Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Philosophy

First Advisor

Steven Skultety

Second Advisor

Robert English

Third Advisor

Steven Skultety


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



In the United States, there is a longstanding debate over the proper relationship between religious and civil institutions, or “church and state.” One radical voice in the debate is that of Catholic integralism, a school within Catholic social teaching which argues that Catholic governments should submit to the religious authority of the Church, and that Catholics should aspire towards a Catholic society with this relationship between Church and State for all nations. Recently, interlocutors have attempted to show that integralism is inconsistent with a core element of the Catholic teaching to which they appeal—that is, natural law. In this paper, I respond to three such arguments.

The first argues that integralists violate natural laws pertaining to individual justice through a consequentialist political philosophy. I argue that integralists do no such thing. Rather, they recognize limits on state policing of individuals, even in pursuit of the common good. The second argues that integralism, negating all constitutional limits, constitutes a form of totalitarianism. I argue that it does not. Rather, integralists may support a variety of constitutional schemes within reason and that integralism is built on a specific constitutional limitation, the distinction between the Church and the State powers. The third argues that integralism (in both “thick” and “thin” varieties) treats religious groups unfairly. I argue that thin integralism does not. Rather, thin integralists treat religious groups according to their baptismal status, an element of Catholic teaching.

I conclude the paper by acknowledging the connection between integralism and Catholic teaching and the difficulty in upholding Catholicism while making quick work of integralism.



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