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Ovi Symposium; Thirty-second Meeting
by The Ovi Symposium
2014-08-14 09:24:55
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Ovi Symposium:

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

between Drs. Paolozzi, Paparella and Mr. Rywalt
Thirty-second Meeting: 14 August 2014



Symposium's regular participants (in alphabetical order):

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.

rywaltEdwin Rywalt is a computer specialist living in Pennsylvania with his family. He is a talented and accomplished pianist with a college education from Columbia University and a life---long scholarly interest in the nexus between science, technology, and the liberal arts. Beginning in May 2014 he will be offering pro bono services to the Ovi Symposium with typo correction editing and other useful suggestions aiming at improving the overall format of the twice a month section of Ovi magazine. Perhaps in the future, if his commitments allow it, he may decide to join the Symposium’s ongoing dialogue.


Sub-theme: Christianity as intrinsic part of the EU cultural identity, plus Religion and the secular state.

Indirect Participants within the Great Conversation across the ages: Hegel, Homer, Dante, Leibniz, Jesus, Paul, Goethe, Carducci, Burckhardt, Becker, Cesari, Bergin, Obama, Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Francis I, Berger, Obama, Voltaire, Habermas, Rawls, Eisenstadt, Weiler.


Table of Contents for the 32th Session of the Ovi Symposium

Preamble by the Symposium’s coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 1: “The Future of Liberalism in the EU: an Interview with Ernesto Paolozzi.”

Section 2: “Why we cannot but Consider ourselves Christians” A translated essay by Benedetto Croce.

Section 3: Sundry comments by Paparella on Paolozzi’s interview and Croce’s essay in section one and two, with a brief response by Paolozzi.

Section 4: “Toward a Post-secular Europe: A review-essay” by Emanuel L. Paparella


Preamble by the Symposium’s Coordinator

In this 32nd meeting of the Ovi Symposium we return to the theme of the cultural identity of Western Civilization. Few would deny that for some time now, there exist between the two transatlantic allies (the EU and the US) undercurrents of tension. Some derive from membership into NATO which some consider anachronistic, no longer needed. The recent tragic events in the Ukraine have given pause to some member nations (especially the Netherlands) on the desirability of a defensive alliance, but the debate on the issue is far from over.

Another area of tension is that of capital punishment which the EU (with the exception of Belarus, a pro-Moscow dictatorship) has banned altogether, while the US continues to hold on to it, even if the latest executions have been botched and have shown flaws and inconsistencies in a system of justice which relies heavily on harsh punishment, something that the US Constitution explicitly forbids. This issue is somewhat related to the issue of torture and its rationalization.

Finally a crucial area of tensions, even deep disagreements, is that of religion and its role in political and civic life. In the US the problem of religious wars, common in Europe, at least till the Peace Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, seemed to have been all but solved with the so called “separation of Church and State,” as proscribed in the US Constitution. The separation however was merely political and juridical and not an elimination of religion to whose adherence and practice, or non-adherence and practice, all US citizens have an inalienable right, or a right not to be interfered with by any government or institution.

In the EU, on the other hand, beginning with Voltaire and the French Revolution, we witness the spectacle of an increasing secularization of civil life, often in tandem with hostility toward religion in general, to the point that in many so called “Christian” countries, not to speak of the whole continent, more than half of its population does not practice any sort of religion, albeit they continue to consider themselves Christian, nominally or culturally. The French call it “laicitè”: religion conceived as a mere private affair with no standing in the public square. This of course constitutes a problem of cultural identity, given that the whole continent, beginning with emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the third century AD, and his proclamation of Christianity as the Empire’s religion, has traditionally been Christian. To be sure, this is a thorny issue which Ovi magazine has repeatedly placed on the table and discussed at some length.

We will further deepen that discussion in this meeting with a first presentation by Ernesto Paolozzi in the form of an interview which he gave four years ago to Mario Scarpa of the philosophical journal Libro Aperto, a liberal democratic publication which looks upon Europe as a goal still to be reached and an ongoing journey. The occasion for the interview was the publication of his book Croce e il metodo liberale (Croce and the Liberal Method).

The interview begins with a brief introduction by the interviewer who then asks some pertinent questions related to the liberal future of Europe in general, and the EU in particular. In the light of the latest electoral victories by neo-fascists in the EU, who now have a “democratic” voice in the EU Parliament, these concerns of Paolozzi and others are vital, if we are to envision not only the survival of Democracy but the birth, or perhaps rebirth, of a new civilization; a vision all the more threatened by what is beginning to look more and more like a creeping resumption of the cold war and hyper-nationalism, in tandem with a sorry revival of anti-Semitism. Extreme nationalism and anti-Semitism, far from proclaiming a new world, are harbingers of destruction and catastrophe.

The theme is continued In the second presentation, translated into English from the Italian, is an essay by Benedetto Croce written all the way back in 1942 (November 20) for the prestigious journal “La Critica,” but still very much relevant to our current cultural concerns. It dovetails quite well both Paolozzi and Paparella’s presentations and offers much food for thought on this crucial issue of religion and culture and why the heritage of Christianity remains a crucial component of the European cultural identity. The interview to Ernesto Paolozzi and the essay on Christianity as cultural cement are followed by a brief comment on both sections by Emanuel L. Paparella, with a response by Ernesto Paolozzi.

In the third presentation I specifically revisit the issue of Religion and the Secular State which I had already discussed in the pages of Metanexus (a cultural Think Tank headquartered in Philadelphia) some five years ago. It is in the form of a review essay of two recent influential books on the subject. In it the comparison between the two Western transatlantic polities (the US and the EU) is more explicit and pronounced ushering in the discussion of religion and cultural identity.  It is not surprising that the three presentations offered at this meeting of the symposium make a near-perfect fit and at the very least open up anew the debate on this thorny issue, a sine qua non for envisioning the renewal of our Western Civilization.




Professor Ernesto Paolozzi

The Future of Liberalism in the EU: An Interview with Ernesto Paolozzi
(conducted by Mario Scarpa and translated from the Italian by E. Paparella)

Title of the Interview: “Does Liberalism have a future?

Introduction by Mario Scarpa: Does liberalism have a future? This is the question which we will ask to Ernesto Paolozzi, who teaches history of contemporary philosophy at the University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples on the occasion of his book Croce and the Liberal Method (Libro Aperto edition, 158 pages), which brings together writings published by Paolozzi in the prestigious Journal “Libro Aperto” dedicated to the discussion of liberalism. In an era which is characterized by a re-evaluation of the themes of liberalism (a sort of cascading inflation as Paolozzi defines it) wherein the word “freedom” is no longer pronounced with disdain, it is urgent that we avoid the trivialization of a tradition of a noble tradition within the Italian political horizon, since, if everybody becomes a liberal we run the risk that nobody will be a liberal any longer. More particularly, Benedetto Croce’s liberalism, even in its complexity, remains a necessary reference to understand the development of the idea of liberty in our country.

Croce’s work introduces to the Italian tradition a method of the interpretation of history and the idea of a liberalism attached to individual action and commitment, which ended up influencing many of the major Italian intellectuals of the 20th century. The entire historiographic production of Croce was focused on the valorization of the moral values which operated within historical developments, from which sprang the idea of history understood as history of liberty, and of liberty as the last religion of humankind.

As far as Croce was concerned, liberty was always an ethical value, not reducible to other values: its complexity did not permit to transfer to the economic sphere the foundational principle from which all other moral, civil and political liberties could be derived. Paolozzi, inspired by the theories of Benedetto Croce, emphasizes that a genuine liberalism which wants to protect individual freedom, must think of the individual in all its complexity and therefore must know how to choose the best solutions that apply to particular problematic situations. Hence the necessity not to enclose liberalism in a totality of paradigms and doctrines, as our interviewee explains in his book where he says that “liberalism is never static. It is to be placed within history, within reality, continually brought up-to-date. In that sense liberalism is always a liberal method. It is not a technique or only a technique. It is not a method buttressed by institutions. It is in fact not advisable to rely on the spontaneous developments of the economy. Freedom cannot find any authority outside of itself, external to the individuals which concretely realize it within history. Liberalism is always an interpretation of reality via the principle of liberty. It is also an assumption of responsibility vis á vis reality itself.” So, to govern the complexity of modern society means to construct complex political systems that are necessarily founded on liberty as the only principle which does not have to be explained and rationalized or proven through scientific explanations, since it lives spontaneously within our conscience. But let us now talk to our author.

Question: Paolozzi, in your opinion, which are presently the greatest threats to our liberal  democracy?

Answer: There are many to be sure. We have the classical ones, such as populism and  lack of leadership. We have seen, with center-right governments, how dangerous it is to appeal to the people in the name of democracy as a way of hiding personal and special class interests. Noteworthy, for example, the case in which violations of freedom of the press are justified with an appeal to the majority of the electorate which have legitimized the particular choices of a particular government. On the other hand, with the center-left governments we have seen how democracy can run aground when it comes to taking important decisions, or it becomes a victim of a public opinion in the throes of emotions and passions, often whipped up by the mass-media.

The new attacks however come from the so-called globalization, from the sense of loss of traditional politics and the introduction of a social and economic system which is so complex as to become ungovernable. This is obviously not only an Italian problem. The only possible solution I can came up with, is a return to an internationalization of the political struggle. I dream of European parties, European labor unions, which organize their interests and passions on an international scale. Personally, I believe that the socialists and the liberals can find in their own history the premises and motives to launch a political proposal on an international scale in accordance with principles of liberty and distributive justice.

Question: In your book you assert that liberty is both the condition and the effect of the complexity of life. Must politics be nourished by this complexity?

Answer: Absolutely. Complexity cannot be understood as synonymous to difficulty in organizing and directing systems which become bigger and bigger. It must be understood as a paradigm or a method with which to meet the historical reality which is never schematic, determined, or mechanical. That means that one cannot remain tied to ideologies understood as doctrines, neither should one opt for the slippery slope of so called pragmatism, without values which is in itself a sort of ideology, the ideology of banality. Rather, complexity means to meet stable values with historical contingency; to become conscious that each event and prescription influences reality as a whole,  and vice-versa, it is conditioned by reality. I am of the opinion that a liberal democracy must be nourished by responsibility, and that responsibility coincides with liberty, with the complexity of life. The idea of complexity derives from a critical thought which teaches us how to live with uncertainty and how to dominate it. I coined a felicitous slogan once: uncertainty is to psychology what liberty is to ethico-politics.

Question: A current theme is the administration of the public domain entrusted to technicians. Is politics losing its primacy in governing society?

Answer: Yes, it’s what we said before. But you know, a technical administration is still a political choice, in the sense that it is a choice which dictates that technology should have primacy if the administration of society. This is simply a misguided assumption. Technology is never neutral, neither does it guarantee a good government either on purely utilitarian or on ethical basis. I’ll be more specific, it is conceivable that technocracy could threaten democracy. This problem has to be met at the local as well as the global level. It is a struggle between two political views. In the case of Italy, the technocrats’ government is the dramatic consequence of the political parties’ difficulties. We need to start with this reality to be able to move on and construct a new politics.

Question: Do you detect relevancy for our current crises in the thought of Benedetto Croce, and if so, in what sense?

Answer: I would say it is not relevant but only in a polemical sense. I would call it paradoxical. The fact is that Croce’s liberalism remains extremely relevant. The global crisis of the economic markets demonstrates how right was Croce in not reducing liberalism to a mere economic system founded, in theory, on competition. Which does not mean that we ought to demonize the market. It is a fact that the philosophy of liberty of Croce was defined “anomalously” vis á vis classical Anglo-Saxon liberalism.

Question: Is this “anomaly” due to the Crocean choice of understanding liberalism as a method of interpretation of history?

Answer: Girolamo Controneo defined liberalism as an “anomaly,” exactly because it understands the nexus with historicism within the Vichian and Hegelian tradition. I have used a different terminology to avoid equivocations, and so I named it methodological. Croce defined it as meta-political. But that definition creates more equivocations in those who do not know much philosophy. I think it is better to talk of methodological liberalism. Croce published almost all of his writings with the editorial house La Terza of Bari and as a consultant he was the inspiration of some of the best collections that editing house published. Those collections had a great influence on Italy’s cultural history. And yet, he was accused of having trivialized Italian culture…


Benedetto Croce: the Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom
An Ovi e-book by Ernesto Paolozzi (2013)



Why We Cannot but Call Ourselves Christians
An essay by Benedetto Croce
(written in 1942 and translated from the Italian by E. Paparella)


Benedetto Croce who died in 1952

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 in 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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’etre of its ideals, to the heart of its heart.

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.



A Brief Comment by Paparella on Paolozzi’s Interview and Croce’s Essay
followed by a brief response from Paolozzi

Ernesto, what I found particularly thought-provoking in the above interview is your last sardonic question. Indeed, the two most genial philosophers that Italy has gifted modern philosophy with, are undoubtedly Vico and Croce. Most others are derivatives or imitators of other philosophers from beyond the Alps. Few if any, compete with Vico and Croce in sheer originality, imagination, and revolutionary spirit.

When I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation at Yale University on Transcendence and Immanence in Vico’s concept of Providence, in the 80s, which included a critique of Croce’s approach to Vico’s concept of Providence, I had not yet read the above essay by Croce on Christianity and the importance of the same for the wholeness of the European cultural identity. That was unfortunate, because had I done so, I would have soon realized that Croce certainly understands that, within Christianity, Providence is both transcendent and immanent, a sort of dialectical paradox even if, in his liberal philosophy of aesthetics, he places the emphasis on the immanent and the historical. He specifically alludes to this at the end of the essay when he writes that “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 rugged contrasts between immanence and transcendence…”

One can rebut that he is here merely referring to Christian doctrine and not his own philosophy of aesthetics which puts emphasis on the immanent aspect of the Christian God; but on the other hand Croce was attacked and practically forgotten after his death not so much for the theory of his philosophy but exactly because it was felt that in practice, as a secular liberal, he was not adhering to Christian doctrine and was deemphasizing the stress on the transcendent aspects of Vico’s Providence. Vico was considered much more of faithful and orthodox Christian, and this despite the fact that his concept of history and providence brackets the history of the Jews and only deals with that of the gentiles.

In other words, I went along a bit too prematurely with the common misjudgments and distortions on Croce’s view of Christianity mistaking him for an anti-Church, anti-clerical secularist a la Voltaire, which he clearly is not. I would not include today in my dissertation this taken for granted cultural bias against Croce, which you have elucidated very well in the interview above. The bias obviously had political roots, a sort of resentment against his anti-religious liberalism as expressed in his anti-clericalism, ignoring the fact that his liberalism and secularism were never anti-Christian; to the contrary they were a protest against certain corrupt practices in the Church and a hypocritical stance vis a vis the non believing world; something he alludes to at the beginning of the above essay; nevertheless, it succeeded in blinding people and in the forgetting of his anti-fascism during the Mussolini era of the 20’s and 30’s, for which he suffered, not to mention his indispensable efforts after the second world war to restore Italy to democracy and advocate its inclusion in the UN, and the writing of an appropriate  democratic constitution, i.e., the establishment of the First Republic of Italy.

This accomplishments were unfortunately followed by the tragedy of a  fratricidal political struggle between the three brothers: the socialists, the liberals, and the Catholics of Italy, perhaps best exemplified in that superb movie by the title of “The Three Brothers.” (see article on it in Ovi magazine). In conclusion, the ignoring of the importance of Croce for Italian culture was obviously a regretful mistake and misjudgment.

One would hope that the rather negative judgment  on Croce which followed his death after 1952, and persisted for decades, has by now been superseded to the point of finally recognizing that if there are two Italian philosophers who can stand up and even outshine the foreigners in originality, imagination and uniqueness, they are Vico and Croce. Without them modern Italian philosophy as a whole would appear quite shabby and inadequate vis á vis the rest of Western philosophy. Vico and Croce remain the best cultural bridge between two extremes: the Scylla of extreme Cartesian rationalism, and the Carybdis of the post-modern anti-metaphysical stance of some contemporary philosophers in vogue in our brave new world. Section four which follows below delves in more details with the problematic of freedom of religion within a secular society.

Paolozzi’s Response

I cannot but thank you, Emanuel. Your acknowledgment of the importance of Croce’s philosophy is very important for the tradition of the history of philosophy. My uncle Di Maio, already treated in Ovi, was a Christian, a Catholic, and a Crocean. His life was dedicated to an attempt at reconciling transcendence and immanence. This was, in fact, his in depth problematic, even more than theater from which he made a living, his literary vocation so to speak. Spinoza and Hegel were his other references, as well as the Kant of The Critique of Practical Reason through which he kept looking for said reconciliation. He would quote the great Russian novelist Dostoyevsky: “If God does not exist, all is permitted.” God as guarantor of morality. We can interpret Croce’s essay “We cannot but be Christians” in such a key. Of course it does not solve the question of transcendence on the ontological level. This is however an issue that merits a revisiting and a deeper look. Unfortunately Di Maio has left us nothing in writing on the issue. But I remember well his discussions with us young scholars. I am grateful for this throw back to those happy, tempestuous, moments of my youth.



Toward a Post-Secular Europe? A Review Essay


A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

Religious America, Secular Europe? A Theme and Variations by Peter Berger, Grace Davie and Effie Fokas,  Ashgate, London, 2008;

“A Christian Europe? Europe and Christianity: Rules of Commitment” by JHH Weiler in the journal European View, Vo. 6, n.1, December 2007, Springer, Berlin-Heidelberg.


“Advocates of multiple modernities recognize two very simple things: first that is more than one way of being modern, and second that not all modernities are necessarily secular…the United States and Europe should be seen simply as different versions of modernity.” (Peter Berger, p. 44).

“In the name of freedom, individual autonomy, tolerance and cultural pluralism, religious people (Christian, Jewish and Muslim) are being asked to keep their religious beliefs, identities and norms ‘private’ so that they do not disturb the project of a modern, secular, enlightened Europe” (Jose Casanova, p. 62).


“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 rugged contrasts between immanence and transcendence…

Those of 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.”

                                                --Benedetto Croce in “Why we cannot but be Christians”

The first two above quoted statements by Peter Berger and Josè Casanova, from the book Religious America, Secular Europe? hint at how topical, and relevant is this particular book to present day cultural contrasts and tensions between Europe and America. It tackles head on a very important question: why does religion flourish in America, but languish in western and central Europe? Why are some issues about religion and public life in America nearly incomprehensible to Europeans (such as the use of religious language in political campaigns), and vice-versa (such as the French controversies over head-scarves)? The authors look at history, institutions, and the intellectual ethos of the two areas across the Atlantic pond. They also point out that "Europe" is not presently a religious unity as it might have been in medieval times.

Europe is a relatively secular part of the world in global terms. A 2004 study by Dr. Jocelyne Cesari, a research fellow at the National Center for Scientific Research at Harvard, states that “Europe is the only part of the world which has a general hostility toward religion. Europeans tend to explain every sign of backwardness in terms of religion…”  Why is this so? And why is the situation in Europe so different from that in the United States? These are the key questions, clearly articulated in the first chapter, that the authors try to answer.

Subsequent chapters explore the nature of Euro-secularity in more detail (the variations on the theme) - paying attention to its historical, philosophical and institutional dimensions. In each chapter, the similarities and differences with the American case will be carefully examined. These are the basic questions analyzed by Peter Berger, the eminent Professor of Sociology at Boston, Grace Davie, of the University of Exeter, and Dr Effie Fokas. The final chapter explores the ways in which these features translate into policy on both sides of the Atlantic. Moreover, the question of Euro-secularity as related to social difference (class, ethnicity, etc.), is also explored in depth.

Important to notice that the main title of the book ends with a question mark. That means that whether or not we can categorically describe America as ‘religious’ and Europe as ‘secular’ remains problematic. To be sure, the theme of “euro-secularity” is throughout compared with the “religious” United States by looking at four dimensions or variations of the differences between the two.  In that process one is struck by the exceptional and rather negative nature of Europe’s religious life vis á vis the more positive pro-religious trends elsewhere in the world. Why, for example, was it so contentious to suggest mentioning the Christian God in the preamble to the proposed European Constitution? Why do some Eurosceptics think that there is ‘altogether too much religion in the United States leading to a dangerous effect on policy’, and why are Americans in turn ‘taken aback by Europe’s secularity, what the French dub “laicitè”? Why in Europe religion is regarded as part of the problem, while in the United States it is considered part of the solution?

No less than seven specific differences between Europe and the United States are examined: differences in Church-State relationships; questions of pluralism; different understandings of the Enlightenment; different types of intellectuals; varieties in culture and how these are understood; institutional contrasts; how, in concrete terms, the Enlightenment and associated cultures are sustained; the contrasting ways that religious organizations’ relate to indices of social difference. In short, how did the French idea of freedom from belief mutate as it crossed the Atlantic into a freedom to believe and freedom of religion?

The authors mince no words in stating that in Europe both Catholic and Protestant Churches are in deep trouble (11). The existence in European nations of a state Church  is contrasted with a ‘seemingly limitless number of denominations in the United States.’ Noteworthy for the authors is that Europe has not been influenced by ‘the massive presence of Evangelical Protestantism which remains a crucial part of the American scene,’ and by American the authors mean South America too which has also experienced one of the most dynamic religious movement in the world today: Pentecostalism rivaled only by militant Islam. It is that contrast that revives fear of religious wars, clashes of civilizations and theocracy, religious fanaticism redolent of cultic extremism.

In order to analyze this, and other differences, Religious America, Secular Europe? traces the different histories of religion in Europe and the United States, paying particular attention to the relationship between context and theory. In less theological and more economic terms, religion in Europe is characterized by a declining if not decaying monopoly of state subsidized Churches, while in America by “a flourishing market” (p.35). Europeans regard their Churches as a sort of public utility rather than competing firms; useful social institutions to be benevolently tolerated, available to some portion of their population at one time or another of their lives. It is a sort of utilitarian God as a crutch or an aspirin of sort, to be utilized when needed. Most of the times, when times are good, the crutches are not needed and soccer stadiums are much preferred to churches on Sunday.

Paradoxically, in America the First Amendment served to reinforce a strong link between religion, any religion actually (even metaphysical Deistic religion), and the nation. Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution make no sense unless founded on a deeply held religious belief, and this despite the also deeply held belief between a clear demarcation between Church and State. Immigrant communities especially have always grounded their identities in American society in their religious congregations. To the European, this looks like an unresolved contradiction. While public prayer is not allowed in public schools, in the United States Congress chaplains publicly employed lead its daily prayers. The contradiction is all but obvious to those who espouse French laicitè, where the separation between Church and State is very pronounced and the freedom of conscience claimed by religious believers and the freedom of thought claimed by the teaching secular establishment inevitably clash and become mutually exclusive and incompatible. For the European this obvious question arises: How can strict separation be maintained alongside the evidence of the presence of religion at every level of American society, formal as well as informal? (79)

The other side of that coin seems to be the main focus of this book and it is this: the challenge to the taken for granted theory on the part of Western intelligentsia that secularization is the inevitable result of modernization. The book concludes that that secularization is a particularly European experience. It also powerfully suggests, as strange and paradoxical as it may sound to European ears, that, despite differences between religious America and secular Europe, in the global future it will be entirely “normal” to be more fully modern and fully religious at the same time. In fact, a dialogue between world religions remains an urgent and necessary cultural task of our times. In his recent address at Cairo University, President Obama suggested as much.

There are important implications for foreign policies and western attitudes towards Islamic countries still embedded, unfortunately, by the Voltairian anti-religion virus. It all comes together in Europe in the question of Turkey and this secular paradox as stated by the sociologist Josè Casanova: “In the name of freedom, individual autonomy, tolerance and cultural pluralism, religious people (Christian, Jewish and Muslim) are being asked to keep their religious beliefs, identities and norms ‘private’ so that they do not disturb the project of a modern, secular, enlightened Europe” (p.62). The future reality is that religious people cannot and will not do this as we learn to live in a post-secular society.

It appears that such a scenario will result in a post-secular Europe. This view is not only held by the authors of this book but none other than one of the most authoritative philosophers of contemporary Europe, Jurgen Habermas, who is prominently quoted on pp. 62-63 of the book. Among other things he asks this pointed question originally asked in the Journal Of Philosophy (2006:: 14: 1-25): “Are religious issues simply to be regarded as relics of a pre-modern era, or is it the duty of the more secular citizens to overcome his or her narrowly secularist consciousness in order to engage with religion in terms of ‘reasonably expected disagreement’?”


Habermas addresses the debate in terms of John Rawls’s concept of “public use of reason” and proposes that secular citizens in Europe learn to live, and the sooner the better, in a post-secular society; in so doing they will be following the example of religious citizens, who have already come to terms with the ethical expectations of democratic citizenship. So far secular citizens have not been expected to make a similar effort.

He is not alone in that challenge. In the year 2000 an essay came out written by Shmuel Eisenstadt, an Israeli sociologist, titled “Multiple Modernities (see Daedalus 129: 1-30) which right from its outset challenged the taken-for-granted assumption that modernizing societies are convergent, as well as the notion that Europe is the lead society in that converging modernizing process.

What the concept of multiple modernities implies is that Western (especially European) modernity is not the only conceivable one. It can come with indigenous differences. It would be enough to consider India, the largest democracy on earth which enshrines religion as part of its heritage and cultural patrimony. If one takes a careful look at the world outside the West one immediately notices that it is religion which defines the aspiration to an alternate modernity. That may well surprise the “enlightened” European mind, but there is such a thing as a Russian modernity inspired by Russian Orthodoxy, an Islamic modernity, a Hindu modernity, and what may surprise them even more, an integrally Catholic modernity. That was pointed out by Professor JHH Weiler whom we will examine further down. Those modernities are not illusions, as the old classical secularization theory tended to imply.


Europe beyond the Euro
An Ovi e-book (2012) by Emanuel L. Paparella

Perhaps the greatest surprise of all might be that, as hinted above, that in many parts of the world the West is perceived in a pejorative way, as propagating a decadent, hedonistic culture of irreligious materialism. Such a perception is reinforced by both the influence of intellectuals, usually heavily secular, and the omnipresence of the Western mass media, much of whose content can indeed be defined as materialistic and irreligious. If that be true, it ought to be of great interest to the practice of diplomacy of Western democracies. At the very least, this crucial question ought to be asked and discussed: What are the consequences of taking seriously the empirical sociological fact that for the great majority of the world’s populations in the 21st century, it is not only possible, but quite normal to be both modern and religious? Might this question make a difference in the kind of paradigm that we construct in the West to better understand the nature of the modern world, be it European, American, Asian or African? Is it really “enlightened,” as the age of Enlightenment surely supposed in Europe, to isolate the vast field of the sociology of religion, or should it be restored to its rightful place in the overall global social agenda? Which is to say, is the Enlightenment still to enlighten itself?

Besides Habermas and Eisenstadt, there is also an eminent American voice expressing the same ideas regarding a post-secular Europe. I refer to the above mentioned Professor JHH Weiler of New York University. In his article “A Christian Europe? Europe and Christianity: Rules of Commitment” first published in Italy as “Un’Europa Cristiana,” professor Weiler, who has studied the process of European integration for more than twenty-five years, speaks of a European Christian ghetto. Such a provocative statement is of course a mere metaphor rooted in a sad reality used purposefully by Dr. Weiler to jolt people out of their complacency. It should also be prefaced at the outset that Professor Weiler is neither a Christian nor a Catholic but a practicing Jew. This is important because in his knowledge of the history of the Church and its importance for the EU’s identity he puts many Christians to shame.

Weiler writes that the manifestations of the external walls of this ghetto are very much in evidence in the refusal to include in the Preamble to the European Union Charter of Rights even a modest reference to Europe’s religious heritage, completely ignoring the request of the former Pope John Paul II. In the recent draft Constitution there is still no reference to Europe’s Christian heritage–but a generic allusion to its religious inheritance tucked between the cultural and the humanist!

What exactly does Dr. Weiler mean by the internal walls of the European Christian ghetto? The reason he calls them “internal” is that these are walls created by Christians themselves. This fact for Weiler is even more striking than the refusal of the EU Constitutional Conventions to make an explicit reference to Christianity. He points out that despite the explicit Catholic orientation of the founding fathers of the European construct, there isn’t one major work, in any language, that explores in depth the Christian heritage and the Christian meaning of European integration. While writing his article Weiler pulled out from the library of his university 79 books published in the previous three years on the general phenomenon of European integration. None of them had a single allusion in the index to Christianity and its values. Weiler then writes that we ought not be too surprised that the Convention failed to make a reference to the Christian heritage of European integration, given that the Christian heritage has not been proclaimed, explored, debated, and made an integral part of the discourse of European integration by Christian scholars themselves.

This is puzzling indeed. Weiler has three possible explanations for the phenomenon. The first is a puzzling internalization of the false philosophical and constitutional premise of the most extreme forms of laicitè (secularity) as practiced for example in France. Freedom of religion is of course guaranteed and rightly so is also freedom from religious coercion. But on top of that there is the steadfast conviction that there can be no allusion or reference to religion in the official public space of the State, that such allusions are considered a transgression. A transgression of what exactly, we may ask.

There is the naive belief that for the State to be assiduously secular it needs to practice religious neutrality. Weiler considers this false on two counts: first, there is no neutral position in a binary option. For the State to abstain from any religious symbolism is no more neutral than for the state to espouse some forms of religious symbolism. The religiosity of large segments of the population and the religious dimension of the culture are objective data. Denying these facts simply means favoring one worldview over the other, masking it as neutrality.

im078_400The second explanation is that to accept that view of the relationship between State and religion is also to accept a secular (basically 18th-century) definition of what religion in general and Christianity in particular are. It is a vision that derives from the culture of rights which treats religion as a private matter by equating freedom of religion with freedom of speech, of belief, and of association. But then Weiler asks this crucial question: can one accept that Christianity be consigned to the realm of the private by the secular authorities of the State? That question is not to imply that Weiler does not believe in the liberal constitutional order with its guarantees of democracy and freedom. He does indeed, but he also believes in a vigorous and articulate religious voice and viewpoint in the public spaces guaranteed by constitutional democracies.

The conundrum here boils down to this: many Catholic scholars have confused the public disciplines of constitutional democracy with a private discipline of religious silence in the public sphere. Worse than that, Christian scholars have internalized the notion that to integrate Christian thinking and Christian teaching into their reflections on constitutional law, on political theory, on social science, is a betrayal of their academic standing, of their objectivity, of their scientific credentials.

Another reason adduced by Weiler is fear. Fear that in an academy dominated by an intellectual class which often leans to the left or to the center-left and insists on “politically correct” principles, an incorporation of Christian insight (other than a study in scientific fashion of religious phenomena) would brand the scholar as lacking in scientific objectivity; of not being a “free thinker.” And finally Weiler mentions sheer ignorance. Precious few in the intellectual classes have read, studied, and reflected on the teachings of the Church, even less those of the current pontificate, its encyclicals, the apostolic letters, etc, with the same assiduousness that they study the latest offering from the secular intellectual icons of our generation.

Weiler maintains that while it is shocking that the explicit request of the Holy Father would be denied by the Convention, it is even more shocking that the call of this pontiff to the laity to be the messengers of Christian teaching in their own private and professional lives goes in many cases equally unheeded. The lives of those touched by faith cannot, once they exit the sphere of home and family, become identical with those not touched by faith. This is true for the shopkeeper in the market, for the conductor on the train, for a minister of the republic, as well as for those whose work is, in one way or another, a reflection on the public policies of public authorities.

One is led by the above reflections to inquire as to what is the relevance of Christianity and Christian teaching to the narrative of European integration. Weiler finds it laughable not to recognize Christianity as being a hugely important element in defining what we mean by European identity–for good and for bad. In art and in literature, in music and in sculpture, even in our political culture, Christianity has been a leitmotif–an inspiration as well as an object of rebellion. There is no normalcy within secularism in affirming this empirical fact; there is only normalcy in denying it. Weiler goes on to explain that while Christianity is a sociological and historical phenomenon, it is also a living faith based on revealed truth. Here is where Christian teaching becomes relevant.

The reader may now ask: what has all of this got to do with European integration? Weiler, speaking as a scholar and not merely as a believer, insists that indeed a great deal is at stake, that the narratives of history such as the story of European integration have no inherent meaning. They have the meaning we give them. What is at stake is what meaning we want to give. A Christian Europe is not a Europe that will endorse Christianity. It is not a call for evangelization. A Christian Europe is one that can learn from the teaching of Christianity. To reflect, discuss, debate, and ultimately assign meaning to European integration without reference to such an important source is to impoverish Europe. For lay people and for non-Christians, this becomes a challenge to match. Christianity today offers interesting “takes” on the central issues, the core issues, the deepest challenges in the very self-understanding of what Europe is about but few, even among Christians, are aware of it.

Weiler offers some examples which he hopes will motivate the reader to read and reflect on those teachings: the relationship to the “other”–within our society, across our boundaries within Europe, and beyond Europe–is arguably the most important challenge to which European integration tries to respond. Well, the encyclical Redemptoris Missio is a profound statement on how to think, to conceptualize a respectful relationship with the other. The Catholic teachings expressed in this encyclical are concerned with tolerance, respect, and inclusion, concepts inextricably connected with freedom and democracy.  On the one hand, the encyclical bravely eschews the epistemological and moral relativism of post-modernity by affirming that which it considers to be the truth. But at the same time, it treats with the utmost respect those who do not share in that Truth. One cannot truly respect the other if one does not have respect for oneself, individually and collectively. Forgetting one’s heritage is indeed a shabby mode of respecting oneself individually and collectively. Much can flow from this insight in the various debates on European integration.

For Dr. Weiler, the marketplace is another core issue of the European Union. Some would even argue that it is the  core issue. Here again, Weiler points out that the encyclical Centesimus Annus offers one of the most profound reflections on the virtues of a free market but also of its dangers to human dignity. It is a reflection that goes well beyond the mantra of “solidarity” so dear to political activists of many stripes and which one finds endlessly in the debate of European integration. Europe need not espouse the teachings of the Church in this matter. But why exclude them from the debate? And there are many other examples in the book.

And of course the logical last inquiry is this: how would non-Christians react to the notion of a Christian Europe? Are we to exclude Turkey for example? Professor Weiler explains that a Christian Europe does not mean a Europe for Christians. 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.

Weiler points out that there is something comic bordering on the tragic in observing those most opposed to any reference to religion or Christianity in the draft Constitution at the forefront of opposition to Turkish membership in the Union. It is indeed 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. Weiler underlies the fact that he is an observant Jew, the son of a rabbi with European roots that go back hundreds of years and that his ancestors were often the victims of Christians and Christianity; yet he finds it puzzling that anyone would fear the recognition and acknowledgment of the dominant culture (i.e., Christianity) as an empirical historical fact,  and reveals a fear of his which is also an insight, and it is this: “If I have a fear, it is the following: to deny the relevance of the Christian heritage in European public symbolism and European public space, for to deny that is to deny, too, the relevance of my own religiosity in that same public space.” That would probably be just fine for those who wish to eliminate religion altogether from both the public and the private sphere, but it remains a shortsighted social and political strategy, for if a body politic is based on the rejection of one’s history and heritage, it will be built on sand and will ultimately not survive.




Intro - P. 1 - P. 2 

2nd Meeting - 3rd Meeting - 4th Meeting - 5th Meeting - 6th Meeting - 7th Meeting - 8th Meeting -

9th Meeting - 10th Meting - 11th Meeting - 12th Meeting - 13th Meeting - 14th Meeting - 15th Meeting -

16th Meeting - 17th Meeting - 18th Meeting - 19th Meeting - 20th Meeting - 21st Meeting -

22nd Meeting -23rd Meeting - 24th Meeting - 25th Meeting - 26th Meeting - 27th Meeting -

28th Meeting -29th Meeting - 30th Meeting - 31st Meeting - 32nd Meeting -



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