating it. One can scarcely imagine the reaction to Lyndwood’s argument that the pope can make foreign law into common law merely by approving it. 

Lest anyone suggest that the good kings of England resisted the encroachments of popish tyranny, it ought to be noted that English statutory law conformed with the European common law established by Boniface VIII. During Richard II’s minority, a statute was adopted in his name authorizing the arrest and imprisonment of heretical preachers (5 Ric. II stat. 2, c. 5). Then, under Henry IV, a very severe statute against the Lollards was introduced (2 Hen. IV c. 15). Many cite Henry IV’s statute as the beginning of the writ de heretico comburendo. However, in his magisterial Roman Canon Law in the Church of England, Maitland argues that Archbishop Arundel had the Lollard priest William Sawtrey burned even before Parliament had actually passed the statute (on the strength of Boniface VIII’s Ut inquisitionis negotium and Frederick’s constitutions). Certainly there is no conflict between the two. 

Then, in 1414, Henry V renewed the severe legislation against the Lollards (2 Hen. V stat. 1, c.7), demanding first an oath from practically everyone engaged in civil administration for the extirpation of Lollardy and for close cooperation with the spiritual authorities in their work against heresy. He also provided for the forfeiture of the lands and property of those convicted of heresy. Blackstone notes that Henry V’s law against the Lollards made that heresy a temporal offense and claimed concurrent jurisdiction with the ecclesiastical courts. This is an interesting observation, which deserves to be repeated: Henry V made heresy a temporal offense. These three statutes (5 Ric. II stat. 2, c. 5, 2 Hen. IV c. 15, and 2 Hen. V stat. 1, c. 7) were renewed by Philip and Mary in 1554 (1 & 2 Phil. & Mar. c. 6). 

The English legislation against heretics was not limited to Catholic monarchs. In 1562, although Elizabeth repealed the prior statutes against heresy (1 Eliz. I c. 1), she reformed the process for the writ de excommunicato capiendo by the statute 5 Eliz. I c. 23. The purpose was not, as one might think, to suppress the state’s cooperation with ecclesiastical authority. Instead, Elizabeth’s statute was framed to ensure the due execution and return of the writ so that the excommunicated could be properly addressed by ecclesiastical authorities. Blackstone reliably informs us that Elizabeth also put the writ de heretico comburendo into execution against Jan Pietersz and Hendrick Terwoort (4 Commentaries *49). It was not until 1677 that Parliament finally abolished the writ de heretico comburendo (29 Car. II c. 9). However, the statute contained a lengthy proviso that the abolition of the writ did not diminish the jurisdiction of “Protestant Arch-Bishops or Bishops or any other Judges of any Ecclesiasticall Courts in cases of Atheisme Blasphemy Heresie or Schisme and other damnable Doctrines and Opinions” to punish offenders. 

One might also note that, while the monarchs of the so-called reformation were eager to roll back the heresy laws of Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V, they were also eager to punish witchcraft most stringently. Henry VIII, Elizabeth, and James all issued severe laws against witchcraft (e.g., 33 Hen. VIII c. 8; 1 Jac. I c. 12). James in particular made witchcraft a secular felony, punishable with death, echoing Henry V’s statute making heresy a temporal offense. Blackstone notes that heresy and witchcraft had been treated similarly in English law (4 Commentaries *60). However, witchcraft was ultimately removed from the judgment of the ecclesiastical courts. But by the time of George II, the ancient severity of the English law against witchcraft had been relaxed significantly, to the point where the law seemed to hold that only the pretense of witchcraft was punishable and then only with a year’s imprisonment (4 Commentaries *61). 

All of this is interesting as English legal history, to be sure, but one might justly wonder the extent to which it has any bearing on American jurisprudence. There are two answers to that question. First, English legal history served as the omnipresent background for the founding fathers. Coke’s Institutes and Blackstone’s Commentaries were the cornerstone of early American legal education and jurisprudence, and retain, as a consequence, a privileged place in the understanding of the founding fathers’ legal thought. The founding fathers, moreover, were not above borrowing specific concepts from English law. Alexander Hamilton, in describing the Senate as a high court of impeachments in Federalist No. 65, noted frankly that the Constitution’s arrangement for impeachments had been borrowed from England. 

The long history of Christianity and English law—indeed of the extent to which secular courts were obliged to follow ecclesiastical law—was certainly not unknown to the founding fathers. In February 1814, Thomas Jefferson forwarded an extract of his commonplace book to Dr. Thomas Cooper. Jefferson had obtained for Cooper appointment as a professor in the University of Virginia, which he was forced to resign over religious matters. Jefferson’s extract is a long summary treating the question of whether Christianity was part of English common law. After listing numerous authorities in support of the proposition that Christianity was in fact part of the English common law, Jefferson, ever the freethinker, attempts to prove it was never so. But Jefferson never quite manages to batter down the judges, including Sir Matthew Hale’s judgment in Rex v. Taylor, I Ventr. 293, 3 Keb. 607 (1676). In forwarding the extract to Cooper, Jefferson suggested that Cooper might “find the conclusions bolder than the historical facts and principles will warrant.” 

The other answer is this: the English common law is part of the organic law of many states. Often one reads in state law that the English common law as of the fourth year of the reign of James I (1607) is received as part of the law of a state. No doubt this date is connected to the establishment of James Fort, later known as Jamestown, by the Virginia Company in May 1607, after which courts sitting in the United States adopted and developed the common law. While Elizabeth repealed Philip and Mary’s renewal of the older heresy statutes, it is clear that Elizabeth’s common law included the writ de heretico comburendo and the writ de excommunicato capiendo. The former would not be abolished until 1677 and Elizabeth herself reformed the procedure for the latter in 1562. It stands to reason, therefore, that Frederick II’s stringent decrees against heresy, made part of English common law by Pope Boniface VIII, lurked in the body of the common law as it made its way to the New World. 

The founding fathers, most of whom knew their Blackstone as well as anything, would no doubt have read in the fourth volume of Blackstone a brief account of Frederick II, Boniface VIII, and Lyndwood (4 Commentaries *45–46). Indeed, Blackstone traces quickly the history of English heresy law, including Henry VIII’s statutes defining heresy and Elizabeth I’s repeal of the former heresy laws, and comes to the conclusion that the writ de heretico comburendo was left as it was in common law, which is to say available only to the provincial synod (4 Commentaries *46–49). Anyone who consults Blackstone must therefore conclude that at least some of the provisions against heresy were part and parcel of the common law as of the fourth year of James I. 

Originalists, frantic to find an answer to Vermeule, are no doubt rejoicing at this conclusion. The common law adopted by the states, as it was understood by the framers of the Constitution and those who ratified it, included in some sense the stringent heresy laws of Emperor Frederick II, which had been grafted into the common law by Pope Boniface VIII. Subsequent statutory enactments may have broadened or narrowed the scope of the civil authorities in heresy cases, but at no point before 1677 or so (i.e., after English common law became American common law) was the scope abolished. Recall that the First Amendment was not incorporated against the states at ratification, and the Tenth Amendment leaves the states’ powers untouched except where specifically modified by the Constitution. 

The answer to Vermeule becomes clear, does it not? If one accepts  a thick understanding of originalism and the Anglo-American tradition, you see that the power to execute heretics is already part of the constitutional order in this country. Federalism is nothing if not a warrant for the states to pursue heretics—as good originalists, we note that these are heretics as Frederick II and Boniface VIII would have seen them—while the federal government sticks to its knitting. Our great separation of powers means that state-court judges shall issue writs de heretico comburendo and de excommunicato capiendo upon the application of ecclesiastical authorities for governors and sheriffs to execute. If the states have modified this understanding by various enactments—here we should remember that statutes in derogation of the common law are always construed narrowly—that is their choice. Other states may make other choices. 

One takes a step back, breathless, at this moment. The genius of the framers was not merely a system of checks and balances, a finely wrought mechanism for the preservation of liberty. It was also to leave untouched the English-speaking peoples’ tradition of stringent punishments for heresy carried out by civil officials at the behest of the ecclesiastical authorities. A tradition that finds its root in the decision of the Pope who issued the bull Unam sanctam and the bull Ausculta fili to issue a decretal ratifying the ordinances of a Holy Roman Emperor. They built better than they knew. 

Some Fragments toward an Integralist Penal Law

By P.J. Smith


A preliminary observation: when someone demands a complete policy proposal, what are they seeking to enthrone? What are they seeking to minorize? Here I am thinking of Michel Foucault’s January 7, 1976 lecture at the Collège de France (collected in the volume “Society Must Be Defended”). It seems patent to me that the declaration that such and such is a science, made always with the intent to disqualify other knowledge, is the same thing as demanding that integralists present complete policy proposals, made with the same intent. That is, the guardians of liberalism seek to disqualify integralist thought by asserting that only ideologies completely concretized with laws and regulations and white papers are serious ideologies. The demand is obviously made in an attempt to tap into the power-structures of the existing regime, which necessarily has laws and regulations and white papers.

One of course can approach the question of laws and regulations in purely technical terms, that is to say, as an exercise in drafting statutes. A person who, being validly baptized, knowingly or intentionally holds a doctrine condemned by the Supreme Pontiff or an ecumenical council commits heresy, a felony. One can even go so far as to draft statutes establishing proof. A certified copy of a judgment from an ecclesiastical tribunal finding that the defendant has committed the canonical delict of heresy shall be sufficient proof that the defendant has committed heresy, a felony. In and of itself, this is not very difficult work. If the demand for an integralist penal law is a demand that integralists engage in the purely technical task of writing statutes that would be adopted in a hypothetical integralist state, this is no demand at all.

Yet no one really conceives of the demand as a demand for technical examples of integralist penal law. Such a demand would be of interest only to lawyers and the answers intelligible for the most part only to lawyers. By and large the individuals demanding such work are not lawyers. The demand is made on a much lower level: who will be punished and for what? Here, we find a new attempt to disqualify integralist thought. However, the question of who will be punished and for what is just about the last question to be asked. Only after the hard work—the very hard work, in fact—has taken place with respect to theoretical questions can we even begin to approach the concrete question.


Recall Professor Pink’s thesis: Dignitatis humanae represents a change in the Church’s policy with respect to coercion, not a change in the Church’s doctrine. Consider in this regard canon 1311 of the 1983 Code, declared by John Paul II to be consistent from top to bottom with the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council. For now, if Professor Pink is correct, the Church does not require the assistance of the state in vindicating its “innate and proper right” to coerce the baptized with penal sanctions. This could change, but the announcement of the change would have to come from the Church.

This is perhaps the central question for an integralist penal law. The policy of the Church is not to seek assistance for its coercive activities from the state. Under these circumstances, is it necessary (or appropriate) for an integralist regime to adopt penal law addressing heresy? The integralist state would take on the role of Lisa Simpson, once described by Ned Flanders as “Springfield’s answer to a question nobody asked,” if it adopted penal measures with respect to heresy without a request from the Church. This is to say that the state ought not to assume the role of an officious interloper, acting on behalf of the Church when the Church has not asked for assistance.

We must also acknowledge the limits of the Church’s coercive power: it extends only to the validly baptized. Non-Christians are simply outside the limits of the Church’s power, not least since Thomas’s position on forced baptism prevailed over Scotus’s. To be sure, if the rites of non-Christians somehow imperiled the unity and order of the state—that is to say, the peace of the state—the state would not be powerless to act. And if the rites of non-Christians imperiled the Church, the state, presumably, would not be powerless to act. However, this would not be necessarily a concrete expression of integralist penal law. And the state’s action would be aimed only at restoring the peace of the state, not coercing belief. All of this is entirely consistent with Dignitatis humanae and the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.

Another important question on this point: who has the authority to request the state’s assistance on behalf of the Church? It is understood implicitly that the pope, acting on his own, or an ecumenical council cum Petro et sub Petro, could request the assistance of the state. But could a diocesan bishop? Could intermediate bodies, such as an episcopal conference, request the assistance of the state? This is not merely a question to be answered in the context of penal law, but a question to be answered in the context of all law.

One more question: who has the authority to answer the Church? That is to say, if the Church changes its policy tomorrow and requests the assistance of the state, who shall attend? Much turns on this question, as well.


By the same token, what are the state’s rights? Remember that Frederick II, the great Hohenstaufen emperor, adopted stringent legislation against heresy, both in Sicily and the Empire. Remember that Justinian, the great lawgiver, began his Codex with no less stringent laws against heresy. Was this misguided? An overreach by authoritarians—indeed, proto-totalitarians? Perhaps Cardinal Danielou’s assertion that religion is part of the temporal common good provides the key. In Prayer as a Political Problem, he wrote, “Religion is not concerned solely with the future life; it is a constituent element of this life. Because the religious dimension is an essential part of human nature, civil society should recognize it as a constituent element of the common good for which it is itself responsible.” Nevertheless, in acknowledging that the state has the right—because it has the duty to defend the true religion, which constitutes part of the temporal common good—to suppress heresy, we must still consider the nature of that right and its extent. We return also to our fundamental question, in a different way: does the Church’s change in its policy mean that the state’s right is suspended or even abrogated?

Moreover, is there not more to integralism than merely addressing heresy? As noted above, the debate is often joined on this point for purely rhetorical reasons: look at the wicked integralists, who might be stern, even stringent, with protestants. Yet there are areas entirely separate from the content of one’s creed where Catholic teaching could be implemented by the state. Consider the social doctrine of the popes. Consider, for a more recent example, Pope Francis’s ecological teaching. Considering the teaching of Leo XIII and Pius XII, among others, it is clear that the Church does not claim the right to direct minutely the activities of the state on matters such as industrial relations or environmental protection. The state has latitude here to tailor its laws to the common good. Yet would anyone deny that a regime that attempted to implement the Church’s teachings on industrial relations or the environment was profoundly integralist—whether or not it adopted a penal law touching upon heresy?


In almost every interaction with the law, there is coercion. Worse than coercion, there is persuasion. We see this most obviously in the criminal law: if you commit certain acts, you will be punished with fines or imprisonment (in some cases, even death). We see this also in the juvenile law: if a parent does or fails to do certain acts, he or she will be compelled under a court order to cooperate with the government in receiving services. Violation of the court order could result in jail. If the parent fails to comply long enough, his or her relationship with the child will be terminated. But there are all sorts of other coercions: in zoning law, in environmental regulations, in professional licensing.

More insidious than the coercion backed up with prison or fines or contempt powers (which is to say, prison or fines) is the persuasion that is implicit in tax laws. It is a fact—a fact of long standing, a consequence of central banking—that the government does not actually need income tax for revenue. The Internal Revenue Code in the United States therefore becomes an enormous mechanism of persuasion. If you do certain things, you will receive financial benefits; if you do other things, you will receive financial penalties. Over time, as the deductions and credits add up, you may find yourself adopting views without knowing it.

But we must stop here to ask a question. Why are the coercion and persuasion under liberalism privileged? Is there a stronger moral basis for the rule that you must pay a penalty if you take money out of your 401(k) before age 59 1/2 than a hypothetical rule that you must pay a penalty if you defame the Blessed Virgin Mary? Is there a stronger moral basis for a prohibition of possession of methamphetamine than a hypothetical prohibition of possession of Calvin’s Institutes? You may say in the latter case that methamphetamine destroys lives and communities, which it surely does, but even that betrays a privilege for laws addressing material harms as opposed to laws addressing spiritual harms. There must be some reason for the privilege, then. Could it be that what is is considered immutable (and therefore good)? Could it be that we can see in a concrete (i.e., biological) way material harms but usually cannot see spiritual harms? There are necessarily metaphysical presuppositions to the privilege assiduously afforded to coercion under liberalism. There are probably consequences to such privilege. Here we can turn to the vista of political theology.


“Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.” Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 485 (1928) (Brandeis, J., dissenting). Law is framed as a measure of human acts and its purpose is to lead men to virtue, albeit gradually (ST IaIIae q.96 a.2 co. & ad 2). The resistance to an integralist penal law seems fundamentally to be a denial of these principles; that is, those who resist—or even reject—the concept of an integralist penal law hold, ultimately, that the government ought not to teach by means of the penal law, the government ought not to adopt measures intended to lead men to virtue by punishing the more flagrant vices (cf. ST IaIIae q.96 a.2 co.). Or, once again, we return to the metaphysical presuppositions behind such positions: the bizarre privilege for laws addressing material harms and the steadfast denial of spiritual harms as subjects for redress by the state. Whatever the motivation, the resistance to an integralist penal law represents fundamentally an impoverished notion of government, which reduces the state to little more than a traffic cop or hall monitor.

There are difficulties—serious difficulties—that must be surmounted before engaging in the technical task of writing statutes. For the integralist, the most serious task is addressing the fact that the Church, for the moment, does not seek the assistance of the state for its coercive activities, claimed as its “innate and proper right” even after the Second Vatican Council. However, for the integralist, there is no question that the impoverished liberal sense of government-as-traffic-cop is inadmissible. Indeed, the reason why integralism is being debated so hotly is because the traffic cop has failed in his duties. At the risk of carrying the analogy too far (or the more serious risk of lapsing into preciosity), the only question is, really, how best to sweep up the mess he has left, how best to tend to the wounds caused by the accidents he has caused, and how best to lead the drivers back to sane driving.

Integralism versus the Marxist and post-Marxist Left

By Vincent Clarke

In this essay, we will be asking whether there is anything of worth on the intellectual left. We will not be considering more pragmatic disciplines such as economics. Rather we will be focusing on philosophical and expressly political ideas. Some thinkers in the post-fusionist Catholic sphere have pointed to these ideas—typically formulated as some sort of Catholic Marxism—as being a way forward. Others—including the integralist movement—have rejected the worldview lying behind these ideas but have claimed that there are interesting components that can be refashioned.

So far, the discussion of these ideas has not considered that they emerged as a response to and ultimately as a replacement for the liberal ideas that arose during the Enlightenment. The original proponents attempted to incorporate the Romantic critiques that arose against liberal Enlightenment ideas in the 18th and early 19th century into the liberal Enlightenment project. By taking this perspective we hope to show that these left-wing ideas are ultimately the flipside of the liberal Enlightenment project that was formulated against classical and Catholic systems of thought. For that reason, they should, at best, be viewed coolly, at worst, with extreme suspicion.

For reasons of space we will stick closely to what appear to be the core ideas. This will allow us to give a full contextual and historical overview of the idea and how it relates to classical and pre-Enlightenment thought.

Alienation, or Marxian Metaphysics

Whether we argue that liberalism began to emerge with Hobbes or Locke or even Bacon, we can say that it was originally formulated as a mechanistic and dispassionate intervention in politics and culture. These ideas were, from the beginning, a response to the passions of religion as manifest in the Wars of Religion. The first generation of liberals were not antinomian revolutionaries so much as they were nervous administrators—social and political managers preaching tolerance in the hope of avoiding civil war.

But it soon became clear that Man was not made for management. The Romantic thinkers brought the question of passion and affirmative personal freedom back on the stage. Whether this was in the immature fantasies of Goethe’s young Werther or in the sophisticated political mythology of Rousseau’s Man-in-the-state-of-nature, the message was clear: notional freedom coupled with drab political management was not enough; Man was built for love, transgression, self-actualisation and the Enlightenment project must recognise that.

Accusations soon followed: It was thought that the liberal Enlightenment project, with its dull bourgeois rationalism, crushed Man in his project to be free. In throwing off the shackles of religion, the Romantics argued, post-Enlightenment Man had signed himself up to the slave ship of dreary rationality. Man, they claimed, was alienated by liberal bourgeois society.

‘Alienation’, or ‘Entfremdung’ in the original German, is an unusual term. At the time when the Romantics, especially Hegel, were discussing it, there were three general meanings. One was a legal meaning which denoted the selling of a man’s rights over his own property. Another was a social term meaning the estrangement of a man from his peers. The final medico-psychiatric meaning – connected to the previous usage—was the loss of a man’s capacity for reason and his falling into insanity (Geyer et al 1976, p5). Indeed, until the mid-twentieth century it was not uncommon for psychiatrists to be referred to, especially in France, as ‘alienists.’

The original Hegelian use of the term was most closely associated with the medico-psychiatric meaning. In his Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel discusses “the Alienated Soul” or, in his terminology, “the Unhappy Consciousness” as “the consciousness of self as a divided nature, a doubled and merely contradictory being” (Hegel 1807, B. IV, (b))[1]). Hegel describes a consciousness that looks upon itself as an object – that judges itself and deems itself unworthy. In modern pop psychological language, Hegel seems to be discussing something like self-hatred. Hegel takes the alienated consciousness to task saying that this self-judgement rests on a contradiction: if the consciousness is judging itself, this is equivalent to a judge judging his own judgement. Infinite regress follows. This is overcome for Hegel when the alienated consciousness recognises itself as its own judge and in doing so overcomes the contradiction and becomes unified.

Note that Hegel does not project the alienation onto the external world. This, for him, would merely be a cop-out—a manifestation of blaming the world for problems that the Spirit or psyche has not sufficiently overcome. Later on, Hegel will warn against this projection of the alienated consciousness outward:

The heartthrob for the welfare of mankind passes therefore into the rage of frantic self-conceit, into the fury of consciousness to preserve itself from destruction; and to do so by casting out of its life the perversion which it really is, and by straining to regard and to express that perversion as something else. The universal ordinance and law it, therefore, now speaks of as an utter distortion of the law of its heart and of its happiness, a perversion invented by fanatical priests, by riotous, revelling despots and their minions, who seek to indemnify themselves for their own degradation by degrading and oppressing in their turn—a distortion practised to the nameless misery of deluded mankind. (Hegel 1807, AA. V, B, (b)—my emphasis.)

Of course, some of Hegel’s followers decided to do just that. The most prominent was Ludwig Feuerbach who used Hegel’s dialectical apparatus—built to accommodate a fusion of post-Enlightenment rational deism and a defence of Christian morality—against religion. In his The Essence of Christianity, published in 1844, Feuerbach argued that religion was a product of alienation. Man thought that he was worshipping God, Feuerbach argued, but really this was just a projection of his own consciousness. Feuerbach could not be clearer:

The consciousness of God is the self-consciousness of man; the knowledge of God is the self-knowledge of man. Man’s notion of himself is his notion of God, just as his notion of God is his notion of himself—the two are identical. What is God to man, that is man’s own spirit, man’s own soul; what is man’s spirit, soul, and heart—that is his God. God is the manifestation of man’s inner nature, his expressed self; religion is the solemn unveiling of man’s hidden treasures, the avowal of his innermost thoughts, the open confession of the secrets of his love. (Feuerbach 1844, I, §2.)

From here it was not long before Feuerbach and his followers were denouncing—just as Hegel warned they would—the “perversions invented by fanatical priests.” But that was not enough. The French Revolution, in its attempt to fuse liberal Enlightenment Reason and Romanticism, was content with directing its ire against the priests and the kings, but in 19th century Europe it was becoming clear that a new ruling class was ascendant: the bourgeoisie. So, it was inevitable—especially after the revolutions of 1848—that the notion of alienation would be pushed further than Feuerbach had attempted.

Feuerbach’s account was purely negative. It counselled that Man should throw off the shackles of religion and worship at the altar of himself. Perhaps that would require murdering a few priests, but it did not require upending the social order: it could not be used to justify the 1848 revolutionaries. Marx would soon make the point that Feuerbach’s thesis was ahistorical and it “does not see that the ‘religious sentiment’ is itself a social product, and that the abstract individual whom he analyses belongs to a particular form of society” (Marx 1845). Here the critique moves up the ladder, from the relation between the individual and the Church, to the relation between the individual and society as mediated by the Church.

Now a new avenue for social criticism is opened. We have swung all the way back from the medico-psychiatric meaning of ‘alienation’ to the social. Social alienation was, until now, largely seen as the product of a defective individual consciousness. But Marx would turn that around: it was not the alienated man who felt his alienation like a weight on his shoulders that was the problem; it was the society itself.

Marx conceived of alienation in bourgeois society as being tied up with the production process under capitalism. The key passage is as follows:

The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and size. The worker becomes an ever-cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates. The devaluation of the world of men is in direct proportion to the increasing value of the world of things. Labor produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the worker as a commodity— and this at the same rate at which it produces commodities in general. This fact expresses merely that the object which labor produces—labor’s product—confronts it as something alien, as a power independent of the producer. The product of labor is labor which has been embodied in an object, which has become material: it is the objectification of labor. Labor’s realization is its objectification. Under these economic conditions this realization of labor appears as loss of realization for the workers; objectification as loss of the object and bondage to it; appropriation as estrangement, as alienation. (Marx 1844, I, IV.)

The solution to this is obvious: to change the relations of production in such a way as to ensure that Man sees the objects of his production as objects of his production. We have come a long way from Hegel. Whatever one thinks of Hegel’s Panglossian post-Enlightenment liberal Protestantism, at least he was dealing with an issue that was straightforward: the psychological problem of self-alienation. Hegel was playing philosopher as psychologist and encouraging his readers to reflect on themselves until they occupied a place of coherence and mental comfort. It is not hard to see how Hegel expects the Alienated Soul to get from A to B.

With Feuerbach this becomes rather dubious. He seems to be suggesting that the problem is the priest. His solution would then be to throw off the shackles of religion. If the notion that less religion would lead to less personal alienation appeared dubious in the first half of the 19th century, today it appears absurd – the very opposite of the truth. One need not even cite statistical studies[2] showing much less alienation amongst the religious, but just reflect on the fact that modern sociology as it emerged in the work of Durkheim was premised on the idea that secularisation led to alienation or ‘anomie’[3]. Still, on his own terms we can at least take Feuerbach’s argument seriously: if it really is the priest that is the cause of personal alienation—presumably through the spreading of some nefarious morality—then it is clear how the removal of the priest will remove the source of alienation.

Few have commented on it, but from a common sense point-of-view Marx’s thesis seems very strange indeed. It seems to imply that self-alienation—effectively a psychological problem—will disappear if Man gets greater consciousness of the fact that the goods he is producing in a factory and then buys at the market are actually the goods he produced. How does this work exactly? Would the same effect be achieved if Man is sat down and made to watch hours of film about the production and distribution systems of a modern, decentralised economy? It is hard to see why the latter should not work in the Marxian frame of reference. Marx’s theory sounds impressive when pitched at a high theoretical level, but when closely examined it seems a little silly.

How does it relate to Catholic thought? Well, first it should now be clear that it arises out of a system that is totally at odds with Catholic thought. It starts with the well-meaning liberal Protestantism of a Hegel that encourages Man to overcome his alienation through rational self-reflection—not unlike contemporary psychotherapy—and then counsels a combination of post-Enlightenment deism and stripped down Christian morality as a principle on which to organise an effectively liberal society[4]. It then mutates into belligerent atheism with Feuerbach who is quick to blame the Church for psychological distress—a very common underbelly of post-Enlightenment rationalism. Finally, it turns into a critique of the production process in capitalism and religion is tossed aside as the ‘opium of the masses.’ At best, this final development is a form of naïve Pelagianism; at worst, it is the sort of ideology that led to everything from the Spanish Red Terror to the violent suppression of the Church in the Soviet Union. Lying within every Marxist is an angry Feuerbachian—and this especially so when the seizing of private property fails to ameliorate psychological distress.

In Catholic thought, alienation is simply a product of a disordered Will that is not sufficiently aligned with God and the natural law. “Our heart is restless,” St Augustine writes of his former alienation, “until it finds its rest in Thee.” Alienation is the product of Sin. Even abstracting from the deep theological components of this account, it lines up remarkably well with common sense. A person likely feels alienation because he is living poorly. He is devoting himself to various false gods and not recognising the truth of the real God. His desires are clamorous and disordered because he will not submit his Will to the natural law. Thus, for integralists and promoters of Catholic thought it is obvious how mass alienation should be overcome: by ordering our societies to the natural law. The better aligned societies are with the natural law, the less people will experience alienation, because by being ordered by the natural law, man is being ordered in accordance with his own nature. It is a simple, straightforward account and one that lines up remarkably well with the statistical studies that post-Durkheimian sociology would have us believe. It is also—last time this author checked—the official position of the Catholic Church.

Even if some Catholic Marxists accept this broad account, they might argue that a more streamlined version of Marx can be helpful in achieving precisely that. It is to this that we now turn.

Commodity Fetishism, or Marxian Anthropology

One line of defence of Marxist thought is to say that the concept of alienation was a product of the ‘young Marx’s’ thinking which was superseded in his later mature works—most notably Capital. The idea here is that Marx in his ‘Hegelian phase’—as a young man concerned with personal feelings of alienation—got caught up in questions that would later become irrelevant. On this account, Marx’s later work represents an ‘epistemic break’ from his earlier work; Marx moves from the vague realm of metaphysics into the precise world of science.

The most notable proponent of this argument was Louis Althusser. In his seminal 1965 collection of essays For Marx he writes:

[I]f we are prepared to stand back a little from Marx’s discovery so that we can see that he founded a new scientific discipline and that this emergence itself was analogous to all the great scientific discoveries of history, we must also agree that no great discovery has ever been made with out bringing to light a new object or a new domain, without a new horizon of meaning appearing, a new land in which the old images and myths have been abolished—but at the same time the inventor of this new world must of absolute necessity have prepared his intelligence in the old forms themselves, he must have learnt and practised them, and by criticizing them formed a taste for and learnt the art of manipulating abstract forms in general, without which familiarity he could never have conceived new ones with which to think the new object. (Althusser 1965, p85.)

Althusser dismisses the young Marx as naïve man caught in the trappings of outmoded philosophical idealism—and contrasts him with the mature Marx the scientist and objective theory of History and Communism. If we accept this interpretation, the theory of alienation slips into the background—an embarrassing product of an immature and underdeveloped mind.

Despite the fact that Althusser dismisses the idea of ‘commodity fetishism’ as a product of the pre-scientific Marx and replaces it with his own theory of ideological apparatuses (Althusser 1970), some claim that the notion of commodity fetishism is a viable anthropological theory that can be deployed by Catholics in defence of the natural law. This is supported by the fact that, although the notion of alienation is dropped in his mature work, Marx nevertheless discusses commodity fetishism. In his Capital he explains it as such:

As against this, the commodity-form, and the value-relation of the products of labour within which it appears, have absolutely no connection with the physical nature of the commodity and the material relations arising out of this. It is nothing but the definite social relation between men themselves which assumes here, for them, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy we must take flight into the misty realm of religion. There the products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. I call this the fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities (Marx 1870, p165).

Here we see more echoes of Feuerbach. But only by analogy. Marx is no longer discussing the psychological or metaphysical phenomenon of alienation. Instead he is highlighting the fact that the highly abstract social relations that capitalism gives rise to lead to a mystification of the production process and hence of the nature of society. In turn, this gives rise to an ideology, a false consciousness, that tricks Man in capitalist society to think that his lot is a natural one and not the product of political forces that can be altered. This is not metaphysics, but anthropology.

But is it good anthropology? Again, Marx’s theory sounds good from a high theoretical level but when we start to think it through it becomes a little muddy. And again, the questions that we raised about alienation rise to the surface, albeit in different form. If Man is told clearly the actual relations of production, will he instantly recognise them as unjust and rebel against the system? Certainly, if Marxists are told what Marx thinks to be the relations of production they will come to this conclusion—there is plenty of historical evidence in favour of that proposition—but it does not follow that everyone comes to this same conclusion. Many have studied Marx’s work and concluded that the capitalist relations of production are, if not ideal, at least a best approximation of how to organise a functional society. Others have concluded that these relations are deeply flawed, but that this does not mean the whole system need be overthrown – rather they should be ameliorated by the State. The point is that, even with Marx’s critique laid out, it is not obvious that one accepts it as true as one might a mathematical demonstration. It has, embedded within it, more than a few value judgements – not just on the utility of capitalism but also on the prudence of revolutionary social change.

From this perspective, Marx’s notion of commodity fetishism is not neutral anthropology. Rather it is a statement that we are only likely to accept if we accept Marx’s broader vision—that is—if we ourselves are socialists or communists. It is also slightly dubious. Take the former Soviet Union as an example—whether the Soviet system was a true socialist economy or not, it was certainly not capitalist. Relations of production in the Soviet Union were extremely opaque— ‘plans’ were handed down by the Gosplan without much explanation. Most people, it would be fair to say, experienced the arbitrariness of Actually Existing Socialism as utterly mystifying—especially when a triple order of toilet paper arrived but no soup. Does it therefore follow that the centrally planned economic system, in the manner it produced and distributed commodities, provided ideological cover for the system? This seems unlikely. In fact, it was the opaqueness and dysfunction of the system that led citizens to look across the West jealously at the societies of abundance. If anything, the opaqueness and dysfunction generated cynicism and opposition to the system.

Yet, if Marx’s account is right, why does commodity fetishism ‘work’ in the relatively functional capitalist economies, but not in the dysfunctional centrally planned economies? After all, the same mechanism of opaqueness of production relations exists in both. Yet they generate different responses. Under capitalism, most of the time, most people accept the system as relatively natural. Yet under Really Existing Socialism people had a lingering sense that the system was dysfunctional and performed poorly in comparison with the Western capitalist systems. The more we think about it the stranger and less convincing Marx’s account is, even on its own terms. Again, it sounds good when stated theoretically—but when applied it becomes vague and strange.

What about its relation to Catholic thought? Certainly, Catholic thought is sympathetic to the idea that people should have more immediate control over their lives, including in their economic relations. It states this in its principal of subsidiarity. But it certainly does not call for the overthrow of markets or capitalism. Rather its response to this problem has been one of corporatism; of the organisation of society into empowered corporate entities that gain some modicum of control over blind market forces.

As with Catholic thought’s description of alienation as arising from Sin, this comes across as much more in line with common sense. It is not hard to see how the Catholic policymaker gets from A to B. Without the ‘corporations,’ the capitalist system is bewildering and punitive. But after they are introduced it is tamed to the needs of the community. This is much more specific than Marx’s vague notion that an imprecisely defined ‘communism’ will overcome the opaqueness of the system—and it makes no grandiose claims that the opaqueness of the system is fooling people into not joining the Church and becoming virtuous. Indeed, the idea that people are not joining the Church because of the opacity of economic relations comes across as so ridiculous as to be funny— but it is functionally equivalent to what Marxists are claiming when they claim that the only reason that the masses do not join the Marxist revolution is due to the opacity of economic relations.

Finally, we will turn to the post-Marxist left. Although no Catholic thinkers are counselling that we embrace the postmodern theories of desire and identity, there may be something interesting there that some have missed.

Desire and Pleasure, or Post-Marxist Politics

Defining the post-Marxist left is not altogether easy. It encompasses everything from identity politics to the sexual revolution. It encompasses thinkers as broad as Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, and Jacques Lacan. In what follows we will stick with two key thinkers, Michel Foucault and Giles Deleuze, as these best articulated the goals and methods of their politics. This is not to dismiss other thinkers. Lacanian neo-Marxists, for example, have drawn on Lacan’s theory of alienation as being superior to Hegel’s and integrated it into a post-Althusserian Marxism that reintegrates something resembling metaphysical critiques[5]. These are interesting, albeit flawed, from a Catholic perspective for the same reason that Marx’s original alienation theory is flawed. But Foucault and Deleuze articulate the politics that we see on the left today in the most concise manner.

Foucault and Deleuze, in their respective ways, shift the focus away from the production process as such and onto what they think to be a repressive society that suppresses the best tendencies—the true desires—of the individual. We are back, therefore, to the pre-Hegelian Romantics. It does not take long for them to find behind the curtain the oppressive figure of the priest. We are back, once more, to Feuerbach.

Foucault and Deleuze view society as a collection of institutions that repress individuals and force them to conform. Foucault is more inclined to examine institutions that are overtly punitive—the school, the hospital, the prison; while Deleuze is more inclined to examine institutions that shape the culture—most notably, psychotherapeutic intervention. But both recognise that the real repressive tool is morality. They argue that morality did not disappear after the Enlightenment destroyed religion but, rather, snuck in through the backdoor into social science and psychology and deployed via social and political institutions.

Foucault is quite explicit about this return to morality and ethics in his review of Deleuze’s book Anti-Oedipus, co-authored with Felix Guattari:

I would say that Anti-Oedipus (may its authors forgive me) is a book of ethics, the first book of ethics to be written in France in quite a long time (perhaps that explains why its success was not limited to a particular ‘readership’: being anti-oedipal has become a life style, a way of thinking and living) (Deleuze & Guattari 1972, pxiii).  

Here we get the gist of the whole project. The revolution is not so much about changing society as of changing oneself. True, the institutions that are not allowing oneself to self-actualise must be destroyed —and in that sense society must be changed—but the focus is on oneself, on lifestyle. Post-Marxist leftism is a lifestyle leftism. In this it is much closer to religion than the old Marxist framework. This is because it is much more about cultivating a sort of anti-morality; a rejection of all moralities and the following of the raw, unstructured instinct.

It is not surprising then that these thinkers eventually find at the root of the contemporary pseudo-scientific morality the Christian – and indeed, Catholic – morality of old. They set their work up as an opposition to this. Foucault jokes about this in his introduction: “Paying a modest tribute to Saint Francis de Sales, one might say that Anti-Oedipus is an Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life (ibid).” In his later work Foucault became obsessed with the old Jesuitical ethical manuals, especially those that dealt with the confessional—which he saw as a prototype of psychiatric and psychotherapeutic repression. He also found this type of subjectivity—which he defines as the problem that creates alienated social beings—to have been invented by St Augustine (Harcourt 2019).

Foucault and Deleuze are, in more ways than one, completely correct. They are not so much a repudiation of the Catholic tradition as an attempt to turn it on its head. For that reason, they are much closer to the Catholic thought tradition than is Marx. They understand that the key question is a moral one—to what extent society is organised in line with the natural law. But for them, the natural law is oppressive and the source of misery, whereas for Catholics it is liberationist and the source of contentment. Where St Augustine tells of his decadent lifestyle, the misery it brought him, and his finding of peace in God, Foucault and Deleuze tell us that peace in God is an illusion and that St Augustine would be much better off pursuing his carnal desires.

How they come to this conclusion is mystifying. Neither seemed like a happy man. Foucault died from AIDs and Deleuze from suicide. For all the talk of self-actualisation in their work, it seems that the lady doth protest too much and the writing is really flowing from a deep unhappiness and personal alienation. One suspects that their politics does not really have the goal of flourishing but instead of self-destruction. They are the theorists of decadence and death because they are decadent and death-oriented. Since no one succeeded in talking them out of this, they tried to convince others to follow them—and called on the destruction of Western Christian society. The story of the post-Marxist left is the story of the snake in the garden.

Yet for all that, integralists have much to learn from these thinkers. Since they are dealing with the same problem as integralists—namely, the moral regulation of the Good Society—their tactics and critiques only need to be flipped over to be useful. Where they implore transgression, integralists simply implore moral restraint and regulation. Where they implore the pursuit of instinctual satisfaction, integralists warn of the dangers of such libertinism and catalogue its effects. Where they call for post-1968 libertarian ‘liberation’, integralists point out that the only true freedom is freedom from one’s whims and desires. The key project for integralists when it comes to leftist thought should not be trying to repurpose Marx’s dubious concepts, but rather turning the post-Marxist left on its head.


Althusser, L. (1965). For Marx. Allen Lane.

Althusser, L. ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’ in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. Monthly Review Press.

Badious, A. (1982). Theory of the Subject. Continuum.

Chen, Y. & VanderWeele, T. (2018). ‘Associations of Religious Upbringing With Subsequent Health and Well-Being From Adolescence to Young Adulthood: An Outcome-Wide Analysis.’ American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 187, Issue 11, November 2018, Pages 2355–2364.

Clarke, V. (2019). ‘Jordan Peterson: Shepard of the Easily Freudened.’ American Affairs Journal.

Deleuze, G. & Guatarri, F. (1972). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press.

Durkheim, E. (1897). Suicide: A Sociological Study. Snowball Publishing.

Feuerbach, L. (1844). The Essence of Christianity.

Geyer, R. F. (1976). Theories of Alienation: Critical Perspectives In Philosophy And The Social Sciences. Springer Books.

Harcourt, B. E. (2019). ‘Foucault’s Keystone: Confessions of the Flesh. How the Fourth and Final Volume of The History of Sexuality Completes Foucault’s Critique of Modern Western Societies.’ Columbia Public Law Research Papers. No. 14-647.

Hegel, G. W. F. (1807). The Phenomenology of Mind.

Marx, K. (1844). Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts.

Marx, K. (1845). Theses on Feuerbach.

Marx, K. (1870). Capital Volume I. Penguin Press.

[1] Interestingly, this important sentence, taken from JB Baillie’s 1910 edition of the Phenomenology, is left out of the popular 1977 AV Miller translation. Yet in his introduction Miller discusses Hegel’s concept of alienation nine times. A strange discrepancy, as he obviously finds the category very important to Hegel’s thought.

[2]See, for example: (Chen & VanderWeele 2018).

[3]See: (Durkheim 1897).

[4] The Hegelian prescription bubbles up constantly in our society. Recently it has found expression in the popular figure of Jordan Peterson. See, Clarke (2019).

[5] In brief, this neo-Marxism posits that alienation is overcome simply by taking part in the revolution. See: (Badiou 1982). A cruel critic would say that the neo-Marxists have moved from Hegelian psychotherapeutic intervention to post-Lacanian group therapeutic intervention—and such a cruel critic would see those criticisms confirmed if they ever went to the embarrassing self-help spectacle that is a post-1968 radical leftist meeting.

Introduction to Natural Law Jurisprudence (part 2)

By Professor Brian M. McCall

Adapted from ch. 1 of The Architecture of Law: Rebuilding Law in the Classical Tradition (Notre Dame Press 2018). Part 1 can be found here.


Harold Berman once described three modes of jurisprudence: positivist (will of lawgiver), natural law (expression of moral principles as understood by reason), and historicist (law as a development of custom).26 For Berman, all three are necessary elements of law, as all three are intrinsic to all being. He explains:

Will, reason, memory—these are three interlocking qualities, St. Augustine wrote, in the mind of the triune God, who implanted them in the human psyche when He made man and woman in His own image and likeness. Like the persons of the Trinity itself, St. Augustine wrote, the three are inseparable and yet distinct. He identified will (voluntas) with purpose and choice, reason (intelligentia) with knowledge and understanding, and memory (memoria) with being—that is, the experience of time. . . . Their applicability to law is particularly striking, for law is indeed a product of will, reason, and memory—of politics, morality, and history—all three.27

Continue reading “Introduction to Natural Law Jurisprudence (part 2)”

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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Integralism at Church Life Journal

Timothy Troutner recently published a thought-provoking essay in Church Life Journal, a publication of the the Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, in which he argues against Catholic Integralism. Our own Pater Edmund Waldstein responded in the same publication, defending integralism. Another response was posted by the integralist blog Abrenuntio. The responses take the opportunity to make some clarifications of the integralist position.

Das Gute, das Höchste Gut und das Gemeinwohl

Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist.

Übersetzt von Johannes Moravitz

Die folgenden 37 Thesen geben einen allgemeinen Überblick über die aristotelisch-thomistische Darstellung vom Guten, wie sie in Interpretationen von Thomisten der Laval-Schule, wie etwa Charles De Koninck, Duane Berquist und Marcus Berquist zu finden ist. Eine Druckversion ist hier zu finden. Eine englische hier und eine spanische hier.

Teil I: Das Gute im Allgemeinen und das Menschliche Gut[1]

1. Das Gute ist, was alle wollen.

Das Wort „gut“ scheint zumindest zwei verschiedene Bedeutungen zu haben. Fragte man einen kleinen Buben, nennen wir ihn Thomas, was gut sei, so könnte er Folgendes antworten: „Eis ist gut, Pizza ist gut, fernsehen ist gut, Fußball ist gut, Urlaub ist gut.“ Ein anderer Bub, nennen wir ihn Eustachius, vielleicht ein Musterkind, könnte hingegen antworten: „Den Eltern zu folgen“, oder „die Regeln nicht zu brechen“, oder sogar „Gott zu gehorchen“. Es scheint einen großen Unterschied zwischen diesen beiden Wahrnehmungen des Guten zu geben. Tatsächlich aber sind beide nicht so unterschiedlich.

Continue reading “Das Gute, das Höchste Gut und das Gemeinwohl”

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”

Despairing of Integralism

by Jonathan Culbreath


One hears a good dose of defeatism recently expressed by Catholics who, though serious about their faith, are pessimistic about the practicability or desirability of seeking the integralist ideal in the current political climate.[1] The confessional State is deemed too lofty a goal to be worth seeking in the present circumstances. Accordingly, such Catholics (or non-Catholics, as the case may be) may read a simple statement about the relationship of temporal and spiritual power, and their reaction will be very similar to the reaction of two well-known commentators on twitter: “The prospects for integralism politically are almost too fantastical to make contemplating them a good use of time.” and “Can Catholic integralists come up with a successful modern example of their theories at work?” But such a defeatism involves a dual error originating in liberalism: it effectively banishes both grace and nature from the public sphere.

Continue reading “Despairing of Integralism”

Vatican II and Crisis in the Theology of Baptism: Part II

by Thomas Pink

This is the second part of a three-part series. Part one is available here, and part three here.

3. Vatican II and revolution in the official theology of baptism

Vatican II may not have introduced any new teaching about baptism in its formal magisterium. But even so, the Council event is deeply associated with a revolution in baptism’s official theology.

Aspects of this revolution were already occurring before the Council, in some cases with roots going back to the nineteenth century. The Council event still deepened or confirmed these theological changes. Other aspects of the revolution involved official liturgical changes brought about thanks to the Council. These liturgical changes were not in general directly called for by any document of the Council. But they were introduced by Paul VI in the name of applying the Council, and opposition to them is characteristically treated in official circles as opposition to the Council. Continue reading “Vatican II and Crisis in the Theology of Baptism: Part II”