Confusion on Catholic Action: A Reply to Petrus Hispanus

by Gabriel Sanchez


Recently a pseudonymous author wrote a reply to Elliot Milco’s two recent critiques of liberalism (see here and here). It’s a bit of a queer piece, what with the author’s insistence that Catholic Action is a “neo-Catholic strategy” of relatively recent vintage. Moreover, the author seems to misunderstand “traditionalism” (and by this I assume he means traditional Catholicism) as an alternative to Catholic Action as opposed to its continuation. No traditional Catholic worth his salt should set aside lightly that the principles of Catholic Action are part of the authentic magisterium of the Church and arguably received their fullest explication during the reign of St. Pius X. Here is an extended excerpt on the matter, lifted from Papa Sarto’s 1905 encyclical Il Fermo Proposito:

6. This fact, however, is no reason to lose courage. The Church well knows that the gates of hell will not prevail against her. Furthermore, she knows that she will be sorely afflicted; that her apostles are sent as lambs among wolves; that her followers will always bear the brunt of hatred and contempt, just as her Divine Founder received hatred and contempt. So the Church advances unafraid, spreading the Kingdom of God wherever she preaches and studying every possible means she can use in regaining the losses in the kingdom already conquered. “To restore all things in Christ” has always been the Church’s motto, and it is especially Our Own during these fearful moments through which we are now passing. “To restore all things” — not in any haphazard fashion, but “in Christ”; and the Apostle adds, “both those in the heavens and those on the earth.” “To restore all things in Christ” includes not only what properly pertains to the divine mission of the Church, namely, leading souls to God, but also what We have already explained as flowing from that divine mission, namely, Christian civilization in each and every one of the elements composing it.

7. Since We particularly dwell on this last part of the desired restoration, you clearly see, Venerable Brethren, the services rendered to the Church by those chosen bands of Catholics who aim to unite all their forces in combating anti-Christian civilization by every just and lawful means. They use every means in repairing the serious disorders caused by it. They seek to restore Jesus Christ to the family, the school and society by re-establishing the principle that human authority represents the authority of God. They take to heart the interests of the people, especially those of the working and agricultural classes, not only by inculcating in the hearts of everybody a true religious spirit (the only true fount of consolation among the troubles of this life) but also by endeavoring to dry their tears, to alleviate their sufferings, and to improve their economic condition by wise measures. They strive, in a word, to make public laws conformable to justice and amend or suppress those which are not so. Finally, they defend and support in a true Catholic spirit the rights of God in all things and the no less sacred rights of the Church.

8. All these works, sustained and promoted chiefly by lay Catholics and whose form varies according to the needs of each country, constitute what is generally known by a distinctive and surely a very noble name: “Catholic Action,” or the “Action of Catholics.” At all times it came to the aid of the Church, and the Church has always cherished and blessed such help, using it in many ways according to the exigencies of the age.

Two years earlier, in his motu proprio Fin Dalla Prima Nostra, Pius X set forth “the fundamental plan” of Catholic Action. No Catholic should feel entitled to deviate from these and other core principles of the Church’s social magisterium. Rather they should invest the time to learn what these principles are and, from there, devise the means to put them into practice. This is easier said than done, of course, especially at a time in global history where liberalism has managed to box-out almost every other competing ideology on the planet to become absolutely normative (or nearly so). But there are small ways that arise in the course of everyday life to help “restore all things in Christ.” They include—but are certainly not limited to—keeping a small icon or crucifix at one’s desk at work; praying before meals, even when in public; correcting in charity those who besmirch the Faith; showing love toward the poor and less fortunate; taking time out during the day to pray; etc. All of these acts are, by today’s lights, quite radical; but they also have the benefit of conforming to the desires of a great pope and, more importantly, Christ the King of all peoples.

This post originally appeared at Opus Publicum.

Dubium: Is Integralism Essentially Bound Up with Racism, Nationalism, and Totalitarianism?

Dubium: Is integralism essentially bound up with racism, nationalism, and totalitarianism?

Responsum: Negative.

Before proceeding to the explanation, it is important to identify exactly what is meant by the term “integralism.” An earlier article, “Catholic Integralism and the Social Kingship of Christ,” set forth the core principles of integralism and its inextricable bond to the Catholic Church’s doctrine of the Kingship of Christ. A more detailed and theologically refined explication of “the integralist thesis” is available on Pater Edmund Waldstein’s blog, Sancrucensis. P. Edmund closes his discussion and defense of integralism with the following passage from Thomistic philosopher-theologian Charles De Koninck’s seminal work, On the Primacy of the Common Good:

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Catholic Integralism and the Social Kingship of Christ

Catholic integralism (sometimes referred to as “integrism”) is today dismissed as a relic of a bygone era which received its final chance at life through a number of ostensibly misguided socio-political movements during the early decades of the last century. Though the term “integralism” would be appropriated and reworked by several prominent 20th Century theologians, it is largely associated with hyper-traditionalist reactionaries who refuse to recognize the ideological realignment of the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council. Whether or not this ideological realignment has been either prudent or wise remains a vexing question. Serious inquiry into this matter is too often taken as a sign of flagrant disobedience, and there remain forces within the Church which wish to uphold that the ideological realignment toward liberalism is the direct result of, or coeval with, authentic doctrinal development. That thesis has come under significant and sustained scrutiny in recent years, as evidenced by Pater Edmund Waldstein’s four-part article, “Religious Liberty and Tradition” (available here, here, here, and here) and theologian John Lamont’s paper, “Catholic Teaching on Religion and the State.” Some, naturally, remain unconvinced, including those who believe that Vatican II’s document on religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae, not only conflicts with pre-conciliar magisterial statements, but has had the practical effect of obscuring the social rights of Christ the King. That the Kingship of Christ has become, for many Catholics now living, a “lost doctrine” is almost beyond dispute. Nevertheless, as the Dominican theologian Fr. Aidan Nichols recently opined, “[P]ublicly recognising divine revelation is an entailment of the Kingship of Christ on which, despite its difficulties in a post-Enlightenment society, we must not renege.” It is for the restoration of this public recognition that Catholic integralism continues to strive.

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A Reflection on St. Pius X and Contemporary Approaches to Catholic Social Teaching

Lamentably few Catholics today, outside of traditional circles, seem interested in reading Catholic Social Teaching or, better put, the Church’s social magisterium in holistic, continuous manner. Ideological fracturing within the Church has led various camps to adopt certain elements of Catholic Social Teaching for their own while discarding others which appear inconvenient to their oftentimes tendentious interpretations of the magisterium. In two earlier articles, one for the online venue Ethika Politika and another for The Angelus magazine, I shed critical light on the “hermeneutic of selectivity” which reigns supreme in contemporary discussions of Catholic Social Teaching. Although it is impossible to offer a clean taxonomy of the hermeneutic of selectivity, it typically appears in one of three forms:

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Can Catholics Accept the “Marriage Pledge”? – A Reply

The fire and zeal of my fellow contributor to The Josias, Joseph, should be commended. Reflecting on the recent dustup over First Things editor R.R. Reno’s joining the call for Catholic priests (and all Christian ministers) to “get out of the [civil] marriage business” (the so-called “Marriage Pledge”), Joseph shows deep concern that Catholics may be tacitly, if not explicitly, accepting the secular dogma of separation between Church and State which has been routinely condemned by the Church’s social magisterium. The crux of Joseph’s reflection appears to be found in the following paragraph:

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