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Life’s been crazy and it’s been a while since I’ve written much, but now I’m back again to type up the fifth and final installment of my series on Integralism!
From the notorious “hijacking” of the Second Vatican Council (I will not debate here exactly when this took place) emerged the infamous “Spirit of Vatican II.” The heretics used ambiguous phrases in the conciliar texts to turn the orthodox understanding of how the temporal and spiritual orders are related on its head. Thus, instead of seeing the conciliar teaching as a call to go forth and sanctify the world, it instead became an excuse to surrender and conform to the world. It is in this way that the Modernist heresy, or what the Russian Orthodox monk Fr. Seraphim Rose termed “worldliness,” appeared to triumph over Holy Church.
But the true meaning of Vatican II still remains, and I firmly believe it will one day not merely be vindicated, but in fact provide the solution to this present crisis. At the heart of the problem is that both sides in this controversy do not seem to understand what is meant by the idea of the temporal/political (lay) order. Both modernists and ironically some “rad trads” assume that this lay order is synonymous with “world” in the biblical sense, as the forces opposed to Christ. But in doing so, both are falling into the same basic error that only the clerics are truly the Church, and that their role is inevitably opposed to the civil order.
The reality is that the Church is both clergy and laity together, and it is only the relatively recent loss of Catholic civilizations that had led us to forget this fact. Just because Vatican II encouraged laity to be more involved in ecclesial life, it does not follow it also intended them to invite secular ideas into the Church. Those who assume that lay = worldly evince a low opinion of laymen, as if they cannot be as effective at building up the kingdom of God as clergy or religious. By contrast, the ancient Church reverenced lay leaders like SS. Constantine and Justinian the Great, who established Christ’s domain with their earthly efforts.
In the Greek-Rite Slav churches we also honor St. Vladimir the Great, prince of Kieven ‘Rus right before the second millennium and father of Slavic Christianity. And speaking of Slavs, I believe one of them gives us the blueprint to practically implement the correct vision of Vatican II for the organization of our civilization. Instead of looking at the social-political doctrine of the Council through the lens of American secularism, we might rather view it with another Vlad’s theories. Vladimir Soloviev was a 19th century Russian intellectual who grew up Orthodox but decided to enter communion with Rome as a Russian Greek-Rite Catholic.
Soloviev proposed a system called free theocracy: an organic bond of Church, State, and culture in which each remains distinct but interpenetrates the others. In this social organization, the natural, human aspects of civilization serve to aid the Church in her spiritual mission of infusing peace and justice to man’s affairs. Practically, for Soloviev this meant reuniting the Russian church with Rome and setting up Imperial Russia as champion of a truly Catholic (East-West) Church. In many ways, this vision is not unlike that of medieval Christendom in its union of Pope and Emperor, but there is one very important difference between them.
In medieval times the authorities enforced the prerogatives of State and Church by force – famously (notoriously!) administering capital punishment to heretics. But in Soloviev’s vision, the integral society would be preserved not by threat of punishment for stepping out of line, but by the unifying pull and draw of charity. And practically, this would entail liberty, for in an authentically Christian order, man must be free to choose, with divine grace, to follow the Faith for himself. We are all called to become part of one mystical family, but are also individual persons with free will who must each make our own decision to answer this call.
One cannot compel another to receive a gift, and I think this is the point Vatican II tried to make: by all means have an integral society, but base it on divine love.