A Union of Church and State

Americans keep religion and government separate to preserve religious freedom. But within Europe, Catholicism has long been a driving force in politics.
From the February 2003 Trumpet Print Edition

The public at large could be forgiven for thinking that the Roman Catholic Church is a church in crisis. Over the past 20 years it has been wracked by scandal, riven by internal dissent, impacted by a barrage of official dogmatic encyclicals, excommunications, resignations, calls to order, more calls to order and yet more scandal. So rocky has been John Paul ii’s papacy that one may wonder—is anyone in control?

To answer this question, one must dig below the surface of lurid media headlines to grasp that amid all this, Rome does have an agenda, and there are those who are definitely in charge, and who will see to it that the agenda is carried out.

The problem is, for an observer to really understand that agenda and then monitor its progress, one needs to have an appreciation of history—and that is an extremely scarce commodity in today’s dumbed-down, culturally vacuous society.

Yet, one of those who has watched the European Union evolve since its genesis as the European Coal and Steel Community into the world’s largest federal union of nation states, looks on with an eye to the continuum of history that is leading to yet one more resurrection of an ancient entity in Europe—the “Holy” Roman Empire!

A Historian’s Perspective

Jacques le Goff, French historian and author of leading works on medieval history, perceives the necessity of the EU being joined together with the only glue that ever held Europe together—the spiritual leadership of Rome.

The Vatican-watch news service zenit interviewed professor Le Goff last year concerning his views on the European Convention, currently involved in the drafting of a federal constitution to unite the present 15 EU member nations, and the 13 others with membership pending, into a giant United States of Europe. The following are extracts from that interview.

“Q: … What characteristics unite the European countries?

“Le Goff: [Catholic] Christianity is the principal ideological foundation of Europe. …

“Q: The nations that form part of Europe, on whatlaw are they based?

“Le Goff: Europe begins to appear in the fourth century, with the fusion of the peoples of the empire and the barbarian peoples, thanks to [Catholic] Christianity. The legal structure was founded on Roman law …. Also, in relation to money, Europe has a ‘personality,’ which comes to it, precisely, from the church, which has always reserved the right of jurisdiction and judgment on commercial treaties ….

“Q: We have begun to make Europe by starting with money. Surveys say that citizens are happy but disappointed by the fact that the euro is losing in value with respect to the dollar. What do you think?

“Le Goff: … The stock markets, which express financial judgments on our currency, are inspired by an ultraliberal and American model. This is why the euro loses in relation to the dollar.

“Q: What can be done?

“Le Goff: [The Church] should show its courage today and make its voice heard; it should become another center of social progress. It would be capital for Europe and would represent a formidable plan” (zenit, Feb. 21, 2002; emphasis mine throughout).

A formidable plan. That’s what that ancient institution, the Vatican, has in mind for the unification of Europe! From its inception, it has been a Roman Catholic project. Its founding fathers, its leading lights, its prime representatives and most influential office holders have largely been German or French and Catholic.

These facts ought not surprise history buffs. That Germany has been the economic engine of the EU is well known, reaching out with its globalist trade policies to build a corporate German nation covering the globe in banking, commerce and business. That France has sought to bind Germany in a Franco-Teutonic straitjacket for fear of a break-out of old German aggression, has been there for all to see. That the Vatican has been the spiritual force inspiring the vision of a revived “Holy” Roman Empire for decades through the aegis of the EU has been far less apparent—until very recently.

EU’s Religious Connection

Commenting on the religious factor within the EU, the Wilson Quarterly had this to say in a review on this subject which appeared in European Union Politics, June 2001: “While the EU may be chiefly an economic community, European integration and religion, particularly Catholicism, ‘were explicitly linked, theoretically and politically,’ when the dream of unity took shape in the early years after World War ii …. ‘European integration in the 1950s was largely a Christian Democratic project, led by devout Catholics such as Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schuman and Alcide de Gasperi’” (Autumn 2001).

Interestingly, the clear divide between support for Eurofederalism and the argument for retention of national supremacy is religious. The Wilson Quarterly observed, “‘The Protestant countries are reluctant to abandon sovereignty for historical and political reasons,’ while the Catholic Church ‘has consistently supported both the European Union and its expansion.’ … [T]he most devout sectarian Protestants, such as Calvinists in the Netherlands and Northern Ireland, ‘are the least fond of the European Union’” (ibid.).

It ought not be surprising, then, that the Vatican and its minions have been vocal in their lobbying of the European Convention as that body drafts a European constitution.

During a seminar convened in Rome to study the idea of a constitution following the conclusion of the Treaty of Nice a year ago, “Jurist Achille Chiappetti, professor of public law at the University of La Sapienza in Rome, a layman and relator of the seminar, said he was convinced that the European Charter would have to be Christian, because the history of the Old World is marked by natural values that are defended by Christianity. … ‘Religion entails enormous values for man,’ Chiappetti said. ‘Moreover, without the Christian religion, we would not have arrived at this level of our civilization’” (zenit, Jan. 28, 2002).

Obviously Chiappetti was speaking of Roman Catholicism when he used the term Christianity within the context of this seminar. In a further comment, having in mind the pope’s repetitious call for Europeans to return to their “Holy” Roman roots, Chiappetti observed, “[T]hese roots are amply recalled in the Nice Charter of Rights which is completely laced, as is the whole of Western civilization, with the values of Christianity” (ibid.). Once again, for Christianity read Catholicism.

Harking directly back to the days of the old “Holy” Roman Empire, the pope conveyed a profoundly historical message to Europeans last April. He wrote that the plans of Pope Sylvester ii and Emperor Otto iii to evangelize Europe in a.d. 1000 represented “a stimulus for believers today to become ever more aware of the fact that the great mosaic of the social and religious identity of Europe has, in the Christian faith, one of the main factors of its most profound unity” (Vatican Information Service, May 3, 2002).

A clearer appeal would hardly be possible for the disparate EU states and their unwieldy Brussels-based bureaucracy to use the glue of Catholic religion to weld together the EU’s mix of iron and miry clay.

Papal Offensive

Stepping up the heat on the European Convention, the pope battered away at the convention’s door in a series of messages last September: “For the third time in 12 days, John Paul ii insisted that a European constitution should recognize the role of Christianity in the continent’s history. … In his address today, the pope said, ‘the Holy See has favored the process of unification of Europe since the beginning,’ and he underlined ‘the spiritual-cultural identity’ of the continent. … The Holy Father then emphasized the need to introduce a ‘clear reference to God and to the Christian faith’ in the European Constitutional Charter, for which he requested the ‘specific contribution’ of German experts and political leaders” (zenit, Sept. 13, 2002).

Historians awake! See the significance of a pope appealing for German assistance to catholicize the European Union!

One enlightened journalist had pointed to this prospect a whole year prior to the Nice Summit: “If you are looking for possible surprises and a hint at John Paul’s ecumenical vision, look to Germany, the spiritually troubled homeland of the Protestant Reformation. … In January [2001] the pope named two of the country’s most brilliant ecumenist minds [as] cardinals” (United Press International, Jan. 29, 2001).

Those two new cardinals were Walter Jasper, former Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, appointed secretary of the Congregation for Christian Unity, and Karl Lehmann, former Bishop of Mainz. Both have worked to prevent schism between the traditionalist and liberal wings of the church in Germany. They each have extensive experience in progressing the Vatican’s drive toward ecumenism—the reunification of the Protestant and Orthodox daughters with the mother church of Rome. Together with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a German and the most powerful prince of the church under the pope, they will comprise a formidable team. Backed by a conservative curia largely elected by Pope John Paul ii, this clever German enclave within the curia is well positioned to activate a revivalist campaign in the church under the next pope. The climate in Europe is just about ripe for such a revival!

Death of Communism

Not only is the Roman Catholic Church a quintessential political organization, it is extremely longterm in its focus.

With the rise of secularism in the 18th century period of the Enlightenment, the seeds of the dominant ideologies of the 19th and 20th centuries were sown. The most powerful atheistic ideology was, of course, communism. A seeming outgrowth of all the ideologies which had been developed and been tried before it, and a replacement theory for many, communism became the number-one enemy of the Roman Catholic Church from its inception.

Thus, the Cold War was not just a great standoff between the Atlantic alliance (led by the U.S.) and the old communistic Soviet Union. For the Catholic Church, it was a religiouswar—often fought covertly by Vatican spies, the Jesuits and Opus Dei, on university campuses and within civil bureaucracies and governments of the day, as communism and its outgrowth, liberal socialism, spread like a rash throughout Western civilization.

During the course of the Cold War, the church was heavily impacted by liberal socialism. It took Pope John Paul ii to stem the tide. He appointed Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as his enforcer, as the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern name for the old Office of the Inquisition. Together John Paul ii and Joseph Ratzinger cleaned out the most liberal elements within the church’s most senior clergy, resulting in a number of excommunications.

Pope John Paul ii became the most traveled pope in history, cementing diplomatic relations with a record 177 countries. He took the battle right into Soviet territory and split that Communist union asunder through his actions in Poland in the 1980s. Having stacked the deck with a record number of conservative, doctrinaire cardinals in his clerical heartland, the pope was ready to move at the turn of the century to revive the mass of his troops—the 1 billion adherents of the Catholic faith—globally!

His great appeal was first to the youth of the church. Here he married papal theatrics with rock music to mount great rallies, attended by multiple thousands of the world’s youth, such as during his trip to Canada for World Youth Day last year.

In the meantime, his field troops had done well, positioning themselves to fill the gap within secular politics as, with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the left-wing liberal socialists lost their sting in the West.

By the close of 2002, a huge ideological gap had opened across the European political landscape. Two great religions vied to fill the vacuum—Islam and Roman Catholicism. With Islam greatly tainted in the West by the events of September 11, 2001, Roman Catholicism started to move into high gear.

The Churching of the Left

As we progress through this first decade of the 21st century, the political right bears sway in most of the world. But this is a neo-conservative right, in many ways far removed from the ultra-conservative right wing of traditional politics of the past. It has evolved into a chameleon-like movement which spans a spectrum from the far-right to more centrist social liberalism.

But the center-right mass which now dominates politics on both sides of the Atlantic (with the exception of Britain) has been, to this point, largely devoid of ideology. On the continent of Europe, Catholicism now bids to fill the gap. And, fittingly, it has started to do so on its home ground in Italy. “In an essay this month, Ezio Mauro, editor of La Repubblica, wrote of a culture in which the values of family, faith and patriotism are being stressed anew, and are gaining stature from their association with a popular and conservative pope—who last week addressed the Italian parliament for the first time. This Catholicism, wrote Mauro, has received ‘the baptism of television’—from the state tv service, rai, in which a number of militant Catholics are well placed” (New Statesman, Nov. 25, 2002).

The type of Catholicism, however, which the Vatican troops are employing to woo the middle ground in politics is vastly different from that prior to 1978, when Karol Wojtyla ascended the papal throne as Pope John Paul ii. “Today’s Catholicism is … not extreme, but neither is it centrist” (ibid.). In effect, rather than work to eradicate the liberal-socialist element remaining within Roman Catholicism, the Vatican field troops have recruited it to their neo-conservative cause!

But the key to this gathering revival of Roman Catholicism is to ensure that what has started in Italy spreads across the Alps and the Adriatic to the rest of the uniting European conglomerate.

A Wider Vision

“Could this move beyond Italy? Yes, since the redoubts of the right—France and Spain—are strongly Catholic countries: while the native Lander of Edmund Stoiber, leader of the German right, is Bavaria, the most Catholic part of Germany” (ibid.).

Here is a man we have urged our readers to watch. Should the present German government fall, or their present chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, fail under the extreme negative political pressure he presently suffers, Stoiber may well take the helm in Germany.

But the Vatican agenda is far wider than Italy and Germany. By its very name, Catholic, meaning universal, this religion is committed to the conversion of the world, a doctrine it has in common, yet at odds with, Islam. “Catholicism still retains a sense of itself as a—as the—world religion and in this guise, it measures itself against Islam—offering a bedrock for the values of a ‘civilization’ as a counterpoise against the militancy of the threatening radical Islam” (ibid.).

Propelled by the twin opportunities of the global fear of Islamic terror and the dominance of the center right in European politics, the rise of neo-conservative Catholicism will spread over the ensuing months and years to become the glue that binds a powerful, yet divisive, union of European nations together. Ultimately, that European Union is destined to have the most dominant economy and become the mightiest political, military and religious combine on the globe.

That the present climate in Europe will be fertile ground for this center-right Catholic revivalist movement is confirmed by a number of current trends. Economic recession, widespread dislike of immigration and high crime rates are all national issues extant in Europe that favor support for the political right rather than the left. The right is seen to be willing to enact the tough measures necessary to solve these problems, while liberal-socialists have a reputation for not providing the cure.

Of what consequence to Rome is the U.S. in all of this? None. Hard as it may be for the average American, naive to the fact that there’s a whole world beyond the shores of the great U.S., America just does not figure largely on the Vatican’s agenda, other than for monetary contributions to help fill its coffers. What impact have recent priestly behavioral scandals had on Catholicism internationally? Not much. Why not? “[O]nly 6 percent of the world’s Catholics live in America, where most—though not all—of the headline-grabbing sex scandals have taken place” (Washington Times, Nov. 8, 2002).

Thus, in simple demographic terms, the U.S. does not create much of a bang in the Vatican’s long-term agenda. This was even attested to by an obvious papal snubbing of the country last year. In July, the pope observed the church’s World Youth Day in Toronto, only 30 miles from the U.S. border. Following that he flew direct to Guatemala and Mexico, flying over, but not touching down on, U.S. soil. Although this disappointed and vexed American Roman Catholic laity, their reaction met with no recognition by the Vatican. Understand that the main arena for the playing out of the great Vatican vision is Europe!

Reaching East

To this end, each and every Eastern European country contending for EU membership in May 2004 has had to sign a key agreement on church-state relations with the Vatican! The agreement signed by the Czech Republic (the final country to do so) in July last year, according to zenit, “regulates the teaching of religion in public schools and favors the collaboration of church and state in preserving the historical and cultural heritage. Lastly, the two parties committed themselves to resolve, as soon as possible, the thorny questions relating to church property expropriated by the Communist regime” (July 26, 2002).

The Vatican simply is winding back the clock of history to realize its dream of spiritual dominance by resurrecting the old “Holy” Roman Empire. Note the import of this agreement on church-state relations. It pertains to the regulation, from Rome, of religious teaching in public schools, the revival of Holy Roman heritage and culture, and the reacquisition of old church-owned properties within these nations.

Any reluctance on the part of the populace of these Eastern nations to gain EU membership has met with a strong reaction from John Paul ii. “According to Le Monde,the pope is planning to ‘break Catholic resistance’ to EU membership. On December 8, he called on European leaders to conclude negotiations on accession as quickly as possible; on December 9, in Brussels, the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union published a declaration designed to, in Le Monde’s words, ‘break the last resistance of Catholics in certain candidate countries like Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Malta’” (European Foundation Intelligence Digest, Dec. 12, 2002).

Continental Unity

The Vatican and Germany displayed their joint vision for hegemony in Europe back in 1991 through their recognition of Slovenia and Croatia as separate nation-states in the Balkans. The series of bloody Balkan wars that followed produced a fractured Balkan Peninsula ready to be gobbled up into the EU. John Paul ii endorsed the end result of this strategy when he met with all the ambassadors accredited to the Vatican on January 10, 2002. “John Paul ii also expressed his support for the extension of the European Union to include, in particular, the Balkan countries” (zenit, Sept. 9, 2002).

It is intriguing to note that the German vision for Europe and that of the Vatican meet, in particular, on one common ground. Neither accepted the division of Europe concluded by the Allies at the close of World War ii as final. Germany viewed the Treaty of Versailles drawn up at the close of World War i as just a hindrance to the development of history. So do the technocrats who formulate policy in Berlin and Brussels view Potsdam and Yalta, at which the U.S., Britain and Russia carved up the borders of Europe following World War ii. The pope has been quite clear in his views on this.

“John Paul ii says the enlargement of the European Union to include countries of the East should serve to overcome at last the divisions that emerged after World War ii. … ‘The Holy See is pleased before the prospect of this enlargement of the Union, which should permit the progressive re-establishment of the unity of the European continent, broken with the Yalta division and the closing of the Soviet bloc,’ John Paul ii said” (zenit, Oct. 24, 2002).

That is the Vatican agenda! A return to conditions in Europe that prevailed before World War i and before the Soviet Union came to power. That places Europe simply, as all historians would know, back into the context of the “Holy” Roman Empire!