The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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Pope Benedict XVI’s vision for Europe

Sunday, 5 February 2023, 08:10 Last update: about 2 years ago

Jake Muscat

At a time when Europe stands most in need of rapprochement – perhaps literally, in the case of Ukraine – between its composition and concept, it is remarkable how those in the latter camp, the “progressive” left, aggressively ignore their critics. Among the most accomplished theologians of the past century, the late Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) had lived and ministered through some of the most formative years in the history of the continent. As such, he is well-qualified, one might have thought, to diagnose its ailments and propose their remedies.

The Pope Emeritus had much to contribute, both as a critic of supranational social engineering and champion of the national loyalties to which much of Europe’s populace still adhere. While proposing a Europe which is “realistic but not cynical, rich in ideals and free from naïve illusions, inspired by the perennial and life-giving truth of the Gospel” he had been quick to condemn what he sees as the continent’s current apostasy, not from its identity only, but its God.

For Ratzinger, Europe is a cultural and spiritual phenomenon with a number of unique components. First, there is the Hellenic heritage which includes the logical pursuit of the good, the supremacy of conscience and the reciprocity between reason and religion. Second, there is the Christian heritage, established, via Greece, from East to West. Third, there is the European culture which has emerged through religion, legal systems and institutions, rather than being politically constructed from the top down.

It is particularly important, therefore, that Europe should not be confused with, or reduced to, the economic and political union that is the EU. First and foremost Europe is a cultural, historical and moral identity, and to survive and flourish, must be conscious of its roots and comprehended in its totality. Ironically, beneath the noisy projection of its “values”, the EU’s suspicion of absolute value, as enshrined in the Christian faith, has induced crippling doubts as to Europe’s real identity.

The recent push by MEPs to include abortion as a fundamental “right” exemplifies the harm which follows such a self-confusion. “A community,” says Ratzinger, “that constructs itself without respect for the authentic dignity of the human person, forgetting that every person is created in the image of God, ends up by not being good for anyone” – including its own children. Such anti-life legislation demonstrates that, by rejecting Christian principle, progressive Europe is fast losing its understanding of what are real and inalienable human “rights”.

This identity crisis is further exacerbated by rapid demographic change. Noting that unstable demographics lead to social fragmentation and excessive individualism, Ratzinger warned of the “disappearance from history” of a cohesive Europe. Nor are these concerns unfounded. Not only does the continent have the lowest fertility rates in the world, but in recent decades, through the conscious deployment of mass immigration, its progressive leaders have undertaken a project of large-scale demographic replacement.

Indeed, for Ratzinger, the policy of repeopling of the continent from without, rather than within, is directly related to the Left’s philosophical attack upon the nuclear family. “Family life,” he suggested “is the first and irreplaceable school of social virtues”. The word “social” is significant here. Ratzinger’s point is that if you want the social cohesiveness apparently beloved of the Left, you should celebrate child-birth above labour migration: reproduction over mere production.

Inevitably Ratzinger’s became a critique not only of policy but concept, specifically that of multiculturalism, which “can sometimes amount to an abandonment and denial, a flight from one’s own heritage”. This is in stark contrast to the Vatican’s current leadership’s plea to the faithful in which the leadership wants them “to experience multiculturalism not as a threat but as an opportunity”. It is not a prescribed Christian duty to welcome mass immigration. On the contrary, as Ratzinger asserted in 2010, “States have the right to regulate migration flows and to defend their own frontiers”. If a coherent Europe is to survive, he implies, it cannot pursue its current experiment in demographic engineering.

The razing of Europe’s Christian heritage, which began in earnest with the French Revolution, continues today. Europe is rejecting Christ, marginalising His influence on its culture and thought, and demeaning its people through imposed migration and indifference to family values. Yet if Benedict XVI’s vision for Europe has failed, it is not, as “progressives” would have us believe, because it was destined to do so, but because they have refused to acknowledge, let alone debate it. As, in the midst of conflict, our leaders contemplate the future of European civilisation, they would do well to consider how it came about.

 

This write-up is dedicated to the late Josef Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) 1927-2022

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