The pieces of the word suggest an integration of several things, and they do, but we’re not talking here about racial integration, in the civil rights sense. This is something far different.
The Wikipedia description says that it suggests “a fully integrated social and political order, based on converging patrimonial (inherited) political, cultural, religious and national traditions of a particular state, or some other political entity. Some forms of integralism are focused on achieving political and social integration, and also national or ethnic unity, while others were more focused on achieving religious and cultural uniformity.”
To get more specific, a lot of the discussion grows out of a long-running – centuries long – discussion within the Roman Catholic church, arguing that the state should serve the church. (Presumably the Vatican, in which church and state always have been integrated, is exempted from the discussion.) The term seems to come from the 1905 decision by the Third French Republic formally to separate itself from the Catholic Church; French Catholics who opposed that decision called themselves Catholiques integraux (integrationist Catholics). The idea has been adapted since, and the argument has ebbed and flowed since the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65, which among other things seemed to loosen the church-state relationship.
Integralism in anything like a doctrinaire sense is not likely a majority view, or even more than a sliver-sized minority view, in the Catholic community.
R.R. Reno of the Institute on Religion and Public Life noted that there’s plenty of deep church doctrine against integralism: “Our supernatural destiny is other than our natural end. As St. Augustine put it, though they are intermixed in this age, the City of God is ordered to a different end than the City of Man. As a consequence, a Catholic politics never seeks to be a sacred politics, never proposes a full and complete integration of statecraft with soulcraft.”
It was that point John F. Kennedy made when he addressed Baptist ministers in Houston in the 1960 campaign, speaking to concerns about whether his Catholicism would lead to subservience to the Pope. He said, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute – where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote – where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference – and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him…. I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”
The speech won a great deal of praise, but some – not all – Catholics disapproved. Catholic writer John Courtney Murray (who had seen the speech before it was delivered) said that “to make religion merely a private matter was idiocy.”3 (Be it noted that religion being a private matter was a central point in the idwology of Thomas Jefferson.)
There are many perspectives pro and con, but one of the most concise pro- arguments may have been expressed from writer Daniel Pink:
“Integralism – the need for a confessional Catholic state – is part of Catholic teaching about grace. Grace is required to repair and perfect all of human nature. Human nature involves the political not as a mere expression and instrument of the private, but as a distinctive sphere of existence and understanding in its own right. Unless we commit ourselves to Christ as a political community, a vital part of human reason will remain untransformed by grace. The result will be spiritual conflict and degradation. … [The Catholic tradition] takes the state, and coercive authority in general, to have a teaching function. One central mode of teaching is through legal coercion. The supposition that it is the proper business of the state to teach, and teach coercively, extends back to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.”
Another analysis by Timothy Troutner (in describing integralism advocates, not his own view) takes this a step further, to the point where the argument becomes fully joined: “The maintenance of a neutral public square forbids the dominance of any thick conception of the good not shared by all. This quickly leads to the privatization of religion and the secularization of society, manifesting liberalism’s hostility to any religion which sees itself as more than a private concern.”
And Troutner adds, “Integralists argue that if Catholics do not dictate terms, others will dictate to them.” That fully gives the game away, making clear the real point in the last paragraph: Integralists simply want to be those who dictate the terms. To everyone. Including everyone who thinks something other than what they do. Under such a system, freedom of religion belongs only to one group, not to others; it’s a redefinition of what “freedom of religion” means (freedom only for certain believers).
The term integrationist primarily is Catholic in usage and then mainly among a core of scholars and pundits, but the concept is open for adoption elsewhere. Many fundamentalist Protestants could adopt it structurally – and a good many have already, even if they haven’t used the specific word. In that quarter, many extend the concept further: There’s the expressed fear there not only that they may be dictated to, but that if their views are not the diktat for all of society, that all of (unsaved) humanity may be condemned to hell … or something like that.
Shorter version of integralism: My way or the or the highway; believe as I do, follow all the rules I deem righteous, or get out of town, Jack.