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Pope Francis, Europe, and the “universe in little pieces”

The Pope’s “dream” (as he calls it) for Europe is singularly ill-timed and, worse, ill-conceived.

(us.fotolia.com/Romolo Tavani)

Pope Francis has recently issued two documents of great interest. The first of these was his third encyclical (and second social encyclical) Fratelli Tutti, in which he urges the world to come together to “contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity” as it confronts the viral pandemic and supposed global fragmentation in the social, economic, and political spheres. Much has already been written for Catholic World Report about the document. Francis deplores that “we are growing ever more distant from one another”—a thing he views as an historical fact—and warns against “the temptation to build a culture of walls” as the sense of membership in “a single human family” fades and is replaced by “globalized indifference.”

The second document is a Bollettino: Letter of the Holy Father to the Secretary of State [Cardinal Parolin] on the 40th anniversary of the Commission of the Bishop’s Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the European Union, and the 50th anniversary of the presence of the Holy See as Permanent Observer at the Council of Europe.”

In the latter document, Pope Francis writes, “We can either continue to pursue the path we have taken in the past decade, yielding to the temptation to autonomy and thus to ever greater misunderstanding, disagreement, and conflict, or we can rediscover the path of fraternity that inspired that inspired and guided the founders of modern Europe, beginning precisely with Robert Schuman.” (Schuman, who died in 1963, was one of the founders of the European Union.) The path of fraternity, in Francis’ mind, is the equivalent of the “path of solidarity,” one he imagines will promote “creativity and new initiatives.”

The Holy Father goes on to quote John Paul II’s exhortation to Europe, in a November 1982 address, to “find yourself, be yourself”, to which he adds his own injunction to the Continent not to lose her élan but rather to rediscover or renew her “ideals.” Francis quotes approvingly Schuman’s conviction that “the contribution which an organized and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations.” He continues in his own words:

What kind of Europe do we envision for the future? What is to be its distinctive contribution? In today’s world, it is not about recovering political hegemony or geographical centrality, or about developing innovative solutions to economic and social problems. The uniqueness of Europe rests above all in its conception of the human being and of reality, on its capacity for initiative and on its spirit of practical solidarity….A divided Europe, made up of insular and independent realities, will soon prove incapable of facing the challenges of the future.”

And he adds—paradoxically—“On the other hand, a Europe that is a united and fraternal community will be able to value diversity and acknowledge the part that each of us has to play in confronting the problems that lie ahead, beginning with the pandemic and including the ecological challenge of preserving our natural resources and the quality of the environment in which we live.”

Quite obviously, Pope Francis is an unqualified supporter of what is called “the European project” in its entirety, including the eventual creation of a single unified European state owned and operated by the undemocratically appointed elected or appointed officials in Brussels who are unburdened by little or no accountability to the European publics (or, putatively, public).

The first thing to be said of the Pope’s “dream” (as he calls it) for Europe is that his most recent expression of it is singularly ill-timed. The financial crisis, the pandemic, the migrant crisis, and now the fatal failure of the European Union’s members to formulate a common policy against Turkey’s aggressions in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean demonstrate, when considered together, the EU’s inability to deal with any problem of importance.

That, however, is not the most fundamental objection to Pope Francis’ “dream” for the Continent. The case against it, and against similar “dreams” beginning with Robert Schuman’s, has been best made by Pierre Manent, the French political philosopher, and before him by the English writer G. K. Chesterton.

In Democracy Without Nations (first published in English translation in 2007), Manent argues against what he views as the gradual depoliticization of Europe as the Continent comes increasingly under the sway of the bureaucracy in Brussels, and political activity is systematically replaced by action of the administrative sort in the interests of maximizing individual and “human” rights. The inevitable result of this process, Manent says, is “the erosion—perhaps even the dismantling—of the political form that for so many centuries has sheltered the endeavors of European man.” This “erosion” however—unlike the familiar geologic process—is not a natural thing; it is an unnatural and indeed inhuman one. It is human-inspired and human-caused, motivated by

an idea that is also a sentiment and even a passion; the idea that humanity is proceeding toward its necessary unification. The ‘sentiment of resemblance’ which Tocqueville already saw as the central emotion of human beings in democracies has become a passion for resemblance. It is no longer simply a matter of recognizing and respecting the humanity of each human being. We are required to see the other as the same as ourselves.

Pierre Manent is a wise man, an original and incisive political thinker. Nevertheless, his argument was to a certain degree anticipated by an earlier writer who had the annoying habit of anticipating and analyzing emergent problems and pathologies before the vast majority of his contemporaries did. Hence we read in Orthodoxy:

Love desires personality; therefore love desires division. It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad that God has broken the universe into little pieces, because they are living pieces. It is her instinct to say ‘little children love one another’ rather than to tell one large person to love himself.”

And again:

…[All] modern philosophies are chains which connect and fetter; Christianity is a sword which separates and sets free. No other philosophy makes God actually rejoice in the separation of the universe into living souls.

I am wondering whether Pope Francis has read Chesterton, or not. (I have learned only today that he doesn’t speak English.) I should guess that Chesterton would quite difficult to translate into Italian or Spanish, and therefore difficult also to read in those languages. Still, where there’s a will there’s a way, and the Pope is, very obviously, a willful man.

It is important to note, by the way, that the Pope’s “dream” for Europe coincides exactly with the agenda that Joe Biden (if President) has promised to commit the United States. He would do this by supporting further European integration, pressuring Boris Johnson to weaken Brexit by threatening to withhold a favorable Anglo-American trade deal if he does not concede more ground to Brussels in the current and final negotiations between Great Britain and the EU, rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, and backing off on the demand that the NATO countries pay their fair share of the Alliance’s expenses, among other things.

Apparently, Pope Francis believes in government by “experts” rather than by popular representatives elected directly by the people themselves. In other words, he is not a democrat. A pope distrustful of political democracy might not have been a surprising concept before the Second Vatican Council. Following the Council, it is more than surprising. It is, rather, slightly shocking.


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About Chilton Williamson, Jr. 11 Articles
Chilton Williamson, Jr. is the author of several works of fiction, narrative nonfiction, and “pure” nonfiction, including After Tocqueville: The Promise and Failure of Democracy and Jerusalem, Jerusalem! A Novel. He has also written hundreds of essays, critical reviews, and short stories for publications including Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, Harper’s, The New Republic, National Review, Commonweal, The New Leader, The American Spectator, among others. You can visit him online at www.chiltonwilliamson.com.

10 Comments

  1. As European eye the election results in the United States, we read here: “that the Pope’s “dream” for Europe coincides exactly with the agenda that Joe Biden (if President) has promised to commit the United States.” More precisely, Biden pontificates thusly: “Look, I have the great advantage of my faith, the Catholic social doctrine, and my political views COINCIDE.”

    https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2020/11/02/biden-claims-his-politics-and-catholic-faith-coincide-despite-abortion-and-religious-freedom-policies/

    COINCIDE? In North America, policy-wonk Biden announces his obtuse intent to IMPORT his heterodox views on abortion, gay “marriage,” etc. into a raped Holy Mother the Church…

    This “coincidence” recalls efforts by earlier potentates in 496 A.D. to import Arian services into Bishop Ambrose’s Milan Cathedral; or even the slaughter in Thessalonica of 7,000 innocent lives by emperor Theodosius—for which he was excommunicated [!] by Ambrose (whose action was a defining moment in the European separation of Church and State).

    On this side of the Atlantic, one can only wonder whether the cardinal Archbishop of Washington D.C., as another successor of the Apostles [!], can measure up to the alert and steadfast Ambrose? Today, doesn’t pseudo-pope Biden merit another clarifying excommunication—an educational step toward restored membership—for importing/ impregnating the paganized secular culture of the West into the perennial Catholic Church? The great “coincidence”!

    It’s simple: Turn on the lights; the keys to the washroom are not the keys to the kingdom.

  2. “Pope Francis has recently issued two documents of great interest. ” Guffaw. Who is interested in anything the pope has said?bFace it: he has squandered his credibility. I’d rather listen to Joe Biden. He is the worst thing to happen to the Catholic Church since St Pope Paul VI.

  3. As I began to read Pope Francis’ sttempts to promote the dissolution of European states and the establishment of a European oligarchy, my bs meter blew up. Sadly, I therefore could read no further.

  4. Economists and moralists decry “marginalization”. Marginalization is a measure of one’s distance from the center of things, and it is the cause of much misery, both economic and psychological.

    The larger the social unit, necessarily, the greater the distance most people will be from its center. Birds of a feather flock together for the most obvious of human reasons: We are most at ease with those we best understand and are most in harmony with. No society is homogenous. The larger a society gets, the great number of its people will flock together with birds of like feather on its margins, for want of influence to flock together at its center.

    Britain is leaving the EU because its people would rather feel themselves a center unto themselves than a margin of Europe. In the US, half the population now feels so marginalized that they voted for Donald Trump. You can have one world government, but most of the people governed by it will feel themselves on its margins.

  5. Christ did not personify or anthropomorphize non-humans. Specifically, he did not speak to groupings, like nations. Christ was concerned with and spoke to individual humans to repent and to seek the Kingdom of God. What He said of nations and other social groupings is only that they come and go. There is no afterlife for Europe and other groupings. At the end of the world, figuratively speaking, all groupings will go to Hell. This includes the physical earth bound Church. The contrast between John Paul and Francis can be summarized in this way: John Paul throughout his works wrote and thought in terms of how individual Christians are to relate to whatever organizations the world throws at them while Francis writes and thinks in terms of running these same organizations and pretends to be giving, as if he could, guidance to them.

  6. We are not brothers (and sisters) because we are human. We are brothers and sisters when we become children of God. And that requires conscious choice from us….we choose to believe in God, we accept His fatherhood and we live by His commands and His will.

  7. Fraternal unity on a global scale assumes the disinterest in specificity of culture and religion in unity modeled on the UN, the post Amazonia document. Lost in translation of Fratellism [I’m coining a new ism] is Christ’s universal call to repentance and the Cross. Conversion to the Way has no viable place in the Pope’s vision for borderless Europe or the United States. The great influx of Muslims murderously hostile to Christianity and Western culture has been encouraged and abetted by Pope Francis as his apparent sacred mission. His praise of Christian Europe consequently comes off not simply ambiguous, rather as duplicitous. Short shrift is given to personal sanctification and the abortion issue. LGBT has been given an oblique papal blessing in the Pontiff’s recent comments on homosexual civil union. Certainly these familial, culturally destructive practices will not be opposed within such a Tutti Fratelli universe. The Bolletino simply reaffirms the vision of Fratellism. This has for a longwhile been the pattern with Catholic global charities Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities which post bulletins for agencies that promote and practice abortion and secular family planning. As best interpreted, a world made better by the exclusion of those specifics, nationalism, borders that are perceived as the causes for hostility, whereas John Paul II perceived patriotism as beneficial to universal justice. Benedict XVI perceived cultural diversity as a reflection of God’s creativity. Instead the voice of Francis is not that of, say the Apostle, or Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, or of either of the previous two pontiffs. Rather it’s the voice of a secular humanist.

  8. I am saddened by Pope Francis’ tendency to toss off ill-considered remarks, utterances that can only confuse the faithful and give comfort to the secular media, who pounce on and use them for their own purposes. His “Who am I to judge?” early in his papacy comes to mind. Had he made the distinction between the sin and the sinner, and that we should not judge the personal guilt or innocence of the sinner, but rather the nature of the act, that would have been helpful. But he didn’t, and left only confusion.
    His more recent remarks on “civil unions” for homosexual couples is another example. Yes, perhaps they were taken out of context, but the lame and delayed efforts of the Vatican to clarify the pope’s meaning have done little to dispel confusion.
    Now he seems to be endorsing the radically secular and anti-Christian ethos of the European Union. Does he not see that the god of these vast entities is “Woke”?

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