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Timid Words from Timid Churchmen

by Christopher A. Ferrara

On May 15, 2002 Zenit.org reported an address by Archbishop Jean Louis Tauran, who is Vatican Secretary for Relations with States - that is, an attaché of Cardinal Sodano’s Secretariat of State.

Tauran’s speech is yet another example of why the Church is in crisis: post-conciliar Churchmen have forgotten how to speak with the fearless voice of the Church of old, and are now reduced to timidly diplomatic statements that barely hint at what the Church teaches.

Tauran’s topic was the Church’s role in the European Union. According to Zenit, Tauran said that "The Church ‘feels at home in Europe,’ " and "hopes that its ‘European citizenship’ will be recognized." Pretty fearless, eh? Tauran noted, rightly enough, that the Church "has molded the great institutions on which the Old World is founded because, as Paul VI said, Europe was born from the cross, the book, and the plough," but then landed with a thud when he added that "the Christian legacy is always active and a creator of culture."

Here we go again: in the new way of putting things, the rights of the Church should be recognized because the Church is just so darned useful to society. Why just look at all the culture Christianity (we never say Catholicism anymore) has produced. The Italian Vice-Prime Minister, Gianfranco Fini, responded in the same vein, graciously conceding that yes, the Continent needs "a supplement of soul." Accordingly, the EU Charter of Fundamental rights should make a reference not merely to "spiritual values," says Fini, but rather to the "concretely religious and Christian."

No, not Christian, but Catholic. And not a mere "supplement" to the soul of Europe, but the very soul itself. For as Hillaire Belloc rightly observed: "Europe is the faith and the faith is Europe."

In his great encylical Quas Primas (On the Social Kingship of Christ), Pope Pius XI, writing in 1925 - only 37 years before Vatican II - spoke as the Church has always spoken. Compare this Pope’s noble and uncompromising teaching with the palaver coming out of the Vatican these days. Quoting his predecessor Leo XIII, Pius XI declared that:

‘His [Christ’s] empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ.’ Nor is there any difference in this matter between the individual and the family or the State; for all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ. In Him is the salvation of the individual, in Him is the salvation of society….

The problem in the "modern world," however, is that that it has rejected the Social Kingship of Christ, and thus the authority of His Church. Here Pope Pius XI did not mince words in the manner of modern Vatican diplomats:

The empire of Christ over all nations was rejected. The right which the Church has from Christ Himself, to teach mankind, to make laws, to govern peoples in all that pertains to their eternal salvation, that right was denied. Then gradually the religion of Christ came to be likened to false religions and to be placed ignominiously on the same level with them.

As a result, warned Pope Pius XI, "human society is tottering to its fall, because it has no longer a secure and solid foundation."

So, the Catholic Church is a bit more than an institution that feels "at home" in Europe and "creates culture." And she is much more than a "supplement to the soul" of Europe. As Hillaire Belloc put it: "Europe is the Faith, and the Faith is Europe." And without the Faith, without Christ the King, both Europe and the world are lost.

At least that is how Catholics spoke before the "renewal" of Vatican II turned the representatives of Christ the King into timid pleaders for a place in the public square.