Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Too Early to Give Up on Europe

In a recent post I let slip that I have been very discouraged about the state of Christianity in Europe agreeing that it was fair to call it a post Christian Society. Today I read two stories that have actually given me some optimism.

The first story was about Cherie Blair, the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a known dissenter from the faith. In an interview with the National Catholic Register Mrs Blair seemed to be moderating her views and recognizing the authority of the Church on spiritual matters. Interesting.

Far more encouraging is this report on a book featuring the religious views of Nicolas Sarkozy, a leading candidate for the French presidency. Here's a quote from the would be President of France:
“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.”

Religion is a necessity for democracy, I couldn't have said it better myself. These are also clearly deeply held beliefs, since this is certainly not a populist position that his advisors have suggested. More likely M. Sarkozy has been influenced by the violent unrest that he has seen as Minister of the Interior as these two observations suggest:
“Believing that the state can remain completely indifferent to the reality of religion is a position that is continually contradicted by the facts.”

and . . .
“It is more important to open places of worship in large urban areas than to inaugurate sports facilities, even though these are very useful. We must be concerned about making these the ideals that young people adopt. All of these
young people have no ideals, and this is a challenge for all the religions.”

Pope John Paul the Great's charisma and obvious love for the people are no doubt responsible for part of the softening in attitudes that gives Sarkozy the confidence to make his bold remarks. Pope Benedict's concerted effort to engage Europe must also be credited with some of the progress, Benedict should definitely continue his effort to save Europe from the aggressive secularism that has led it astray.

Back to France, Nicolas Sarkozy made a very concrete proposal that the governments should finance the building of churches. Although it flows sensibly from his line of thinking, it may not be an ideal solution. Government funds would likely mean more government interference in the operation of these churches, which could further suck the life and motivation out of both clergy and volunteers. If France doesn't have it, a tax deduction system similar to the Canadian system would reward private donations to churches. This would have the desired effect of increasing funds available for building and give the donors a true sense of ownership in their churches. But this is a technical argument, Sarkozy is opening a debate that is desperately needed in France and I wish him every success. Sarkozy for President!

Thanks to Lifesite.net for the links to both articles.

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