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

Series:

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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Conclusion 249

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249 Conclusion What was the essential character of the disunity that, according to Acheson, Schuman believed had afflicted Europe since the Reformation, and which he hoped the Europe of 9th May 1950 might begin to rem- edy?1 This seemingly practical question is inseparable from a far more lofty and doctrinal question. What was the modernity against which the Popes railed and struggled for the better part of a century? The Latin term moderna meaning merely contemporary first appears in the writ- ings of the 6th century author Cassiodorus.2 But this is not the sense in which the Popes employ the word. They use the word “modern” as characteristic of an epoch that has been in progress for some time. As we have seen, Pius IX’s opening speech at Vatican I ties the phenome- non of modern error to the failure of the Counter-Reformation wholly to extinguish Protestantism or perfectly to reform the Church through the implementation of the decrees of Trent. Thus Modernity would be a kind of secularised Protestantism. This is clearly very much what Pius X has in mind when he speaks of Modernism. Indeed, the last condemned proposition in the decree Lamentabili Sane is, “Modern Catholicism can be reconciled with true science only if it is transformed into a non- dogmatic Christianity; that is to say, into a broad and liberal Protestant- ism.”3 The system as described in Pascendi shares with Protestantism a move towards the subject as the seat of doctrinal judgement. Of course,...

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