Rocco Bottiglione. Friend of Pope St. John Paul II. Philosopher and statesman. Charming family man. Co-conspirator with our beloved late Polish Holy Father in articulating the altogether central idea of the oomun pear-sewn.
In November of 2004, Mr. Buttiglione withdrew his nomination as justice minister for the European Union. A committee of the European Parliament had voted him down, on the grounds that he made too many distinctions when it came to homosexuality.
‘Indeed, homosexuality is legal, and I will defend its legality. I personally believe it is immoral. That said, I will defend the rights of a homosexual person as I would defend the rights of any citizen.’ More or less what Buttiglione said. ‘Check, please!’ said the committee. ‘We will have no distinctions of this kind!’ Even though the committee was vested with only advisory authority, Buttiglione withdrew his nomination to avoid a political impasse.
Now, a decade later, almost to the day. Over the objections of many MPs who insist that theirs is a secular institution! Papa Francesco himself comes to the thunderdome. And His Holiness declares that Europe appears to be “a haggard grandmother, no longer fertile.”
You cannot make the poetic justice of this moment up.
Holy Father’s speech contained many of the bromides de rigueur for such occasions. But, at the same time, the speech dealt out even more poetic justice:
1. In 2004, the EU rejected the idea that Europe and Christianity are inextricably linked. In his speech, His Holiness pointed out that Europe and Christianity are inextricably linked.
2. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Germany in 2011, he insisted that “environmentalism” or “ecology”–so beautiful a fruit of devotion to the Creator–must include the ‘ecology’ of man himself. (And one of your best sources for helpful insights there would be Humanae Vitae.) Yesterday, Pope Francis said the same thing to the EU MPs.
3. When Pope Benedict visited the UN in 2008, he pointed out that there can be no international consensus on human rights, and therefore there can be no peace, without an acknowledgement by the West that a ‘natural law’ guides the conscience of man. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the institution of the UN itself, are based on the acknowledgement of the natural law. Yesterday, Pope Francis said that the idea of human rights contained in the EU charter is based on the acknowledgement of the natural law.
4. Pope Francis gave the MPs a crucial concept to work with; he shepherded the political leaders of Europe with confident authority, like the popes of old have done for lo so many centuries.
He pointed out that the contemporary idea of rights is too individualized. In the end, it produces profound loneliness.
Will the MPs listen? Can’t imagine that they will. But the truth is the truth, and every once in a while, people wake up to it.
…Pope Francis is a spiritual son of Romano Guardini. The idea that ‘the program of the papacy’ has fundamentally changed with the succession of March 2013? A delusion of the slackjawed twitterati who never turn off their televisions.
And Papa Francesco has more willingness to go for the jugular. Fertility as a rhetorical archetype in addressing the contemporary state of the Western world: that’s the jugular.