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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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Introduction 17

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17 Introduction The purpose of this work is to demonstrate that the character of that European community which emerged from the declaration of 9th May 1950 resulted from the self-conscious application by French foreign Minister Robert Schuman of the Papal Social Magisterium and of Neo- Thomistic political philosophy to the relations of European states. In order to establish that this was the basis of Schuman’s actions, it is necessary to undertake four investigations. In the first place, it is neces- sary to examine the social teaching of the five popes whose pontificates spanned the Neo-Thomistic period and who provided the movement with its inspiration and principle goals: Leo XIII, Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII. Of these the most significant are Leo XIII, who launched the Thomist revival in 1879, and Pius XII, whose pontificate coincided with the creation of the European communities. In the second place, it is necessary to examine the reception of this social Magisterium by the writers of the Neo-Thomistic period, specifically in regard to the concept of supranational society. Pre-eminent among these writers (for our purposes) is the philosopher Jacques Maritain. Thirdly, it is neces- sary to examine the person and achievements of Robert Schuman, and his engagement with Neo-Thomism and with the Political Catholicism of his day. Finally, it is necessary to examine the explicit statements of Robert Schuman concerning political and social philosophy, in order to trace the origin of these conclusions and their place within the context of Neo-Scholastic...

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