Skip to comments.Europe: back to the drawing boards
Posted on 06/15/2005 12:05:26 PM PDT by A.A. Cunningham
Europe: back to the drawing boards
By George Weigel
The 70,000-word European constitutional treaty signed in Rome last October was a monstrosity.
According to the eminent international legal scholar J.H.H. Weiler, constitutions should do three things: they should define the relationship of citizens to the state; they should delineate the respective competencies of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government; and they should express the sense of moral purpose that animates a political community. The Euro-constitution did a bad job at the first two and ignored the third.
It made a mockery of the idea of a constitution by promiscuously promising something to virtually everyone as a matter of constitutional first principles: from protection of the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen to the right of children to express their views fully. It prefigured a further decline of democracy in Europe, as overreaching supranational courts and busybody supranational bureaucracies would be called upon to enforce these rights. And most ominously, it falsified the past in service to a dubious future, by willfully ignoring the Christian roots of contemporary Europes commitments to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in an effort to create a thoroughly secular European public space.
The Euro-constitution had to be unanimously ratified by the twenty-five member states in order to come into force, however. In an act rich in irony for French politicians had been key players in drafting the constitution French voters decisively rejected the constitutional treaty on May 29. They likely did it for a lot of reasons, including fears of a Europe that would actually foster some measure of economic competitiveness. But whatever the reasons, the result ought to trigger a healthy reconsideration of what precisely the project of Europe has become, and where it ought to be going.
As I argue in my book, The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God (Basic Books), Europes greatest need today isnt for a constitution its for children. Europe is depopulating itself in numbers not seen since the Black Death in the 14th century. Decades of below-replacement-level birthrates will send Europe into fiscal crisis in the next ten or fifteen years, as the burden of state-run health care and pension systems becomes unsustainable. That same demographic crisis is already creating grave security problems within Europe, as the demographic vacuum is filled by socially undigested and frequently radicalized Islamic immigrants.
But why isnt Europe reproducing itself? Whats going on when a continent healthier, wealthier, and more secure than ever before fails to create the human future in its most elemental sense, by creating successor generations? I call whats going on a crisis of civilizational morale, and it, too, isnt going to be fixed by 70,000 words of legalese. I rather doubt that the French electorate was roundly rejecting the secularism implicit in the Euro-constitution when it voted against ratification; still less do I imagine that French voters were calling for the recovery of Europes Christian roots. Yet thats the likeliest path to European renewal the re-evangelization of Christianitys historic heartland. And that path would have been further impeded by a constitution that cast a dubious eye on religiously-informed moral argument in European public life.
Here is an opportunity for Pope Benedict XVI, who knows that the impulse behind post-World War II efforts at European integration came from devout Catholics Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi, Robert Schuman. At the Cologne World Youth Day in August, might Pope Benedict call a new generation of European Catholics to leadership in the process of building Europe and building it through converting it? I hope so.
At the same time, the Pope might well change the default positions in the Holy Sees Euro-diplomacy. Two weeks before the French shot down the Euro-constitution, a senior Vatican official told the Council of Europe of the Holy Sees satisfaction with the Euro-constitutions mention of the continents religious heritage. He should have done nothing of the sort. The weasel-language about religious heritage was shoe-horned into the text at the last moment, in place of a forthright acknowledgment of Europes Christian roots. Pope Benedict might suggest to his diplomats that speaking truth to power isnt the prerogative of obstreperous French voters alone.
George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. George Weigels column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Phone: 303-715-3215.
Maybe Pope Benedict can offer to be Pontifex Maximus Europeus and whip the idiots into shape.
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