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Theological Notebook: Benedict XVI continues argument with EU on Identity

It is one of the more peculiar traits of today's Secularism that the renouncing of our own cultural heritage is seen as a prerequisite to being "accepting" or "tolerant" of other cultural identities, particularly where "religion" is concerned. Ironically, this often manifests itself as a more-or-less anti-European attitude as a kind of reaction of guilt to past European imperialisms. I call this ironic because the new "non-cultural" orientation then typically becomes the "neutrality" that is forced upon all other cultures that haven't embraced this "neutral" Western Secularity, thus becoming the newest, most pervasive version of Western imperialism ever seen, most enthusiastically promoted by those who conceive of themselves as opponents of imperialism and of the West.

In that face of that particular goofiness, John Paul II and Benedict now after him have both encouraged the European Union to explicitly recognize the Christian roots of its own culture. This is rejected by those Secularists who have a conception of their own history that has utterly edited Christianity's influence out of the history of the developing tradition of international law and human rights. It is instead imagined that such things came out of only an aggressively secular Europe. A Europe divorced from its spiritual roots is an increasingly self-loathing one, ideologically, and one whose ability to contibute a strong leadership toward justice in the world is increasingly compromised. Christianity offers a worldview that justifies the highest view of humanity and individual persons that the world has ever known. The most secular regimes of the last century in Europe have committed some of history's greatest horrors. One suspects this is therefore no small debate.

Pope says EU denial of European religious roots is form of 'apostasy'

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Denying the Judeo-Christian roots of European culture and affirming there are no absolute values shared by all European cultures is a form of "apostasy," Pope Benedict XVI said.

Europe's "unique form of apostasy" involves renouncing its own identity as well as its faith in God, the pope said March 24 to participants in a congress marking the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, which led to the foundation of the European Union.

The congress, sponsored by the commission of bishops' conferences from European countries, brought together bishops, leaders of other European churches and Christian politicians to discuss ways to strengthen official EU references to religious and moral values.

The congress preceded a March 25 European Union summit and celebration in Berlin where leaders of the 27 countries that make up the union vowed to find a "renewed common basis" for their joint activities after France and the Netherlands failed to adopt the proposed European constitution.

Many church leaders and Catholic activists had criticized the proposed constitution for failing to make an explicit reference to the Judeo-Christian roots of Europe and a commitment to ensuring that EU policies would reflect Judeo-Christian values.

Pope Benedict told the congress, "One cannot think about building a 'common European home' ignoring the identity of the people of our continent. In fact, it is a matter of a historical, cultural and moral identity even more than a geographical, economic and political one."

Europe's identity is based on common values, which Christianity helped forge, "acquiring not only a historic role, but a founding role," the pope said.

Leaders of EU institutions continue to lament the fact that many European citizens feel no particular bond to the union, he said. But how can they, when the union's official documents "exclude an element essential to European identity such as Christianity, with which the vast majority of people continue to identify themselves?" he asked.

Because it does not have a recognized set of common values and leaves everything open to compromise, he said, the EU often ends up promoting the "common wrong" instead of the common good.

The policy of offering a compromise on everything is "presented as balanced and realistic" but really is not, "because it denies that dimension of values and ideals that are inherent in human nature," Pope Benedict said.

"A community organized without respect for the authentic dignity of the human person, forgetting that each person is created in the image of God, ends up not doing what is good for anyone," he said.

Pope Benedict also expressed concern about Europe's falling birthrates.

"One could think that the European continent is losing hope in its own future," he said.
Tags: benedict xvi, catholicism, church and state, constitutional, ethical, europe, historical, secularism/modernity, theological notebook
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