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Robert Schuman: Neo-Scholastic Humanism and the Reunification of Europe

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Alan Fimister

On 9 th May 1950 Robert Schuman (1886-1963) made the historic declaration that would form the foundation of the European Community. What is seldom appreciated is the remarkable degree to which Schuman’s actions were the conscious implementation of the Neo-Thomistic project of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903). Leo sought to employ the intellectual resources of St Thomas Aquinas to achieve «the restoration, both in rulers and peoples, of the principles of the Christian life in civil and domestic society». The resolution of the Church’s difficulties with the French Republic and republicanism generally was a central goal of Leo’s programme. In the half-century that followed a series of philosophers sought to envisage the concrete conditions under which Leo’s vision could be realised. Foremost among them was Jacques Maritain (1882-1973).
Robert Schuman was a close student of Aquinas and committed to the reconciliation of the Church and the Republic. As French Foreign Minister he sought to act upon Maritain’s belief that a European federation conceived under the banner of liberty would ultimately lead to the establishment of a new Christendom.

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Preface 11

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11 Preface The person of Robert Schuman appears, and I emphasise appears, familiar to the French speaking public. As one of the “Fathers of Europe” he is numbered among the historical symbols of the European Union. His declaration of the 9th May 1950, drafted by Jean Monnet and his entourage, has a secure place among the “founding texts” so much so that in 1985, the 9th May was declared “Europe Day” (although the symbols of the community were not enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty as they had been in the proposed Constitution). In short, Robert Schuman is among those names which have become symbolic and yet remain little known in substance. It is the merit of Alan Fimister to have provided us with more than a biography of Robert Schuman in English (the absence of which had become a serious omission), but above all a critical analysis of the intellectual and spiritual path of a man, Robert Schuman, whose social and political engagement was rooted in the great period of spiritual and intellectual debate initiated by Leo XIII in 1879. The deeper study of the Neo-Thomistic thinkers, particularly of the circle which gravitated around Jacques Maritain, allows the author to unfold for us the personality of Robert Schuman in all its richness. Thanks to a fruitful investigation of the archival sources Alan Fimister has presented us with a vision of a politician and a thinker profoundly engaged with the great issues of his time. Far from the caricature of Robert...

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