Saturday, October 28, 2023

Thinking About Catholic Integralism in Pamplona


                                                Chanting the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary

A few days ago, I was in the old city center of Pamplona, in Spain, and in the early Sunday morning darkness just before dawn, I had been thinking about whether there is a natural desire for supernatural goods--such as eternal bliss in an afterlife--and I was surprised when I heard my question answered by chanting voices from Heaven.  

I was staying in an apartment on the Recoletas Plaza within the walls of the old city.  At one end of the plaza stands the Church of San Lorenzo.

                                                 The Street on Recoletas Plaza Where I Stayed

                                                       The Church of San Lorenzo

I heard a singing or chanting crowd of people outside the apartment.  When I walked out onto the balcony, I saw that congregants at the Church were walking through the streets while chanting the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.  The five glorious mysteries are the Resurrection of Jesus, the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, and the Crowning of Mary as the Queen of Heaven.  

Looking down on the street, I also saw two young men walking the Pilgrimage of Compostela (or Way of St. James).  Pamplona is on one of the major routes of the pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain.  This has been a major pilgrimage for Christians since the 9th century.  For over a thousand years, pilgrims have walked the Way of St. James, often for months and sometimes for years, starting from locations in Spain, France, Germany, and Italy.

                                                        The Routes for the Way of St. James

Since Spain has for many centuries been one of the most deeply Catholic countries in the world, perhaps it should not be surprising to see such an expression of Catholic piety in Spain today.  But what is significant about this is that while Spain was for long an illiberal integralist state that coercively enforced Catholic orthodoxy and persecuted heretics, particularly through the Spanish Inquisition,  Spain today is a largely liberal state that secures religious liberty.  This challenges the claim of today's Catholic integralists that a liberal society cannot satisfy the natural human desire for the supernatural goods of true religion.

I should say, however, that while traveling around Spain, I have noticed that while almost every village has a Catholic church, most of them are empty on Sunday.  Most of the Spanish people who identify themselves as Catholic rarely attend mass.  Some recent surveys report that about 45% of the Spanish identify themselves as atheists, agnostics, or non-religious.  So Spain has become a predominantly secular society.  Surely, the integralists would point to this as evidence that not coercively enforcing Catholic orthodoxy promotes secularism.

My relatives who live in Pamplona are Catholics.  When I talked about the current revival of Catholic integralist thought in the United States, they found it hard to believe that anyone would seriously propose returning to the theocratic Catholicism of the Middle Ages as the best regime for human beings.

In touring some of the churches in Pamplona, I also saw exhibits that explicitly rejected medieval Catholic Integralism and affirmed the modern liberal principle of religious liberty as the fulfillment of New Testament Christianity.  The most eloquent statement of this argument was in the Pamplona Cathedral--the Cathedral of Santa Maria.

                                                                 The Pamplona Cathedral

In the Cathedral, one of the exhibitions--"Occidens"--uses artwork to display the whole history of Western Civilization as represented in the history of the Cathedral.  A guidebook for this exhibition written by historians of Pamplona and Navarre lays out this history as progress towards the Liberal Enlightenment.

The guidebook frames the history of the West as depicted in the "Occidens" exhibition as turning on three crucial events.  First, in 313, the Roman Emperor Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan that granted religious freedom:  Christianity and all other religions would be free from persecution.  The guidebook identifies this religious freedom as endorsed by the New Testament Christians, because their churches were voluntary associations, so that those who denied the traditional doctrines of the church could be expelled, but they were not punished by coercive violence.

Later, in 380, the Emperor Theodosius I issued the Edict of Thessalonica that declared Christianity as defined by the Nicene Creed of 325 as the official religion of the Empire.  This Edict indicated that those who disagreed with any part of the Nicene Creed--such as Arians who denied that Jesus was of "the same essence" as God--could be punished by the Church and the State.  Constantine had convoked the Council of Nicaea--the first ecumenical council of the Church--to resolve the Christian theological debates over the doctrine of the Trinity.  Arianism affirmed that while Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus is not fully divine and is subordinate to God.  Against the Arians were those who affirmed the full divinity of Jesus as the "same in essence or being" with God.  Constantine worried that this theological disagreement would create political instability in the Empire.  The Nicene Creed condemned the Arians as heretics who denied Christian orthodoxy.  But while the Church would condemn these heretics, the heretics would not be punished with coercive violence.  By contrast, the Edict of Thessalonica authorized coercive punishment of heretics by the state.  This set the model for the Christendom of the Middle Ages, in which the Church often appealed to the State to coercively enforce Christian orthodoxy and punish heretics, apostates, and schismatics.   In late medieval and early modern Spain, the Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834) was the most disturbing manifestation of this cruel suppression of religious liberty.

Finally, in the Modern Age, the guidebook observes, the New Testament teaching of religious liberty and toleration was restored "thanks to the American Revolution and the Second Vatican Council."  With the Dignitatis Humanae of 1965, the Catholic Church's declaration "meant the triumph of the freedom of conscience in the heart of the West, which, through this triumph, attained plenitude."

Thus does the guidebook clearly reject Thomas Pink's distorted reading of Dignitatis Humanae as supporting Catholic Integralism.

The success of Spain in moving from theocratic tyranny to religious liberty can be measured by its ranking on the Freedom Index.  Out of 165 countries, Spain ranks at 31.  By comparison, the United Kingdom ranks at 20, the United States at 23.  The Freedom Index combines personal freedom and economic freedom, and an important part of personal freedom is freedom of religion.  On a scale of 1 to 10, Spain's ranking for religious freedom is 8.8.  By comparison, the religious freedom ranking for the United States is 9.5, for Russia 4.9, and for Saudi Arabia 1.7.

After the end of the Francoist dictatorship in Spain in 1975, the Catholic Church was no longer regarded as the established church.  The Spanish Constitution of 1978 denied that there was a state religion.

Friday, October 27, 2023

The New House Speaker--Mike Johnson--Is a Young-Earth Creationist. Can He Solve the Problem of the Holy Spirit?

                       The Holy Spirit Depicted as a Dove in the Apse of Saint Peter's Basilica

Over the years, I have written many posts on Ken Ham's Young Earth Creationism--the idea that a literal reading of the Bible shows that the world was created by God in six days about 6,000 years ago, and therefore that the Darwinian science of evolution is false.  Most recently, I wrote about my visits to Ham's Creation Museum and Ark Encounter in northern Kentucky, which replicate God's creation of the world and Noah's Ark.

Many of my friends have questioned me about why anyone should take Young Earth Creationism so seriously.  Well, now I have a quick answer:  Have you noticed that on Wednesday the House of Representatives chose their new Speaker of the House--Mike Johnson--who has been one of the leading proponents of Ken Ham's Young Earth Creationism?  Yesterday, the Huffington Post published an article about Johnson's active support for Ham's work.

Johnson is an attorney with a constitutional law legal firm--Freedom Guard--that provides legal representation for Christian organizations like Ham's Answers in Genesis.  In particular, Johnson defended Ham's legal right to ask for sales tax refund incentives under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act for the Ark Encounter.  When the yearly sales tax revenue at the Ark Encounter exceeds a specified amount, a certain portion is refunded to Ham's organization, which provides subsidies of millions of dollars a year.  In the courts, Johnson has argued that this does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because it conforms to Supreme Court opinions that have held that as long as a state law confers benefits in a neutral manner, religious organizations that qualify under the law can receive those benefits, because the state is not officially endorsing any religious teaching.  Moreover, Johnson has argued that in promoting Young Earth Creationism, Ham's organizations are exercising their rights to freedom of speech and religious liberty under the First Amendment.  Johnson has also defended in federal courts the right of Ham's organizations to require that those hired to work for them must sign a statement of Christian faith.  The prohibition of discriminatory hiring in the Civil Rights Law of 1964 does not prohibit this because there is an exemption for religious organizations.

But I am wondering if Johnson can resolve the fundamental theological and philosophical problem in Ham's position, which I call the problem of the Holy Spirit.  Johnson has said: "The Ark Encounter is one way to bring people to this recognition of the truth, that what we read in the Bible are actual historical events."  How does he know that this reading of the Bible is "the truth"?  Traditionally, Christians have assumed that God sends the Holy Spirit to guide Christians to the correct interpretation of Revelation in the Bible.  Jesus promised that God would send the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth to guide Christians to the truth (John 14:15-16:15).  But since the most pious Christians disagree about how exactly the Bible should be applied to the creation/evolution debate (as well as many other issues), the Holy Spirit has failed to guide them to the truth of Revelation.

The "Starting Points" exhibit at the Creation Museum states the fundamental claim underlying both the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter:  creationists and evolutionists observe the same evidence in the natural world, but they reach different conclusions from that evidence because they start with two different worldviews--the naturalistic evolutionist worldview and the biblical creationist worldview.  The evolutionist assumes that everything in the world emerged through a natural process of evolution, and then he interprets the evidence as supporting that conclusion.  The creationist assumes that the Bible is a divinely revealed teaching that tells the truth about God's creation of the world according to the literal history of creation in Genesis, and then he interprets the evidence as supporting that conclusion.

According to AiG, there is no way to scientifically prove which worldview is true because of the distinction between observational science and historical science.  "Observational science deals with testing and verifying ideas in the present.  Chemistry experiments in a laboratory and the ongoing study of a medicine's effectiveness in treating a particular disease are examples of observational science.  Historical science involves the interpretation of evidence from the past that now exists in the present.  A paleontologist's narrative of a fossilized creature's habits and an astronomer's explanation of a star's formation are examples of historical science."  The "interpretation of evidence from the past" in historical science depends on one's choice of a worldview, which cannot be tested or verified through observational science.

Anyone who carefully studies the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter will see that they implicitly admit that the distinction between the two worldviews is a false dichotomy, because it falsely assumes that there is one and only one naturalistic evolutionist worldview and one and only one Biblical creationist worldview, and that there is no evolutionary creationist worldview.

Some of the exhibits recognize that "many Christians" have rejected Young Earth creationism in favor of Old Earth creationism or Theistic Evolution as more compatible with the Bible.  Ken Ham has even said that "most of the church" denies Young Earth creationism.  Now, of course, Ham and AiG say that these Christians are mistaken in their interpretation of the Bible.  But that's just the point: the Bible is open to different interpretations in the dispute over creation and evolution; and therefore, there are different Biblical creationist worldviews, and some of them support evolutionary science.

Can the new Speaker of the House explain how we resolve this problem, so that the Holy Spirit will guide all Christians to "the truth" of Young Earth Creationism?

And if he can do this, will this support Young Earth Creationism as a Biblical foundation for MAGA Republicanism and a new American Christian Nationalism?

Remarkably, in his first speech as Speaker of the House, Johnson suggested that his becoming Speaker was ordained by God:  "I believe that scripture, the Bible, is very clear that God is the one that raises up those in authority. He raised up each of you. All of us. And I believe that God has allowed and ordained each and every one of us to be here at this specific moment. This is my belief."  Is this the work of the Holy Spirit?

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Religious Liberty or Killing Heretics? Thomas Pink's Catholic Integralist Reading of "Dignitatis Humanae"


                                          Preparing the Burning of Jan Hus at the Stake in 1415

In 1415, the Council of Constance (1414-1418), an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, conducted the heresy trial of Jan Hus, a Czech priest.  Hus had condemned the ethical abuses of the Church, such as the selling of indulgences, and he had called for the moral reform of the Church.  His teaching would later influence Martin Luther and other Protestant reformers of the fifteenth century.  The council declared Hus to be a "contumacious heretic."  He was turned over to the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund for punishment--by being burned to death.  Hus's supporters in Bohemia revolted in protest to his execution.  Popes called four crusades to put down the Hussite rebellions.

The Council of Constance was following the traditional doctrine of the Church that popes and councils of bishops have the supreme authority over the religious life of baptized believers, which includes the power to coerce belief in the Church's doctrines, and to ask the state to act as the "secular arm" of the Church in punishing those baptized Christians who have been identified as heretics or apostates.

In 1999, Pope John Paul II offered a public apology for the Church's killing of Hus, praised him for his "moral courage," and condemned the Church's policy of killing heretics.

Ever since the Second Vatican Council issued its "Declaration on Religious Liberty"--Dignitatis Humanae--in 1965, which declared that the "dignity of the human person" required the free exercise of religion without coercion by the state, most Catholics have assumed that the Catholic Church has rejected its traditional practice of religious coercion such as killing heretics.  But over the past ten years, some Catholic philosophers and theologians who identify themselves as "integralists" have argued that Dignitatis Humanae has been misinterpreted as a change in the Church's doctrine, and that one should see how Dignitatis Humanae leaves unchanged the traditional Catholic doctrine of the Church's authority to coercively enforce religious belief among baptized Christians.

This intellectual movement began in 2012 with the publication in First Things--the leading journal for right-wing Christian intellectuals--of an article by Thomas Pink (a professor of philosophy at Kings College London).  Pink interpreted Dignitatis Humanae as a change in policy but not a change in doctrine.  "The Church is now refusing to license the state to act as her coercive agent, and it is from that policy change, and not from any change in underlying doctrine, that the wrongfulness of religious coercion by the state follows."  The unchanged doctrine is that while the state has no authority on its own to coerce religious belief, because the ultimate authority over religious belief belongs to the Church, the Church can authorize the state to act as the "secular arm" of the Church in enforcing religious belief.  In particular, the Church can ask the state to punish those baptized Christians who have been condemned by the Church as heretics, apostates, or schismatics.  

Pink relies heavily on a passage in the first section of Dignitatis Humanae: "Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society.  Therefore, it leaves unchanged (integram) traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ."  Pink infers that if "traditional Catholic doctrine" remains "unchanged" by Dignitatis Humanae, that must mean that the traditional doctrine about the Church's authority to use the state as the "secular arm" of the Church in coercing religious belief has not been changed by Vatican II.  

There are lots of problems with this interpretation.  One is that there is no reference anywhere in Dignitatis Humanae to the "secular arm" doctrine of the Church.  Another problem is that when the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2105) quotes this passage about the "unchanged traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion," the Catechism identifies this as affirming the moral duty of the Church to be "constantly evangelizing men," and nothing is said about the possibility of using a "secular arm" to coerce Catholic faith.

Pink concluded his article by saying that we need to deepen our understanding of the theology of the Church's authority to use the coercive power of the state to promote the Catholic religion as the one true religion.  Here are his last two sentences: "This will involve an appropriate theology of baptism and in particular of the obligations to the Church incurred through baptism.  These are the very obligations that, as traditionally understood, could take political form and thus underpin state involvement in coercion, and which Dignitais Humanae so carefully undertakes to preserve, but not to explain."

The last sentence seems to suggest that the policy change in Dignitatis Humanae--that the Church no longer asks the state to act as the Church's agent in enforcing Catholic religious belief--could be (or even should be) reversed, so that the Catholic Church could reclaim its authority to ask the state to act as its "secular arm" in enforcing Catholic religious belief coercively--perhaps even by killing heretics and apostates.

This would support Catholic integralism--the idea that we need a confessional Catholic state enforced by religious coercion--as grounded in the theological doctrines of the Catholic Church as the one true religion.  In fact, Pink has identified himself as a Catholic integralist; and he has explained how his interpretation of Dignitatis Humanae shows that integralism is part of the infallible teaching of the Church--the Magisterium--as declared by the popes and the councils of the bishops.

In my previous posts on integralism, I noted Edmund Waldstein's summary of Catholic integralism in three sentences:  "Catholic Integralism is a tradition of thought that rejects the liberal separation of politics from concern with the end of human life, holding that political rule must order man to his final end. Since, however, man has both a temporal and an eternal end, integralism holds that there are two powers that rule him: a temporal power and a spiritual power. And since man’s temporal end is subordinated to his eternal end the temporal power must be subordinated to the spiritual power." 

Waldstein recommends the medieval Catholic kingdom of St. Louis IX in thirteenth-century France as a historical model of a social order in which the temporal power of government was subordinated to the spiritual power of the Church.  Here then is a clear rejection of the modern liberal regime and endorsement of the medieval illiberal regime.

Oddly, even the most radical right-wing critics of liberalism--like Patrick Deneen and Rod Dreher--refuse to embrace the illiberalism of integralism.  While they reject modern liberalism, they also reject medieval illiberalism, because they want to build on the achievements of liberalism in promoting liberty, equality, and justice.  That's what I mean in saying that their argument is incoherent.

Deneen condemns the medieval social order for its "practices of slavery, bondage, inequality, disregard for the contributions of women, and the arbitrary forms of hierarchy and application of law" (19, 23, 185).  Similarly, Dreher says that medieval Europe was "no Christian utopia," because "the church was spectacularly corrupt, and the violent exercise of power--at times by the church itself--seemed to rule the world."  

The Catholic Church's "violent exercise of power"--particularly against Protestant Christians--was justified by Counter-Reformation Catholic theologians like Francisco Suarez and Robert Bellarmine, and Pink defends Suarez and Bellarmine as reliable exponents of the Church's doctrine of religious coercion.  Bellarmine argued that just as a heretic like Hus was rightly punished with death, so could all Protestants be identified as heretics and executed by Catholic rulers acting as the "secular arm" of the Catholic Church (Bellarmine 2012, pp. 102-20).  Pink (2016) agrees.

It should be noted that Bellarmine cannot cite any New Testament texts for his Catholic theocracy.  Instead, he has to rely on Old Testament teaching about coercive religious authority in ancient Israel.  This confirms my observation that the New Testament can be read as teaching classical liberalism, in that the New Testament churches were voluntary associations that did not employ violent coercion to enforce belief.  Roger Williams made this argument in his criticism of the theocracy of the Massachusetts Bay Colony as violating Christian religious liberty.  Dignitatis Humanae also appealed to the New Testament as teaching religious liberty (see secs. 9-12).

Although the modern proponents of Catholic Integralism are often evasive about the need for religious violence to enforce Catholic belief, they occasionally admit that this will be required.  For example, Thomas Crean and Alan Fimister--in their book Integralism: A Manual of Political Philosophy (2020)--have said that in a Catholic state, capital punishment for public heresy and blasphemy will be a duty of the Church acting through the state as its "secular arm" (249-53).  Presumably, all Protestant Christians would be threatened with capital punishment for their heresy.


Crean, Thomas, and Alan Fimister.  2020.  Integralism: A Manual of Political Philosophy.  London: Eurospan.

Pink, Thomas.  2012. "Vatican II's Teaching on Religious Freedom Changed Policy, Not Doctrine."  First Things,  August.

Pink, Thomas.  2016.  "Suarez and Bellarmine on the Church as Coercive Lawgiver."  In Legge e natura: I dibatti teologici e giuridici fra XV e XVII secolo, eds. Ricccardo Saccenti and Cinzia Scilas, 187-221.  Arricia, Italy: Aracne Editrice.

Pink, Thomas.  2018.  "In Defense of Catholic Integralism."  Public Discourse, August 12.

Bellarmine, Robert. 2012.  On Temporal and Spiritual Authority.  Edited with an Introduction by Stefania Tutino.  Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Homosexuality Evolved in Many Mammals to Promote Social Bonding and Mitigate Conflict

I have argued that homosexuality is biologically natural, and that that supports the liberty of homosexuals as a natural right, including the legal right to same-sex marriage (as upheld in Obergefell v. Hodges).

Now, we have a new study of the evolution of same-sex sexual behavior in mammals.  Carl Zimmer has a good article in the New York Times on this article.

Jose Gomez and his colleagues surveyed 6,649 species of living mammals that first arose about 250 million years ago.  They saw that same-sex sexual behavior had been reported for 261 mammalian species (about 4% of the species).  Same-sex sexual behavior included mounting and/or genital contact (87% of the species), courtship (27% of the species), and pair-bonding (24% of the species).

They found that same-sex sexual behavior was associated with shifts from solitary living to sociality and with intrasexual aggression (particularly among males).  This suggested that same-sex sexual behavior had evolved to establish, maintain, and strengthen social relationships and to mitigate aggression and conflicts.

It is not clear, however, whether they see this as explaining the evolution of human homosexuality.  Gomez told Zimmer that their study could not explain sexual orientation in humans.  He said: "The type of same-sex sexual behavior we have used in our analysis is so different from that observed in humans that our study is unable to provide an explanation for its expression today."  But what they say about this in their article is confusing:

"Same-sex sexual behavior is operationally defined here as any temporary sexual contact between members of the same sex.  This behavior should be distinguished from homosexuality as a more permanent same sex preference, as found in humans.  For this reason, our findings cannot be used to infer the evolution of sexual orientation, identity, and preference or the prevalence of homosexuality as categories of sexual beings.  Nevertheless, even taking into account this cautionary note, by using phylogenetic inference, our study may provide a potential explanation of the evolutionary history of the occurrence of same-sex sexual behavior in humans" (7).

This looks like a strange contradiction.  In the first three sentences, they deny that they can explain the evolution of homosexuality in humans.  But in the last sentence, they say their study "may provide a potential explanation of the evolutionary history" of human homosexuality.  Apparently, they think that while "homosexuality as a more permanent same sex preference" is uniquely human, this human propensity to homosexuality might be rooted in the evolved inclination of some other mammalian species for "temporary sexual contact between members of the same sex."

If we knew that a same-sex human couple were engaging in courtship, mounting, genital contact, and pair bonding, surely that would be enough to identify them as homosexual.