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The Labarum of Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to embrace Christianity

In politics, integralism, integrationism 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 of Pope Pius IX in Quanta cura that the religious neutrality of the civil power cannot be embraced as an ideal situation and the doctrine of Leo XIII in Immortale Dei on the religious obligations of states.[1]

In December 1965, the Second Vatican Council approved and Pope Paul VI promulgated the document Dignitatis humanae–the Council's "Declaration on Religious Freedom"–which states that it "leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ" while simultaneously declaring "that the human person has a right to religious freedom," a move that some traditionalists such as Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Society of St. Pius X, have argued is in contradiction to previous doctrinal pronouncements.[2][3] Integralists therefore do not accept the Second Vatican Council's perceived repudiation of civilly established Catholicism.[4]

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. Integralism has, thus, also been used[5] 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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8]

Contemporary discussions of integralism were renewed in 2014, with critiques of capitalism and liberalism.[9][10]

Catholic integralism[edit]


The Coronation of Charlemagne, fresco from the workshop of Raphael depicting the crowning of Charlemagne as Imperator Romanorum by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day, 800.

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[11] 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 papal transference of Translatio imperii to Charlemagne in 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."[12]


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.[13] Integralism arose in opposition to liberalism, which some Catholics saw as a "relentless and destructive ideology".[14]: 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.[8]

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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17]

Another component of the anti-modernist programme of Pius X was its insistence on the importance of 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.[18] 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]

Political authority[edit]

The idea that temporal political authority should be subordinated to man’s ultimate, spiritual end is a common theme – if not the main theme – of contemporary Catholic integralism.[19][20][21]


In recent years, however, a "revived Catholic integralism" has been noted among the younger generation of Catholics writing for websites such as The Josias.[22] 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.[23] 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.[14]: 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'.[24]

Scholars have drawn parallels between Catholic integralism and a view held by a minority in the Reformed churches, Christian reconstructionism.[25][26] 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".[27][28]

Many integralist movements have emerged on the left wing of the political spectrum. Tradistae and Tradinista, both groups acknowledge what they see as the duty of the state towards the Catholic Church as well as supporting Liberation Theology and rejecting capitalism.[29][30][31][32]

Variants of integralism[edit]

There are a number of variants and localized permutations of integralist political theory, often named by their country of origin.

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 integral nationalism and Action Française movement founded by Charles Maurras although Maurras was an atheist and his movement was condemned by Rome as 'political modernism' in 1926.[33] Jacques Maritain claimed that his own position of Integral humanism, which he adopted after rejecting Action Francaise, was the authentically integralist stance[34] (although it is generally viewed as its antithesis).[35]

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.[36]

Brazilian integralism[edit]

Somewhat rooted in the Portuguese integralist tradition, the Brazilian integralist movement led by Plínio Salgado – Ação Integralista Brasileira –was founded in Brazil in 7 of October 1932, 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.[37]

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.[38]


Critics and opponents of integralism, such as George Weigel, argue that the movement can be associated with fascism.[39] However, there exist deep points of disagreement: integralism has no special preference for monarchical or authoritarian forms of government[40] 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.[41] 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."[42]

Religious liberty[edit]

John Zmirak criticizes contemporary Catholic integralists as enemies of "religious liberty"[43] while authors such as Thomas Pink insist integralism is compatible with Vatican II's account of religious freedom.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Newman, John Henry. "A Letter Addressed to the Duke of Norfolk on Occasion of Mr. Gladstone's Recent Expostulation". The National Institute for Newman Studies. p. 317. Archived from the original on 24 February 2020.
  2. ^ Second Vatical Council (7 December 1965). "Dignitatis humanae". Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  3. ^ Egan, Philip A. (2009). Philosophy and Catholic Theology: A Primer. Liturgical Press. p. 56. ISBN 9780814656617.
  4. ^ Joseph Ratzinger (2009). Theological Highlights of Vatican II. p. 128. ISBN 9780809146109.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Jensen 2005, p. 157-171.
  7. ^ 2 Kings 22:2
  8. ^ a b Krogt, Christopher van der. Catholic Fundamentalism or Catholic Integralism?
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages. p. 16.
  12. ^ "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.
  13. ^ 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?
  14. ^ a b Schwartzman, Micah; Wilson, Jocelyn (2019). "The Unreasonableness of Catholic Integralism". San Diego Law Review. 56: 1039–.
  15. ^ Krogt, Christopher van der. Catholic Fundamentalism or Catholic Integralism? page 125
  16. ^ Krogt, Christopher van der. Catholic Fundamentalism or Catholic Integralism? page 124
  17. ^ Krogt, Christopher van der. Catholic Fundamentalism or Catholic Integralism? pages 124–125
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Waldstein, Edmund; O.Cist. (17 October 2016). "Integralism in Three Sentences". The Josias. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  20. ^ O.Cist, Edmund Waldstein. "What Is Integralism Today?". Church Life Journal. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  21. ^ Waldstein, Edmund; O.Cist. (3 February 2015). "The Good, the Highest Good, and the Common Good". The Josias. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  22. ^ Douthat, Ross (8 October 2016). Among the Post-Liberals. The New York Times. Retrieved 16 July 2017
  23. ^ Pope Pius IX (1864). "The Syllabus Of Errors". Retrieved 11 March 2021 – via
  24. ^ Published by Editiones Scholasticae in 2020
  25. ^ Spadaro, Antonio; Figueroa, Marcelo (2017). "Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A surprising ecumenism". La Civiltà Cattolica. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  26. ^ Glatz, Carol (13 July 2017). "Journal: Strip religious garb, fundamentalist tones from political power". Catholic News Service. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  27. ^ McElwee, Joshua J. (13 July 2017). "Italian Jesuit magazine criticizes political attitudes of some US Catholics". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  28. ^ Faggioli, Massimo (18 July 2017). "Why Should We Read Spadaro on 'Catholic Integralism'?". Commonweal. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  29. ^ "What is Integralism?". Tradistae. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  30. ^ "A Tradinista! Manifesto". Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  31. ^ "Marcher Hopes to 'Follow in the Footsteps of Saints' with Pro-Life Advocacy". Retrieved 15 November 2021. Hackett drove to Washington D.C. on Thursday from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he lives in a Catholic worker house part of the Catholic Worker Movement. This was his sixth year attending the March for Life. The Catholic Worker Movement was founded by Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day in 1933, amid the Great Depression. According to its website, there are 187 Catholic Worker Movement communities worldwide that “live a simple lifestyle in community, serve the poor, and resist war and social injustice.” Hackett is also the co-founder of the Catholic worker organization Tradistae. “Something we’re really interested in as Catholic workers and part of the mission of Tradistae is, as Peter Maurin said, sort of blow the dynamite of Catholic social teaching,” Hackett said. “He really believed that Catholic social teaching has this dynamism, and it can influence society.”
  32. ^ "Yes, Tradinistas are left-wing radicals". Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  33. ^ Rao, John. Catholicism, Liberalism and the Right: A Sketch From the 1920's. (Faith and Reason, Spring, 1983, page 9-31).[1]
  34. ^ Maritain, Jacques. Integral Humanism. 1938, page 63-64).]
  35. ^ Fraser, Hamish. The Kingship of Christ 1925-1975. (Approaches 47 & 78 and Approaches Supplement 71).
  36. ^ Kallis, Aristotle A. Fascism Reader, p. 313-317 2003 Routledge
  37. ^ Sanchez, Gabriel. Dubium: Is Integralism Essentially Bound Up with Racism, Nationalism, and Totalitarianism?. [2]
  38. ^ "Active Radical Traditional Catholicism Groups". Southern Poverty Law Center. Archived from the original on 10 January 2019.
  39. ^ "Games Intellectuals Play | George Weigel".
  40. ^ "[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.
  41. ^ Payne, Stanley A History of Fascism, 1914–1945, Routledge 1996.
  42. ^ Scritti e discorsi di B. Mussolini, vol. VII, 132-33, Milan, 1935.
  43. ^ Zmirak, John (5 August 2017). "Catholics Reject Freedom at Their Own Peril". The Stream. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  44. ^ 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.