In Europe and the U.S. there was once a substantial a body of influential Christian humanism, now failing without theism.
The Vatican hosted a rather melancholy event last week: the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which set the Old World on the rocky path to today’s European Union. In one way, that the event took place at the Vatican suggests that, even among European elites, Christianity is still not entirely dead. But in another, it underscores just how confused the European project is now.
One of the arguments EU supporters often make in its defense, despite manifest problems, is that Europe has, over seven decades now, enjoyed the longest period of peace in its modern history (Cold War and the Balkans aside). That’s no small matter and, along with economic growth and social solidarity, deserves a place in the overall reckoning.
But so must Europe’s steep slide into atheism and indifference; Europe’s de-population bomb (the one that actually exploded, with deaths now outnumbering births, despite high fertility among immigrants); Islamic terrorism; and – over and above them all – the institutional crises both in individual nations and the EU as a whole, which have now produced Brexit and related secessionist impulses in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Eastern Europe.
Pope Francis addressed twenty-seven leaders of the EU member nations at the event on Friday and challenged them to “blaze a path to a new European humanism.” What he had in mind – a model broadly shared by predecessors such as Jacques Maritain, Konrad Adenauer, St. John Paul II, our recently departed friend Michael Novak, and many others (including your humble scribe) – is a Christian, theocentric humanism, as opposed to the anthropocentric humanism, which in its various forms (liberal democratic, socialist, Marxist) has come to dominate societies in Europe and America.