01-06-2007 - Traces, n. 6

A Continent Suffering from “Christophobia”
Interview with Dr. J. H. H. Weiler, Professor of International Law and European Union Law at New York University School of Law

edited by Marta Cartabia

Professor Weiler, in 2003, you published a book entitled, Un’Europa Cristiana [“A Christian Europe”], in which you stated that when the debate over the European identity first developed, Europe was in denial, it was denying its Judeo-Christian origins. Now, some years later, is Europe still suffering from “Christophobia,” as you called it in your book?
The bottom line is that nothing much has changed. But there are some interesting signs that a gap has opened up between the political class and the general public, for example in the reaction to the Pope’s speech at Regensburg.

Today, there are some important new factors in the political situation. Germany and France have new political leaders, and the situation will soon change in Britain as well. Do you feel that the debate over the Constitutional Treaty could be reopened? Do you feel there is now a greater willingness to insert a reference to the Judeo-Christian roots of Europe?
I don’t believe there will be a new Constitutional Treaty. At most, the current idea is to have a “mini treaty,” so the question of mentioning Europe’s Christian roots will not crop up again. At any rate, it seems that the governments favorable to introducing a reference to Christian roots (Germany, for example) are less determined than those who are against it. Merkel failed to insert any such reference into the declaration marking the 50th anniversary of Europe, and following Sarkozy’s visit to Berlin she said there was no hope of a mention of Christian roots, whatever the new text. The followers of secularism seem to be better at getting what they want...

In your book, there was also a significant criticism of Christianity, which in your opinion was absent from the public stage. You said that Christians were locked up or, rather, had locked themselves up, in a ghetto. Would you repeat the same judgment today?

There’s no magic fix for this kind of problem. You can’t change the habits of a lifetime in two or three days. In reality, it all depends on the possibility of carrying out an important reform in Catholic education and the education of the young. “Education, schooling! Education, schooling!” We ought to be chanting this from morning to night. The great difference is that now I know the world of Christian believers a little better. A recent important article in the New York Times Magazine about the pontificate of Benedict XVI discussed this fact, noting that the present and future vitality of the Church lies in its various movements, like CL. I’ve seen this vitality with my own eyes. It will be highly interesting to watch the future of the movements in the overall life of the Church.

In recent years, the European institutions have repeatedly shown a tendency to clash with the Catholic Church. I’m thinking here of the EU’s critical intervention in the draft of an agreement between Slovakia and the Catholic Church on abortion and conscientious objectors, and more recently the European Parliament’s resolutions on homophobia. Don’t you feel these are cases of undue interference?
The European Parliament is a political arena and it plays its own game. For years, it has made declarations on any subject it likes, without bothering about the Union’s constitutional sphere of competence.

There’s a troubling fact in the process of European integration: the progressive and rapid decline in the number of citizens who vote in elections to the European Parliament. In the most recent elections, only 45% of European voters went to the polls. The figure becomes even more significant if we think that over the years Parliament has accumulated ever greater powers and is now a true “co-legislator,” together with the Council of Ministers.
With these numbers, it’s even more difficult to consider the European Parliament as Europe’s vox populi.