Last week I burned some bridges by writing tough but constructive criticism about the orthodox Catholic subculture. I pointed to some trends that seem to run in parallel, reinforcing each other. I’ve seen some angry feedback, so I know I touched a nerve. No, I didn’t say that all or even most of the grads of small Catholic colleges are:
- Rejecting American freedom in favor of fantasies about a Catholic theocracy
- Embracing collectivist economic views which they falsely infer from Catholic social teaching
- Disdaining well-paying work that might support families because they insist on careers in the arts, the Church or education
- Emerging deep in debt, marrying spouses with equal debt
- Having children nine months and five minutes apart — kids on public assistance (Medicaid, food stamps, WIC)
- Claiming that as their “right” using Humanae Vitae and poorly understood Catholic social teaching about a “just wage” as pretexts
But some do. You know who you are.
Like Muslims in Paris
What alarms me about the nexus of all these pathologies? How much it mirrors Muslim immigrant enclaves in Western Europe. There, people unsuited (or unwilling) to take part in the modern economy lean on their sense of theological “otherness.” Of superiority, in fact. They see the public benefits that the “infidels” provide them as their due. Some even call it “jizya,” the tribute Muslims demand of non-believers whom they’ve conquered. I’ve heard or read Catholics say something quite similar of America. That non-Catholics not as “open to life” ought to pay taxes to feed, medicate and educate the kids of Catholics who are.
The concept of Integralism is explained.
Because the Muslim analogy is what awoke me to this problem, I focused on Integralism. That’s a newly fashionable but ill-defined school of thought in some Catholic circles. It rejects the Anglo-American tradition of freedom and focuses on individual rights. Integralists follow Notre Dame’s Patrick Deneen. They dismiss all that as “Liberalism.” They reduce the American founders to mere parrots of John Locke. And John Locke turns out to be a thin fig leaf for Thomas Hobbes. Hence the ACLU and Planned Parenthood prove to be right about the Constitution, and Justice Scalia dead wrong.
America was hopeless from its founding, so we’re exempted from duties as active citizens. Instead, we should focus on creating an alternate program that’s based explicitly on Catholicism. Once all we see around us has collapsed into heaps of rubble, then we can think about implementing it. But we’re off the hook for now and free to indulge our fantasies.
Following the responses to my piece, I’ve seen some questions that ought to be answered. Not everyone is clear on what exactly “Integralism” means. Or why we can reject it without surrendering to contemporary secularism, wrapping our altars in rainbow flags.
If you enjoy these questions and answers, please check out my book-length response to a wide array of Catholic queries, The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Catechism.