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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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CHAPTER I - The Social Magisterium and Supranational Society from Leo XIII to Pius XII

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23 CHAPTER I The Social Magisterium and Supranational Society from Leo XIII to Pius XII 1. After Bonaparte In this section we shall examine the Papal Social Magisterium from the time of Leo XIII to the death of Pius XII. We will look first at the challenges faced by the papacy at the beginning of Leo XIII’s reign and how they gave rise to the Neo-Thomistic project. We will then examine the formal and material scope of the Papal Social Magisterium, why the period 1878-1958 is so distinctive, the main points of Leo XIII’s social vision, its application to the concept of Supranational society by Pius XII and finally, the connection between this last topic and the idea of the perfect governmental form. After the French Revolution, and even more urgently after 1870, the Papacy was forced to address three key theoretical questions in regard to politics: What is the relationship between Church and state? What is the relationship between Catholicism and Democracy? And what are the social and geographical frontiers of the state’s moral obligations? The three questions were, from the perspective the Papacy chose to address them, closely interrelated. In regard to the last point it was the social question which most concerned the Holy See in the years immediately after the election of Leo XIII in 1878. However, as the age of the World Wars commenced, the supranational1 question, of the unity of human society across political, national and racial boundaries, came to the fore. In the...

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