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Ovi Symposium; sixty-second Meeting Ovi Symposium; sixty-second Meeting
by The Ovi Symposium
2015-10-15 10:02:00
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 Ovi Symposium:

“A Philosophical Conversation on the Nature of Art within Modernity
and the Envisioning of a New Humanism”

between Mr Nikos Laios, Drs. Ernesto Paolozzi and Emanuel Paparella
Sixty-second Meeting: 15 October 2015

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Symposium's regular participants (in alphabetical order)

laios_01Nikos Laios is a poet, artist, lover of philosophy and student of the human condition, currently writing poetry and producing art; he is also a sculptor, a photographer, widely read in the humanities. He hails from the highlands of Epirus in Greece; greatly influenced by the poetic traditions which have been passed down from his poet ancestor on his maternal side from the island of Cephalonia. He currently resides in North Sydney Australia, is an autodidact and a passionate ‘renaissance’ man, has always been a practical philosopher, throwing himself into the hard questions that life has to offer in search of elusive gems of wisdom.

enDr.Ernesto Paolozzi teaches history of contemporary philosophy at the University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples. A Croce scholar and an expert on historicism, he has written widely and published several books, especially on aesthetics and liberalism vis a vis science. His book Benedetto Croce: The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom was printed as an e-book in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

papDr. Emanuel Paparella has a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism with a dissertation on Giambattista Vico from Yale University. He currently teaches philosophy at Barry University and Broward College in Florida, USA. One of his books is titled Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico, Mellen Press. His latest e-book Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers was printed in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

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Subtheme of session 62: “The Spiritual Values of the EU Founding Fathers ”

Indirect Participants within the Great Conversation across the ages: Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi, Monet, Sturzo, Benedict XV, Rand, Darwin, Leo XIII, Churchill, Pius XI, Charlemagne, John Paul II, Mazzini, Croce, Spinelli, Hegel, Christ, Paul, Vico, Kant, Fitche, Carducci, Voltaire, Burckardt,

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Table of Contents for the 62nd Session of the Ovi Symposium (15 October 2015)

Preamble by the Symposium’s coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 1: “The Spiritual Christian Values of the EU Founding Fathers”  A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 2: “In Praise of Europe united in Liberty and Democracy” An encore Presentation by Ernesto Paolozzi

Section 3: “Why we cannot but Recognize ourselves as Christians” An essay by Benedetto Croce

Section 4: Two speeches on the European Union by Alcide De Gasperi, given in the 50s

Section 5: “The Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950”

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Preamble by the Symposium’s Coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

In this 62nd meeting of the Ovi Symposium we continue our exploration of the EU’s cultural identity and look at another of its multifaceted aspects. In the last meeting we discussed at some length the issue of the EU’s grand narrative: whether or not the EU possesses an ongoing age-old grand narrative, symbols and myths which all member states possess in common. In one of the presentations it was proposed that because the EU is a brand new and unique polity, which arose after World War II in order to prevent future wars and ensure peace and prosperity, it could not possibly have a grand narrative, not yet anyway, for grand narratives and mythologies arise over a lengthy period of time. On the other hand, it was also argued that history not having ended yet, the continuity with the old Europe remains unbroken and to simply dismiss it or ignore it in order to move on to modernity and secularism, is to ensure that this new polity called EU will never discover its cultural identity and will in fact end up putting the cart before the horse and jeopardizing its very future. In other words, the question “what does it mean to be a European” is crucial to ensure political success and should all along have preceded the question “what constitutes the EU?” That is to say, as long as time and space remain, so will history, and so will cultural anthropology.

In any case a return to the origins of the EU, be it 24 hundred years ago in ancient Greece, or, more recently, 70 years ago in post World War II Europe, seems a sine qua non for the retrieving of the EU’s cultural identity and the overcoming of menacing political centrifugal forces currently threatening the very existence of the EU. Given that the polity was theoretically envisioned and then concretely constructed by eminent founding fathers, some well known, others less so, it behooves us to explore their motivations and ideals as they have been bequeathed to us through their writings and various historical documents. How did they conceive of this brand new polity? What were its goals? How would they be reached? What were the foundational ideals and principles common to all citizens of the polity; its cultural cement, so to speak? Which was the grand vision and narrative that motivated them?

We shall try to explore those issues, beginning with a presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella which delves into the biographies of five outstanding founding fathers: De Gasperi, Adenauer, Schuman and Monet, and the less well known but no less pivotal Don Luigi Sturzo and Alterio Spinelli. There were others but those can be considered the most prominent and most visionary. The presentation then explores their spiritual lives and political philosophies, since the Socratic injunction to know oneself applies to communities as well as individuals. For a polity, to know itself is the equivalent of knowing its own origins and its foundational principles. To ignore one’s cultural roots and cultural identity rooted in history, is to be condemned to wander aimlessly on a journey without purpose with no final ultimate, or even penultimate destination, and no guiding purpose to justify one’s existence.

We are repeating the presentation of Ernesto Paolozzi (section two), already published in Symposium 61, given that it fits perfectly with the sub-theme of this issue too, and fills a glaring gap in the present grand narrative of the EU, if indeed it there exists one. At least in name, the five founding fathers mentioned in Paparella’s essay are well known. But there are others who remain obscure despite the brilliance of their work for the envisioning of the EU’s identity and deserve to be better known. We will come away from Paolozzi’s essay with a better acquaintance of two semi-forgotten luminaries of the Idea of Europe: Giuseppe Mazzini and Altiero Spinelli, and the prodigious work they carried out behind the curtain so to speak, in order to bring about a democratic federalist Europe. Paolozzi makes clear that although Mazzini was principally interested in the unification of Italy, he envisioned and insisted all along on a republican Italy, not a monarchical Italy, an Italy more in line with its universal historical  experiences (the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, the Renaissance) and more ready for the future political unification of the whole continent. In that sense Mazzini was a true visionary and prophet.

Spinelli too remains important for the elucidation he provides on the assumptions of a federalist government. Indeed, federalism is a complex concept not reducible to the simple notion of a “community of nations.” Federalism is a philosophical notion perhaps best exemplified by the US Federalist Papers (mostly written by James Madison at the outset of the American Republic) which precede and make possible that masterpiece of constitutional writing that is the US Constitution. So Spinelli, still today, remains an inspiration for a more perfect union which continues to be elusive after the latest economic and refugee crisis. In other words, what Paolozzi is convinced of, as Paparella also is, is that it remains essential to know in some depth the ideals and aspirations of the EU founding fathers. They are nothing less than the roots, the foundational stones of the idea of Europe.  Not to do so is so run the real risk of recurring to superficial banalities such as “we are all Europeans because we all love soccer.” Those shallow pronouncements do no honor to the venerable memory of the EU founding fathers.

We are also offering an encore (section 3) of Benedetto Croce’s essay on Europe’s Christian heritage: “Why we cannot but Consider ourselves Christians.” Here again, although Croce is not usually thought of as a European founding father, he was very much interested, after World War II, in the forging of a European Union and in the identifying of its spirit and cultural identity, as this essay, redolent of Dante’s De Monarchia, clearly exemplifies. In it he demonstrates that one does not have to practice Christianity to be a good European, but one certainly needs to know its essential identity, which is and remains Christian, to understand what makes the EU tick. If nothing else, Christopher Dawson taught us that much.

In section four we have included two speeches on the EU given by Alcide de Gasperi in the early fifties: one given before the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg; the other given before the Common Council of Europe on the occasion to his election as president of the same. They are a mere sample of the idealistic vision and at the same time the pragmatic approach to the building of a new polity  exhibited by its founding fathers who, far from being abstract visionaries with their head in the clouds, were pragmatic down to earth men with their feet solidly on the ground. This was their paradox: they were both idealists and pragmatists at the same time.

Finally, in section five we present the Declaration by Robert Schuman delivered on May 9 1950  in which he envisions a new polity called the European Union. That declaration can be considered the hatching of the European Union. We have placed together with a picture of Robert Schuman, the book that came out soon after his death (titled For Europe), translated in 20 languages, and a famous quote where Schuman declares, and correctly so, that the union must be first and foremost a cultural union and only secondarily an economic financial union.

Note to the readership: beginning with this month of October 2015 the Ovi Symposium becomes monthly, to be issued on the 15th of each month.

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1

The Spiritual Christian Values of the EU Founding Fathers
A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

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The Signing of the EU Constitution in Rome on the 29th of October 2004

There is currently a general assumption that the polity that constitutes the EU was conceived by its founding fathers as a very lose trading confederation for the purpose of avoiding a third world war and insure material progress and prosperity to the continent of Europe. It was, in other words a mere project for peace and prosperity requiring little surrender of nationalism and sovereignty, later misguidedly envisioned as a mega-nation and the quest for political military power to better confront other economic-military giants such as the US, China, Russia, India. There is of course nothing wrong with the hope and the quest for perpetual peace and prosperity brought about by a robust economy, in some way already fulfilled, but the question persists: is this assumption valid?

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Let’s briefly explore this thorny issue and attempt an answer to the question, focusing on the thought of four of the EU founding fathers, namely French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi, and Jean Monnet, to determine if the above described notion is tenable or if, to the contrary, those founding fathers, all endowed with great political realism and vision, wished to restore a soul to Europe so that it could reclaim its heritage and recognize itself. The article is a mere schematic outline of the issue as developed over a decade and then published in three books on the EU: A New Europe in Search of its Soul (2005), Europe Beyond the Euro (2012 available in Ovi magazine bookstore and downloadable for free), and Europa: an Idea and a Journey (2012).

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   Alcide De Gasperi                                       Robert Schuman

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 Jean Monet                                             Konrad Adenauer

As we examine the lives of those four founding fathers, let us keep in mind the rich symbolism of the simple historical fact that in 1951, before beginning the delicate negotiations leading to the adoption of the Treaty of Paris, those founding fathers first met in a Benedictine monastery on the Rhine for meditation and prayer. St. Benedict, who established the first monastery in Western Europe at Monte Cassino, Italy, is in fact the patron saint of the whole continent of Europe. It was Schuman who once quipped “I never feel so European as when I enter a cathedral.”

But before we get ahead of ourselves let’s back pedal to 1940 when Schuman was arrested for acts of resistance and protest at Nazi methods. He was interrogated by the Gestapo. Thanks to an honorable German he was saved from being sent to Dachau. Transferred as a personal prisoner of the vicious Nazi Gauleiter Joseph Buerckel, he escaped in 1942 and joined the French Resistance. After the war Schuman rose to great prominence. He was Minister of Finance, then briefly Prime Minister from 1947–1948 becoming Foreign Minister in the latter year. On May 9, 1950, seeking to remove the main causes of post-war Franco-German tension and adopting a scheme of Jean Monnet, Schuman invited the Germans to jointly manage their coal and steel industries. This formed the basis of the European Coal and Steel Community, which eventually evolved into the European Union. It became known as the Schuman Declaration, and to this day May 9 is designated Europe Day.

Schuman later served as Minister of Justice and first President of the European Parliamentary Assembly which bestowed on him by acclamation the title ‘Father of Europe’. The other who received the same honor was Jean Monnet. Celibate, modest and un-ostentatious, Schuman was an intensely religious man and was strongly influenced by the writings of Pope Pius XII, St. Thomas Aquinas and Jacques Maritain. He is presently a candidate for canonization or elevation to sainthood; a move beyond his striking personal qualities.

His vision for a united Europe was rooted not only in his experiences of two horrific world wars but in his faith and the social teaching of the Catholic Church. The new community was intended to be built on co-operation rather than cut-throat capitalistic entrepreneurial competition; one of the aims of the much-derided Common Agricultural Policy was to help the poorest agricultural workers in Europe; the key concepts from Catholic teaching of solidarity and subsidiarity are also written into European structures. Of course things often have not worked well: but much of this has been to do with rivalry among European nation states, the persistence of an ugly xenophobic type of nationalism – the exact rivalry that Schuman and the other founding fathers of the new Europe wanted to eliminate.

In the 92 years since Italy had became united, it has had for Premiers one Protestant, one Jew, several agnostics and many Freemasons, but never a practicing Catholic, until Alcide de Gasperi took office. Not until the birth (in 1910) of the political party now led by Alcide de Gasperi were Catholics of modern Italy free to participate in politics. This was due mainly to the estrangement between the newly formed Italy and the Vatican which felt that the new polity had usurped its temporal holdings in central Italy. At the end of World War I however, a scholarly Sicilian priest named Luigi Sturzo persuaded Pope Benedict XV to let him form a political party of Catholic laymen. Don Luigi promised that he would resolutely avoid church control, and he kept his promise. Don Luigi Sturzo’s creation, the Popular Party, set out to bring Christian morality and principles into distinctly non-Christian Italian politics—”a center party of Christian inspiration and oriented toward the left,” he called it. In some way Don Sturzo can also be considered a founding father of the EU. Among his early and most promising recruits was a somber man named Alcide de Gasperi.

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Don Luigi Sturzo (1871-1959)

Like Schuman, De Gasperi came from a border region between Italy and Austria that experienced particularly acute suffering during the wars in Europe. This experience marked him for life, and his suffering helped him to form the conviction that: ‘the lesson that all Europeans can learn from their tumultuous past is that the future will not be built through force, nor through a desire to conquer, but by the patient application of the democratic method, the constructive spirit of agreement, and by respect for freedom.

His commitment to Europe was also rooted in his deep faith and guiding principles. A committed Christian, he opposed all forms of totalitarianism. As Chairman of the parliamentary group of the Italian People’s Party, he opposed the rise of the fascist party. In 1927 he was imprisoned for his participation in the Aventin movement. Sentenced to four years in jail, he was released after sixteen months when the Church intervened, but was then forced to withdraw from political life for fifteen years, and worked as a junior employee in the Vatican library. But from 1943 he was to occupy various ministerial positions, and continued to oppose unceasingly the powerful Italian Communist Party.

De Gasperi responded immediately to Schuman’s call, and worked closely with the latter and with Konrad Adenauer. The key to Adenauer’s conception of Christian democracy was the belief that democracy must be based on a “weltanschauung” – a worldview – that provides a complete account of the universe, man, and politics. Adenauer realized that part of the appeal of totalitarianism was the promise of a complete worldview, in contrast to democracy which was seen as a formal procedure that was neutral about outcomes or that simply managed the clash of competing interests. While communism and fascism offered complete worldviews, they were based on “atheistic materialism” which Adenauer steadfastly opposed for reducing the individual to a mere automaton of the state. As he saw it, politics was the struggle between competing weltanschauungen; and democracy could be firmly established in Germany only by possessing a worldview that could compete successfully with Marxism and Nazism. What it needed was a spiritual worldview to replace atheistic materialism and to prevent its own degeneration into egoistic materialism and social Darwinism a la Ayn Rand .

Fortunately, Adenauer argued, Western democracy had such a universal worldview in Christianity and more particularly in Catholicism. The etymology of the very word Catholic conveys universality. What is striking about Adenauer’s position is that he viewed the formation of the Christian Democratic Union in 1945 as a non-denominational party open to all people, while insisting on a platform that stated: “The Christian foundation of the Democratic Union is the absolutely necessary and decisive factor. We want to replace the materialistic ideology of National Socialism with a Christian view of the world…Only Christian precepts guarantee justice, order, moderation, the dignity and liberty of the individual and thus true and genuine democracy…We regard the lofty view that Christianity takes of human dignity, of the value of each single man, as the foundation and directive of our work in the political, economic, and cultural life of our people.” The puzzling feature of this statement is its mixture of non-denominationalism and explicit Christian foundations. The puzzle is deepened when we learn that Adenauer himself was a devout Catholic and former member of the Catholic Center Party – the party that was created in the 1870’s during Bismarck’s kulturkampf (culture war) against Catholicism and that continued through the Weimar Republic which the Center Party strongly supported. Moreover, Adenauer was deeply influenced by the social teachings of the Catholic Church expressed in papal encyclicals, especially Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum and Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno, which he read and studied while under Nazi house arrest in 1933. Adenauer discovered in them a “comprehensive and coherent program inspired by belief in an order willed by God which was perfectly practical in terms of modern society.”

To resolve the puzzle in Adenauer’s position, one must see that his affirmation of a Christian Democratic Union that was nondenominational – open to Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and secular people alike – was possible because it offered a moral vision to all people: the belief in the innate dignity of every human being as the basis of democratic equality and freedom, and the grounding of this principle on faith in God and the Western heritage of Christianity. Adenauer believed that all people could rally around this conception of human dignity and could accept its democratic implications as a common basis for sacred and secular outlooks. Nor was this hope confined to Adenauer. It became the crucial article of faith in modern Christianity, a faith that was more and more explicitly articulated by political leaders, churches and theologians in the course of the twentieth century. The crucial insight here is that Christianity and liberal democracy are two sides of the same coin – the sacred and secular sides of a common conception of human dignity that is in principle accessible, via universal reason, to believers as well as nonbelievers, even if the ultimate source and foundation is Christian.

When we look at the history of European unity, it is essential to remember what most of Europe looked like in the late 1940s. The Christian churches in Europe, and the Roman Catholic Church in particular as the largest church in Europe, was deeply engaged in relief efforts all over the continent – much of contemporary witness on behalf of the poorest people in the world, and on behalf of refugees, has its roots in the post-war years. It is also true that the depth of horror at the evil of war which is now a part of Catholic identity gets much of its inspiration from these years.

In addition, of course, there was the fear – indeed the expectation – that it was all going to start again, at least from March 1948. Europe was rapidly divided down the middle, an ‘iron curtain from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic’, as Churchill memorably put it. This fear led quickly to the formation of a military alliance, NATO, and to the further development of fearsome and immoral weapons of mass destruction, the fear also engendered a determination to secure democratic structures in the countries not occupied by the Soviet Union during the war, and a resolve that the western European democratic countries should co-operate and work together, and not get caught up once again in historical rivalries.

Unfortunately wars are always bound up with economic rivalry, and many historians see this as the heart of the problem between France and Germany. This was centered on what one needs to make weapons of war – steel, and the coal one needs to make steel. This was mined and made in an area over which the two countries had fought for a century, the Ruhr/Rhineland and Alsace-Lorraine. While much of this territory was devastated in the war, it needed to be reconstructed: would the rivalry resume? During the war some French politicians and statesmen had urged the creation of an enlarged state of Lorraine, distinct from Germany and France.

Enter Jean Monet known as the ‘Father of Europe’ and the declared first (and only) ‘honorary citizen of Europe’ in 1976 (three years before his death at the age of 90). Jean Monnet was one of the most exceptional men of the 20th century. He was never an elected politician – rather he was a fixer behind the scenes, an administrator – indeed this role has sometimes created a negative view of him. Monnet’s career shows how people behind the scenes often get things done. There is a lot more about Monnet’s life, but what is important is this: his experience of trying to solve enormous problems in enabling his country to fight a modern war showed him that what was necessary above all was the closest co-operation and integration of decision-making between allies.

Important to remember that Schuman was from Lorraine, the province constantly passed back and forth between France and Germany from 1870 to 1945. French by descent, he did not become a Frenchman until the end of the Great war, at the age of 32 – he had been a conscript in the German army. This man went on to become Foreign Minister and Prime Minister of France, and he understood the coal and steel which were produced in Lorraine and which had made it so desirable to both nations.

Adenauer, the post-war first leader of the new Federal Republic, was from the Rhineland – like Schuman, he had lived all his life in the shadow of Franco-German conflict. These two men, from neighboring areas which produced the same raw materials, were crucial in the rebuilding of post war Europe. Those economic considerations have given the false impression that they were uppermost on the mind of those four founding fathers. But that is misleading.

Another thing they shared was loyalty and commitment to the teaching of the Catholic Church which they considered universal and acceptable by reason, even by non-believers. They were well versed in philosophy. They were men who in the midst of war and conflict had tried in the 30s to pursue the Church’s vision, as enunciated by Pope Pius XI and others, of how society should be ordered. An example of how this became clear after the war is the place of trade unions in most mainland European states, reflecting Catholic teaching since Pope Leo XIII in the 1890s. Alcide De Gasperi was part of the same Christian Democrat tradition, encapsulated in the aspirations of Italy’s 1947 republican constitution (although Italian he was a German speaker and had grown up in the Austrian part of Italy). Part of the answer these serious Catholic politicians had to the menace of Communism after the war, which was particularly real in France and Italy, was to stress the need for co-operation in society, and of good welfare policies funded by taxation, in line with Catholic social teaching; in effect a mitigation of what a savage kind of heart-less capitalism bent on the accumulation of wealth, often accompanied by the exploitation of workers.

The first big fruit of this common view was the Schuman plan (named after him but essentially conceived by Monnet) in 1950. The reason we mark Europe Day each year on 9 May, is that it was on this day that it all began – France and Germany set up a joint ‘High Authority’ to run the base materials of their economies, the production, pricing and selling of coal and steel. They surrendered sovereignty and unbridled nationalism voluntarily in order to work together – the European Coal and Steel Community set up by 1952 and including Italy, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg was the fruit of this plan and vision. The subsequent development of the ECSC into the EEC by the time of the Treaty of Rome in 1958 is well documented.

We need to remember that the original vision aiming at a political union and common defense, faded so that the EEC began by being primarily economic – why is that? Because of national pride, the turbulence in France in the late1950s, and fear of any armed alliance involving Germany. So, it is not correct to say that the union was conceived as mere trading alliance with no political underpinning. The contrary is true, people all over Europe understood that they needed to give up a measure of what they prized most highly – independence and sovereignty, to find a new way of working together in the interests of peace and stability. Some, especially in England, which later joined the union, continued to resist this surrender of sovereignty, but I would suggest that in as much as it has been overcome is was due to the universal social teachings promoted by the Catholic Church and accepted and practiced by the four founding fathers we have examined; they remained the key players in the organization of the new polity.

In conclusion, in the difficult times the EU is currently undergoing when we hear much talk on the economy by bankers, economists and bureaucrats, while precious little is mentioned on cultural identity, when the center does not seem to hold very well, and the cart seems to have been placed before the horse, it is perhaps high time to return back to the future and ponder deeply the vision and the dream of the founding fathers of the EU, not to speak of its poets and philosophers, to determine if indeed such a union is worth preserving and fighting and even dying for, since not by bread alone does man live. 

II

Does the above description of the Christian background of the EU founding fathers imply that a modern secular polity such as the European Union ought to be grounded on religious values? Is that the equivalent to an attempt at restoring the medieval Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne, a theocracy wherein the boundaries between the sacred and the profane are all but blurred?  There is much confusion on this issue of the Christian roots of Europe and how they can be incorporated within a modern secular polity. I have written a book on the subject titled A New Europe in Search of its Soul (2005), and have also written several articles in Ovi magazine, but it appears that the confusion far from subsiding has increased substantially since their publications.

One thing is sure: the warning of the former Pope John Paul II to the European Parliament on the 11th of October 1988 remains valid today. These are the prophetic words: “If the religious and Christian substratum of this continent is marginalized in its role as inspiration of ethical and social efficacy, we would be negating not only the past heritage of Europe but a future worthy of European man—and by that I mean every European Man, be he a believer or a non believer.” 

That is a powerful warning indeed which, it appears, was wholly ignored by the Constitutional Convention which produced the so called Treaty of Lisbon (i.e., the EU Constitution). In it the Christian heritage of Europe is not even mentioned and is reduced to a banal statement such as “spiritual leanings.” It is almost as if one ought to be ashamed of such a heritage or at the very least one ought to hide it under a bushel. The constitution in fact, reads like a banal commercial document and lacks inspiration and a call to ideals beyond mere political or crassly economic considerations. As Jefferson aptly warned the US at the beginning of its political life: those who sacrifice freedom for economic advantages, end up losing both.

Are we witnessing the dissolution of a polity built on fragile foundations or a mere economic crisis (as expressed in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, five of the most important members of the EU)? It’s hard to tell. Some sustain that the crisis will be eventually resolved and the EU will go on to fulfill its political destiny as a powerful confederation of nations. But the issue goes deeper than that: it is an issue that has to do with the very values and the cultural identity of such a union.

What are the spiritual values of the EU? In the first place it should be reiterated that Christian democracy is not a nostalgic throw back to the medieval Holy Roman Empire intolerant of all religions outside of Christianity, far from it. The key to the conception of Christian democracy as held and practiced by Schuman, Adenauer and De Gasperi, three important founding fathers of the EU, was the belief that democracy must be based on a “weltanschauung” – a worldview – that provides a complete account of the universe, man, and politics. 

These founding fathers were acutely aware that part of the appeal of totalitarianism, be of the right or of the left, was the promise of a complete worldview, in contrast to democracy which was seen as a formal procedure that was neutral about outcomes or that simply managed the clash of competing interests. Moreover, while communism and fascism offered complete totalitarian worldviews, they were based on “atheistic materialism” which the founding fathers steadfastly opposed for reducing the individual to a mere automaton or clog in the machinery of the state. As they saw it, politics was the struggle between competing weltanschauungs; and democracy could be firmly established in a post-war Europe only by possessing a worldview that could compete successfully with Marxism and Fascism of whatever stripe. What this democracy needed was a spiritual worldview to replace atheistic materialism and to prevent its own degeneration into egoistic hedonistic materialism or a return to a rabid xenophobic form of nationalism. Fortunately, they argued, Western democracy had such a worldview and it was called Christianity.

Now, what is striking about this position is that it views the formation of the Christian Democratic Unions of post-war Europe as non-denominational parties open to all people, while insisting on a platform that stated the following: The Christian foundation of the Democratic Union is the absolutely necessary and decisive factor. We want to replace the materialistic ideology of National Socialism with a Christian view of the world. Only Christian precepts guarantee justice, order, moderation, the dignity and liberty of the individual and thus true and genuine democracy. We regard the lofty view that Christianity takes of human dignity, of the value of each single man, as the foundation and directive of our work in the political, economic, and cultural life of our people.

The puzzling feature of the above statement is its mixture of non-denominationalism and explicit Christian foundations. The puzzle arises when we learn that all the three above-mentioned founding fathers were devout practicing Catholics; two of them, Schuman and De Gasperi, have even been proposed for canonization, meaning that they practiced and exemplified Christian virtues to an heroic degree. Moreover, they were deeply influenced by the social teachings of the Catholic Church expressed in papal encyclicals such as Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum and Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno. They discovered in these encyclicals a comprehensive and coherent program inspired by faith but quite practical in terms of modern society.

To resolve the puzzle in the founding fathers’ position, one must first grasp that their affirmation of a Christian Democratic Union is non-denominational – open to Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and secular people alike. It is possible because it offers a moral vision to all people: the belief in the innate dignity of every human being as the basis of democratic equality and freedom, and the grounding of this principle on faith in God and the Western heritage of Christianity. The founding fathers believed that all people could rally around this conception of human dignity and could accept its democratic implications as a common basis for sacred and secular outlooks. This hope eventually became a crucial article of faith in modern Christianity, a faith that is more and more explicitly articulated by political leaders, churches and theologians in the course of the twentieth century. The crucial insight here is that Christianity and liberal democracy are two sides of the same coin – the sacred and secular sides of a common conception of human dignity that is in principle accessible to believers as well as nonbelievers, even if the ultimate source and foundation is Christian.

And of course the logical last inquiry here is this: how would non-Christians react to the notion of a Christian Europe? Especially those non-Christians living and working in Europe. And, are we to exclude non-Christian nations such as Turkey for example? How would the founding fathers reply to such a question? They would probably answer that a Christian Europe does not mean a Europe for Christians only. It does not mean an official endorsement of, or call for, evangelization. That is certainly not the role of the European Union. It simply means a Europe that does not deny its Christian inheritance and the richness that public debate can gain from engagement with Christian teachings. Which is to say, the voice of Christianity should not be eliminated from the public agora and it should have an equal right to be heard there with all the other voices.

Indeed, there is something ironic, bordering on the tragic in observing that some of those most opposed to any reference to religion or Christianity in the draft Constitution were at the forefront of opposition to Turkish membership in the Union. The founding fathers would probably consider it an insult to Christianity and its teaching of grace and tolerance to claim that there is no place in Europe for a non-Christian country or worse, for non-Christian individuals. Why would anyone within a polity that respects free speech and genuine democracy fear the recognition and acknowledgment of the dominant culture (i.e., Christianity) as an empirical historical fact?  Is it not a shortsighted social and political strategy for a body politic to be based on the rejection of one’s history and heritage? Can such a polity survive for very long? History will eventually render a final verdict based on the success or failure of the Union, but meanwhile  John-Paul’s prophesy remains as an ominous warning. Let those who have ears hear.

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2

In Praise of a Europe united in Liberty and Democracy
A Presentation by Ernesto Paolozzi
(Translated from Italian by Emanuel L. Paparella)

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Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872)

Inevitably, each one of us looks at Europe from his perspective. Italy, has a European tradition with deep  well consolidated roots. To stay with contemporary history, it would be enough to remember the work carried out by Giuseppe Mazzini, his Giovane Europea (Young Europe), his dream of seeing Italy (at the time disunited) as well as the old continent united under the sign of liberty, democracy, republicanism.

Even if not uniformly and with various characteristics this idea that is Europe has been present within the best of Italian culture. It would be enough to think of the very popular History of Europe of Benedetto Croce which he wrote during the fascist regime announcing, almost as a prophecy, the unification of Europe as analogous to the unification of Italy via the Risorgimento, not to be confused with Rinascimento, which was a drive toward national liberation without being nationalism. Croce wrote about the little countries which will acknowledge a greater country without forgetting one’s roots, traditions and history. Just as the idea of a nation was foundational to the Risorgimento, the idea of Europe was founded on liberty and consequently on the recognition of others’ liberty. There wasn’t within this position any idea of power or aggression. On the contrary there was the hope of guaranteeing the most durable possible peace.

This kind of ethico-political sensibility, which even Fascism was unable to completely eradicate, reappears in the well known Manifesto of Vento by Altiero Spinelli as well as in the writings of exiled anti-fascist Italians. The manifesto is among the most important in the recent history of Europeism. Even at the purely political level, post-World War Italy, under the direction of Alcide De Gasperi, with the support of liberals and republicans, has shown itself among the most pro-EU countries. This is in contrast to Fascism and it is also a struggle against the kind of communism still dominated by Stalinism.

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Altiero Spinelli, foremost advocate of European Federalism (1907-1986)

What is left of this great patrimony? The fact is that the economic crisis of 2008, the pressure exerted from African and Middle Eastern immigrants, are severely testing the idea of Europe. The problem is exacerbated by myopic national governments ignorant of European institutions, slow and bureaucratic, plus the selfishness of many. It all favors anti-European populist movements. And so, even if it’s only in a few places, the idea of a nationalistic isolationist Europe re-emerges.

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Altiero Spinelli, one of the semi-forgotten founding fathers of the European Union

Nevertheless, I believe that the worst is over. Even if tentatively, with small steps, it appears that the most significant European leaders, beginning with Matteo Renzi and Angela Merkel are aware of the situation. There is an acute need to synthesize politico-financial solutions a politics of solidarity. Lacking solidarity will mean more global economic crisis (as a Chinese crisis might provoke) and a more secure path may prove elusive.

But even that is not enough. It remains the duty of all men of culture and good will to return to those European ideals which I have hinted at. Those ideals need to be renewed and then adapted to the new historical conditions. What is needed is a liberal democratic Europe, allied to other great democracies, such as that of the USA, uncompromising in the defense of human rights vis a vis totalitarian countries; secular but not forgetful of its Christian heritage. A Europe which is once again not only an economic reference point for the entire world, but is also a moral and political force.

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3

Why we cannot but Recognize ourselves as Christians
By Benedetto Croce
(Translated from the Italian by Emanuel L. Paparella)

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To claim for ourselves the name of Christians we run the risk of being taken for  pious sanctimonious hypocrites, given that at times the assumption of such a name has well served self-complacency and the covering up of things that were diametrically opposite to the Christian spirit, as could be proven with references on which I will not tarry right now so that we don’t bring in distracting judgments extraneous to the issue at hand. I simply wish to affirm, with an appeal to history, that we cannot but recognize ourselves as Christians and that this denomination is a mere recognition of the truth of the matter.  

Christianity is the greatest revolution that humanity has ever experienced: so huge, so comprehensive and deep, so fruitful of consequences, so unexpected and irresistible in its development, that it is not astonishing that it appeared and still appears a miracle, a revelation from on high, a direct intervention of God in human affairs, those affairs which have received from him a new law and direction. All other revolutions and epochs which mark human history, do not compare well with it, appearing in comparison rather narrow and particular. This does not even exclude the revolutions of ancient Greece in the poetical, in art, in philosophy, in political liberty; or those of Rome in the law, not to speak of the most remote revolution in writing, in mathematics, in astronomy, in medicine and whatever else we owe to the East and to Egypt.

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Cyril and Methodius bring Christianity to the Slavic People

Moreover, the revolutions and the discoveries which later followed in modern times, in as much as they were not limited and particular to the preceding ancient ones, but encompassed the whole man, the whole soul of man, cannot even be conceived without the Christian revolution, but only in a relation of dependence to it, hence to it alone belongs the primacy and the original impulse.

The explanation of what the Christian revolution operated is in the very center of the soul, in the moral conscience, conferring a relevancy to the inner reality to the point that it appeared that it had acquired a new virtue and spiritual reality which humanity had lacked till then. It is true that the men, the geniuses, the heroes that precede Christianity performed wonderful deeds, beautiful works, and transmitted to us a very rich treasure of forms, of thoughts and experiences; but in all of them we see what we have in common and makes us all brothers, and it is what only Christianity has given to human life.

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Nevertheless, this was not a miracle which erupted in the course of history inserting itself within it as an alien transcendental force; neither was it that other metaphysical miracle which some philosophers (Hegel above all) have constructed since they began to think of human history as a process within which the spirit acquires its constitutive parts, its categories, and at a certain point scientific knowledge or the state of liberty, and with Christianity moral intimacy, because spirit is always its own fullness, and its history is in its own creations, which are continuous and infinite, by which it celebrates itself. So, as neither Greeks, nor Romans, nor Orientals, were the ones who introduced into the world those universal forms of which we call them creators, but it was because of them that they arrived at heights never reached before and traced some solemn points of human history; similarly the Christian revolution was an historical process which within the general historical process was the most solemn of its crisis. There are attempts, recursions, preparations which can be detected within Christianity, as indeed can be noted in any human creation, for a poem or a political action, but that light which they seem to pass on, is received by reflection, from the work which has been actualized, which did not reside within itself, since no work of art is ever born by aggregation or a collage with others which are not itself, but only by an original creative act; no work exists in its own antecedents.

When Christianity appeared, moral conscience was revived, it leaped forward and tortured itself in novel ways, at the same time enthusiastic and trustful, with the sense of sin which always threatens it and is always defeated, humble and exalted, finding its exaltation in humility and in the service of the Lord. And this moral conscience kept itself pure and uncontaminated, resisting all temptations that would lead to the loss of its identity or put it at odds with itself, diffident of worldly praise and the social climb, its law derived only from its interior voice, not from external commands and prejudices which always leave much to be desired, leading to sensual and utilitarian criteria. And its trust was in love, love toward all, without distinction of races, classes, of free men or slaves, toward all creatures, toward the universe, which is God’s work, toward God who is a God of love and is not detached from man and descends to meet man, and in which we all live and have our being.

From this experience, which was a unique act, sentiment, and thought, a new vision and a new interpretation of reality arose;  a reality searched for not in the object detached from the subject and substituted for it, but in the eternal creator of things and the only principle of their meaning; and thus the concept of spirit is laid down, and God himself was no longer conceived as an abstract undifferentiated unity, and as such unmovable and inert, but a distinct community, because living and fountainhead of life, one and triune.

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The Crucifixion of Europe

This new concept and moral attitude were partly mixed with myths—kingdom of God, resurrection of the dead, baptism as preparation, expiation and repentance, and so on—which began with rugged myths and then became more refined and transparent with truth, and got mixed with thoughts which were not always harmonized and clashed in contradictions about which they paused, unsure and perplexed; but nevertheless are the ones briefly enumerated and that each intuits within oneself when one pronounces the name “Christian.” A new action, a new concept, a new creation of the poetical is not and ought not be conceived, as is conceived as abstraction conjoined to imagination, as something objectively concluded and delineated, but as a force which opens up to life with other forces, and at times it trips up or it gets lost, or other times it proceeds slowly and laboriously or even lets itself be overcome by other which it cannot overcome, and it is tested by defeats from which it returns to the struggle. 

Anybody who would like to understand Christianity in its original character must overlook the extraneous facts, overcome the accidents, see it not so much in its difficulties and slow-downs, in its aperies and contradictions, in its erring and loss of direction but in its first impetus and dominant tension, as if it were a poetical work which is valuable for what it has in it that is poetical and not for the non-poetical which may be mixed with it, for those flaws can even be found in Homer and Dante too.

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Benedictine Monks Christianizing Europe

There is usually some diffidence that this mode of idealization does not respect the reality of doctrines and facts; but that “idealization” (which is never blind however to foreign elements and signs and does not deny them) is nothing more than the “intelligence” which understands them. If we take the opposite approach and place on the same plane the myth and the facts, the logical and the illogical, the certitude and the incertitude of a thinker, the conclusion will be that such a work is not really a work, but a nothing, corrupted and corroded from top to bottom from the errors that critics and historians are accustomed to bring forth, happy, it would appear, to find in the same great works of the past the mental dispersion and moral stagnation that is in them.

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The Hagia Sophia in Instanbul, originally a Christian Byzantine Church

It was also necessary that the formative process of truth, that Christianity had so extraordinarily intensified and accelerated, would stop at a certain point in time, provisionally, and that the Christian revolution would experience a moment to catch its breath, so to speak, (a breath which historically may consist of centuries) and stabilize itself. Here too Christianity has been accused and it has been scolded, and it so continues even today, for the fall from the heights where Christian enthusiasm resided, for the immobility, the practicality, the politicization of the religious thought, which means death. But this bias against the Church’s formation and its very existence makes as much sense as the one against the universities and other schools wherein science, which is continual criticism and auto-criticism, ceases to be such and lives in manuals and catechisms so that one can learn it as prepared, either to utilize it for practical purposes, or for minds well disposed, as subject matter to consider for the attempt at new scientific leaps.

We cannot bypass this moment of the life of the spirit, within which the cognitive process of research is closed with the new acquired faith and that of practical action opens up, wherein faith is transmuted. And if this closing in one sense looks like, and in some way is the death (be it nothing but euthanasia, the merciful death) of truth, since authentic truth resides only in the process of becoming, and on the other hand it is the conservation of truth for its new life and for the recovering of the process, almost always hidden away and protected, which will germinate again and sow new fruits; so the Christian Catholic Church founded its dogmas, without fear of formulating at times what is unthinkable because not resolvable in the unity of thought, its cult, its sacramental system, its hierarchy, its discipline, its temporal patrimony, its economy, its finances, canon law and its tribunals and its juridical system, and studied and acted on compromises and transactions with needs which it could neither extinguish nor repress, nor ignore and leave alone; and its action was beneficial, winning over the polytheism of paganism and the new adversaries from the East (from which she herself had arrived and which she had superseded), those being particularly dangerous since they had borrowed many tracts of her own identity, such as the Gnostics and the Manicheans, and got busy building on new spiritual foundations the decaying and fallen Roman Empire, accepting and preserving its tradition and that of the whole ancient culture.

She then went through a glorious epoch called Medieval (an historic partition and name born almost by chance, but effectively guided by a sure intuition of truth). Within this epoch not only she brought to conclusion the Christianizing and Romanizing and civilizing of the Germans and the barbarians, not only she impeded the new dangers and damages of old-new dualistic, pessimistic, ascetic heresies not cosmic and negating life, not only it called for a defense against Islam, which threatened European civilization, put defended the moral and religious exigency as primary to political domineering politics, and as such it affirmed its right to the dominion of the world and considered the subversion of this right a perversion.

Neither are the other common accusations against the Catholic Church for corruption that it allowed to enter it, valid. This is so because every institution carries within itself the danger of corruption, of parts that corrupt the whole, of private and utilitarian motives which are substituted to moral ones, and in fact every institution suffers them and continually attempts to overcome them and return to sanity. This happens also in the various old Protestant evangelical denominations who protested the corruption in the first Church, even if in a less scandalous or more banal mode.

As is well known, even within medieval times, taking advantage of those Christian free spirits which shed light within and outside its parameters, and making them relevant to its goal, it reformed and renovated itself several times. Later on, due to the corruption of its popes, of its clergy, and its friars and the changed general political situation, which had taken away the domination exercised in medieval times, which rendered scholasticism passé, blunted its spiritual weapons, and finally, because of the new critical thinking, both philosophical and scientific, which rendered its scholasticism antiquated, ran the risk of disorientation, and yet reformed itself prudently and politically, saving whatever prudence and politics are able to save, and continuing its mission, which gave its best fruits in the lands of the New World.

An institution does not die because of accidental errors, but only when it no longer fulfills any need, or when those needs which it fulfills, are diminishing in quantity or quality.

What the present conditions of the Catholic Church may be, is an issue that does not fit in the discussion we have been conducting here. Picking up the discussion at the place where we deviated to furnish the above clarification on the truth that belongs to Christianity and its relation with the Church and the Churches; having acknowledged the necessity that the formative process of Christian thought to cease for a while (as it is done, after all, when we think it permissible for the sake of clarity to translate the big into the small, when, having written a book, one sends it to the editor and to the public, resisting the folly of the infinitum perfectionis), it was to be expected that the process eventually would be re-opened, reviewed and carried further and higher. What we have thought does not mean that we are finished with thinking: the facts are never dry sterile facts, they are always in gestation; to adopt a motto of Leibniz, it is always gros de l’avenir.

Jesus, Paul, the author of the fourth gospel, and all the others who cooperated with them in the first Christian era, led with their own example and action, which was enthusiastic and without pause in thought and in life, to ensure that the teaching they supplied would be not only a source, like a water spring, from which to attain eternally, similar to palm tree carrying fruits, but a perennial development, alive and malleable, that would dominate the course of history thus satisfying the new requirements and the new questions which they themselves did not feel or did not propose, but would later on be generated within the heart of reality.

Given that this execution, which is both transformation and addition, cannot be executed, without first determining, correcting and modifying the first concepts and adding new ones and complete new arrangements, and therefore devoid of repetitions or literary comments or banal work (as is in general, with a few notable exceptions, the case for the medieval period), but genial and congenial work, we must recognize as effective carriers of the religious work of Christianity all those who, beginning with its original concepts and integrating them with their critique and ulterior research, yielded substantial advancements in thought and life. These, with a few anti-Christian appearances, these men of Humanism and the Renaissance humanists of the Renaissance, despite some characteristics which may have appeared anti-Christian, understood the virtue of the poetical and of art and politics recovering full humanity against Medieval supernaturalism and asceticism. In some respects, the men of the Reformation, in as much as they amplified the doctrines of Paul, detaching them from particular references of his own time, were the rigorous founders of modern physico-mathematical and natural science, with new discoveries which gave new tools to human civilization.  

They were the promoters of a new natural religion and natural law and of tolerance, fountainheads of the following liberal conceptions; they were the enlightened men of triumphant reason who reformed socio-political life eliminating whatever there was left of feudalism, of medieval privilege of the clergy, and chasing away the darkness of superstitions and prejudices, lighting-up a new desire and a new enthusiasm for the good and the true and a renewed Christian and humanistic spirit; and then came the practical revolutionaries of France which extended their efficacy all over Europe, and then the philosophers who saw to it that a speculative Christian form be given to the idea of Spirit, substituting it to the ancient subjectivism, we have Vico and Kant and Fichte and Hegel, who directly or indirectly, inaugurate the conception of reality as history, thus overcoming the radicalism of the encyclopedic with the idea of evolution and the abstract libertarianism of the Jacobins and their institutional liberalism, and their abstract cosmopolitanism, by respecting and promoting the independence and the liberty of all the various civilizations of all people, or as they were called, of the nationalities: these and all the others like them whom the Catholic Roman Church anxious to protect its institution and the construction arrived at in the Council of Trent, consequently had to persecute and refuse to acknowledge the whole modern era which it condemns in one of its encyclicals, without being able to counter science, culture and modern civilization, the civilization of secularism, another rigorous science, culture and civilization.

So it has to reject with horror, as a blasphemy, the sullied name of those who work in the Lord’s vineyard, who have with their labor, sacrifices made the truth of Jesus fructify as announced by the first Christian thinkers and then elaborated, not differently than any other form of thought, as an outline to be perpetually supplemented by new lines and paragraphs. Neither could it bend to the idea that there were Christians outside every church, not less genuine than the ones who are inside, and much more Christians because they were free. But we who are writing neither to please nor to displease the men in the churches and understand, with the respect due to truth, the logic of their moral and intellectual position and the laws of their behavior, need to confirm the use of that name which history demonstrates as legitimate and necessary. The proof of his historical interpretation resides in the fact that the continual anti-Church debate, which runs through the centuries of the modern era, has always stopped at the reverent remembrance of Jesus, feeling that an insult to him would be an insult to oneself, to the very raison d’être of its ideals, to the heart of its heart.

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Christian Cathedral in Helsinki Finland

Even some poets who have the freedom allowed to poets to portray imaginatively with symbols and metaphors the ideals and the counter-ideals according to their passion, saw in Jesus, that Jesus who loved and wanted joy, a denier of joy and a propagator of sadness, at the end had to deny their first judgment, as it happened with the German Goethe and the Italian Carducci. Also vagaries and imaginings of poets were the nostalgic recalling of the tranquil ancient paganism, usually contradicted by opposite vagaries by the very same people who had proposed them for a while. 

The thoughtless lightness and the fun which appeared innocuous whenever it was applied to any fact or person of history and poetry, has not looked so innocent, and it has never been allowed for the figure of Jesus, which has been avoided even on the stages of theaters, except for the naïve sacred representations of medieval times, still alive among the people, and tolerated and even promoted by the Church. Another proof is to be found in the attitudes and the symbolism of Christian flavor, which have decorated the political movements of the modern age, even those with a definite anti-clerical tinge of the 18th century Volterians, so that we could speak of “the heavenly city,” and “the garden of Eden” transferred to ancient Rome or the Arcadia of reason and nature, which substituted the Bible or the Church, and other similar phenomena; even the revolutions of modern times referred to “prophets,” and sent their “apostles” and glorified their “martyrs.” The fact is that although the whole of history culminates with us as its children, ancient ethics and religion were superseded and resolved in the Christian idea of conscience and moral inspiration, the new idea of God in which we live and have our being, and who can no longer be Zeus, nor Jawhe, nor the German Wodan, despite the praises conferred on him in our times; and so in the moral life and our thinking, we feel that we are directly children of Christianity. Those who dream of a neo-paganism, do not consider the words of Burckhardt who has Hermes of the Vatican say these words: “We had it all, the glory of heavenly gods, eternal youth, but we were not happy because we were not good.”  Which is the same as saying: “we were not Christians.”

Nobody can know if another religion, at a par or superior to the one defined by Hegel as “the absolute religion,” will appear in the future within humankind, but of it we see not even a first light. It is obvious that in our present times, we are still not outside the parameters of Christianity, and that we, just as the first Christians, continue to labor in the construction of the rugged contrasts between immanence and transcendence, between the morality of conscience and that of the commandments and the laws, between liberty and authority, the heavenly and the earthly which are also within man, and the ability to compose them in one single form gives us joy and inner tranquility, and the consciousness that we will never compose them fully and exhaust the sentiment of the perpetual struggler, or the perpetual worker,  to whom and to whose grandchildren will never lack their subject matter, that is to say, of life.

Our recurring need is to preserve and reignite and feed the Christian element, today more than ever pressing and troubling, in between sorrow and hope. And the Christian God is still our God. Our sophisticated philosophies call him Spirit, who is always above us but is also ourselves; and if we no longer worship as mystery, it is because we know that He will always be a mystery in the eyes of abstract intellectualistic logic, misguidedly dignified with the name of “human logic, but in the eyes of concrete logic it is limpid truth which can be said “divine” understood in the Christian sense as that to which man continually aspires to, and which makes him truly man.

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4

Peace and integration

Speech by Alcide De Gasperi on the occasion of his election to the Presidency of the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in Strasbourg on 11 May 1954 

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Alcide De Gasperi delivering a speech

Dear Colleagues, It was certainly not on personal merit nor because I could lay claim to special experience of the affairs debated in this Assembly, that you have elected me today. I believe that it was in recognition of a profound faith, of my conviction that Europe must unite and the European institutions flourish. That is why, in all humility, I accept this honor so solemnly conferred on me. I accept it as our joint pledge not to falter but to continue along the road traced by illustrious pioneers who took up this task before us. I can still see, in my mind's eye, Robert Schuman standing in this House at the sitting of 10 August 1950, explaining the action programme to be followed by the Community in the iron and steel sector. He was so cautious, so prudent, so careful not to raise excessive hopes, and at the same time, so conscious of the difficulties that would have to be overcome, that his words - you may, perhaps, remember - had a hesitant, almost non-committal ring, though in reality they were a reflection of a profound understanding of what remained to be done. But as soon as he had finished explaining - like an expert, almost like a businessman - the details of the action programme, his vision stretched further ahead. He said: 'With the Coal and Steel Community the tension, the possibility of conflict between France and Germany, will be removed once and for all'; and then, prophetically, he added: 'This Plan contains opportunities which we are as yet unable to assess' - meaning the possibility of European unification, and the construction of a united Europe.

And in this chamber there still echoes the eloquence that animated all our, all your, resolutions: the voice of President Spaak who, at the most critical moments, would, with great courage and enthusiasm, break down indifference and spur us on to determined effort. I would also mention the distinguished current President of this High Authority, Jean Monnet, maker and architect of this edifice for which Schuman laid the cornerstone. At the coming sittings you will be debating the High Authority's report; you will encounter difficulties, things to criticize. You will see that the High Authority itself is coming up against difficulties and obstacles stemming from long-established traditions and interests. The High Authority needs you, it needs the backing of public opinion, of which it is the appointed and authoritative spokesman. You will certainly present to the High Authority your criticisms, your proposals, your demands: but, going beyond the merely technical and administrative details, we shall never lose sight of our programme in all its breadth.

The European Coal and Steel Community represents a new approach to safeguarding agreement on peace and co-operation through joint control of resources. From now on this approach will be essential in all sectors: for reciprocal control of military resources, and also for reciprocal control of resources, when the dread problem of nuclear forces has to be tackled. It also offers the surest guarantee that treaties are carried into effect. You will remember that from 1919 to 1939, some seventy international treaties were concluded - and all became mere pieces of paper when it came to their implementation, because of the lack of systematic guarantees, and which can be provided only through joint control of common resources.

 The European Coal and Steel Community will survive through its own vitality thanks to the talents and abilities of the High Authority's current President and those around him. But even if, at times, it were to encounter unforeseen technical difficulties, we should remember that the European Coal and Steel Community has a second raison d'être, in addition to that which brought it into being: that is it exists, and must continue to exist, as a living example of a Community, of the opportunities that such a Community offers, and of the possibilities of organizing peace - and the unifying efforts of the institutions, the singleness of purpose sanctioned and guaranteed by the pooling of available resources. Dear colleagues: we shall continue our work with unflagging zeal, but what must never lack is a sense of responsibility - I would say of shared responsibility - ranging beyond the Community's specific area of competence - the feeling that keeps our hopes alive, the certain knowledge that this is the solid foundation on which all subsequent progress will depend.

II

The Political Organization of Europe

Extracts from a speech by Alcide De Gasperi at the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 16 September 1952

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Alcide De Gasperi speaking to the people

Dear Colleagues, [.........] All of you will be called upon, either directly in your capacity as Representatives to the Coal and Steel Assembly, or indirectly, by studying the Report of that Assembly, to take part in fulfilling the task which is about to begin. It is for this reason that I hope you will allow me to put before you some of my ideas on the work in question and on the problems which, in my opinion, warrant more urgent and detailed study. The first and most important question to be broached, in my view, is the following: what are the aspects of the life of our countries which must be subjected to the control of a central political Authority, so as to guarantee and bring into operation the common defense system as envisaged in the Treaty constituting the Community, and to give the latter all the requisite power and authority? In the first instance, we must act in such a way that the European Defense Community, which should begin to function next spring, is based from the outset on common constitutional foundations in those spheres lying within its competence. I consider, too, that it is impossible to co-ordinate our military efforts, whether in peace or in war, unless we achieve at least a minimum of co-ordination in the sectors of economy and labor. This economic co-ordination can be sought by a whole series of methods - ranging from a customs union to a lowering of tariffs and to preferential tariffs; from a single confederal bank, established by a monetary convention, to which the various international banks would accede, to a single currency, whether this be for accounting purposes or cash transactions; from the abolition of quotas to a single market.

In my opinion, the study of a federal constitution should be made, above all, in the light of the following considerations: the essential thing is to restrict, so far as possible, the practice of declarations of a generic character, such as already exist in all our national constitutions, and to discriminate between those structural transformations which are permitted by our existing constitutions and those necessitating constitutional amendments. We must begin by pooling only what is strictly essential to the achievement of our immediate aims, and do this by means of flexible formulae which can be gradually and progressively applied, and which effect a compromise between the juridical spirit of the Latin peoples and British pragmatism. [.......] The determining factor in our work, the driving force, must be our political determination to achieve European unity.

Economic co-operation is, of course, a matter of compromise between the natural desire for independence of each participant and overriding political aspirations. If European economic co-ordination were dependent upon the compromises put forward by the various administrations concerned, we should probably be led into weaknesses and inconsistencies. So it is the political aspiration for unity which must prevail. We must be guided above all by the overriding realization that it is essential to build a united Europe in order to ensure for ourselves peace, progress, and social justice. That is why, as I have already said, the Defense Community must be the nucleus around which will be formed, and will develop, those other federal or co federal links established, as time goes on, between national States - these States continuing as living organisms with their own individual vitality, a vitality which will be transferred only in part to a common central administrative authority of a flexible and adaptable nature.

I hope these ideas may be of service to the Coal and Steel Assembly in its work, and I am fully confident that any proposals which it puts forward will provide a firm basis for the final decisions of the participating States. You will therefore see that, without being accused of utopianism, we can already speak of final decisions on the setting up of a Political Community. That we have reached this point, Mr President, is largely due to the unremitting efforts of this Assembly which, in four years, has brought about a new atmosphere in Europe and has brought to bear on the problem of uniting Europe irresistible trends of public opinion, while vigorously drawing the attention of governments to the urgent need for unity. But the final result, Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, is still in your hands. Only perseverance will bring success. The exertions of the governments must be backed by your wise counsels, by your tenacity of purpose, by the precious support, direct or indirect, that you will give to this work, both here and elsewhere, at Strasbourg and in your own countries, wherever your voice is raised to foster those trends of public opinion which are vital for the successful conclusion of our work. It is with deep faith in our cause that I speak to you, and I am confident that through the will of our free peoples, with your support and with God's help, a new era for Europe will soon begin.

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The Schuman Declaration – 9 May 1950

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The Schuman Declaration was presented by French foreign minister Robert Schuman on 9 May 1950. It proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community, whose members would pool coal and steel production. The ECSC (founding members: France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) was the first of a series of supranational European institutions that would ultimately become today's "European Union".

Historical context

In 1950, the nations of Europe were still struggling to overcome the devastation wrought by World War II, which had ended only 5 years earlier. Determined to prevent another such terrible war, European governments concluded that pooling coal and steel production would – in the words of the Declaration – make war between historic rivals France and Germany "not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible". It was thought – correctly – that merging of economic interests would help raise standards of living and be the first step towards a more united Europe. Membership of the ECSC was open to other countries. The crucial contribution of Robert Schuman is his insistence that the union should have a cultural substratum which would function as a powerful centrifugal force and that without it the center would not hold and solidarity would not be achieved.

Full text by Robert Schuman

World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.

The contribution which an organized and living Europe can bring to civilization is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. In taking upon herself for more than 20 years the role of champion of a united Europe, France has always had as her essential aim the service of peace. A united Europe was not achieved and we had war.

Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries.

With this aim in view, the French Government proposes that action be taken immediately on one limited but decisive point.

It proposes that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe. The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims.

The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible. The setting up of this powerful productive unit, open to all countries willing to take part and bound ultimately to provide all the member countries with the basic elements of industrial production on the same terms, will lay a true foundation for their economic unification.

This production will be offered to the world as a whole without distinction or exception, with the aim of contributing to raising living standards and to promoting peaceful achievements. With increased resources Europe will be able to pursue the achievement of one of its essential tasks, namely, the development of the African continent. In this way, there will be realized simply and speedily that fusion of interest which is indispensable to the establishment of a common economic system; it may be the leaven from which may grow a wider and deeper community between countries long opposed to one another by sanguinary divisions.

By pooling basic production and by instituting a new High Authority, whose decisions will bind France, Germany and other member countries, this proposal will lead to the realization of the first concrete foundation of a European federation indispensable to the preservation of peace.

To promote the realization of the objectives defined, the French Government is ready to open negotiations on the following bases.

The task with which this common High Authority will be charged will be that of securing in the shortest possible time the modernization of production and the improvement of its quality; the supply of coal and steel on identical terms to the French and German markets, as well as to the markets of other member countries; the development in common of exports to other countries; the equalization and improvement of the living conditions of workers in these industries.

To achieve these objectives, starting from the very different conditions in which the production of member countries is at present situated, it is proposed that certain transitional measures should be instituted, such as the application of a production and investment plan, the establishment of compensating machinery for equating prices, and the creation of a restructuring fund to facilitate the rationalization of production. The movement of coal and steel between member countries will immediately be freed from all customs duty, and will not be affected by differential transport rates. Conditions will gradually be created which will spontaneously provide for the more rational distribution of production at the highest level of productivity.

In contrast to international cartels, which tend to impose restrictive practices on distribution and the exploitation of national markets, and to maintain high profits, the organization will ensure the fusion of markets and the expansion of production.

The essential principles and undertakings defined above will be the subject of a treaty signed between the States and submitted for the ratification of their parliaments. The negotiations required to settle details of applications will be undertaken with the help of an arbitrator appointed by common agreement. He will be entrusted with the task of seeing that the agreements reached conform with the principles laid down, and, in the event of a deadlock, he will decide what solution is to be adopted.

The common High Authority entrusted with the management of the scheme will be composed of independent persons appointed by the governments, giving equal representation. A chairman will be chosen by common agreement between the governments. The Authority's decisions will be enforceable in France, Germany and other member countries. Appropriate measures will be provided for means of appeal against the decisions of the Authority.

A representative of the United Nations will be accredited to the Authority, and will be instructed to make a public report to the United Nations twice yearly, giving an account of the working of the new organization, particularly as concerns the safeguarding of its objectives.

The institution of the High Authority will in no way prejudge the methods of ownership of enterprises. In the exercise of its functions, the common High Authority will take into account the powers conferred upon the International Ruhr Authority and obligations of all kinds imposed upon Germany, so long as these remain in force.

 

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 END  OF 62nd SESSION OF THE  OVI  SYMPOSIUM (15/10/2015)

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