Saturday, July 14, 2007

Maritain, Garrigou-Lagrange, and Democracy

Share/Bookmark Dear Sir,

I must object to your claim [in your previous post on Maritain] that "Aquinas and all of his traditional followers are obviously royalists/monarchists". I do not presume to speak for 'all of his traditional followers' but I have never seen any text or read of any text or heard of any text in which St Thomas endorses hereditary monarchy (the system espoused by 'royalists'). In the Summa Theologiae IaIIae.105.1 he explicitly states that a mixed monarchy elected by universal franchise is the best form of government. The most obvious example of such a constitution in the modern world is the constitution of the United States of America. In fact, the system endorsed by St Thomas is more or less what is meant when we use the word 'Democracy' today. In contrast, when St Thomas uses the term 'Democracy' he uses it in its ancient sense of a polity with no supreme executive magistrate in which the laws are enacted by plebiscite. To use Thomas's criticisms of Democracy as if they applied to the modern institution is quite wrong.

In general your verdict upon M. Maritain has much to commend it, however his disagreements with Garrigou-Lagrange are more complicated than your comments suggest. Garrigou was indeed a royalist and was rather disingenuous in his presentation of St Thomas's political doctrine going so far as to endorse Action Française, a movement subsequently condemned by the Church for 'Social and Political Modernism'. The essential ground of condemnation was that the movement sought to bracket the question of the truth or falsity of the Church's faith in order to use it as a buttress for a social order in which believers and non-believers could participate.

Maritain (who was also supportive of Action Française) persisted in this error after the condemnation but sought to use the Church's faith as a buttress for a pluralist rather than a conservative social and political order. His arguments for the logical dependency upon revealed truths of a 'Democratic' (in the modern sense) political order are worth consideration and are apparently endorsed by Pius XII in his 1944 Christmas Address 'Democracy and a Lasting Peace'. In this address Pius XII states that "If the future is to belong to democracy, an essential part in its achievement will have to belong to the religion of Christ and to the Church, the messenger of our Redeemer's word which is to continue His mission of saving men. For she teaches and defends supernatural truths and communicates the supernatural helps of grace in order to actuate the divinely-established order of beings and ends which is the ultimate foundation and directive norm of every democracy."

Obviously, the alleged dependency is one way. Democracy is said to imply certain truths of the faith, the faith does not require that all states be democracies. On the other hand, Maritain's willingness to bracket the question of the truth or falsity of the Church's faith, accepting as unproblematic and permanent (in his liberal incarnation) the separation of Church and state, is clearly contrary to the teaching of the Church and opens him to the charge of 'Social Modernism' as described by Pius XI in Ubi Arcano Dei §60-61. This is a very serious criticism of Maritain's political thought. Nevertheless, it has nothing to do with his preference for 'Democracy' in which he is a faithful disciple of the Angelic Doctor.

Yours in Christ,

Dear Alan,
In all truth, I must admit am no expert in political philosophy or in Catholic social thought. In point of fact, that is the one area of philosophy/theology which I have purposefully avoided throughout my formation. I now realize I must not ignore it.
Therefore, pardon my simplistic understanding of the concepts, but by "royalism" I meant no more than the belief that the best form of government is monarchy. Thus, by "royalist" I meant the same as "monarchist." I did not imply that monarchy should be inherited.
Given that this is what I meant, it is true that there are MANY texts, indeed entire works, by Aquinas and his followers where the point is to support "royalism" (in the sense I use it; i.e., where the point is to show that monarchy is the best form of government).

Moreover, I find the following points that you have made difficult to accept, at least prima facie:

1) that "the system endorsed by St. Thomas is more or less what is meant when we use the word 'Democracy' today"; this claim is seriously suspect of hermeneutical violence, and the 'more or less' is an indication that you're stretching it unduly.

2) that the United States is the most obvious example in the modern world of "a mixed monarchy elected by universal franchise," and especially the outstanding implication that the United States is, not only an example (as if that weren't doubtful enough), but an obvious example, of "the best form of government"!!!;

3) Your interpretation of Pius XII's address as implying your thesis and as being authoritative.

A. First, it does not imply your thesis; you are committing a logical error by reversing the order hypothetical statement. The statement means that:

1. "if the future is to belong to democracy, then Christianity must play a primary role."

It does not mean that:

2. "if Christianity is to play a primary role, then the future must belong to democracy."
Confusing the two is equivalent to confusing the following two statements:

3. "if a person is a bachelor, then that person is unmarried";

4. "if a person is unmarried, then that person is a bachelor."

The first one is true, but the second one is false, for an unmarried person could be a female or a child (which do not qualify as "bachelors").

Therefore, I agree with Pope XII's claim that "if the future is to belong to democracy, then Christianity must play a primary role." That is the essence of what traditionalists mean by the restoration of the social kingship of Christ in America today. However, I do not agree with the reverse, namely, that "if Christianity is to play a primary role [that automatically means that], the future must belong to democracy." That would mean that democracy is the type of government that best concords with Christianity.

B. Furthermore, the citation refers merely to an address, where the pope does not intend to teach anything new, and much less to bind anyone to believe it, but merely to communicate a fundamental truth of Christianity, namely, the need to implement Christian doctrine and morality in our modern democratic world ( i.e., nothing other than the implementation of the social kingship of Christ in our age).

4) I also find difficult to accept your gratuitous and unwarranted charge that "Garrigou was... rather disingenuous in his presentation of St Thomas's political doctrine" (if you would like to provide justification for this charge, I would like to hear it);

5) Finally, I am unmoved by your misleading statement that he went "so far as to endorse [my emphasis] Action Française," which confuses strategic support with endorsement of principles (as if my voting for Bush meant that I endorse everything he stands for--I simply voted for him because I thought that doing so was the best strategy to help minimize abortion: and it worked). Garrigou did not "endorse" the principles of L'Action Française; he thought that to promote its political leadership was good strategy to obtain the restoration of the traditional order in France!

Thank you for your constructive criticism. I am very grateful for taking the time to share your thoughts with me and point out the inadequacies of what I write on the blog. I will require further research to be able to evaluate/criticize these points.

In Domino,

Dear Dr Romero,

Thank you for your reply. I think you may have mistaken my meaning on a few points. I did not say that Pius XII's address bound in conscience or even had a particularly significant theological note. I was citing him as an individual authority rather than as the voice of the magisterium. I did say specifically that he is asserting a dependency of Democracy (Modern) upon the Gospel not a dependency of the Gospel upon Democracy. 'Democracy is said to imply certain truths of the faith, the faith does not require that all states be democracies.'

Pius says "[the Church] teaches and defends supernatural truths and communicates the supernatural helps of grace in order to actuate the divinely-established order of beings and ends which is the ultimate foundation and directive norm of every democracy." It would be strange to say 'is' if he meant 'ought to be'. Furthermore, as every state whatever its constitutional form ought to take these truths as their foundation and directive norm, it would be odd to single out democracy in this way if that was all that he meant. I suspect that the dependency he was asserting is that for which Maritain argued, though shorn of the secularist errors involved in Maritain's theory.

Maritain in his epistemological writings developed a theory which he called 'Moral Philosophy Adequately Considered'. If I understand him correctly he believes that the actual end of man in this order of providence functions as the first principle of moral philosophy and because that end cannot be deduced from natural reason (whatever de Lubac might think) there can be no truly adequate moral philosophy in this order of providence without supernatural faith. One of the consequences of this inadequacy of moral philosophy when it is not subalterned to sacred theology is that we cannot know by natural reason alone that we ought to love our enemies.

A fundamental characteristic of Democracy as the moderns understand it (in contrast to the ancient form) is universal enfranchisement and the preservation of certain inviolable rights for minorities. Maritain believes that this framework would not develop naturally on the basis of reason unaided by revelation. This is why Democracy in the modern sense requires certain truths to justify it which only the Church can furnish with certitude.

Whatever its deficiencies may be vis-à-vis its predecessor, this seems to be the point the recent Catechism is trying to make at CCC 2244.

"Every institution is inspired, at least implicitly, by a vision of man and his destiny, from which it derives the point of reference for its judgment, its hierarchy of values, its line of conduct. Most societies have formed their institutions in the recognition of a certain preeminence of man over things. Only the divinely revealed religion has clearly recognized man's origin and destiny in God, the Creator and Redeemer. The Church invites political authorities to measure their judgments and decisions against this inspired truth about God and man: Societies not recognizing this vision or rejecting it in the name of their independence from God are brought to seek their criteria and goal in themselves or to borrow them from some ideology. Since they do not admit that one can defend an objective criterion of good and evil, they arrogate to themselves an explicit or implicit totalitarian power over man and his destiny, as history shows."

In regard to nomenclature, just about nobody uses the term 'Monarchism' to mean merely 'rule by one' which is doubtless unfortunate but it is a fact. Even if it was used in this exact sense it would still be misleading to describe St Thomas as a 'Monarchist' as he did not advocate this form but a mixture of the three 'pure' forms. He could be most exactly described as a Republican. The Romans also believed that their Respublica was an ideal blend of the three pure forms. In ST IaIIae.95.4 St Thomas seems to endorse the Roman model in his discussion of Isidore's division of laws.

'Royalism' is never used other than to describe hereditary monarchy. In ordinary speech Monarchy is still distinguished from Aristocracy and Democracy as indicating the sovereignty of the one rather than the few or the many. That this is how Garrigou-Lagrange used it as is clear from the fact that he supported the restoration of the French Bourbon Monarchy. Thomas's mixed monarchy in which the three 'pure' forms were blended and the Monarchical and Aristocratic elements elected by the populace is very different from anything promoted by contemporary 'monarchists' or any royalist programme advanced in early 20 th Century France. It is clearly what we would now call a presidential democracy. I believe Sir John Fortescue (1394 – 1476) used St Thomas's authority to defend the Lancastrian parliamentary transfer of power from Richard II to Henry IV.

Personally, I am a fairly contented subject of HM Elizabeth II and inhabit a parliamentary democracy which does not match up to St Thomas's model, so I am not blinded by patriotic fervour in this matter. I am not saying that the constitution of the United States of America is an ideal. Obviously, it is marred by its failure to acknowledge the truth of the Catholic faith in its constitution and its laws violate Divine and Natural Law in many particulars (as do those of the United Kingdom). It does however match up to the specifications laid down by St Thomas in IaIIae.105.1. This is not to say that a number of other broadly similar systems could not do so too. The French constitution for example is also a presidential democracy with an elected legislature.

Garrigou's enthusiasm for Action Française is a matter of public record. In his own introduction to De Regimine Principium he even defends Charles Maurras's slogan "politique d'abord" which lies at the heart of Pius XI's objections to Action Française. Paradoxically, Garrigou was probably more uncomfortable with this aspect of the movement than Maritain even though Maritain appears to attack it in 'Primauté du Spirituel'.

If you wish to examine the disingenuous character of Garrigou's presentation of St Thomas's political philosophy I recommended that you read his introduction to De Regimine Principium
and compare it to the following (which I have attached to this email)…

Aroney, Nicholas, "Subsidiarity, Federalism and the Best Constitution: Thomas Aquinas on City, Province and Empire" . Law and Philosophy, Vol. 26, pp. 161-228, 2007.

….and then chase up the references and judge for yourself!

Yours in Christ,

Thanks for the info and the references. I will take a look!

In Domino,
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