WHAT CAN EUROPE LEARN FROM POLAND
Fr. Jarosław Krzewicki talks with cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller
A German cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller, a prefect of the Congregation of Teaching Faith in the years 2012- 17, was a guest of the Second International Congress of the ‘Europa Christi’ movement which was held in October 2018 in a few polish cities.
On 18 October, within the Congress of the ‘Europa Christi’ movement, Cardinal participated in a session organized in the Senate of the Republic of Poland, devoted to re-christianization of Europe. Editors had an occasion then to conduct an interview for ‘Niedziela’ (‘Sunday’0 and the Niedziela TV. Cardinal Muller gave a very important speech in the Senate of the Republic of Poland in which he said that today’s attack on Poland by European politicians is very dangerous as Christian pride of the Polish nation was attacked.
FR. JAROSŁAW KRZEWICKI: - In the beginning I would like to thank you for accepting the invitation to give an interview for the readers of the Catholic Weekly ‘Sunday’. We are talking outside the aula of the Senate, a few moments after the session of the congress of the ‘Europa Christi’ movement ended. Priest Cardinal have brought a lot of hope here today….
CARDINAL GERHARD LUDIWG MULLER: - ‘Sunday’ brings this hope.
Is there any hope for Europe?
Once I wrote a book on it – it was translated into Polish – about hope. Hope is a virtue which allows us to look and see beyond what limits us. We tend to ask how to fulfill our life in the perspective of values, morality, and as Christians we believe that Christ saves us from limitations, because He redeems us through his victory out of the power of death, hopelessness, desperation – hence there is a universal dimension of hope which illuminates our life.
Priest Cardinal, let’s talk about our conference which has taken place here today, about Europe. Do you think that Christianity, people of faith, can suggest anything to Europe today? Europeans seem to be less interested in this suggestion.
There is no alternative for Christianity. The alternative is self-destruction. We saw it after the French revolution in a form of Jacobin politics, which destroyed 200 thousand innocent human beings, as well as national socialism, communism, imperialism or colonialism in their various forms confirm the principle that where a man loses God, everything is allowed there – paraphrasing what a great writer Fiodor Dostojewski said, and whose words prove this truth which history of the last 200-300 years verified painfully. Hence there are tendencies which we are facing up in today’s institutions, in the form of Marxist ideology in a soft version, which do not lead us to anything good. It is seen in growing phenomena of suicide, drug-addiction, alcoholism, in crowds of people without any hope, living with a feeling of loneliness, in destroyed or seriously breached inter-generation relations, which proves egoism. And here there appears a purpose of life deriving from Christianity: it is love. So, there is positive alternative making sense for Europe. It can return to paganism, but it would mean its death.
That is true – the ideological base, which Priest Cardinal noted. Let’s talk about the roots of aversion or even hatred to Christianity, which is spreading in at least some areas of decision-making structures, forming contemporary Europe. Let’s go out to a man – a person who is standing at two branching out roads: accept or reject Christ? There may be a lot of roots at the general level, but aren’t there any common reason? Maybe, following the thought of John Paul II, we should pat attention again at a rooted anthropological mistake, or something which disturbs our attitude to Christ in the basic sphere of a relation between a man and God….
Definitely we should indicate atheistic materialism or national socialism, which have a different attractive form covered by consumption. Hope which a man undergoes, that thanks to gaining and using material things he can achieve happiness, is deceiving. This kind of an attitude raises hatred, distorts good relations among people, on the base of economy, capital. For example – people do not see a need of celebrating Sunday. They choose an artificial heaven, paradise, which cannot function as a man is a being gifted with spirituality, intellect, morality, so he needs something more than material things, he has spiritual needs, he needs hope which will take him beyond the borders of death, beyond the limits of his life. Work, offspring, marriage relations, family are not enough. Yes, these are values which mean something only on the field of a relation to God, love of the Creator. And this is the future. We cannot look for it in an artificially created heaven by consumption. This trend raises a lot of negative results.
That’s true, as we live in the shadow of banks which are ousting our churches. Money which replaces our God and creates an ideal dream world….They are governed by economy, which – beginning with Thomas Hobbes – is very rational. If we look at the modern tendencies – is it possible for economy to return to friendship with ethics?
Well, economy is necessary but not sufficient. The sense of the human life is not money. A man does not live for money, to be a servant to banks. Economy should serve to the man. For us what has a symbolic meaning are cathedrals, churches which open up wide supernatural horizons to us. Church gave an excellent answer to capitalism, industrialism or globalization thanks to its social doctrine, by forming three basic rules concerning: helpfulness, solidarity and the common good. It is necessary to acknowledge and respect a fact that a man is a person and protect his inborn dignity. It is necessary to emphasize the social dimension of a man and the principle of solidarity in this context. These are the basic rules on which the social order should be based with a though about the world of the future, that is, placing a man in the centre in his spiritual dimension, not his dehumanization which is always the result of an order based on atheistic ideology. Basing on it, it is also necessary to opt for the growth and development of a man. Otherwise everything will end with concentration camps which are real cathedrals of atheistic anti-humanism.
The society is composed of people, Christian Europe is composed of the baptized today. How to explain the fact that these are just baptized people who are promoting anti-values today, by voting – as politicians – for abortion, gender ideology or euthanasia? Why is this paradox?
Well, the members of the party of the Christian Democrats who are behaving so, are destroying fundaments on which their parties are built. In the countries where politicians behave in this way, it is only a matter of time when they will lose again. It is impossible to go on this kind of a compromise. Well, they are often afraid not to be too conservative but it is a false dilemma. This alleged conflict between modernism and conservatism is taking place on the level of a language, often very offensive, but it is also a camouflage, an operation which is aimed at inhibiting an opponent, depriving him of arguments of a force of reaction as when somebody is defined as a conservative, it sounds very pejorative, so people who stand out with a feeling of righteousness, morality, are forced to resign from their attitudes for the sake of an alleged progress. Therefore, it is necessary to depart from logics of oppositions. Christianity towards domineering ideologies is not a kind of anti-ideology, but it liberates a man from making political, ideological positions absolute. So, unfortunately, in Church there are a lot of those who do not understand the existing situation, which makes some bishops act against conservatives in Church. But Church cannot fulfill its mission if it falls into this trap.
Certainly, here I mean a language, the clarity of notions which Church should use in its teaching. But not only. Some laymen accuse us, priests, of leaving them on a field of many battles which they must pursue in the public life. Especially after the Vatican Council when the time for the laymen arrived and they say: you pushed us forward, but you are withdrawing yourselves, and we do not feel your support. Here it mainly concerns Christian politicians but not only.
Jesus did not call for Apostles to live peacefully, to have their peaceful mission in the quiet of palaces. Bishops are supposed to enter into the dust of cities and roads and participate in public battles, to stand up for the Truth. Jesus did not enter any false discussions with Pilate. He gave a testimony of the Truth to Pilate, Herod as they were not even interested with this kind of a discussion during their reign. Sometimes it does not make a sense to pursue a discussion as people holding the authority have their own interests from which they will not resign. At this moment Jesus says clearly: I am here to give a testimony of the Truth. I am the Truth, and everybody who is from the Truth, listens to my voice, becomes a witness of this Truth. Today we have a particular need of courageous intelligent, clever bishops, also giving a personal testimony to cope with this task. Not all of us are saints, we have our own weaknesses which makes us to be humble and pray for forgiveness but it should not weaken our apostolic eagerness, courage and particular missionary spirit of testifying of Crucified and Risen Jesus. Hence I hope that after the sad events in the United States the Pope will appoint suitable bishops not flatterers.
Let’s talk again about Poland about which Priest Cardinal said a lot of beautiful words today. Your Eminency said about our participation in the life of Europe but also touched on an issue of some dangers concerning religious life and life of Church in Poland. Where are these most important dangers which we should avoid?
Polish Catholics in Church, and also the ones acting in the public sphere, on the spot or on the international arena, should not fall into any hang-ups. A lot of people in Western Europe who are not fighting for freedom at all, feel nothing but like owners, monopolists of democracy – others are like immature children towards them who must still grow up. But this attitude is based on false, a lie. Poles are this nation in Europe, which was fighting the most and was suffering for democracy and freedom, for these values on which democracy is built. It concerns the government who would have a social ID card, a parliament acting on the basis of the principle of the common good. Those Polish critics come from Western Europe, from those countries which betrayed Poland in the years 1939 – 45, giving it out to the hands of Nazis Germany and later Stalin’s Russia. They all should be quiet in order to learn just from Poland how to defend the dignity of a nation. They should be inspired by the attitude of Poles during the Warsaw Uprising when, despite of clear political and military prognosis, despite an enormous prevalence of the Nazis army forces over the National Army, Poles stood up for the dignity of their nation and homeland, human dignity; they were fighting against the tyrant in defence of the most important values. Europe should learn it from Poland, that democracy does not fall from the sky but is a value which should be built and fought for. Especially that today we do not have any guarantee that democracy will remain in Europe. We must take care of it to defend it from totalitarianism threatening it from ideological groups which claim a right to know and choose better than people and nations that think they know better what is good for people and what is not. They want to cause a new dictatorship based on their defective way of thinking.
And this is a real danger we are facing up. What Europe do Priest Cardinal dream about? What can it be like and should be like?
This is Europe which great statesmen like Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman, Alcide de Gasperi wanted. Today we have Europe which unites, this is a continent without any borders. There are a lot of mixed families which united representatives of various nations – happy families. We have families, societies in which young people learn languages to travel the world without any barriers. It is followed by educational exchange thanks to contacts among schools. All this is beautiful. But in this Europe it is necessary to respect our own culture and it is impossible to unite the continent on the basis of uniformity. The richness of Europe is respect to its cultural, historical and national variety. We must remember about other mentality conditions of some countries traditionally expansive, like France or England and also about those such as Poland, the Czech Republic and other smaller countries, which were often victims of actions of a stronger and dishonest country, So, it is necessary to remember about those dependencies and dynamics in order to build the unity and what is good, learn from one another. This is, in my opinion, the future. In no case is there the future in imposing an ideology on somebody. Similarly, enforcing absurd ideas in the space of the so-called human rights to which some people insist on including for example, the right to abortion. This is absurd.
So, Priest Cardinal, summing up in two words – Europa Christi?
Yes, Europe of values but in its centre there is definitely a Person. This is the Person of Jesus Christ. He is the fundament, the summit and centre of Europe. On behalf of all Readers of the Catholic Weekly ‘Niedziela’ I cordially thank you for this meeting. God bless you!
Translated by Aneta Amrozik
Niedziela 3/2019 (20 I 2019)