2. The Evolution of Catholic Modernity and European Politics after John Paul II
2.1. Pope Benedict XVI, Catholicism and Europe
“Thus, even the rejection of the reference to God is not the expression of a tolerance that desires to protect the non-theistic religions and the dignity of atheists and agnostics, but rather the expression of a conscience that would like to see God cancelled definitively from the public life of humanity, and relegated to the subjective realm of residual cultures of the past. Relativism, which is the starting point of all this, thus becomes a dogmatism which believes itself to be in possession of the definitive scope of reason, and with the right to regard all the rest only as a stage of humanity, in the end surmounted, and that can be appropriately relativized. In reality, this means that we have need of roots to survive, and that we must not lose sight of God, if we do not want human dignity to disappear.”
2.2. Pope Francis and the Acceleration of New Trends
“We need to speak of roots in the plural because there are so many. In this sense, when I hear talk of the Christian roots of Europe, I sometimes dread the tone, which can seem triumphalist or even vengeful. It then takes on colonialist overtones. John Paul II, however, spoke about it in a tranquil manner. Yes, Europe has Christian roots and it is Christianity’s responsibility to water those roots. But this must be done in a spirit of service as in the washing of the feet. Christianity’s duty to Europe is one of service.”
“In this way, [Pope Francis] radically refutes the idea of the realization of the Kingdom of God on earth, which was at the base of the Holy Roman Empire and all similar political and institutional forms, such as and including the ‘party.’ If so understood, in fact, the ‘chosen people’ would enter into an intricate interweaving of religious, institutional and political dimensions that cause them to lose awareness of their universal diakonia and would place them in opposition to those who are alienated, who do not belong, the ‘enemy’.
3. Contributions of the Volume
Conflicts of Interest
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For Augusto Del Noce, see The Age of Secularization, (Del Noce 2017) and for Wolfgang Böckenförde, see Selected Writings vol. 1, (Böckenförde 2017) and vol. 2, (Böckenförde 2020, ed. Mirjam Künkler and Tine Stein).
From his homily Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice (Ratzinger 2005b), on 18 April 2005: “We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires. We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An “adult” faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceipt from truth.”
See, for example, coverage by Rebecca Staudenmaier, “Germany: Bavaria’s controversial cross rule goes into effect,” Deutsche Welle (31 May 2018).
See, for example, coverage by Mattia Ferraresi, “How the Catholic Church lost Italy to the Far Right,” New York Times (4 July 2019); Anna Momigliano, “Papa, Don’t Preach,” Foreign Policy (20 June 2019); and Christopher Lamb, “Salvini criticized for using Catholic symbols at rally,” The Tablet (20 May 2019).
Of course, similar polls under past papacies have found sizable numbers of European Catholics splitting with prior popes on different sets of issues, including on abortion, divorce, sexuality, and the nature of the Eucharist (see, for example, Garelli et al. 2003).
Which held working meetings in Fatima in 2019 with Viktor Orbán and Mick Mulvaney (President Trump’s Catholic chief of staff at the moment). See, for example, coverage by Marie-Line Darcy, “Le discret passage de Victor Orbán au sanctuaire portugais de Fátima,” La Croix (8 August 2019).
See, for example, coverage by Zack Beauchamp, “The American right’s favorite strongman,” Vox (10 August 2020) and Michael Driessen, “The surprisingly Catholic roots of the European Union,” America Magazine (23 April 2020).
The institute was also formed in response to the failed nomination of Rocco Buttiglione to the European Commission in 2004, which some saw as connected to the constitutional debate over reference to the divine in the preamble. Buttiglione, nominated by Silvio Berlusconi, was a former Christian Democratic party member and had made controversial public statements about homosexuality and women, but who had also strongly advocated for the inclusion of a reference to Christianity in the EU constitution. Both Pope John Paul II and Marcello Pera defended Buttiglione, who subsequently accused the EU of “creeping totalitarianism” and helped to create the Humanae Dignitatis Institute in response.
A number of these authorities have also been identified as leading public opposition to Pope Francis. Cardinal Burke, for example, who was one of the principal authors of the dubbia lodged against Pope Francis’ teaching on the family and marriage in Amoris Letitia, was a close associate and patron of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute and famously met Bannon when he visited Rome in 2014, a meeting arranged by Harnwell and which was described as a meeting of minds and hearts. Burke (together with other Church officials, like Cardinal Renato Martino) subsequently broke with the Institute (in 2020) over Bannon’s interest in making a film of Frédéric Martel’s book (2019), In the Closet of the Vatican, which exposed the widespread prevalence of a suppressed but active gay culture within the high ranks of the Vatican and the Roman Curia. Harnwell and Burke feature prominently in Martel’s book.
Here, too, the Dignitatis Humanae Institute is instructive, capturing the shift in support of conservative Catholic thinkers and electorates from center-right parties to more far-right ones; in other words, from the Christian Democratic party formations represented by Rocco Buttiglione to the populist, nationalist Lega party of Matteo Salvini.
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