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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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Appendix 269

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269 Appendix The Commonweal April 19, 1940 544 “Europe and the Federal Idea” By Jacques Maritain t the same time as I thank The Commonweal for having asked me to prepare for it the present article, I should like as well to thank those who had the courtesy to criticise my previous articles – for criticisms are always useful to a writer, even when all they do is to warn him that it is often very difficult to make one’s self understood – and also those who had the charity to come to my defence, particularly Mr William O’Meara and Mr W.H. Gharrity, to whom I am particularly grateful for having restated the truth on the one point which truly hurt me in Mr Kelly’s article. For I must confess that that to a person who has always considered as a sign of barbarism the concept that war is a normal means for the realizing political ends, who deeply felt the coming of the present European war as an apocalyptic evil, and who has a great number of friends now threatened with death among the very flower of that youth in which he rested his hope, the accusation of having “an enthusiasm for this war” is difficult to bear. Mr Kelly was certainly acting in good faith when he made this accusation against me. But I should like him to know that it caused me pain as an unjust injury. There are other men of good faith, and among them ardent and...

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