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“Europe is the faith and the faith is Europe.”

October 19, 2011

Father James Schall, S.J. shares the insight of the prolific and erudite Hilaire Belloc:

No phrase by a Catholic has been more excoriated than that of Hilaire Belloc: “Europe is the faith and the faith is Europe.” (1924) Yet what John Paul II and Benedict XVI say about the origins and meaning of Europe, in contrast to the denials of the European Union, suggest that the faith did found Europe. The faith is the origin of Europe as a coherent unity of various non-civilized tribes seeking to live together in one Church and one Empire, yet retaining their own customs and boundaries.

David Goldman’s book, It’s Not the End of the World: It’s Just the End of You, put it this way:  “Hilaire Belloc’s famous quip – ‘Europe is the faith and the faith is Europe’ – is precisely correct.”

Europe is where Old Testament, New Testament, and Greek and Roman traditions melded with the so-called barbarians coming largely off of the Eurasian continent. This fusion did not happen over-night, but it did happen. Europe’s unity was hammered out in thought from the Fathers of the Church to Aquinas. The Reformation was not so much an argument against this thesis, but about its origins. Luther’s problem with Aristotle was a harbinger of divisions to come.

Up until recent times, most people, Europeans or otherwise, looking at the continent, saw the obvious fact. Catholic origins united that not-so large landmass under common assumptions about what life, liberty, God, man, and cosmos were about.

In early modernity, some wanted to make a distinction. The “scientific revolution,” in some eyes, was something anti-Christian. Yet the worldwide “conquest” of science was but an aspect of that generalizing and universalizing movement of intelligence that was already in Europe from its classic traditions.

Modern science itself has medieval Christian origins. Without the notion of a real world, itself not God, worth investigating together with the notion of real secondary causes, no science would be possible. Those societies that embraced a voluntarist origin of things never developed science because one cannot investigate what can constantly be otherwise.

Read the rest here.

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