[Note: Blogger is being funny again, excuse the out of the ordinary formatting. Dr. D]
While perusing the web today and scanning articles about Pope John Paul’s funeral I came across an interesting quote by an Archbishop:
…when someone in the family has died, you appreciate all the sympathy you can get from all people, even murderers, crooks and thieves…
Now, one does not normally expect to find expressions such as these from an Archbishop in an article about the state funeral of a pontiff. But then there aren’t many men other than Robert Mugabe who could inspire such a turn of the phrase. It seems Mugabe is exploiting a loophole in E.U. law to enter Italy for the funeral after being banned from entering the Union in 2002 for after EU observers were denied access to Zimbabwe’s elections. The speaker in this case is Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, quoted here:
Ncube’s comments, defying new laws in Zimbabwe that impose a five-year jail sentence for undermining the dignity or authority of the head of state, marked a new intensity in the war of words between the two men. Last week, Mugabe accused the prelate of being “a half-wit”.
All of this is very interesting, but not really my theme tonight. I am more interested in the fact that the Vatican exists within, but very seperate from, the EU. I can understand the Vatican wishing to remain an independent nation-state, but am increasingly confused by the animosity shown towards the Vatican by the EU. Relations between the Holy See and the EU have been less than perfect of late, and yet in death all the leaders of Europe, the Western world and much of the rest of the world are hailing the Pope as visionary world leader.
Last October the Vatican engaged the EU in debate over the suitability of Italy's Rocco Buttiglione to serve as EU justice and home affairs commissioner, with one Cardinal calling the state of anti-Catholic and anti-Christian affairs an “inquisition.” The Vatican has been deeply involved with the expansion of the EU, having lobbied hard for the inclusion of John Paul's native Poland, and expressing some doubt over Turkey as an EU member. The Vatican, obviously, is not backing away from confrontation with Brussels, but rather pursuing a policy of active engagement, with good reason:
With the collapse of communism, Europe's religious conservatives—Catholic or Muslim—now see secularism as their chief enemy. To the naked eye, the secularists appear to have won. Western European pews are empty. Church membership is plummeting. Families are shrinking, breaking up and evolving as parliaments pass laws to pave the way for gay marriages. Fantasies of a Christian Europe have been dealt a blow by surging immigration and the EU's nod to Turkish accession earlier this month; the religious vigor of many of Europe's 30 million-odd Muslims stands in marked contrast to the apathy of the Christian flock. Writes Catholic theologian George Weigel: "European man has convinced himself that in order to be modern and free, he must be radically secular."
The Union itself is living up to Weigels' statement perfectly. The massive EU constitution makes absolutely no reference to the Christian history of Europe’s past, and Europe as a whole is in the midst of what Mona Charen at Townhall.com has rightfully termed a “spiritual crisis”:
Europe today is a society adrift, untethered to the source of its greatness. It is, to use the great Jewish American writer Will Herberg's formulation, "a cut flower culture." And just as Europeans are losing the elemental desire to preserve their civilization, Muslim immigrants stand ready to vindicate the loss of 1683. It is not inconceivable that European civilization -- post-Christian, politically correct and too weary to take its own side in a quarrel (to paraphrase Robert Frost) -- may yet deliver to the Muslim world a delayed victory.
Today Europeans (at least elites and the journalists that pander to them) are puzzled by the outpouring of grief and affection for the Pope. Der Spiegel, in it’s roundup of German press reactions to the funeral, credited the Vatican for “knowing how to put on a show”, called it a “political version of the Oscars” and compared the funeral to that of Princess Diana. Here is one of the articles cited in that roundup:
Die Tageszeitung doesn't actually include an editorial on the pope's funeral, it does feature a cartoon in it's opinion page. In keeping with the paper's anti-religion and anti-commercialist stance, the paper cynically sees the entire event as a big money-making opportunity for the Catholic Church. The picture shows the interior of St. Peter's in Rome plastered with product brand-names and advertising hoardings. Below the words "What a crying shame that such a media-event wasn't marketed better" is the caption "maybe next time..."
The EU has within itself, literally, one of the great unifying forces of European history over the the last thousand years- not Catholicism per se, but Christianity. The outpouring of emotion, respect and grief for the Pope should send a clear message to Brussels: the Wester world wants and needs religion too. Muslims, radical or benign, are not the only religion people in Europe. Will the EU get the message and take it to heart? I doubt it, but I hope so. That is the way for the leaders of Europe to properly honor Karol Wojtyla, the man, and John Paul, the Pope.