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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A View From Ireland

Here is a fascinating opinion piece from the Irish Examiner concerning the looming crisis in Europe brought about by changing demographics combined with the rise of secularism. Here is an excerpt: "ACCORDING to George Weigel, biographer and friend of the Pope, Europe’s problems stem from “a crisis of civilisational morale”. In a book to be published next spring, he links Europe’s recent failure to acknowledge its Christian roots in its draft constitution and a despairing, defeatist approach to life which now characterises European life and thought. Weigel asks why, in the aftermath of 1989, Europeans failed to condemn communism as a moral and political monstrosity. “Why was the only politically acceptable judgment on communism the rather banal observation that it ‘didn’t work?’” He also wonders why there are “disturbing currents of irrationality in contemporary European politics”. He asks why one-in-five Germans (and one-third of those under 30) believed that the US was responsible for 9/11, while 300,000 Frenchmen and women bought a book which argued that the US military destroyed the Twin Towers using remote-controlled airliners. “Why do certain parts of Europe exhibit a curious, even bizarre, approach to death? Why did so many of the French prefer to continue their summer vacations during the European heatwave of 2003, leaving their parents unburied and warehoused in refrigerated lockers? Why is death increasingly anonymous in Germany, with no death notice in the papers, no church ceremony - as though the deceased did not exist?” The answer, says Weigel, is that Europe has lost faith in God. And when you lose faith in God, you lose faith in humanity. Like the great Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said in his 1983 Templeton Prize Lecture: “The failings of the human consciousness, deprived of its divine dimension, have been a determining factor in all the major crimes of this century.” The loss of faith that has led to European depopulation and cynicism may also prevent us from integrating our Muslim brothers and sisters. The irony of trying to build a Europe that doesn’t mention God in its constitution is that we are left with no rational basis for tolerance and respect towards others, apart from the rather thin argument that ‘tolerance is good because it works better’. Why in the absence of God should we be fruitful and multiply? Why should we postpone short-term gratification in the interests of society? Why should we welcome immigrants? Why, in turn, should they accept standards of freedom of religion and expression, the dignity and equality of women and the values of democracy, if they believe their values are better? Christianity offers an answer through the Pope who in his 1989 encyclical, Redemptoris Missio (The Mission of the Redeemer), argued that: “The Church proposes; it imposes nothing.” A Christian Europe would defend tolerance as a Christian virtue - while also giving European society a sense of identity and the confidence to integrate people of different cultures and traditions. " Please take the time to read it all.

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