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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 II - The Reception of the Leonine Social Magisterium, Neo-Scholastic Humanism and Supranational Society

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81 CHAPTER II The Reception of the Leonine Social Magisterium, Neo-Scholastic Humanism and Supranational Society 1. Initial Reactions to the Leonine Project Though the Thomistic revival was beginning even before Aeterni Pa- tris it would never have taken place on the scale it did without Leo XIII’s robust patronage. Nevertheless, it took some decades for a generation of Thomists to emerge who had been formed by Leo’s programme and for notable developments in Thomistic political thought to emerge. Earlier in our period Leo’s ideas were engaged with from other perspectives and only later on did a sophisticated Thomistic response arise. This was paralleled by a movement from the idea of a revival of the Holy Empire to that of a New Christendom. In this section we shall examine first some of the early responses to Leo’s ideas and their relation to the ideas of European identity, the Republic and the Holy Empire. Then we will move on to look at the specifically Thomis- tic response from three different perspectives, that of Reginald Gar- rigou-Lagrange who rejected the Ralliement, that of Jacques Maritain who rejected Leo’s teaching on the obligations of the state towards the Catholic Faith, and that of Etienne Gilson who strove to remain faithful to both. For most of its history a shadow hung over the process of European integration, the shadow of Soviet Russia. However, the perceived and actual threat of Communism was far from hindering the creation of a supranational Europe, rather the reverse. The transformation...

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