European Federalism is Catholic — So Brexit is Not

It is often forgotten that the founding of European federalism in the late 1940s and early 1950s was supported disproportionately and enthusiastically by the Catholic Church and Catholic-inspired Christian Democratic parties.  So it is not surprising that Britain’s bishops are now against Brexit.  See this fascinating piece on the subject in The Catholic Herald.  The origins of the Church’s position, according to the piece:

The most intellectually respectable of these strands leads back to the European Coal and Steel Community, formed after the Second World War by Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet, Konrad Adenauer and Alcide De Gasperi. Of these, only Monnet – the French political economist who became the community’s first president – was not a conspicuously devout Catholic. (His private life was complicated: he was married to a woman who left her husband for him and had to travel to Moscow to obtain a divorce; the Monnets could not have a Catholic wedding until the first husband was dead, by which time Jean was 85. The ceremony took place in the basilica at Lourdes.)

Schuman, twice prime minister of France, and De Gasperi, eight times prime minister of Italy and founder of the Christian Democrats, were men of such personal holiness that there have been calls to canonise them. Adenauer, the scheming first Chancellor of West Germany, is not a candidate for sainthood – but he was a trenchantly Catholic statesman during a political career lasting 60 years.

For Schuman, Adenauer and De Gasperi, the European Economic Community was fundamentally a Catholic project with roots that – in their imaginations, at least – could be traced back to Charlemagne.

Protestant Britons smelled a rat. They portrayed the new alliance as an attempt to re-establish the Holy Roman Empire. There was a grain of truth in this charge – though this “imperial” realm was little more than a patchwork of quarrelsome German principalities. To quote Voltaire, it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.

Likewise, there was always an element of fantasy in the goal of “ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”, first set out in the 1957 Treaty of Rome. But the Catholic inspiration for the EEC, left unstated in treaties, was anything but frivolous.

In 2008 the Catholic historian Alan Fimister published a book arguing that Schuman’s plans for Europe were “to a remarkable degree, the conscious implementation of the Neo-Thomistic project of Pope Leo XIII”.

Schuman, De Gasperi and Adenauer all believed that the answer to totalitarian ideologies lay in Leo’s vision of the restoration of “the principles of the Christian life in civil and domestic society”.

But Schuman went further: he subscribed to the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain’s notion of supranational democracy as the foundation for a new Christendom. “He held fast to the magisterium’s demand that the final destination of Catholic political action must be the recognition by the civil order of the truth of the Faith,” writes Fimister.

And how was this to be achieved? By the voluntary submission of non-Catholic Europeans to the spiritual authority of Rome.

 

 

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Daniel Philpott

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