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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 III - The Life of Robert Schuman

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137 CHAPTER III The Life of Robert Schuman 1. A Famous Name Robert Schuman had a special role as a vehicle of the influence of the Social teaching which has been described in Part I. Leo XIII did not seek merely to influence by argument the generation in which he lived but also to form the coming generation in those teachings. Before exam- ining the explicit statements of Robert Schuman on political philosophy, it is necessary to acquaint ourselves with the course of his personal and political life and the remarkable manner in which it answers to the model which Leo XIII constructed.1 In Act 1, Scene 4, of his 2006 play The Schuman Plan, Tim Luscombe depicts a fictional meeting in 1950 between Clement Attlee and Jean Monnet, observed and occasionally interrupted by the play’s protagonist Bill who is at this point a very junior civil servant. Attlee and Monnet’s conversation concerns the Schuman Plan of the title. Schuman himself does not appear in the play and earlier in the scene, before the two great men appear, he is roundly dismissed by Bill in a conversation with his immediate superior. Bill: […] I hope I get to meet the man himself Mrs L.: Who Schuman? Bill: No. Monnet! Jean Monnet! He needed a famous name to launch the plan, and he got the French Foreign Secretary, Robert Schuman. That’s why it’s called the Schuman Plan. But it was Monnet who wrote it. I heard him speak about it at the...

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