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On Integralism and the Jews
The hardest thing about writing on integralism is addressing multiple audiences; writing for anti-liberals and liberals is hard enough. The greatest challenge is writing for Catholics and Jews. Integralism horrifies every Jewish person I’ve ever spoken to about it. Integralists believe their ideal regime would honor and respect Jews.
In the book, I think I’ve struck the right balance. But I also wanted to strike that balance in my editorials, blog posts, etc. Recently, Haaretz published an editorial of mine on the topic. Unfortunately, they gave the piece a misleading title and added a photograph that misrepresents a prominent integralist. I've asked for a correction.
I want to clear the air and refocus the discussion in this post ASAP. First, I do not think today’s integralists are a threat to Jewish people. Rather, I think a modern integralist regime would endanger its Jewish citizens. There’s a world of difference here. I also don’t think integralists today are anti-semitic. Indeed, some integralists have defended special protections for Jews in their ideal regime. And in general, integralists believe in the complete religious freedom of unbaptized Jews.
But any modern-day attempt to talk about integralism to a broader audience must respect integralists and validate Jewish fears, stressing the latter.
We can illustrate Jewish concerns by recalling the Mortara incident. Many integralists supported Pope Pius IX's separation of Mortara from his family. Jews are right to judge Pius IX’s actions as evil. Maybe Pius IX meant well, but his actions were gravely unjust.
The Mortara incident highlights two reasons Jews should oppose integralist regimes.
(1) If Jewish children receive a valid baptism, they become members of the Catholic Church. If these Jews grow up and reject Christianity, they're still members, whether they like it or not. Thus, an integralist state could punish Jews for grave sin, apostasy, and heresy. Integralist governments might avoid such actions for prudential reasons. But they could, in principle, exercise such power. Indeed, quasi-integralist regimes engaged in these actions for centuries. That strikes all non-integralists as a severe injustice. I agree!
(2) The second problem is more complex. Integralist theory contains two moral principles that can conflict. Principle one: the church-authorized state must protect the faithful from spiritual threats. Principle two: all unbaptized people have a right to religious freedom. The second principle flows from the integralist interpretation of Dignitatis Humanae. If we combine these principles, the integralist state must protect the faithful while protecting the errant.
That tension has played out in medieval Europe, often grossly. The Papal States maintained Jewish ghettos until the late 19th century. The popes defended their actions by appealing to principle one. Catholics need protection from Jewish ideas. But the popes downplayed principle two. Indeed, the Catholic Church seemed to forget the second principle for centuries. This inconsistency was one problem Vatican II sought to remedy.
So, even ideal integralist regimes will face the temptation to mistreat Jews owing to the tension between principle one and principle two. In the real world, integralist regimes will likely perform much worse. Most states mistreat minority groups who have no political power. Ideal or real, integralist states will face internal pressure to pursue related policies. That is more than enough reason for Jews to worry about integralism.
I wrote this post as a public record of my thinking on the relationship between integralism and the Jewish people. I reject any implication that current integralists are a threat to Jews. Unfortunately, the misrepresentation remains beyond my control. But I now distance myself from that misrepresentation.