The catholic French who consider as obvious that a Christian has to be “for Europe” (1) should not miss being astonished that the countries which pose today the most problems with the European process of integration are Poland and Ireland. Admittedly Poland, which had art to multiply the objections at the time of the Kaszinski brothers, calmed itself since the return of the liberals in power (2). But Ireland, the very catholic Ireland, has just inflicted “one snub in Europe” as say the leader-writers called to comment on the results of the referendum of June 11, 2008 which saw this small country of hardly 5 million inhabitants voting no to the treaty of Lisbon, re-examined and hardly corrected version of the late European Constitution.
That countries reputed a the most catholic of Europe are also the most reticent with European construction, at the origins of which many saw, wrongly or rightly, the hand of the Vatican, is carrying a double lesson, at the same time on Catholicism and on Europe.
Catholicism and resistance
Many sticks to the traditional diagram according to which the catholic Church is initially an authoritative organization, liking great organic structures, yesterday the Holy German Empire, today the European Union. Poland and Ireland are held, from this point of view, for two special cases where as well adhesion with the catholic religion as the spirit of rebellion are explained by a very singular history, that several centuries of oppression where religious adhesion was used as catalyst with national resistance. That this history did ones and others of the “hard heads”, hostile even to the best projects, like European construction, these countries remain, will say one, exceptions. Some would add, scorning, that Catholicism having left them a long time in ignorance and superstition, that they are restive with progress of the Lights incarnated by the European project could not astonish. With the risk to forget that France, also of catholic tradition, but to which one could not make the reproach be unaware of the Lights had already said “no to Europe” on May 29, 2005 ! Without speaking about the Netherlands of Protestant tradition.
This scorning attitude is not different from those of the French, ultra counter-revolutionaries, who showed themselves , though catholic, reticent in front of the Polish revolution of 1830, considering it as a subversion of Europe of the Holy Alliance and thus a distorsion with the principle of authority. The same ones left the republican party, generally anticlerical, alone to support the Poland catholics.
Useless to say how much these designs are reducing. We do not think, for our part, that it is necessary to see in the Irish and Polish exceptions.
First because these countries, in spite of their situation at the margins of Europe (if one puts aside Russia, which should be discussed), contributed an eminent share to the history of Christian Europe. Without going up until the part played by the Irish monks in the conservation of the Latin heritage at the time of barbarian darkness, who can ignore the eminent contribution of Ireland to the building of the United States, to the missions overseas, and as well the English litterature? For the country of Copernic, Jean Sobieski and Jean-Paul II, who could deny its role in the European history?
Second, the history of these countries is not as exceptional as one believes. It is not true that the catholic Church has in any time favoured the party of the order. Let us forget its early alliance with the barbarians kingdoms which made fly in glares Roman Empire. Italy of the Middle Ages, though the center of Christendom, lived in a continual disorder. The Italian cities were already republican . The popes did not play a small part in weakening along centuries the emperors of Germany, until also plunging this country in anarchy. The very positive Machiavel reproached papacy this destroying role. On the contrary, Protestantism consolidated the capacity of the princes in Germany of XVIe century, as orthodoxy consolidated Russian Empire. In France, vis-a-vis an aristocracy in majority gained by the reform, the Ligue, organization formally directed by the duke of Guise but with a strong popular component which defended nozzle and nails Catholicism. The sociology of the Parisian Members of the Ligue of 1590 preceded moreover that of the Jacobins of 1792. Ultimately the alliance of the Church with the party of the order, in spite of the emblematic figures of Constantin and of Charlemagne (this last, so obligingly called upon in Brussels), was in the history of Europe, rather the exception than the rule. Exception, Spain of XVIe sicle; exception, France of the XVIIe century: it is not just by chance that these two countries where the alliance of the Church and the Crown had been narrower than everywhere else, saw the most violent anticlerical convulsions of the European history: France in 1789, Spain in 1936?
The genius of Chateaubriant had perceived well, against his reactionary contemporaries , this multisecular pact between Christianity and the spirit of freedom: “freedom is on the cross of Christ; it goes down from there with him”; “ the evangelic genius is eminently favorable to freedom” (3).
Vis-a-vis an imperial project
Here is for Catholicism. For Europe, one will say: the first goal of this entreprise, such as the Fathers founders conceived it, is to exceed the national competition to found peace, and to promote close co-operations to ensure prosperity. Is such project so oppressive so that people liking freedom as the Irish people can refuse it? Europe is not the British Empire, it is not the Russian “prison of the people” nor, at least one expects , the expression of triumphing germanism (neither the Irishmen, nor the Poles are the germans and they had on the contrary to fight against germanic neighbours ).
Initially, Jean-Jacques Rousseau said: any too geographically wide political entity is inapt for democracy; this one is only possible in small republics like that of Geneva. “More the State increases, he says , more the government must be tightened” (4) . Following the rousseauist logic, even if European Union , though it does not have formally the quality of empire, the democracy is technically difficult to organize in it ; controlling of a so vast unit is likely to move away concerns of the component people: Is it not what we see today? Rather than to fulminate against the low capacity of listening of the European Commission as does Nicolas Sarkozy, we should wonder whether, in a so vast unit that Europe of twenty-seven, such separation between the ruling class and the people is not intrinsic and thus irremediable?
The more so as the reality of the European project does not fail to let plane some doubts about its really liberal character: not only one sees proliferating more and more complicated and invading regulations , as already Margaret Thatcher and the school of Bruges denounced, but one sees more and more at work an open refusal of the democracy itself: with what a sufficiency the partisans of all edges of the treaty of Lisbon deny any value to the Irish referendum, as they denied it to the French and Dutch referendums! They arrogantly require to-day that this country revote until it says yes - that it is, if one dares such statement, “submitted to the question” until it acknowledges that at the bottom it is not hostile to the treaty of Lisbon!
This refusal of democracy on behalf of people who consider themselves , according to the Leninist schedule, like one “enlightened avant-garde” leading Europe in a promethean transformation process , is enough to show how ideological is the European project, if not such as it was in the beginning, at least such as it became today? Not only the Polish and Czech people see some king of analogy between the European and the Soviet project , this is also recognized by dissidents of the old Soviet empire like Alexandre Zinoviev or Vladimir Boukovski. “It is astonishing, says the latter , that after having buried a monster, the Soviet Union , one builds a similar whole of it, the European Union”, and Boukovski underlines that one like the other were or are directed by a score of not elected people.
All the dissidents who expressed themselves perceived the analogy between the European project and the Soviet project - without it being necessary to put an equivalence between the brutal repression of the oppositions in the Soviet system and the insidious but more benign disqualification of the dissidents of the political correctness in the European system.
The instinct of freedom is one, it is frank, it is clear , it does not compromise. It forms part, much more than mirific projects of subverting the nations, of the genius of Europe. But contrarily to the legend , Catholicism was historically rather the ally of this spirit of freedom that its antithesis. That two very catholic countries are opposed to the increasingly extravagant building that the authorities of Brussels are obstinated to erect, is far to be an accident or a peripheral phenomenon. It is on the contrary the expression of the hidden truth of the European project. Those who have got through a long experience of oppression know, better that others, how to recognize the multiple faces which it takes. In spite of all, these small rebellious people express the best of the genius of Europe: the spirit of freedom.
1. We do not take again naturally on our account these expressions of everyday usage . Quite to the contrary we think that they are the adversaries of supranational Europe who defend civilization European, founded on diversity and freedom.
2. And even the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk was annoyingly distinguished a few days ago by being made the speaking pipe of the Commission to answer with a not very diplomatic violence the remarks of Nicolas Sarkozy.
3. We develop this aspect of the thought of Chateaubriand in: Roland Hureaux, Actuality of gaullism, chapter II: “The sources of the Gaullism: Chateaubriant and catholic liberalism”, page 49 sq., François-Xavier de Guibert, 2007
4. These ideas are developed in: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The social contract, Part III, chapter VIII. The United States seems to be an exception to the principle stated by J.J.Rousseau: that democracy is impossible democracy in a too great unit. At least up to now…
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