Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Integralism vs Liberty ("the god that failed")

John Zmirak recently posted an article entitled "Illiberal Catholicism" (Aleteia, December 31, 2013), in which he worried that Catholics who "used to be open to the lessons of freedom from the American experience" might be "forgetting those lessons," going so far as to declare: "Catholicism minus the Enlightenment equals the Inquisition." It was a piece that would have made Fr. John Courtney Murray and his stepchildren, Fr. Robert Sirico, George Weigel, Thomas Woods, and Joseph Bottom happy.

Our friend, Paul Borealis, has just called to our attention a thoroughgoing and brilliant response to Zmirak entitled "Integralism" (Sancrucensis, January 16, 2014), which refers to Zimrak's piece as a "particularly outrageous example of disordered love of liberty," and ends with ends with the following summary of "The Integralist Thesis":
John Zmirak (remember him?) writes:
[The] Church inherited from pagan thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle a top-down philosophy of government, which centered on the “rights” of lawgivers and rulers to enforce their vision of the Good in citizens’ lives instead of the rights of citizens against the powers of the State.”
This shows just how trapped in the modern discourse of rights Zmirak is. The philosophies of Plato and Aristotle do not “center” on rights at all; they center on the good. The fact that “liberal” philosophy does not center on the good shows how deeply illiberal “liberalism” really is–closed off to the truth that liberates.

The dignity of the common good of political life is only intelligible through its place in the order of final causes, as soon as it is removed from this order it becomes a monstrosity. To see this is to become an integralist. Charles De Koninck expresses this in a wonderful passage which has long been my favorite statement of the integralist thesis:
When those in whose charge the common good lies do not order it explicitly to God, is society not corrupted at its very root? [...] Political prudence rules the common good insofar as the latter is Divine. For that reason Cajetan and John of St. Thomas held that the legal justice of the prince is more perfect than the virtue of religion. [...] The ordering to the common good is so natural that a pure intellect cannot deviate from it in the pure state of nature. In fact the fallen angels, elevated to the supernatural order, did turn aside from the common good but from that common good which is the most Divine, namely supernatural beatitude, and it is only by way of consequence that they lost their natural common good. The fallen angels ignored by a practical ignorance (ignorantia electionis) the common good of grace; we, on the other hand, have come to the point of being ignorant of every common good even speculatively. The common good, and not the person and liberty, being the very principle of all law, of all rights, of all justice and of all liberty, a speculative error concerning it leads fatally to the most execrable practical consequences.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. I absolutely love this post. I am happy that rights-based ethic and political philosophy is slowly being called into question. After much thought and experience in the legal industry, as well as a background in Philosophy and Theology, I have come to the conclusion that "rights" must be abandoned. We need to get back to the philosophy of good, evil, common good, virtue, and the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas (who never once spoke of "rights"). Very happy that people are starting to question these things that for decades have been swallowed thoughtlessly.