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

In politics, integralism, integrationism or integrism (French: intégrisme) is an interpretation of Catholic social teaching that argues 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. Integralism is anti-pluralist,[1][2] seeking the Catholic faith to be dominant in civil and religious matters. 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.[3] 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". However, they have simultaneously declared "that the human person has a right to religious freedom," a move that some traditionalist Catholics such as Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Society of St. Pius X, have argued is at odds with previous doctrinal pronouncements.[4][5]

The term is sometimes used more loosely and in non-Catholic contexts 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[6] 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.[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.[2]

Contemporary discussions of integralism were renewed in 2014, focusing on criticism of liberalism and capitalism.[8][9]

Catholic integralism


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 Nicene Christianity 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 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."[11]


Catholic integralism is an interpretation of Catholic social teaching that argues for an authoritarian[12] and anti-pluralist Catholic state,[1][2] wherever the preponderance of Catholics within that society makes this possible; it was born in 19th-century Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Romania. It 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.[1][2] 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.[2]

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.[2] 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.[2] 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.[2]

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.[14] 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.

Political authority

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.[15][16][17]


In recent years, however, a "revived Catholic integralism" has been noted among the younger generation of Catholics writing for websites such as The Josias.[18] 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.[19] 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'.[20]

Scholars have drawn parallels between Catholic integralism and a view held by a minority in the Reformed churches, Christian reconstructionism.[21][22] 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".[23][24]

Some integralists place themselves 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.[25][26][27][28]

Integralism has been identified as a basis for modern legal conceptions that emphasize natural law, including Common Good Constitutionalism. Proposed and popularized by Adrian Vermeule, Common Good Constitutionalism was developed like integralism to "combat the legitimate societal threat of modern liberal individualism".[29]

Some Protestant figures, such as Brad Littlejohn, have expressed interest in integralism and contended it more closely resembles a traditionally Protestant account of politics rather than a Catholic one.[30]

Variants of integralism

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

French integralism

The term "intégrisme" 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.[31] Jacques Maritain claimed that his own position of Integral humanism, which he adopted after rejecting Action Française, was the authentically integralist stance[32] (although it is generally viewed as its antithesis).[33]

Portuguese integralism

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.[34]

Brazilian integralism

Main article: Brazilian Integralism

Somewhat rooted in the Portuguese integralist tradition, the Brazilian integralist movement led by Plínio Salgado – Ação Integralista Brasileira – was founded in Brazil in 7 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.[35]

Spanish integralism

Main article: Integrism (Spain)

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 Ramón 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 and "extremely conservative" regarding women, and also notes that some claim recent popes are illegitimate.[36]

Critics and opponents of integralism, such as George Weigel, argue that the movement can be associated with fascism.[37] Supporters of integralism argue that it is a mistake to associate the movement with fascism, stating that it developed before fascism, and that collaboration between fascist and integralist groups is overstated.[38] John Zmirak criticizes contemporary Catholic integralists as enemies of "religious liberty"[39] while authors such as Thomas Pink insist integralism is compatible with Vatican II's account of religious freedom.[40]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Kertzer, David I. (1980). Comrades and Christians: Religions and Political Struggle in Communist Italy. CUP Archive. pp. 101–102. ISBN 978-0-521-22879-4.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h van der Krogt, Christopher (1992). "Catholic Fundamentalism or Catholic Integralism?". In Brown, Colin (ed.). To Strive and Not to Yield: Essays in Honour of Colin Brown. Department of World Religions, Victoria University of Wellington. pp. 123–125. ISBN 978-0-475-11013-8.
  3. ^ John Henry Newman. "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 2021.
  4. ^ Second Vatical Council (7 December 1965). "Dignitatis humanae". Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  5. ^ Egan, Philip A. (2009). Philosophy and Catholic Theology: A Primer. Liturgical Press. p. 56. ISBN 9780814656617.
  6. ^ Shepard, William (October 1987). "'Fundamentalism' Christian and Islamic". Religion. 17 (4): 355–378. doi:10.1016/0048-721X(87)90059-5. 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.
  7. ^ Jensen, Mark (2005). "The Integralist Objection to Political Liberalism". Social Theory and Practice. 31 (2): 157–171. doi:10.5840/soctheorpract200531212.
  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 Archived 22 July 2019 at the Wayback Machine 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 Archived 16 April 2019 at the Wayback Machine Allen, John, Jr. Crux, 27 Apr 2018.
  10. ^ Southern, Richard William (1970). Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages. Penguin Books. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-14-020503-9.
  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. ^ Gunson, Phil (2015). The Dictionary of Contemporary Politics of South America. Taylor & Francis. p. 145. ISBN 9781317271352.
  13. ^ a b Schwartzman, Micah; Wilson, Jocelyn (2019). "The Unreasonableness of Catholic Integralism". San Diego Law Review. 56: 1039–.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Waldstein, Edmund; O.Cist. (17 October 2016). "Integralism in Three Sentences". The Josias. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  16. ^ O.Cist, Edmund Waldstein (31 October 2018). "What Is Integralism Today?". Church Life Journal. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  17. ^ Waldstein, Edmund; O.Cist. (3 February 2015). "The Good, the Highest Good, and the Common Good". The Josias. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  18. ^ Douthat, Ross (8 October 2016). Among the Post-Liberals. The New York Times. Retrieved 16 July 2017
  19. ^ Pope Pius IX (1864). "The Syllabus Of Errors". Retrieved 11 March 2021 – via
  20. ^ "Published by Editiones Scholasticae in 2020". Archived from the original on 15 June 2020. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  21. ^ Spadaro, Antonio; Figueroa, Marcelo (2017). "Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A surprising ecumenism". La Civiltà Cattolica. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  22. ^ Glatz, Carol (13 July 2017). "Journal: Strip religious garb, fundamentalist tones from political power". Catholic News Service. Archived from the original on 13 July 2017. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  23. ^ McElwee, Joshua J. (13 July 2017). "Italian Jesuit magazine criticizes political attitudes of some US Catholics". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  24. ^ Faggioli, Massimo (18 July 2017). "Why Should We Read Spadaro on 'Catholic Integralism'?". Commonweal. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  25. ^ "What is Integralism?". Tradistae. 9 September 2020. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  26. ^ "A Tradinista! Manifesto". 30 April 2020. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  27. ^ "Marcher Hopes to 'Follow in the Footsteps of Saints' with Pro-Life Advocacy". 30 January 2021. 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."
  28. ^ Mena, Jose (10 October 2016). "Yes, Tradinistas are left-wing radicals". Catholic Herald. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  29. ^ Frohnen, Bruce P. (14 April 2022). "Common Good Constitutionalism and the Problem of Administrative Absolutism". Ohio Northern University College of Law. SSRN 4083882. Retrieved 13 June 2022.
  30. ^ Littlejohn, Bradford (25 February 2022). "Integralism or Political Protestantism?". American Reformer. Archived from the original on 22 July 2022.
  31. ^ Rao, John (Spring 1983). "Catholicism, Liberalism and the Right: A Sketch From the 1920's". Faith and Reason. 9 (1, 2): 9–31.
  32. ^ Maritain, Jacques. Integral Humanism. 1938, page 63-64).
  33. ^ Fraser, Hamish. The Kingship of Christ 1925-1975. (Approaches 47 & 78 and Approaches Supplement 71).
  34. ^ Kallis, Aristotle A. Fascism Reader, p. 313-317 2003 Routledge
  35. ^ Sanchez, Gabriel (31 January 2015). "Dubium: Is Integralism Essentially Bound Up with Racism, Nationalism, and Totalitarianism?". The Josias.[user-generated source?]
  36. ^ "Active Radical Traditional Catholicism Groups". Southern Poverty Law Center. Archived from the original on 10 January 2019.
  37. ^ "Games Intellectuals Play | George Weigel". 20 May 2020.
  38. ^ Pinkoski, Nathan (30 April 2020). "How Not to Challenge the Integralists – Nathan Pinkoski". Law & Liberty. Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  39. ^ Zmirak, John (5 August 2017). "Catholics Reject Freedom at Their Own Peril". The Stream. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  40. ^ Pink, Thomas (9 May 2020). "Integralism, Political Philosophy, and the State". Public Discourse. Retrieved 25 May 2020.