AN EMPTY CATHEDRAL, THAT IS EUROPE WITHOUT A SPIRIT
All commentators and politicians have been constantly saying that the European Union got into a crisis. Some people point out to the turbulences in the euro sphere and problems of debts among some southern countries, as the signs of this crisis, whereas the others note the growing xenophobia atmosphere among rich societies of the North which results in the growing popularity of anti-immigrants political parties (including the political parties aimed against, for example, the Poles) and the policy of closing borders, finally the other people emphasize the competitiveness of Europe in the global scale, aging of the European society and also a more peripheral position of the Old (nomen omen) Continent.
All these elements of the description are real, however, the problem is about the fact that they do not diagnose the crisis sources but they only present the symptoms of the illness which touched the process of the European integration and the policy on our continent.
In the search of crisis sources
So, where is the reason for the weakening position of Europe and the losses of its vigour which has been a reason for centuries that it was just the Old Continent which wasindicating the dynamics of the world development and was defining civilizational standards?
In my opinion, the essence of the European weakness lies in the loss of the spiritual dimension of life in Europe, not only in the private or individual dimension, and also – or maybe mainly – in the public dimension, having its consequences for the community of European nations and the policy understood as a sensible care about the common welfare, being realised with the respect of fundamental values for our civilisation.
A symbolic illustration of this European weakness was a ceremony which was held in the French Reims on 8 July this year, where the leaders of the contemporary Europe met with each other in the cathedral: the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French president Francois Hollande. The meeting was a form of commemoration and referring to a symbolic event from 50 years ago when in the same place during the ‘Mass of Peace’ which was attended by the leaders of these two countries: Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle.
However, how many things separate these two events and how clearly it was possible to notice! In 1962 in the arch-catholic cathedral in Reims the Catholic politicians met with each other: Adenauer and de Gaulle (the latter one maybe not too ardent but brought up in an ultra-traditional catholic family). At that time the gesture of the conciliation between them in this place – like the earlier actions of very religious Robert Schuman, just Adenauer and the representative of the traditional Italian Catholic Christian Democrats Alcide de Gaspery – had a deeply religious and ethical dimension. For, the conciliation and the future of Europe after the hecatomb of the Second World War were to be built not in the spiritual vacuum but on the stable fundament of the European civilisation which was the ‘tri-canon’: the Greek philosophy (love of wisdom), the Roman law (including the separation of the secular law from the ecclesiastical law characteristic for our religious culture) and the Christian ethics with the central meaning of the human dignity inherent to everybody. Post-war politicians used to say that European democracy and integration had sense only when they would include a permanent respect of the Christian nature of the European law and order.
At the same time, the fundament of the politics within integrating Europe were to be the principles brought from the Christian ethics and public virtues such as: equality, respect to everybody (including a weaker and poorer man), loyalty, truth, cooperation, responsibility and honesty.
So, the European integration was to be a social constructivism according to the leftist plan, but not the construction of bureaucratic super-system, like it is today, but it was to be a connection of two basic social values about which the social Catholic teaching says: freedom and solidarity through conciliation excluding forgetting (the forgiveness to our neighbour). While the system of the European authority was to realise the principle of subsidiarity which St. Thomas of Aquina brought from Aristotle, and Pope Leon XIII brought it to the contemporary social teaching.
With values – a guaranteed success
So, the European integration – and it was a non-controversial belief of the so-called fathers-founders (the mentioned: Schuman, Adenauer, de Gaspery) – was to be successful only provided that it would not be built in the axiological vacuum, that it would not be worthless. At the same time, it is important that they did not assume that it was a task of politicians to define values which the public life must follow. These values must be beyond the politics, that is, they cannot be a result of political decisions but the other way round – the values can decide about the form of politics only when they are universal moral commandments and principles being a fundament of the civilisational identity of Europe.
In this sense the cross, which hangs in the Chamber of the Polish Republic Seym, expresses this principle and calls: Ladies and Gentleman – politicians, the unlimited authority does not belong to you, you cannot decide about any law even if you are majority because there is something much bigger than the whole political law and order. It is about the traditionally understood restriction of democracy from its own ‘democratic totalitarism’, against which John Paul II was warning us when he wrote that democracy without values changes into an open or concealed totalitarism.
A symbol which became a caricature
In the meantime, however, at one moment, the process of the European integration, as a result of, among the others, gaining the authority by ‘the generation 1968’, underwent ‘the leftist abordage’ and was directed to a course from which the creators of the European unification were as far as it was possible- towards the course of creating ‘a new European man’, according to politically defined parametres which he would believe in political values such as; multi-culture, mobility, modernisation, political tolerance, affirmation of variety, peace, ecologism and many others. They were to replace the fundaments of Christian values and become a source of a new strictly politicised identity of the European Union, like the one which is about defining by the majority of the government and which is guarded not by culture or conscience but the law created in the process of political decisions.
As a result, today we see in the picture of the ceremony of 8 July, that in the empty cathedral in Reims two politicians with their vague face expressions are following a bishop, not to attend the Holy Mass but to go for ‘a moment of reflection’. One of them is a daughter of the protestant pastor from the previous NRD who is co-responsible for the fact that today’s political parties called Christian-democratic (in Poland – the Civic Platform and the Polish People’s Alliance) have lost their axiological identity so badly that they did not even defend the symbolic reference to God in the project of the preamble to the European constitution and rejected any religious inspirations of their programs; whereas, another one is – anti-Catholic president of France, a supporter of abortion and euthanasia to one’s wish and couples of various sexes.
These politicians were to give the Europeans (from the steps of the cathedral!) a message which is, however, different from the message of their predecessors. Its motto was: ‘More Europe’ which does not mean today any more spirit, more values, more public virtues, but the other way round: more super-authority in the hands of the richest and most powerful countries, the construction of the super-system being regulated more and more, more political upbringing of new societies, but, at the same time, less loyalty, equality and solidarity in the cooperation among countries. It is Europe of utopia and violence.
It has got nothing to do with the roots of the European integration and it is a big political abuse. The discipline in the hands of the over-national authority plus creating ‘a new European man’ according to the leftist experiments – is a prescription of today’s guests of the cathedral in Reims.
Europe built on such sands will collapse. And it deserves it. For, Europe will not regain the vigour without rejecting these social experiments and return to its sources, which lie in the traditional axiological fundaments of our civilisation and which used to give us strength for centuries to the courageous going to the world and looking into the future with hope.
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Dr. hab. Krzysztof Szczerski – a political scientist, a lecturer at the Jagiellonian University, a parliamentarian in the Polish Republic Seym (Law and Justice Party)