Friday, January 04, 2008

Sarkozy and Spiritual Recalibration?

"Sarkozy and Secularism" (by Robert Royal) is an interesting take on what might be going on in France and some parts of Europe.

In Rome on December 20,

Sarkozy met for twenty-five minutes with Benedict XVI and the Holy See’s secretary of state. One of the first things he said to them was that the Church in France has “to be more courageous” in intervening publicly because the French Republic has need of people of faith. This was already quite daring, but he did not stop there. Remarkably, in both events, Sarkozy openly expressed his agreement with the pope’s view that a Europe without faith is a Europe without hope—and maybe without a future. And, perhaps even more notably, he made a powerful case that the present and future depend on a more inclusive embrace of the past.

He started out by reminding his listeners that [. ...] Christianity helped create France, and France helped Christianize Europe.

For him [Sarkozy], French culture should be more open to all the wisdom available in the various religious traditions of his people. He put this forward with all due respect for the nonbelievers in France but also with a breadth of spirit that made the old claims of a rigidly secularist public order as the only guarantor of liberty for all citizens look decidedly illiberal. [Emphases added.]

7 comments:

Christine said...

Sacre Sarkozy!!!!

I had goosebumps reading that article, and I almost wept reading the speech! Oh!!! Glorious! All that focus on meaning and hope is absolutely right, and desperately needed everywhere like never before.

Whodathunkit?

As the old hymn goes, "God moves in mysterious ways, His secret will to perform..."

Who are those theologians who helped write it? God bless them for rising to the occasion. And what's the title of that encyclical he was referring to?

Whew... high... :-) Thanks for posting that.

W. said...

Glad you liked it.

The theologians? I could only guess, and perhaps I shouldn't until I do a little checking.

The encyclical? I am not sure where it mentioned an encyclical. There is mention of the conversation Sarkozy and Benedict XVI had, but I did not see an encyclical mentioned.

Prior to becoming pope, Ratzinger said these things over and over. You can peruse his published materials and you will begin to see a theme, especially in the book-length interviews that Ignatius Press has published.

As pope, Benedict XVI has said these types of things in many documents and speeches by now. Some have been published (though a few were actually written prior to becoming pope). For book form, look to Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam and also look to Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures. This second one is very special, at least to me. The day before JPII died, then-Cardinal Ratzinger was presented with a special award from the Benedictines, the St. Benedict Award. The award was for "the promotion of life and the family in Europe" as well as for his work on the preservation of Christian culture and for his continuing talks on what is needed for a rich civilization to survive. Well, he gave the talk at a famous Benedictine house, the Saint Scholastica convent at Subiaco, Italy. There is so much meaning and symbolism in all these items. Well, during the talk he discussed many of these issues and then closed with a crescendo of sorts, bringing his diagnosis to a need for a new Benedict:

Our greatest need in the present historical moment is people who make God credible in this world by means of the enlightened faith they live. [...]

We need men who keep their eyes fixed on God, learning from him what true humanity means.
We need men whose intellect is enlightened by the light of God, men whose hearts are opened by God, so that their intellect can speak to the intellect of others and their hearts can open the hearts of others. It is only by means of men who have been touched by God that God can return to be with mankind.

We need men like Benedict of Nursia, who, in an age of dissipation and decadence, immersed himself in the uttermost solitude. Then, after all the purifications he had to undergo, he succeeded in rising again to the light. He returned and made his foundation at Monte Cassino, the "city on the hill" where, in the midst of so many ruins, he assembled the forces from which a new world was formed. [...]


The next day, JPII died and days later Pope Benedict XVI was elected to lead the Church through its next series of travails.

For more on that, go here.

You might also enjoy The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion. This book is an exchange (of sorts) with the philosopher Habermas, a giant in contemporary philosophy. Habermas made quite a bit of news when he stated (prior to this book) that Europe needs Christianity because it is from Christianity that we got the notion of human rights, freedom of conscience, and so on. It was quite a shocker when he said that.

Another helpful book in this area is Values in a Time of Upheaval, which includes an apparently foretelling discussion on the need for hope.

W. said...

On a somewhat related (though perhaps not too related) note, I also suggest you read the pope's 2006 Christmas Address to the Roman Curia. It is a bit long but really worth the read.

Christine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine said...

Here's the mention of an encyclical:

Of course, raise a family, contribute to scientific research, to teach, to fight for ideas, especially if they are those of human dignity, run a country, it can give meaning to life. These are the small and these high expectations ", which, on a daily basis, we maintain on the way" to use the words of the Holy Father's encyclical. But they do not mean to the fundamental questions of human beings on the meaning of life and the mystery of death. They do not know how to explain what happens before life and what happens after death."

Man, I'm still amazed at the profound theology of this speech - I WANT TO KNOW who the ghost writers were. They are servants of the living God, discharging an awesome opportunity and responsibility - but what a wonderful, wonderful thing that Sarkozy was willing to take 100% responsibility for representing these profound statements.

This speech should have rocked the world.... but it seems largely ignored in the American press. What about the French? Have you seen anything anywhere?

W. said...

Here is a blurb about Sarkozy's book:

The presentation of the book that appears on the rear cover summarizes as follows the ways in which its contents are fresh and new:

“With this book, Nicolas Sarkozy is confronting one of the taboos of French society: the place of religion in the République. Sarkozy wants to create an open and serene secularism, in which each person can live out his own vision of hope and participate in building up democratic society. He speaks of his faith, of his encounters with spiritual figures who have influenced him, of the convictions he wants to pass on to his children. The book is a great contribution to the reflection on the founding values of the République and on the future of secularism in France.”

[...]

Furthermore, the book is in the form of an interview, and the questions are posed to Sarkozy by a professor of philosophy, Thibaud Collin, and a religious of the order of St. Dominic, Fr. Philippe Verdin, O.P.

Moreover, Sarkozy had placed at the opening of the book the following excerpt from a masterwork of liberal Catholicism, “Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville, which was published in France in 1835 after he returned from a voyage to the United States:

“There are persons in France who see in the République a permanent and tranquil state, a necessary end toward which ideas and customs guide the modern societies each day, and who sincerely desire to help men to become free. But when they attack religious beliefs, they are following their passions, not their interests. Despotism can do without faith, but freedom cannot. Religion is much more necessary for the République that they proclaim than for the monarchy that they attack, and it is more so for democratic republics than for any other.”

Christine said...

All of this is pretty amazing. The problem, as you noted earlier, is of course the tomfoolery he is engaging in with Carla Bruni, noted non-monogamist and "man-eater", taking her with him to the Vatican for this very speech...

Sarkozy is a very, very smart man. But he is, after all, a man with an ego like any other man. No wonder this speech has caused barely a ripple in response. He doesn't seem to be as smart in handling his rebounding love life, nor does he seem to be personally convicted spiritually - only pragmatic and principled about encouraging Catholics in public society. It's good political philosophy, if nothing else.

But it's a grand start. We'll just have to see, n'est-ce pas?