Just to clarify, Wednesday’s post on the “Age of Francis” was in no way, shape, or form intended to disparage the good work conducted over at Solidarity Hall or to discourage anyone from picking up a copy of their new anthology, Radically Catholic in the Age of Francis. Having now had the chance to get through about half of the book, I can say, without reservation, that it is a very thoughtful collection expressing views which are both interconnected and diverse. A full review of the work is no doubt in order and if time permits I will attempt one. In the meantime, I want to offer some very provisional and rather general thoughts on what the contents appear to be saying about what has come to be known as radical Catholicism and where their thinking converges, and in other points departs, from the new wellspring of Catholic integralism. At this point I am not going to name individual authors and their essays, and I want to stress that radical Catholicism is not monochromatic and there are certainly individual writers who are more or less integralists in their thinking, even if they wouldn’t necessarily define themselves as such.
First, radical Catholicism appears to be very impressed with the so-called new theology that emerged in the 20th Century, specifically the strand associated with the journal Communio. Integralists, historically, have been wary of these developments, though perhaps less so today. Part of that wariness comes from how the Thomistic tradition has been interpreted or, rather, reinterpreted over the past 50 years. Bound to that matter is the question of Scholasticism and whether its alleged “defeat” was actually a defeat or a circumvention.
Second, it’s unclear to what extent radical Catholics acknowledge the social Kingship of Christ and classical natural law. Radical Catholics appear to place a heavy premium on individual action, discourse, and building bridges with secular orientations which do not appear to directly contradict Catholic teaching—these can all be very good things, though integralists would add that they must be oriented by divine and natural law. It is also unclear as well how far radical Catholics are willing to go to interpret a document such as Dignitatis Humanae in harmony with the social tradition that preceded it.
Third, on the complicated question of economics (political economy), radical and integralist Catholics appear to share a good deal of common ground. Both reject modern capitalism, which includes not just so-called “crony capitalism” but also the laissez-faire brand advocated by libertarians, and both believe that a proper economic ordo must be structured by the Church’s social magisterium. Where differences appear to emerge is on the matter of socialism—a fraught category if there ever was one. To what extent should a central authority actively redistribute wealth? What role does subsidiarity play in the restructuring of economies, either local or national? How easily can socialistic models be squared with the magisterium? And so on and so forth.
Fourth, there is a great deal of room for radical and integralist Catholics to clarify their respective attitudes toward democracy. Integralists, to some extent, have been more open about their suspicions toward modern democratic politics and liberal ideology as a whole than radical Catholics. Radical Catholics, too, have expressed misgivings, though they appear to be qualified misgivings that are offered independent of classical political philosophy and the insights added by the great medieval theologians, particularly St. Thomas Aquinas. Other related topics, such as the role of natural law in society and the question of rights, may also reveal further divergences between radical and integralist Catholics.
Last, and very generally, integralist Catholics appear to take a broader view of the Church’s social teaching than radical Catholics. For integralists, the modern social magisterium appears not with the promulgation of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum but with the writings of Pope Pius VI against the French Revolution. At the same time, integralists seek to bolster their thinking with insights drawn from the medieval to the modern period while focusing as well on the sizable body of Catholic social thinking produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is not to say that all radical Catholics live in a bubble or are solely forward-looking in their intellectual orientation, only that they place a greater premium on present categories of thought than integralists do.