THE RECONSTITUTION OF EUROPE
Dr Edward Norman, Dean of York Minster
On 1st May 2004 the European Union (EU) gained ten new members: two islands from the fringes of southern Europe, Cyprus and Malta, and eight countries of the ex-Communist bloc in Central and Eastern Europe: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Hungary. The EU now has twenty-five members and a population of some 450 million.
Fifteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the EU has absorbed not only two Mediterranean islands, but also eight ex-Communist countries. The borders of the EU are therefore now with countries of another Europe, the Europe of large ex-Communist and nominal Orthodox Christian populations. Indeed the new EU borders actually surround part of what since 1945 has been part of Russia, the former East Prussia, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. Nine decades after the futile atrocities of the Great European War of 1914-1918, for the first time virtually all of post-Catholic and post-Protestant Europe is now united in a political, social and economic Union.
Spiritually, the EU can indeed be described by the term 'post-Christian', or more exactly, 'post-Catholic' and 'post-Protestant'. The majorities of its fifteen member-countries long ago lapsed from the practice of both Catholicism and Protestantism. Although still nominally Catholic or Protestant, these countries are in fact no longer Christian, as is proved by the two World Wars of Europe's making. (Christian countries do not slaughter one another). As regards the ten new members, by merely joining the EU, it is clear that they too now find themselves losing their faith and sinking into the same post-Christian secularism as the previous fifteen members.
In order of nominal Catholic population, with percentages of Catholics given in brackets, post-Catholic Europe includes: Italy (98%), France (90%), Spain (94%), Portugal (94%), Belgium (75%), Austria (74%), Ireland (92%), Luxembourg (90%), with large minorities in Germany (34%), Holland (31%) and elsewhere, and now Poland (95%), Hungary (68%), the Czech Republic (40%), Slovakia (60%), Slovenia (71%), Lithuania (80 %) and Malta (99%). Of the 450 million inhabitants of the new EU nearly two-thirds, some 280 million, are nominal Catholics.
At ease with what is basically a medieval Catholic concept of Europe, post-Catholic countries have always been enthusiastic about the idea of a united Europe. Indeed the first six largely Catholic founding members initiated what is now the European Union by the Treaty of Rome, with open Catholic encouragement. The only Catholic countries which have had difficulties with the concept of a united Europe were those countries which used to take their Catholicism seriously, in other words what were more traditional Catholic countries, such as Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, Ireland and Austria. Today there are still such anti-EU and anti-abortion Catholic minorities, particularly in Poland and Malta. Their voice has, however, been silenced by the voices of modern secularism. Outside the EU there is still the very conservative Catholic Croatia (77% Catholic), which fuses into the war-zones of Bosnia-Herzegovina (43% Muslim) and Albania.
In order of nominal Protestant population, with percentages of Protestants given in brackets, post-Protestant Europe includes: the UK (70%?), Sweden (87%), Denmark (91%), Finland (89%), with large minorities in Germany (38%), Holland (21%), and now Latvia and Estonia. Two more radically Lutheran majority countries have refused to join the EU: these are Norway (86%) and Iceland (93%) (Greenland long ago left on receiving independence from Denmark). In the case of Switzerland, although its population numbers conservative Catholics (46%) and Calvinists and Lutherans (40%), it too has rejected membership of the EU.
It is notable that countries of a strong Protestant national cultural background have had many difficulties entering what was and still basically is a Catholic club. With a population of some 450 million, only a quarter, some 110 million, are nominal Protestants. Unlike in the post-Catholic countries, to this day there are still strong minorities in all the post-Protestant countries who wish to leave the Catholic-inspired EU altogether.
If the reader counts the above post-Catholic and post-Protestant countries, he will come to the total of twenty-three countries. Which are the two remaining countries of the new EU and why have they not been included above?
The two remaining countries are Greece and Cyprus, countries excluded from the above lists, because they are neither post-Catholic, nor post-Protestant. Fragments of a once great Orthodox Christian Empire, virtually everybody there nominally belongs to the Greek and Cypriot Orthodox Churches. This brings us to the fact that there are Orthodox Christian minorities in all the EU countries.
Four of them, three of them the new member-countries of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, together with Finland, actually have their own Orthodox Churches. However, there are even larger Orthodox minorities in Germany, France and the United Kingdom than in those countries. Moreover, there are other smaller Orthodox minorities in every single EU country, from Ireland to Portugal, Sweden to Slovenia, Italy to Latvia, Denmark to Hungary, Holland to Malta, Austria to Spain, Estonia to Belgium, Luxembourg to Lithuania. The new EU of 450 million has a nominal Orthodox minority of over 15 million, or about 3.5%.
This should also alert us to another fact. In reality, the vast majority of the new EU, now nearly half a Continent, is not only post-Catholic and post-Protestant. From the much longer Christian perspective of two thousand years, it is also post-Orthodox. The contemporary EU countries were a thousand years ago Orthodox Christian, in complete communion with the rest of the Orthodox world, centred in Jerusalem. Following the spiritual fragmentation of the eleventh century, they then passed from Orthodox Christianity to Catholicism, later in part to Protestantism, and then all of them to modern secular-humanist materialism. Now they have abandoned their religious faith, and spiritual and moral values and ideals, for the mess of pottage of secularism. Thus, nowhere in the proposed new EU Constitution is there even mention of the Christian Faith in any form.
This post-Orthodox EU Europe has become a materially prosperous area. For that reason many immigrants from the new ten member-countries will make a bee-line for what they see as the honeypots of Western Europe. Here of course they will find that the streets are not paved with gold. There will be many disillusions. As new immigrants, they will find themselves at the bottom of the Western European pile. They will be among the first to discover that Western material prosperity is not evenly distributed.
All over the EU there is a disaffected underclass, composed of immigrants, legal and illegal, often Muslim, combined with native Europeans, who have been left out of the prosperity brought by the modern technology of the 'knowledge society'. That underclass includes strong criminal and also terrorist elements, elements given over to the consumption of alcohol and other drugs and ravaged by sexually transmitted diseases. They will find a generation of children who do not know what family life is, what the words 'mother' and 'father' mean. They will find spiritual, and therefore moral and cultural, degeneration and degeneracy. Modern Western Europe is a spiritual desert, a religious vacuum, given over to secularism and materialism. Whatever immigrants from the new member-countries find, it will not be spiritual food.
However, as we have already said, beyond the frontiers of the post-Orthodox Europe of the EU, there is another far larger Europe, which did not fall to Catholicism a thousand years ago, or to Protestantism five hundred years later. The countries of this alternative Europe in fact cover a majority of the territory of Europe. With the exceptions of Greece and Cyprus and some fringe areas, the borders of the new post-Orthodox EU of 25 now exclude this other Europe. Indeed, as we mentioned earlier, one part of this other Europe is actually surrounded by the new EU borders. This other, alternative, multi-national Europe is comprised of the huge expanse of Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, and Macedonia, over 250 million souls.
All of these countries have a recent history in common. They were all once practising Orthodox Christian countries, which then fell into Communism, the product of the European World Wars. More importantly, they are all now finding their way back to Orthodoxy after the bloodiest persecutions of the Name of Christ in all history. They have not followed the way of most of post-Orthodox, EU Europe and did not descend from Orthodoxy through Catholicism, and sometimes Protestantism, into modern secularism. Their path has been different. They descended from Orthodoxy straght to Communism, and are now making their ascent back to Orthodoxy. For this reason, we label this part of Europe, not as post-Orthodox, but as pre-Orthodox.
However, it must be said that this movement back to Orthodoxy is not at all complete. In a recent survey in Russia it was found, for example, that only 20% of the population was keeping Lent. The fact is that in all these countries it is the ex-Communist Mafia that still has power. However, this cannot be a long-term solution; these countries have no other tradition of spirituality and therefore morality than that of Orthodox Christianity. There is no alternative: Mafia corruption or Orthodoxy. It is for this reason that we call this Europe 'pre-Orthodox', because the choice of Orthodoxy has not yet been made for sure. Graft and bribery have yet to be cast off there. However, since the only alternative to the organized crime of the ex-Communist Mafia is organized Orthodoxy, there is a certain optimism.
Because it descended into the pit of secular materialism before post-Orthodox Europe, this alternative Europe is in fact at a more advanced stage of spiritual evolution than post-Orthodox Europe. Although none of these countries has yet definitively found its way back to normality after the catastrophes of Communism, it is our hope that once they have returned to Orthodoxy, they may play a key role to the EU in witnessing to another Europe. These 'pre-Orthodox' countries have three vital things to offer the EU - not only cheap and educated workforces and natural resources - but above all spiritual resources. Greece and Cyprus, fallen to EU materialism, would certainly wish to leave the EU, if pre-Orthodox Europe returned to Orthodoxy. A new Orthodox Europe would then have a role play in the post-Orthodox Europe of the EU. It would bring it back from the pagan depths and illusions of secularism to the Truth of Christ, Whom it forsook a thousand years ago.
Orthodox Russia will assume her proper place in the family of nations and may even restore political and moral balance to the whole world.
Metropolitan Laurus of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, 16 March 2004
It is too much to expect the tiny and impoverished 3.5% minority of Orthodox who live in EU Europe to heal and set an example to this post-Orthodox Europe by themselves. However, with the help of a renewed Orthodox Europe, which had finally turned its back on the recent past, the conversion of at least part of the twenty-three countries of the post-Orthodox Europe of the EU would not be impossible. The potential spiritual message to post-Orthodox Europe would depend on three factors:
Firstly, pre-Orthodox Europe has to throw off the temptations of the rule of the ex-Communist Mafia with its crime, corruption and bribery: it has to stop being pre-Orthodox Europe and finally once more become Orthodox Europe.
Secondly, a renewed Orthodox Europe and the Orthodox living in post-Orthodox Europe have to throw off the temptations of local nationalisms, showing that Orthodox Christianity is not some mere collection of local ethnic cults, but a united, multi-national Commonwealth.
Thirdly, a renewed Orthodox Europe and the Orthodox in post-Orthodox Europe have to throw off the temptations of modernism, of adapting Orthodoxy to secular standards, remaining faithful to the Orthodox Tradition.
If Europe does not return to Orthodoxy, if Europe is not spiritually reconstituted and restored, made whole once more, then the feature is bleak indeed. Pre-Orthodox Europe will not recover its identity, remaining paralysed in the grip of the Mafia. It will never constitute an Orthodox witness, a witness to the Tradition. And post-Orthodox Europe will also not recover its original spiritual identity, roots and values in Orthodox Christianity. It will remain the paralysed slave of anti-religious materialist values, falling ever deeper into the black hole of the illusions of globalized secularism.
In the face of such an uphill task, we cannot but feel daunted. On the other hand, it is utterly unOrthodox to exclude miracles, the Hand of Providence, from human history. If God through His Saints could intervene in the destinies of the Ancient Roman Empire and the Modern Soviet Empire, we cannot deny that He may once again intervene in the destiny of the Future European Empire, making Europe whole once more. Listen to the voice from Jerusalem, peoples of Europe!
The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole
Sunday of the Paralytic,