Europe’s State Religion
Historically, political and social upheaval has tended to yield new thinking as to how society should be organized. This was the case leading up to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Debate about religious reforms led to foundational liberties being recorded in the laws of many Western European nations.
During recent bickering over the proposed European Union constitution, we again saw a debate about the role of religion. Few realize this debate is intent on undoing 400 years of religious freedoms and civil liberties—returning Europe into a dark age.
The issues surrounding the mention of religion in the constitution have evoked much emotional response from leaders in Europe. In November, almost two dozen influential Europeans, including former statesmen and Nobel Prize winners, urged the EU not to ignore the Continent’s Christian roots in drafting its new constitution. “The question of religion is central because Christianity is at the root of the fundamental notion of the person in Europe,” they declared in a statement printed in Le Monde (Reuters World Report, Nov. 13, 2003).
The most authoritarian and vocal objections however, have come from Europe’s most prominent statesman, Pope John Paul ii.
On November 7, the pope appealed to the drafters of the European constitution: “A society forgetful of its past is exposed to the risk of not being able to deal with its present and—worse yet—of becoming the victim of its future” (Associated Press, Nov. 7).
Why all this debate over religion in the context of drafting a political document? What are the real intentions? Are we seeing a push for a state religion in Europe—as has been the case throughout the Continent’s long history?
French cardinal Paul Poupard claimed that “when the Holy Father tirelessly reminds of the importance of the Christian roots of Europe and … mobilizes the Holy See to see that the future Constitution of the European Union includes a reference to these roots, it is obvious that he is not seeking a position of privilege for the Catholic Church” (www.zenit.org, Nov. 20, 2003). Is this true?
Anyone with any knowledge about European history can recognize this highly politicized statement as misleading.
Poupard continued, “The Catholic Church does not try to intervene in political questions that refer to the determination of the political society” (ibid.) As the Trumpet has previously pointed out, contrary to Poupard’s rhetoric, the Vatican has repeatedly intervened to influence the outcome of political questions in its sphere of influence (read “Unholy Union” in June 1998 Trumpet at www.theTrumpet.com in Issue Archives).
Getting to the key issue, he went on to say, “The defense carried out by the pope has, as its objective, the very identity of Europe and not just a position of advantage for the Catholic Church” (ibid., emphasis mine throughout).
The pope is indeed trying to shape the identity of Europe, but few realize what that identity consists of, or what its consequences are.
The cardinal emphasized that, “With its interventions, the Holy See, which is not foreign to the making of Europe given its past and present history, attempts to safeguard, for the benefit of all Europeans, its own historical identity” (ibid.).
So what is the history of the Catholic Church in the making of Europe to which this cardinal refers? What is it that the Holy See considers so critical to the shaping of Europe’s future identity?
The truth may astound you! It shows that the debate surrounding the push to incorporate the words “God” and “Christianity” into the European Union constitution is an attempt to undo four centuries of civil liberties and religious freedoms. And despite the abysmal failure of the current draft constitution, it is the push for this terminology in Europe’s political dogma that shows where its relationship with the Vatican is leading. It has exposed the thinking of the Vatican toward Europe and the attitude of Europe’s Catholic states toward an increasingly influential Vatican.
If we learn from history, we can see the importance and danger of the debate taking place in the upper levels of political power in Europe intended to tie church and state together once again.
A Political Church
For centuries, major religious and political leaders have endeavored to combine church and state. From the time of Justinian’s restoration of Rome in a.d. 554—known as the Imperial Restoration—we see that the Catholic Church has sought to extend its influence throughout the empire, which from that time onward became known as the Holy Roman Empire.
Emperor Justinian realized that religious division limited the power and influence of his empire; he continued the process of syncretism (combining different forms of belief or practice) started by Constantine two centuries before. Justinian saw himself as God’s agent destroying barbarian heretics. He effectively reunited the western and eastern legs of the Roman Empire in a.d. 554. And the historical fact stands:_This geopolitical victory was welcomed by the church of Rome, which saw its sphere of influence grow to the largely pagan areas that were subjected to the newly revived and united empire.
For centuries to follow, the Catholic Church controlled the empire. Though the emperors ruled the secular realm, they pledged allegiance to the pope, providing him significant influence and control over the emperor and the realm. And, as Adrian Hilton wrote, “The vision of one empire under one emperor, belonging to one church under one god, has caused more bloodshed than anything in the history of the world” (Trumpet, February 2001).
Church leaders became more closely involved in the political rule of towns, districts and nations to the point that “worldly activities became in too many cases the chief interest. Political power, material possessions, privileged position in public life, the defense of ancient historical rights, earthly interests of various kinds were only too often the chief aim of many of the higher clergy. Pastoral solicitude, the specifically religious and ecclesiastical aim, fell largely into the background …” (Catholic Encyclopedia, “The Reformation”).
This politicizing of the church caused many to rebel against the authority of the pope and the clergy in the Middle Ages. People sought a restriction of the church’s political influence and power. “In the course of the 14th and 15th centuries arose the modern concept of the state. During the preceding period many matters of a secular or mixed nature had been regulated or managed by the church, in keeping with the historical development of European society. With the growing self-consciousness of the state, the secular governments sought to control all matters that fell within their competence, which course, although in large measure justifiable, was new and offensive, and thus led to frequent collisions between church and state” (ibid., emphasis mine throughout).
So until the latter half of the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church ruled over both religious and secular matters, exercising control over the population of Europe. But this was all about to change.
Protectors of Safety and Welfare
Until the time of the Protestant Reformation, the political or monarchical rulers in Europe rendered their allegiance to the pope, limiting their power and influence and restricting the freedoms of their subjects according to the will of the Vatican. The political reformers of 17th-century Europe realized this and exposed the Catholic Church for the political institution it was.
This revelation caused many Protestant nations to define by law their separation from Rome. The English Bill of Rights, for example, written in 1689, was worded as follows: “And whereas it hath been found by experience that it is inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant kingdom to be governed by a popish prince, or by any king or queen marrying a papist, the said lords spiritual and temporal and commons do further pray that it may be enacted, that all and every person and persons that is, are or shall be reconciled to or shall hold communion with the See or church of Rome, or shall profess the popish religion, or shall marry a papist, shall be excluded and be forever incapable to inherit, possess or enjoy the Crown and government of this realm and Ireland and the dominions thereunto belonging … and in all and every such case or cases the people of these realms shall be and are hereby absolved of their allegiance ….”
What was the “experience” that these lawmakers referred to as being a threat to the “safety and welfare” of the kingdom? Why was it so important to them that reconciliation of their sovereign with Rome would disqualify him or her from office forever?
One only needs to go back a few more years and read about the horrific atrocities performed under the Inquisition to fully understand.
The Demise of Influence
It was during the Spanish Inquisition that William Tyndale laid the foundation for the much-acclaimed King James Version of the Bible. This, and similar endeavors in other nations of northwestern Europe, not only made the Bible accessible to the masses, but, in doing so, limited the political power of the church of Rome over its subjects, which had before been kept ignorant.
The Inquisition (an ecclesiastical institution for combating or suppressing heresy) consisted of a tribunal of judges, appointed by the pope, who would adjudicate and proclaim sentence on anyone found to be disloyal to the papal powers. It was an attempt to tie together church and state, securing the political influence of the clergy and its secular vassals.
Jews, Muslims and other non-believers were given two choices: Convert or face being burned at the stake. This persecution reached its peak in the 16th century, when multiple thousands who rose up against the state religion of Europe, seeking religious and civil liberties for the people, were incinerated.
Despite the pope’s effort to crush opposition to the Vatican, the Reformation survived to greatly diminish the influence of a Catholic Europe.
At this time, Britain, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands successfully broke away from the Holy Roman Empire and proclaimed that the sovereign of a Protestant and free country could never owe any allegiance to the head of any other state. As, by its own admission, the Vatican is a political institution still claiming universal legislative authority and jurisdiction, these nations protected the civil and religious liberties of their peoples in their foundational law stating that royal succession had to be through the Protestant faith.
When we look at the current affairs surrounding the drafting of the EU constitution, we need to ask why there is so much commotion over the inclusion of the terms “God” and “Christian.” Why does the inclusion draw favor from mainly Catholic member countries such as Ireland, Spain and Italy? Or why is it primarily Catholic prospective member states like Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Malta and Lithuania that support a Christian reference in the prologue of the new constitution?
Could it be that instead of Christian, the text would more accurately read Catholic? If one ponders on the motto of Rome, Semper Eadem (always the same), it doesn’t take long to realize that this is a valid assumption.
Pope Paul vi declared in 1975: “Can it not be said that it is faith, the Christian faith, the Catholic faith that made Europe? … It is there that our mission as bishops in Europe takes on a gripping perspective. No other human force in Europe can render the service that is confided to us, promoters of the faith, to re-awaken Europe’s Christian soul, where its unity is rooted” (The Principality and Power of Europe).
In August 2000, the Vatican’s Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—the modern-day successor of the Inquisition—issued the Dominus Iesus declaration. This document declared the church of Rome to be over all other Christian churches, which it said “are not churches in the proper sense.”
A well-known Catholic dogma is the claim that the pope is “superior ruler of the world”—superior to all kings and presidents. Pope John Paul ii is working toward that goal as he “is calmly preparing to assume the mantle which he solemnly believes to be his divine right—that of new Holy Roman Emperor, reigning from the Urals to the Atlantic” (Sunday Telegraph, July 21, 1991; see sidebar, left).
As the pope demands that “God” be mentioned in a European constitution, one cannot forget that the Vatican sees itself as God’s infallible vice-regent upon Earth, according to the Dominus Iesus declaration.
Signing such an allegiance to the papacy would undo centuries of lawmaking for nations that fought for their religious and civil liberties 400 years ago!
Under the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, a common European citizenship was established. This meant that the sovereign of any European Community (now EU) member state became a European citizen, a vassal to the federal government of Brussels and Strasbourg, subject to the past and future judgments of the European Court, against which there is no appeal. This treaty confirmed the authority of this court over that of monarchs like Queen Elizabeth.
In Britain, the debate has sparked questions concerning the legitimacy of many of its foundational laws like the Act of Settlement, the Coronation Oaths Act, the Crown in Parliament Act, the Act of Union, and the Royal Marriages Act. Many have called for the removal of the anti-Catholic provisions concerning the succession of the throne in the 1701 Act of Settlement, saying they are incompatible with the 1998 Human Rights Act.
Can you see the sinister nature of such an assertion? People in Britain—and in free countries around the world—should be alarmed!
Return of the Inquisition
Would it be possible that in our sophisticated society of today we could see a return to the Inquisition?
Bible prophecy foretells of a rising European power that will be ruled by a powerful religious institution. “Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. … And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus …” (Rev. 17:1-6). In Bible prophecy, a woman symbolizes a church. This immoral woman is pictured as being guilty of the blood of the saints. She is pictured as sitting upon a scarlet-colored beast, indicating her control over this monstrous political power we now see developing in Europe (v. 18).
“And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast” (vv. 12-13). Ten nations or groups of nations will render their power to this beast. If their constitution speaks of “God,” they will not realize that it is not the Creator God it refers to, but the god of this world—the unseen spirit power behind this dreadful war-machine soon to be unleashed on the world scene (ii Cor. 4:4; Rev. 12:9; 13:4). And the term “Christian” that many are advocating go in their constitution refers to this religious woman that rides—or controls—the beast.
Whether or not the debated words will form part of the European constitution is not the real issue. The real issue is that the Vatican’s overarching objective is to make Roman Catholicism Europe’s state religion. This aim among Catholic scholars to restate Medieval scholasticism in a manner suited to present intellectual needs is evident in today’s push to make Christianity—read Catholicism—the one and only legal religion in Europe.
It could, however, very well be that the debate over “God” and “Christianity” will create a wave of public opinion that demands their inclusion in a new European constitution and washes out the perception that it was imposed by either the Vatican or Brussels.
Study the historical facts concerning Europe’s state religion. Witness how current events indicate a return to its past behavior, and know how Bible prophecy assures us that this city, this adulterous church, will rise to control the political union now forming in Europe.
God says He is raising up this final revival of the Holy Roman Empire to correct the lawless descendants of ancient Israel (Hab. 1:6). Its political leader rises to power by flatteries (Dan. 11:21, 23). He does not intend to bring utter destruction to nations (Isa. 10:5-6), until his mind changes (v. 7; Hab. 1:11) as he subjects himself to the power of Satan (Rev. 13:4). It is that same power, wielded through Europe’s state religion, that has caused unparalleled bloodshed for centuries—as the motto of Rome declares, Semper Eadem.