Antiseparationism: A Response to Scott Roniger

If Hittinger does not think that the Church is meant to keep herself uninvolved with temporal politics, or that the temporal polis is meant to keep itself uninvolved with the Church, then his separationism does not conflict with integralism at all. This would be welcome news for Hittinger’s many integralist admirers. But it would also mean that Hittinger’s lectures, although rhetorically situated—and marketed—as a corrective to integralism, offer no such thing.

Earlier this week, Scott Roniger penned a response to my response to Russell Hittinger’s two recent lectures, in which Hittinger advocates “separationism” between the spiritual and temporal powers. In service of his cause, Hittinger had classified the Church and the reign of sin as contradictories, and the Church and the temporal authority as contraries. My response to Hittinger argued that the Church and the polis relate not as contraries (that is, not as antagonistic opposites that necessarily displace each other) but rather as correlatives (complementary opposites that are present together and meant to work in concord), whereas it is the Church and the reign of sin that are contraries.

I have the greatest esteem for Russell Hittinger, and so I am grateful for the opportunity to answer his former student Scott Roniger, whose objections fall into three groups. Roniger charges my argument with being irrelevant, then incoherent, then incomplete.

(1) Irrelevance

Roniger first objects that my argument is irrelevant to Hittinger’s case for separationism, because Hittinger was considering sacred scripture rather than the Organon: “Hittinger did not cite Aristotle, nor did he allude to the philosopher.” Therefore, says Roniger, turning to the Categories was “akin to an attempt to answer the wrong question.” Roniger does not say that Aristotle is wrong about the modes of opposition—only that Aristotle’s teaching about these modes is “neither here nor there.” This is similar to an objection that Jennifer Frey made to my piece on Twitter: “[Hittinger] wasn’t talking about Aristotle. It just didn’t make contact with what he actually said. Aristotle isn’t the relevant framework or authority.”

For my part, I did not take Hittinger to be talking about Aristotle; I took him to be talking about opposites. I brought up Aristotle because I think that, on the subject of opposites, Aristotle is obviously correct. Nor, when Aristotle treats opposites, is he treating just “Aristotelian opposites” or some such, any more than when Aristotle treats color he is treating just “Aristotelian color.” Colors are colors and opposites are opposites, no matter who is talking about them or why. Christian revelation did not substantially alter the art of logic, since logic follows from the very nature of our intellects, and grace does not destroy nature but perfects it. The Categories and the Posterior Analytics are as foundational and universally applicable after the Incarnation as they were before it. If there is some sort of opposition between the Church and the polis, therefore, and if Aristotle did not muck up his treatment of opposition, then this has to fit into one of his four modes. Thus my point was not to change the subject but to clarify the kind of opposition that exists between these two societies, which is to say, Hittinger’s topic.


(2) Incoherence

Roniger’s second charge is that my argument is “incoherent in numerous ways,” that “the content of [my] conclusions simply does not and cannot disclose the reality that they are meant to reveal.” He gives three examples of this alleged incoherence.

First, Roniger objects to my classification of the Church and the reign of sin as contraries, because I have said that contraries must belong to the same genus. Roniger thinks that this suggestion is offensive with regard to the Church. But what I mean by contraries’ having to share a genus is simply that they have to be the same general kind of thing—like good and evil, or virtue and vice, or heaven and hell. I am not saying that they resemble one another, but rather that they are as different as any two such things could be—which is possible only because they are two such things. It is precisely their commonality of genus that makes contraries so antagonistically opposed to one another, since the presence of the one extreme necessarily casts out the other.

“I wish to ask a simple question,” Roniger says: “Which genus do the Church and the reign of sin and death share?” Perhaps the answer to this will be clearer if we translate it into the language of St. Augustine: Which genus do the City of God and the Earthly City share? The answer, of course, is city—which in the context of De Civitate Dei signifies a society of intelligent beings united by their sharing of a common last end. The City of God, or the Church, is the society of those whose final end is placed in God. The Earthly City, or the reign of sin, is the society of those whose final end is placed in creation, and ultimately in themselves. I am not saying that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil are a lot alike. I am saying just the opposite: They are as unlike as it is possible for any two kingdoms to be. But they can only be warring kingdoms because they are both kingdoms in the first place.

I should also emphasize that I do not think the Church is somehow reducible to her contrariety to the reign of sin, any more than good is reducible to its contrariety to evil. The Church is infinitely more than this opposition, and in fact any commonality that exists here, which makes their antagonism possible, is a consequence of the fact that evil can only ever ape the good. The kingdom of the prince of this world is a pathetic imitation of the kingdom of our God, but it opposes it precisely by that pathetic imitation. And so I have no objection to what Roniger quotes from Fr. Benoit-Dominique de la Soujeole about the Church’s identity. (I have been blessed to study with Fr. de la Soujeole, and I consider him a master on such topics.)

Second, Roniger objects to my classification of the Church and the temporal authority as correlatives because I say that correlatives must exist together, and that the mention of one immediately calls to mind the other. “Would not history itself show this argument to be false,” Roniger asks, “since political societies existed before the Church’s birth on the cross and at the descent of the Holy Spirit? Does not the eschaton also show this to be false, for I take it that there will not be earthly, temporal political society in heaven?”

This is Roniger’s strongest argument, but one I believe I can answer. Before doing so, however, I should note that if this objection were to succeed, it would not lead in the direction he seems to want it to. My original response suggested that Hittinger had overstated the opposition between spiritual and temporal authorities, and that we should move them back one place from contrariety to correlation. By challenging their status as correlatives, without any attempt to rebut my argument that they cannot be contraries, Roniger would pull them even farther from contrariety, by moving them past correlation and off the board of opposition altogether. Not only would they not be contraries—they would not even be opposites. It is difficult for me to see how this line of defense is compatible with Hittinger’s original case for separationism.

Be that as it may, I do not think that Roniger’s objection lands. It is true that correlatives, inasmuch as they are correlatives, only ever exist together and immediately imply one another. But sometimes it is also possible for what would otherwise be a correlative to exist independently. Consider the venerable analogy for the Church and the polis found in St. John Chrysostom, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, and Pope Leo XIII: the analogy of soul and body. Soul and body are also correlatives: they exist together as the formal and material principles of a single substance, namely man, and in this context the mention of one implies the other. Yet it is obviously possible for the soul to exist without the body. This is unnatural and in some respects unfortunate, but it is what happens whenever someone dies, and for the vast majority of us it is the state in which we shall find ourselves until Christ comes in glory. The separated soul that was previously a correlative still exists, but it is not a correlative any more because its corresponding body does not exist.

A similar principle applies to temporal cities before the Incarnation. Though they were terribly unjust as they awaited the correction of grace, and their citizens had no way of being formally united unto their supernatural end, they were still true temporal cities, which would become correlative to the Church as soon as the Savior established her for our salvation. In other words, Aristotle was right in the first book of the Politics to say that the polis is a “perfect society”—not of course in the sense that it is ideal, but in the sense that it does not lack any of the parts that belong to it by nature as a society. At that time the temporal authority was the only societas perfecta, and now we have two and they relate as correlatives, but the temporal authority in itself is what it always was. Our connatural end is our connatural end, even once we have been elevated together toward our supernatural end as well.


As for the eschatological part of Roniger’s rhetorical question, I take it that both kinds of authority exist in heaven because they pertain to these same two human ends, and both of these ends will be fulfilled in heaven. The lower order will still have to exist in some way because the natural law, which is the basis of that order, will exist even in the light of glory. (This makes Hittinger and Roniger’s comparison to marriage disanalogous, since celibates, whether in this life or the next, still have a connatural end.) The difference in the life to come is that the two orders will no longer pertain to distinct rulers as they do here below. We will no longer “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s” (Mk 12:17), because there in the fatherland “God will be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

Third, Roniger objects that, by treating the Church and the reign of sin as contraries, and the Church and the temporal power as correlatives, I am “committed to the position that the Church and the reign of sin and death are somehow closer than are the Church and the temporal power.” I do not understand how Roniger drew that conclusion from these premises. My essay gave him every reason to draw the opposite one. When I first introduced the modes of opposition, I said that, “from the least opposed to the most opposed, the four are: (1) correlation, (2) contrariety, (3) privation/possession, and (4) contradiction.” I can only repeat that correlatives are the least opposed of all types of opposites, not least because one finds this same mode of opposition between the Persons of the Trinity. So I am not at all committed to the view that the Church is closer to the reign of sin than she is to the temporal power. I took Hittinger to have placed these pairs in modes (2) and (4), and I moved them to (1) and (2), but Hittinger and I both agree that the Church is much less opposed to the temporal authority than she is to the reign of sin and death.

(3) Incompleteness

Finally, Roniger charges my argument with incompleteness: “Hannon remains silent on issues of central importance,” and “these silences speak perhaps more loudly than do his confused words.” He calls me out for three omissions in particular.

First, I had objected to Hittinger’s lectures for pivoting between two senses of “separation”: the eschatological holiness of the Church, and the “separationist” consequence that Hittinger thinks this entails for Church–state relations. Roniger objects, “Hannon does not say at which point this pivot happened, nor does he tell us precisely where along the way this shift took place.” I am sorry if I implied that there was some particular timestamp at which Hittinger switched from one use to the other and never looked back. I had meant to suggest, rather, that Hittinger was eliding these two distinct notions about the Church: separation in the sense of being ordered to our supernatural end, and separation in the sense of being totally detached from the temporal authorities that are ordered to our connatural end. I do not believe the latter follows from the former, and it seemed to me that Hittinger’s lectures took for granted that it did. The only argument I could find for such a conclusion in Hittinger’s remarks—and even then it was only an enthymeme—was based on the twofold opposition that I addressed in my response.

What is interesting to me here, however, is that I had characterized Hittinger’s separationism as an “indifferentism” or “aloofness” between the Church and the polis, and Roniger dismisses that characterization as too “juridical.” If Hittinger never meant to suggest that the Church ought to be separated from the temporal authority in any sense except the eschatological one, then I am not sure why he chose integralism as his foil. If he does not think that the Church is meant to keep herself uninvolved with temporal politics, or that the temporal polis is meant to keep itself uninvolved with the Church, then his separationism does not conflict with integralism at all. This would be welcome news for Hittinger’s many integralist admirers. But it would also mean that Hittinger’s lectures, although rhetorically situated—not to mention marketed—as a corrective to integralism, offer no such thing.

Second, Roniger charges me with failing to cite the origin of a phrase that I used in my response, when I quoted Hittinger as saying, “‘To have no share whatever’ is precisely what I mean by separation.” It turns out that the origin of that subject phrase—“to have no share whatever”—was Pope Leo XIII. Full disclosure: I had not written down in my notes from the oral lectures that this phrase was a quotation, so mea culpa for the missing attribution. I had put it in single quotation marks only for the sake of clarifying the grammatical subject of that somewhat complicated sentence. Nonetheless, the actual quote from Pope Leo is one that I agree with anyway: “The governance of souls was committed to the Church alone, in such wise that powers of the political order have no share whatever in it.” Quite so. The cura animarum belongs to the Church and only to the Church.

“Hannon attempts to claim that his position is identical to that of Leo XIII,” Roniger says: “However, Leo’s teaching on the proper relationship between the Church and the temporal political authority is both more nuanced and more interesting.” I would still like to know in what way my position departs from Leo’s, because it seems to me, even after Roniger’s insistence to the contrary, that Pope Leo’s view and mine are perfectly identical. Leo rightly insists that the Church is not committed to any one particular form of temporal government, whether rule by one or by few or by many etc.—but he is adamant that whatever form of temporal government still needs to be subordinated to the spiritual government of the Church, and this is all we mean by integralism. Rather than further litigate that here, I would point to Gladden Pappin and Chad Pecknold’s recent essay in which they make an extensive comparison between Hittinger’s separationism and Pope Leo XIII—and St. Augustine and St. Thomas as well.

The last objection Roniger makes is also the most serious. He says that, in my political theology, I have forgotten my Savior: “The third and final silence is the most revealing. In his response, Hannon does not say the name of Jesus Christ.” I must confess that I find this objection baffling. The traditional practice has always been to avoid casual repetition of the Most Holy Name. This pious custom exists across languages: Search St. Augustine’s Latin or St. John Henry Newman’s English, and you will find that, outside of direct quotations of scripture, the uses of the Savior’s name are very few and far between. How could it cause offense or suspicion to avoid writing this name in an article for the blogosphere, a name that St. Paul says demands a physical reverence as often as it is uttered? That aside, with regard to the substantive point lurking behind this complaint, I do not understand how Roniger could think I have forgotten our Blessed Lord in my development of integralism. As I say explicitly in the piece, the very foundation of integralism is the fact that “the Eternal Son became man and instituted baptism so that we might be incorporated into his mystical body the Church.” Christ is, and must always be, at the heart of integralism.



In closing, I would like to return to the esteem for Hittinger to which I alluded above, and in which my initial reply was undertaken, by considering his phenomenal chapter on Pope Leo XIII in the 2007 book The Teachings of Modern Roman Catholicism on Law, Politics, and Human Nature. There Hittinger has declared, not that Pope Leo was a “separationist,” but rather: “Leo was an antiseparationist”! I believe this gets to the heart of the confusion that Hittinger’s recent lectures have caused for his integralist admirers, and that I hope the present debate can help to clarify. In a beautiful passage, the 2007 Hittinger continued:

In his [Leo XIII’s] world, antiseparationism did not mean a state church. It meant a rather rich and proactive concordia in which each power recognizes the other’s theological title to rule. Leo did not think that civil authorities ought to be epistemically blind about their place in the order of providence. The state’s incompetence to teach doctrine does not entail its incompetence to be taught and to learn; moreover, the concord should include adiumenta, assistance, especially on mixed matters such as marriage and education.

Elsewhere in the chapter, Hittinger even linked this Leonine antiseparationism to Gelasian dyarchy, a core tenet of integralism:

Leo refurbished the ancient two power (duo sunt) doctrine of Pope Gelasius: “So there are twin powers,” Leo wrote, “both subordinate to the eternal law of nature, and each working for its own ends in matters concerning its own order and domain.” Divine providence decrees (1) that these twinned powers operate each in its own order (in suo ordine), and (2) that concord (concordia) ought to mark their relationship.

At one point in his chapter, Hittinger did use the word “separationist” instead, but he did not intend it as a compliment:

As the separationist movement gained steam in France, Leo warned that separation is “indifferent to the interests of Christian society, that is to say, of the Church,” and has as its aim putting French Catholics “outside of the common law itself [le droit commun].” Similarly, with respect to the purported “neutral” marriage laws in Italy, he wrote: “What judgment is to be formed of a Catholic state which throws overboard the sacred principles and the wise enactments of the Christian law on matrimony, and sets about the wretched job of creating a marital morality all its own, purely human in character, under forms and guarantees that are merely legal; and then with all its power goes on forcibly to impose this morality on the consciences of its subjects, substituting it for the religious and sacramental morality.”

Finally, and with many quotations from Pope Leo, Hittinger said,

There are thus two powers, the proximate end of one being “the temporal and worldly good of the human race,” the other religious, “whose office it is to lead mankind to that true, heavenly, and everlasting happiness for which we are created.” Yet this distinction is not an entirely tidy boundary. With respect to society, the Church is superior to the state not only in the “mixed matters” like marriage and education, but also more generally in the Church’s having a superior title to imprint itself upon society. In Immortale Dei, Leo asserted, “Whatever, therefore in things human is of a sacred character, whatever belongs either of its own nature or by reason of the end to which it is referred, to the salvation of souls, or to the worship of God, is subject to the power and judgment of the Church.”

Here I agree wholeheartedly with Hittinger. Indeed, it was precisely because I understood this to be his view of spiritual–temporal relations that I found his more recent characterization of Leo XIII surprising. It seemed to me that at some point during the last decade and a half, Hittinger had radically changed his views. I hope that Hittinger will clarify the reason for his apparent evolution, especially if it is only a matter of rhetoric. For if he still endorses the Leonine theology of these paragraphs, Hittinger is already an integralist in everything but name.

This post has been updated.

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