I have it on good authority that a new printing of They Have Uncrowned Him, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s masterful expose and critique of liberalism, is in the works. It is, if I recall corrective, the first Lefebvre book I picked up from the Society of Saint Pius X’s (SSPX) chapel in Oak Park on the border of Chicago in 2011. I went on to collect the rest of the Archbishop’s oeuvre in English, though nothing else resonated with me the way Uncrowned did. Not even Lefebvre’s dubia concerning religious liberty held such favor with me, perhaps because, by necessity, its presentation is dry and mechanical whereas, in reading, Uncrowned you can detect the moments when the Archbishop’s blood begins to boil. Never forget that Lefebvre was on hand during the Second Vatican Council and was instrumental in advancing, albeit unsuccessfully, conservative opposition to the novel doctrines being bandied about by periti and hierarchs who, only years earlier, were on the Holy Office’s radar.
Recently (as in today), my friends at The Josias released the second episode of their podcast with the primary subject being integralism. In the course of discussing the term and its background, nary a mention was made of Archbishop Lefebvre or the priestly society he founded nearly half-a-century ago. This strikes me as strange since giving an account of the history of integralism without mentioning either the Archbishop or the SSPX is like delivering a history of professional wrestling without mentioning the National Wrestling Alliance. Though Lefebvre and the priests and bishops of the Society have not always deployed the term “integrealism,” no other established forced within the Catholic Church has kept the spirit of integralism more alive than the SSPX. Indeed, without the Society, “integralism” would be a blanket epithet deployed by neo-Modernists and liberals to smear anyone and everyone they happen to disagree with. But to read Lefebvre, to listen to some of the sermons and talks of Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, and to take seriously the writings of many of the SSPX’s priests over the decades is to be inculcated with integralism at both a conceptual and practical level.
I make mention of this not to throw shade at The Josias, but to remind those persuaded by the integralist thesis to not ignore a reservoir of authentically integralist thought simply because—ironically—that thought came from a wellspring which, let’s be honest, is not exactly “politically correct.” Still, why should that matter? Integralism, which has been castigated recently as both reactionary and fascist, is hardly “politically correct” in a day and age where liberalism is not just considered normative, but inevitable. As one of The Josias podcast’s hosts points out, liberalism has this unsettling power to dissolve the imagination, rendering those living under it incapable of imagining a world without it. To be anti-liberal is not to be simply “backwards” or “simple,” but dangerous. For anything which opposes liberalism, regardless of whether or not it comes marching down the street with a jackboot, orchestrates famines, or preaches Christ crucified, is equally an enemy which must be eradicated in the name of “humanity.” Liberalism is not content to win an ostensibly neutral “battle of ideas” (for it cannot win it); it must instead demonize, degrade, and ultimately destroy that which calls liberal ideology into question. Conversion is out of the question.
For my part, I cannot conceive of seriously studying, and being persuaded by, integralism without taking a serious look at what Archbishop Lefebvre wrote and witnessed to over the course of his life. Integralism for the Archbishop, the priests he formed, their heirs, and the countless faithful who are attached to the SSPX is not an abstraction but a way of life. It is a way of life informed by the reality of Christ’s Social Kingship, a way of life which looks for the restoration of Chirstendom over an endless discussion over theological minutiae which rests on the peripheries of life.
While reasonable people can disagree over some of Archbishop Lefebvre’s words and decisions, and those of the SSPX as well, what cannot be denied is their indispensable role in keeping the integralist spirit alive during decades where liberalism appeared as the only horizon in both society and the Catholic Church. For that they deserve the gratitude of integralists everywhere.