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,


Don Paco said...


I don't mind if you publish it too. That's fine with me. However, in order to put my ignorance in perspective, I would ask that you make reference to the post:

The conversation has not finished yet, and I have not had a chance to reply to Alan. I am currently studying Garrigou's introduction to De Regimine--as he suggested I do--and the supposed "disingenuous character of Garrigou's presentation of St Thomas's political philosophy" is not at all evident to me. It seems like Garrigou is presenting (as usual) a well-reasoned synthesis of the Angelic Doctor's thought, as it is present throughout his works--and not as it is present in only one passage of the Summa that Alan quotes, namely I-II.105.1. He provides passages where Aquinas is all-too-clear that monarchy--the rule of one--is superior to the rule of many. Especially Garrigou's point (which is actually Aquinas') that Democracy is the rule of the perfect--i.e., for it to work, it is assumed the people are virtuous and will vote virtuously--is particularly enlightening. I never cease to be impressed by the man's synoptic view of things and his courage to state the truth--no matter how unpopular it is.

In any case, I need more time to study it and my reply will appear on that post. So to do justice to the issue (and in order that no one wrongly deduce from my ignorance that I must therefore be wrong) I ask that you provide a link to my post.

(You may forward this comment to Alan if you wish. If you do, send him my regards and let him know I am researching the issue.)


In Domino,

Anonymous said...

Um, did you get his permission to publish the correspondence? Just asking on account of the fact that I haven't yet heard from him on this subject, and we're in fairly frequent contact.

Don Paco said...

Oh, well, no; not exactly. He didn't say anything, but I assumed that was the reason he emailed me to begin with. That's just how the blog works; if someone has question he can email me and I will post it along with my reply.

Do you think I should remove the post?

Anonymous said...

Mmm, it would seem the polite thing to do. He wasn't exactly writing in for advice, was he?

Anonymous said...

No :-)

Don Paco said...

Ok. He just emailed me and said it was ok. Thanks for the heads up, though.

Dominic Sullivan said...

The idea that the end of man cannot be deduced from reason (if indeed Maritain did hold this view) is profoundly mistaken, as is the idea that there can be no true moral philosophy without divine revelation. If we reject the notion that the first principle of practical reasoning (The good is to be done and pursued and evil avoided)cannot be known from reason, on what basis do we accept God's revelation? We end up with pure Fideism. Religion stems from the moral law, not the other way round. There is nothing the modern mind would like more than for us to concede that morality only exists as a consequence of religious conviction. It is vital to insist on the rationality of the moral law.

Of course we cannot know by reason to love our enemies. That is a supernatural virtue, not a natural one. By nature we are impelled to act justly toward our neighbour and to act beyond the demands of justice towards our children etc, but we are not so impelled by nature to love our neighbour in God. Indeed to do so requires sanctifying grace. To expect supernatural love of our neighbours from the natural law is to confuse the natural and supernatural orders.

Anonymous said...

ST IaIIae, 65, 2

Don Paco said...

Dear Anonymous,

The relevance of your citation to the present issue is not evident. Please explain.

In Caritate Christi,

Dominic Sullivan said...

I think Anonymous' reference to ST IaIIae, 65, 2 was directed to my point about the natural and supernatural virtues.

Indeed St. Thomas does say that the infused virtues are "simpliciter dicendae virtutes," while the acquired virtues "sunt secundum quid virtutes, non autem simpliciter, ordinant enim hominem bene respectu finis ultimi in aliquo genere, non autem respectu finis ultimi simpliciter." If that's all that Maritain meant by saying that there could be no truly adequate moral philosophy without supernatural faith, then probably nobody could object. I understand better now the point Alan was making. However, the distinction between the two types of virtue still remains and is very important, particularly in our age, which denies the rational basis of morality. St. Thomas does not deny value to the moral virtues, even though they are not operative of good, in themselves, in the superantural order: "virtutes morales prout sunt operativae boni in ordine ad finem qui non excedit facultatem naturalem hominis.."

Pope Pius XII's words about democracies needing the principles of the faith and the supernatural help of the Church seems to be merely an reassertion of the teaching of Pius XI in Quas Primas on the Social Kingship of Christ. It doesn't read as a particular endorsement of Democracy. He was simply addressing himself to an age that took democracy for granted. A democracy based on Catholic principles (i.e. in which the power of the people to legislate is limited according to the moral and supernatural order) is not democracy as it is generally understood today.

Anonymous said...

Constitutional form is a matter of public not private law (in the Roman sense) it is thus inappropriate to graft the moral aberrations in private law common among contemporary democracies onto the modern concept of democracy itself. The monarchies of Stalin, Hitler and Mao have adequately demonstrated that such aberrations are not the exclusive prerogative of modern democracies. Pius XII does not merely say that the divinely-established order of beings and ends ‘ought to be’ the ultimate foundation and directive norm of every democracy he says it ‘is’. Thomas teaches that the supernatural virtue of charity stands in relation to moral action as the first principle reason does to speculative knowledge. The virtues obtainable by natural reason are only virtues in a secondary sense, they lack the intrinsic connection proper to true virtues and without supernatural faith acquired prudence is blind and will mislead us. Ergo moral philosophy is inadequate unless it is subalternated to sacred theology. The same precepts can be reached but not their universal scope. With natural reason alone as a guide one would behave as the priest and the Levite not as the Samaritan. On this basis Maritain argued that, “it is the urge of a love infinitely stronger than the philanthropy commended by the philosophers which causes human devotion to surmount the closed borders of the natural social groups – family group and national group – and extend it to the entire human race, because this love is the life in us of the very love which has created being and because it truly makes of each human being our neighbour. Without breaking the links of flesh and blood, of self-interest, tradition and pride which are needed by the body politic, and without destroying the rigorous laws of existence and conservation of this body politic, such a love extended to all men transcends, and at the same time transforms from within, the very life of the group and tends to integrate all of humanity into a community of nations and peoples in which men will be reconciled. For the kingdom of God is not miserly, the communion which is its supernatural privilege is not jealously guarded; it wants to spread and refract this communion outside its own limits, in the imperfect shapes and in the universe of conflicts, malice and bitter toil which make of the temporal realm. That is the deepest principle of the democratic ideal…”

If he is right this makes the modern democratic system peculiarly dependent upon the church to provide it with theoretical justification and the necessary moral strength to survive. It is never possible to know by natural reason alone what the end of man actually is even if we lived in state of pure nature we could not be sure that God had not provided all or some with a supernatural or preternatural end unless He told us. All other things being equal participation in the life of the city is a great natural good. Universal enfranchisement may not be prudent in many historical circumstances but the universal brotherhood entailed by adequate moral philosophy (i.e. subalternated to sacred theology) implies that the franchise should be extended universally if this can be done prudently. Were it not for supernatural considerations one might well be inclined to exclude slaves and foreigners in a manner which would indeed be prudent (according to acquired prudence) from the self interested perspective of the existing citizenry. This makes democracy logically and morally dependent upon supernatural truths. As Luigi Barnabà Chiaramonte, later Pope Pius VII, famously told his people in a Christmas sermon in 1797 when Cardinal bishop of Imola, “A quite ordinary virtue will suffice to preserve and to maintain other forms of government, ours requires something more. Strive to attain the full height of virtue and you will be true Democrats, fulfil faithfully the precepts of the gospel and you will be the joy of the Republic”

Dominic Sullivan said...

You (or Maritain)seem to be suggesting that the universal franchise is a demand of charity, all other things being equal. This strikes me as a very odd idea, but I'm not quite sure why yet. I suspect, as I originally feared, that there is too much blurring of the supernatural and the natural in Maritain's starting point.

I should be interested to read what others think of this idea.

Anonymous said...

If you are interested in political philosophy, check out Peter Simpson's commentary on Aristotle's Politics. His arguments are in conformity with St. Thomas' commentary on the same work. You can get the book here:

And Dr. Simpson has a website with some good reading material on Nature and Goodness (and the supposed "naturalistic fallacy"):