In the review that you recently published of our book, Integralism: A Manual of Political Philosophy (“The New Integralists,” November), Timothy Troutner included, among many tendentious and downright false assertions about the work, the claim that it “clearly breaks with Vatican II’s teaching on religious liberty.” This is an absurd accusation and can only imply that the reviewer is willfully interpreting Dignitatis humanae in such a fashion as to deliberately create a rupture between its doctrine and the “traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ,” a rupture which Dignitatis humanae expressly denies. It is thus the reviewer and not we who attribute error to Dignitatis humanae. What he fails to grasp is that, as the declaration itself explains, man’s right to religious liberty arises from his “moral obligation to seek the truth.” To be sure, the right continues in those who have failed to fulfill the obligation, but Catholics have not failed to fulfill it. Thus their rights are not impeded but vindicated by a requirement imposed upon them to “continue to profess that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter.” As John Paul II famously observed, “Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
St. John Vianney Theological Seminary
TIMOTHY TROUTNER REPLIES:
My review suggested that integralism gets its persuasive power from its claim to be the only game in town for those who think tradition is important—and that if an alternative narrative is provided that accounts for the full sweep of Catholic history, the spell is broken. Should authors Crean and Fimister acknowledge that I affirm tradition without being an integralist, the game would be up. So I’m not surprised to see my position mischaracterized as an affirmation of “rupture,” a claim that depends on a false dichotomy: either read Dignitatis humanae as nothing other than a repetition (however timid, ambiguous, or garbled) of an allegedly perennial teaching, or admit a betrayal of the faith.
That document presents itself as neither bare repetition nor rupture. Instead, its narrative, which my review echoes, is more subtle, claiming to “develop the doctrine” of the Church and bring forth “new things that are in harmony with the things that are old.” It does not jettison the “moral obligation” of individuals and societies “to seek the truth.” But it does argue that over the centuries the “leaven of the gospel” has deepened our awareness of how this search is to be undertaken: “the truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth.” Having reflected more deeply on “the way of Christ and the apostles” and the dignity of every human being, the council sees Christian wisdom at work in modern efforts to expand the scope of religious freedom and repents of those aspects of the Church’s past that were “hardly in accord with the spirit of the Gospel or even opposed to it.”
The manual, with its narrative of decline, cannot account for these “new things,” and thus it relies on a forced reading of the Dignitatis humanae at odds with its plain meaning. Those who wish for a story faithful to all the treasures of the Church, both old and new, should look elsewhere.