Saturday, September 05, 2020

"Christ, Culture & New Europe" by Remi Brague

I myself was privileged to witness some of all this at first hand in late October of 1991, when I was invited by the Pontifical Council for Culture to take part in a symposium of European intellectuals that was meant to offer the bishops of the Synod food for thought. Among the forty people present—almost all of them lay men and women—fewer than ten came from the countries of Western Europe. Most of those present were from the former Soviet Union or from Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, etc. It is interesting for Western Europeans to note that the term “Eastern Europe” was deeply frowned upon by the participants from these latter countries, who insisted instead on “Central Europe.” The very idea of an Eastern Europe, they said, was one more lie of Soviet propaganda, used to justify the Red Army’s artificial division of Europe into East and West. The “Church of silence” could be heard again, and the first thing it had to tell us was that it had never been completely gagged and that we. Western Christians, had too often and for too long been a Church of deafness. And the Pope was clearly eager to see the reintegration of Europe’s Eastern and Central parts.
In addition, we Westerners were reminded of a few basic historic facts. We were reminded, for instance, that Prague is almost as “western” as Berlin, and more so than Vienna or Stockholm. We had to learn once again that it had been the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and that it harbored Europe’s first university. We were invited to bear in mind that our intellectuals frequently helped to throw people living under Communist rule into despair by playing footsie with Marxist ideology while they one after another hallowed each new earthly paradise it was giving birth to. As a Frenchman, I experienced a vicarious embarrassment about my country’s role in the post-World War I creation of Czechoslovakia and, even worse, Yugoslavia. These completely artificial states, welding together peoples who had either never lived together or had not done so for centuries—people whose religions, languages, histories, and levels of economic and social development were widely disparate—are the result of the shortsightedness of politicians who were by and large my fellow countrymen.
I am reminded of Taft when he writes: "What makes this task difficult is that memories of European peoples are poisoned with the recollections of wrongs done to and suffered by one another. If some way is not found to heal these wounds, everywhere in Europe and in the former USSR, they will fester and keep alive the longing for vengeance." We need Christ for the healing of memories, and traditionalists of every jurisdiction who cannot reach out to those in other jurisdictions in charity are poor represesntatives of Christ. Are there differences in preferred dogma? Yes, and Rome will need to lead the way in reconsidering what they have advanced as dogma of the "Church." The healing of memories will not be accomplished by a secularist movement or the strengthening of the EU. The churches must be strengthened in Christ, and this will require ecclesial reform, not the same old but more from Rome.

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