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In politics, integralism or integrism (French: intégrisme) is the principle that the Catholic Faith should be the basis of public law and public policy within civil society, wherever the preponderance of Catholics within that society makes this possible. Integralists uphold the 1864 definition[1] of Pope Pius IX in Quanta cura that the religious neutrality of the civil power cannot be embraced as an ideal and the doctrine of Leo XIII in Immortale Dei on the religious obligations of states. This "traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ" was professedly left intact (integer) by the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Liberty.[2] Integralists therefore do not accept the repudiation, often associated with the Council, of the 'Constantinian age' of civilly established Catholicism.[3]

The term is sometimes used more loosely to refer to a set of theoretical concepts and practical policies that advocate a fully integrated social and political order based on a comprehensive doctrine of human nature. In this generic sense some forms of integralism are focused purely on achieving political and social integration, others national or ethnic unity, while others were more focused on achieving religious and cultural uniformity. The term has thus also been used[4] to describe non-Catholic religious movements, such as Protestant fundamentalism or Islamism.

In the political and social history of the 19th and 20th centuries, the term integralism was often applied to traditionalist conservatism and similar political movements on the right wing of a political spectrum, but it was also adopted by various centrist movements as a tool of political, national and cultural integration.[5] The generic concept would cover many philosophies across the political spectrum from left to right. Professed integralists in the narrow sense generally reject the left/right dichotomy.[6]

As a distinct intellectual and political movement, integralism emerged during the 19th and early 20th century polemics within the Catholic Church, especially in France. The term was used as an epithet to describe those who opposed the "modernists", who had sought to create a synthesis between Christian theology and the liberal philosophy of secular modernity. Proponents of Catholic political integralism taught that all social and political action ought to be based on the Catholic Faith. They rejected the separation of Church and State, arguing that Catholicism should be the proclaimed religion of the State.[7]

Contemporary discussions of integralism were renewed in 2014, with critiques of capitalism and liberalism.[8][9]

Catholic integralism[edit]


The first polity that formally embraced Christianity was Armenia under Tiridates III. However, the establishment of the civil order upheld by integralists is generally thought of as beginning with the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine I in 312. While Constantine personally embraced Christianity, it was only in 380 that Theodosius I formally adopted Catholicism as the religion of the empire by the Edict of Thessalonica. What R. W. Southern called the identification of the Church with the whole of organised society[10] was intensified by the legal reforms of Justinian in the 6th century. The climactic stage in the identification began in the Latin West with the so-called Translatio imperii of 800. The Constantinian age began to decline with the Reformation and is generally treated as ending with the French Revolution. In 1950, Pius XII identified the Dominican friar and prophet Savonarola as an early pioneer of integralism in the face of the "neo-pagan" influences of the Renaissance: "Savonarola shows us the strong conscience of the ascetic and an apostle who has a lively sense of things divine and eternal, who takes a stand against rampant paganism, who remains faithful to the evangelical and Pauline ideal of integral Christianity, put into action in public life as well and animating all institutions. This is why he started preaching, prompted by an interior voice and inspired by God."[11]


Catholic integralism (also called integrism) is an "anti-pluralist" trend in Catholicism; the Catholic integralism born in 19th-century Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Romania was a movement that sought to assert a Catholic underpinning to all social and political action, and to minimize or eliminate any competing ideological actors, such as secular humanism and liberalism.[12] Integralism arose in opposition to liberalism, which some Catholics saw as a "relentless and destructive ideology".[13]:1041

Catholic integralism does not support the creation of an autonomous "Catholic" State Church, or Erastianism (Gallicanism in French context). Rather, it supports subordinating the State to the moral principles of Catholicism. Thus it rejects separating morality from the State, and favours Catholicism as the proclaimed religion of the State.[7]

Catholic integralism appeals to the teaching on the necessity of the subordination of the State, and on the subordination of temporal to spiritual power, of medieval popes such as Pope Gregory VII and Pope Boniface VIII. However, Catholic integralism as a more consciously articulated doctrine came about as a reaction against the political and cultural changes that followed the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.[14] The 19th-century papacy challenged the growth of liberalism (with its doctrine of popular sovereignty) as well as new scientific and historical methods and theories (which were thought to threaten the special status of the Christian revelation). Pope Pius IX condemned a list of liberal and Enlightenment ideas in his Syllabus of Errors. The term integralism was applied to a Spanish political party founded about 1890, which based its programme on the "Syllabus". Catholic integralism reached its "classical" form in the reaction against modernism. The term did not, however, become popular till the time of Pope Pius X, whose papacy lasted from 1903 to 1914. After the papal condemnation of modernism in 1907, those most active in promoting the papal teachings were sometimes referred to as "integral Catholics" French: Catholiques intégraux, from which the words intégrisme (integrism) and intégralisme (integralism) were derived.[15] Encouraged by Pope Pius X, they sought out and exposed any co-religionist whom they suspected of modernism or liberalism. An important integralist organization was the Sodalitium Pianum, known in France as La Sapinière (fir plantation), which was founded in 1909 by Umberto Benigni.[16]

Another component of the anti-modernist programme of Pius X was its insistence on the importance of St Thomas Aquinas, both in theology and philosophy. In his decree Postquam Sanctissimus of 1914, the pope published a list of 24 philosophical theses to summarise 'the principles and more important thoughts' of St Thomas.[17] Thus integralism is also understood to include a commitment to the teachings of the Angelic Doctor, understood especially as a bulwark against the subjectivist and sceptical philosophies emanating from Descartes and his successors.


Catholic integralism suffered a decline after the Second Vatican Council, due to a lack of support from the Catholic hierarchy; during that time, other ideas had been proposed about the relation between the Church and State. However, even the Second Vatican Council finally sided with the integralist understanding in some ways, stating in Dignitatis humanae that the council "leaves intact the traditional teaching of the duty which the State owes to the Church", namely, recognition of the Church as the State religion, unless it would be a detriment to the common good. However, the document also affirmed personal freedom of conscience and freedom from coercion, and in the heyday after the council this became the focus of theological discourse, to the exclusion of the traditional teaching on Church–State relations. In the post-conciliar period, Catholic integralism came to be supported mainly by traditionalist Catholics such as those associated with the Society of St. Pius X and various lay Catholic organizations, though some clergy still supported it in theory, if not vociferously.[citation needed]

The current teachings of the Catholic Church regarding Church-State relations are summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as is seen in its section on religious liberty which reads:

2104 "All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it." This duty derives from "the very dignity of the human person." It does not contradict a "sincere respect" for different religions which frequently "reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men," nor the requirement of charity, which urges Christians "to treat with love, prudence and patience those who are in error or ignorance with regard to the faith."

2105 The duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and socially. This is "the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ." By constantly evangelizing men, the Church works toward enabling them "to infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and mores, laws and structures of the communities in which [they] live." The social duty of Christians is to respect and awaken in each man the love of the true and the good. It requires them to make known the worship of the one true religion which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church. Christians are called to be the light of the world. Thus, the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies.

2106 "Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits." This right is based on the very nature of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the divine truth which transcends the temporal order. For this reason it "continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it."

2107 "If because of the circumstances of a particular people special civil recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional organization of a state, the right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom must be recognized and respected as well."

2108 The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error, but rather a natural right of the human person to civil liberty, i.e., immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it constitutes a civil right.

2109 The right to religious liberty can of itself be neither unlimited nor limited only by a "public order" conceived in a positivist or naturalist manner. The "due limits" which are inherent in it must be determined for each social situation by political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority in accordance with "legal principles which are in conformity with the objective moral order."[18]

Furthermore in its section on the social and political dimensions of the Fourth Commandment:

2244 Every institution is inspired, at least implicitly, by a vision of man and his destiny, from which it derives the point of reference for its judgment, its hierarchy of values, its line of conduct. Most societies have formed their institutions in the recognition of a certain preeminence of man over things. Only the divinely revealed religion has clearly recognized man's origin and destiny in God, the Creator and Redeemer. The Church invites political authorities to measure their judgments and decisions against this inspired truth about God and man:

'Societies not recognizing this vision or rejecting it in the name of their independence from God are brought to seek their criteria and goal in themselves or to borrow them from some ideology. Since they do not admit that one can defend an objective criterion of good and evil, they arrogate to themselves an explicit or implicit totalitarian power over man and his destiny, as history shows.'

2245 The Church, because of her commission and competence, is not to be confused in any way with the political community. She is both the sign and the safeguard of the transcendent character of the human person. "The Church respects and encourages the political freedom and responsibility of the citizen."

2246 It is a part of the Church's mission "to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it. The means, the only means, she may use are those which are in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all men according to the diversity of times and circumstances."


2257 Every society's judgments and conduct reflect a vision of man and his destiny. Without the light the Gospel sheds on God and man, societies easily become totalitarian.[19]


In recent years, however, a "revived Catholic integralism" has been noted among the younger generation of Catholics writing for websites such as The Josias.[20] Integralism could be said to merely be the modern continuation of the traditional Catholic conception of Church–State relations elucidated by Pope Gelasius I and expounded upon throughout the centuries up to the Syllabus of Errors, which condemned the idea that the separation of Church and State is a moral good.[citation needed] For example, some Catholics have praised the actions of Pius IX in the 1858 Mortara case, in which he ordered the abduction of a six-year-old Jewish boy who had been baptized without his parents' consent.[13]:1039–1041 A systematic account of Catholic integralism as a coherent political philosophy has recently been attempted by Thomas Crean and Alan Fimister in their work, 'Integralism: a manual of political philosophy'. [21]

Scholars have drawn parallels between Catholic integralism and a view held by a minority in the Reformed churches, Christian reconstructionism.[22][23] In the National Catholic Reporter, Joshua J. McElwee stated that both Catholic integralists and Reformed Christian reconstructionists have created a non-traditional ecumenical alliance to achieve the goal of establishing a "theocratic type of State".[24][25]

French integralism[edit]

The term "integrism" is largely used generically and pejoratively in French philosophical and sociopolitical parlance, particularly to label any religious extremism. Integralism in the narrow sense is often but controversially applied to the Action Française movement founded by Charles Maurras although Maurras was an atheist and his movement was condemned by Rome as 'political modernism' in 1926.[26] Jacques Maritain claimed that his own position of Integral humanism, which he adopted after rejecting Action Francaise, was the authentically integralist stance [27] (although it is generally viewed as its antithesis).[28]

Portuguese integralism[edit]

Integralismo Lusitano (Lusitanian Integralism) was the integralist movement of Portugal, founded in 1914. Portuguese integralism was traditionalist, but not conservative. It was against parliamentarism and, instead, it favored decentralization, Catholicism and the monarchy.[29]

Brazilian integralism[edit]

Somewhat rooted in the Portuguese integralist tradition, the Brazilian integralist movement led by Plínio Salgado – Ação Integralista Brasileira – was for some time the largest political party ever[citation needed] founded in Brazil, with over a million members, even though it lasted less than six years as a legally recognized organization. Salgado's organization was, however, an integral nationalist movement only tangentially connected to Catholic integralism.[30]

Spanish integralism[edit]

The political implications of Catholic integralism are apparent in the Basque-Navarrese context of Spain, where that Integrism or Traditionalist Catholicism refers to a 19th- and 20th-century anti-Liberal movement advocating for the re-establishment of not only clerical but also native institutions lost in the context of the First Carlist War (1833, 1840). One of its branches evolved by the turn of the 20th century into Basque nationalism.

The term may also refer to the Spanish formation (1888-1932) led by Ramon Nocedal and Juan Olazábal.



The Southern Poverty Law Center uses the term "integrism" to refer to "radical traditional Catholics" who reject the Second Vatican Council. SPLC describes them as antisemitic, sedevacantist, and "extremely conservative" regarding women.[31]


Critics and opponents of integralism, such as George Weigel, argue that the movement can be associated with fascism.[32] However, there exist deep points of disagreement: integralism has no special preference for monarchical or authoritarian forms of government[33] and stresses trade unionism and localism while fascism defends a centralist state; the traditionalist and Catholic foundation of integralist ideas contrast with the often secular and anti-clerical, and modernist philosophical basis of fascism.[34] Benito Mussolini rejected integralism for relativizing the value of the State. Speaking of the key integralist claim, that the spiritual power has rights over the temporal order, Mussolini declared: "We reject this thesis in the most categorical manner, insofar as we are not told where this power starts, nor where it finishes, nor what means it enjoys nor for what ends."[35]

Religious liberty[edit]

John Zmirak criticizes contemporary Catholic integralists as enemies of "religious liberty"[36] while authors such as Thomas Pink insist integralism is compatible with Vatican II's account of religious freedom.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Newman, John Henry. A Letter Addressed to the Duke of Norfolk on Occasion of Mr. Gladstone's Recent Expostulation. Page 317. [1]
  2. ^ Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humanae. [2]
  3. ^ Ratzinger, Joseph. Theological Highlights of Vatican II. Page 128. [3]
  4. ^ Shepard, William (1 October 1987). "'Fundamentalism' Christian and Islamic". Religion. 17 (4): 355–378. doi:10.1016/0048-721X(87)90059-5. ISSN 0048-721X. Patrick J. Ryan has suggested the term 'integralism' for the Iranian phenomena, by analogy with the Roman Catholic movement by that name and largely because of the role of the 'ulamã' ('Islamic Fundamentalism: a Questionable Category', America, December 29, 1984, pp . 437-440), and this suggestion has some merit.
  5. ^ Jensen 2005, p. 157-171.
  6. ^ 2 Kings 22:2. [4]
  7. ^ a b Krogt, Christopher van der. Catholic Fundamentalism or Catholic Integralism?
  8. ^ "On the one [fusionist] side one finds an older American tradition of orthodox Catholicism as it has developed in the nation since the mid-twentieth century... On the other [integralist] side is arrayed what might be characterized as a more radical Catholicism."A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching Deneen, Patrick. "A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching," The American Conservative, 6 Feb 2014.
  9. ^ "Mena said that some of these young traditionalists are actually more at home under Francis than John Paul II and Benedict XVI, precisely because his critique of capitalism and the whole liberal order strikes them as more sweeping than the previous two pontiffs." Weird Catholic Twitter Offers a Reminder of Catholic Complexity Allen, John, Jr. Crux, 27 Apr 2018.
  10. ^ Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages. p. 16.
  11. ^ "Savonarola si rivela una forte coscienza di asceta e di apostolo che ha vivo il senso del divino e dell’eterno, che si rivolta contro il paganesimo dilagante, che resta fedele all’ideale evangelico e paolino di un Cristianesimo integrale, attuato anche nella vita pubblica e animante tutte le istituzioni. Perciò diede inizio alle sue predicazioni, spintovi da una Voce interiore e ispirato da Dio" L'Osservatore Romano 5th November 1969.
  12. ^ Kertzer, David I. Comrades and Christians: religion and political struggle in Communist Italy. 1980, page 101-2; Krogt, Christopher van der. Catholic Fundamentalism or Catholic Integralism?
  13. ^ a b Schwartzman, Micah; Wilson, Jocelyn (2019). "The Unreasonableness of Catholic Integralism". San Diego Law Review. 56: 1039–.
  14. ^ Krogt, Christopher van der. Catholic Fundamentalism or Catholic Integralism? page 125
  15. ^ Krogt, Christopher van der. Catholic Fundamentalism or Catholic Integralism? page 124
  16. ^ Krogt, Christopher van der. Catholic Fundamentalism or Catholic Integralism? pages 124–125
  17. ^ Postquam sanctissimus Archived 10 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Latin with English translation See also P. Lumbreras's commentary on the 24 Thomistic Theses Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ "Catechism of the Catholic Church – The First Commandment". Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  19. ^ "Catechism of the Catholic Church – The Fourth Commandment". Retrieved 1 August 2020.
  20. ^ Douthat, Ross (8 October 2016). Among the Post-Liberals. The New York Times. Retrieved 16 July 2017
  21. ^ Published by Editiones Scholasticae in 2020[5]
  22. ^ Spadaro, Antonio; Figueroa, Marcelo (2017). "Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A surprising ecumenism". La Civiltà Cattolica. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  23. ^ Glatz, Carol (13 July 2017). "Journal: Strip religious garb, fundamentalist tones from political power". Catholic News Service. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  24. ^ McElwee, Joshua J. (13 July 2017). "Italian Jesuit magazine criticizes political attitudes of some US Catholics". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  25. ^ Faggioli, Massimo (18 July 2017). "Why Should We Read Spadaro on 'Catholic Integralism'?". Commonweal. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  26. ^ Rao, John. Catholicism, Liberalism and the Right: A Sketch From the 1920's. (Faith and Reason, Spring, 1983, page 9-31).[6]
  27. ^ Maritain, Jacques. Integral Humanism. 1938, page 63-64).]
  28. ^ Fraser, Hamish. The Kingship of Christ 1925-1975. (Approaches 47 & 78 and Approaches Supplement 71).
  29. ^ Kallis, Aristotle A. Fascism Reader, p. 313-317 2003 Routledge
  30. ^ Sanchez, Gabriel. Dubium: Is Integralism Essentially Bound Up with Racism, Nationalism, and Totalitarianism?. [7]
  31. ^ "Active Radical Traditional Catholicism Groups". Southern Poverty Law Center.
  32. ^
  33. ^ "[T]here is no reason why the Church should not approve of the chief power being held by one man or by more, provided only it be just, and that it tend to the common advantage. Wherefore, so long as justice be respected, the people are not hindered from choosing for themselves that form of government which suits best either their own disposition, or the institutions and customs of their ancestors." Leo XIII, Diuturnum (June 29, 1881), 7.
  34. ^ Payne, Stanley A History of Fascism, 1914–1945, Routledge 1996.
  35. ^ Scritti e discorsi di B. Mussolini, vol. VII, 132-33, Milan, 1935.
  36. ^ Zmirak, John (5 August 2017). "Catholics Reject Freedom at Their Own Peril". The Stream. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  37. ^ Pink, Thomas (9 May 2020). "Integralism, Political Philosophy, and the State". Public Discourse. Retrieved 25 May 2020.


  • Chappel, James (2018). Catholic Modern: The Challenge of Totalitarianism and the Remaking of the Church. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-97210-0.
  • Jensen, Mark (2005). "The Integralist Objection to Political Liberalism". Social Theory and Practice. 31 (2): 157–171. doi:10.5840/soctheorpract200531212.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)