Is Christianity relevant to European integration?

§1. The impulse to include this question into the curriculum “European Integration” came from an unexpected result of Polish parliamentary elections in October 2011. I mean a splendid performance of the anti-clerical party that wants to cut down the influence of the Catholic Church in Poland – Janusz Polikot’s movement. This fact should be seriously considered to be a sign of times. The fact that Mr. Palikot in a few months managed to win one tenth of the electorate for his programme, appealing mainly to young people, and all that happened in the country seen as strongly catholic and conservative, gets thought-provoking, indeed.

This is the more remarkable that it complies with the trend towards secularization within Europe as a whole. Thus there arises for Poland the dilemma: whether to join this trend or to oppose it? The latter option would accord with Polish historical tradition, but then, in turn, the question arises of how would this tradition face challenges of modernisation. Should Polish people give up the quest for it in favour of being true to their traditions (as claimed by some politico-religious circles)? Or depart from these national and religious traditions in favour of modernisation? Or else, try to reconcile both values? The third option presupposes a possibility of such reconciliation. Is this supposition likely to be true? This is the question!

To address this question, we need, first, to get a clear insight into the idea of  modernization, and then to confront it with the Christian doctrine. I shall do the former, while the latter I expect to be answered by readers by themselves, owing to their own knowledge. In order to help answering, I suggest a list of questions to    encourage and guide a search for solutions.

§2. It is not by accident that in the title of this post I mention just the future. As for the past,  it is by no means controversial that Christianity was among the main factors in the process of forming Europe, having  remained  in harmony with the other potent factors, as the heritage of Greek and hellenistic intellectual achievements.  As well as the idea of universal empire due to the lasting historical memory of Roman empire, its legal order,  its power and its role for the world peace (Pax Romana).  This was a monumental  historical scenario which started with the baptism of Clovis (496?),  the first king of the Franks, and culminated with the crowning of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas of 800 by the Pope Leo III.

Within the thousand years  following Clovis’ baptism,  the Catholic Church was a leading force in intellectual and  political processes going on in Europe.  A decline of this domination started because of two new factors which appeared at the European stage. These were: the religious reformation, which was rather like a religious revolution, and the scientific revolution due to Copernicus and Galileo. The former subverted the religious foundatons,  the latter –  the intellectual foundations of the medieval order. Thus began the retreat of Catholic Churche from Europe’s historical stage. This process  is going on till to day, leaving ever less place for the Church’s leadership and influence.

This is the historical context in which  we are to try understanding the core of modernisation processes.  Religious reformers introduced (even if not intentionally) the pluralism of  theological doctrtines,  thus initiating the paradigm of pluralism which evolved towards the freedom of all beliefs including philosophical, political,  artistic, and so on.   Such a pluralism is found among the main points of post-medieval modernity. Then modernisation means tending to  pluralism wherever is it lacking.  [1] Does the Catholic Church approve of such a multiple pluralism?  (Bracketed numbers hint at the position of the given issue at  the list of questions at the end of this post.)

The answer  is to the effect that the Church does approve of pluralism after the Vatican Council II,  but she has done so under the pression of secular thought, not on the basis of her own  creed.  This observation is backed by an extensive evidence, in particular “The Syllabus of Errors Condemned by Pius IX” published in 1864.  It consists 0f 80 items, each of them being  a view which the Pope condemns, hence the contrary view is that  demanded by the Church.  Direct or indirect condemnation of pluralism is stated in items 11-17, 22, 24, 48, 57; items 77-80  express a strong rejection of any form of liberalism.  Let it be added that item 55 declares separation of state and Church as contrary to the Catholic faith, and item 63  forbids any opposition against crowned rulers.

If  the popes who  presided the Vatican Council II lived a century earlier,  they would be condemned as heretics by the Pope Pius IX for their being at variance with all the Syllabus points listed above, and many other ones.  However, the Catholic Church deserves  appreciation for her trying to match standards of modernity  created in the age of Enlightenment. Even if the steps toward such adjustment come late, delayed by natural  inertness of great institution,  they give hope that in a future the church may support the modernizing of society.

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