Ihor Zagrebelnyi: Catholicism on the fringes of European society

Despite tremendous achievements of secularization, Catholicism strives to remain an important political forse in the life of Europe and the entire world. In any case, at its highest institutional level, the Catholic Church continues to keep abreast of current issues.

Let us consider two main events of this month as an example. On March 14, 2017 in the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University (Warsaw) started the symposium on Christian dimensions of European unity, and particularly it was dedicated to the EU’s “architects” Robert Schuman and Alcide De Gasperi. The event was initiated by the movement “Europa Christi”. However, on March 23, 2017 the discussion on “Migration and integral human development” was initiated by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community.

Significant issues discussed at both events testify that the Church strives to respond to the challenges of modern Europe.

The EU as an embodiment of a united Europe had to make Vatican’s dreams come true. And it does not matter that at its origin were such Catholic politicians as Konrad Adenauer, De Gasperi and Schuman, who have been already mentioned in this article.

In the early modern period, Europe started moving away from universalism. Since then, Rome has steadily been trying to return European nations to solidarity. Firstly, it was accompanied by resistance to the Ottoman expansion. Rome was the main inspirer and organizer of struggle against Muslim aggression. Popes’ diplomatic efforts spread around the bigger part of Europe: from the imperial court in Madrid to Zaporozhian Sich. So, recalling the Turkish fleet’s defeat in the Battle of Lepanto (1571) or the heroic defense of Vienna (1683), we should understand that these victories were reached not only by soldiers and monarchs but also by the Popes, who made great effort for their consolidation. It should be noted that Rome did not act entirely because of pragmatic considerations but it tried to build a supranational ideology of chivalry as a mighty defender of Western civilization.

Since the end of the 18th century Europe has to face one more hazard, it is the spread of liberalism. Rome supported the union of European states in order to resist the common enemy (as it was then possible).

So, European integration processes of the second half of the 20th century seemed to be rather attractive for Vatican. And as a result of these processes, Europe didn’t find solidarity but was enslaved by bureaucracy which stands on the principles that can hardly be justified by Christianity. Particularly, they are excessive centralism (which contradicts subsidiarity, one of the main principles of the Catholic Church’s social doctrine), gender theory, relativism and struggle against the European Christian heritage connected with it. And from the Christian perspective, it is the EU Commission that is behind the most inacceptable decisions and actions. The European Parliament and the European Council are thought to make more reasonable decisions.

Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who were the contemporaries of the European Union’s formation in its current version, emphasized that “a united Europe should return to its spiritual roots”. But things went just a different way. Perhaps such dynamic of the EU’s development was inevitable. However, the Catholic Church itself adapted its rhetoric to the ideology of liberalism; these tendencies became extremely strong after the Second Vatican Council, although their origins are deeper. In the first half of the 20th century, the Church was close to the right-wing movements; after the Second World War, political Catholicism was reduced to Christian Democracy which eventually began drifting to the left.

The apogee of the Catholic conformism coincided with the pontificate of Pope Francis. It can be clearly seen in the support of non-European’s immigration. We can say a lot about Christian charity, but it won’t help us to hide the truth that the migrants capture European lands: namely migrants, but not refugees.

Christianity is not a religion of abstract love and mercy. It takes into account the realities of earthly existence, including ethnic and political diversity of humanity. Interestingly, a sober look at the problem of migration can be found in “Sum of Theology” of Thomas Aquinas, the Basic theological text for Latin Christianity. Aquinas speaks about justice of a differentiated approach to migrants, based on analysis of Old Testament history. The problem of admissibility of strangers’ settlement should be based on their ethnic and cultural affinity to Europeans and specificity of inter-ethnic relations. Thomas Aquinas also wrote that it is fair to limit migrants’ rights within a certain period until they integrate sufficiently. Although in some cases t strangers may get the right for settlement and full integration with regard to their merits.

Considering a common sense of a traditional Christian attitude to this subject, Pope Francis’s attitude to the migration problem seems to be an unprincipled adjustment to “the powers that be”. Interestingly, supporting the migrant invasion Francis stands on one side with the forces professing an anti-Christian ideology. He repeatedly criticized the gender theory and propaganda of LGBT (his “scandalous” remarks on the subject are merely the result of the mass media’s manipulation). But in practice, Francis agrees with leftist-liberal forces, whose ideological platform includes not only multiculturalism but also gender theory, and the connection between them is not formal. Multiculturalism and gender theory have a common basis – the denial of the real person (with their gender, ethnicity, ethics, etc.) for the sake of Manichean, unnatural common human being.

The chaotic character of Vatican’s attempts to become a co-creator of “united Europe” is perfectly illustrated by the example with Pope Francis who was awarded the International Charlemagne Prize. The very Prize has become a mockery of the idea of united Europe. Emperor Charlemagne was one of the greatest developers of Western civilization. But such odious personalities as Bill Clinton, Jean-Claude Juncker, Javier Solana, Angela Merkel, Donald Tusk, and Martin Schulz were awarded the Prize. The church leader would better reject the award remembering the 1st Psalm, “Happy is the man who does not go in the company of sinners, or take his place in the way of evil-doers, or in the seat of those who do not give honor to the Lord.” However, Francis accepted the award and made a speech in which he mixed up real achievements, essential features of the European spirit and the phenomena that destroyed and continue to destroy Europe (he did not forget to call for “hospitality” towards migrants either).

Vatican’s inconsistence matches the current chaotic nature of “United Europe” in general. The unity of Europe is an ideal that excites no doubts. But the thing which is designed in Berlin, Paris and Brussels has little in common with this ideal. We do not know if we will ever manage to implement an alternative, really a European project. But obviously, maintaining the current project of “United Europe”, Vatican actually takes part in construction of Europe, where there is no place either for Europeans or for Christianity, the Christianity as it was understood before.

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