Pope Francis: “Europe is now a “grandmother”, no longer fertile and vibrant”

During the last few days someone remarked to me…

– birth rates are lower than ever in developed countries (except where certain groups seem to be having lots of children, such as Muslims in formerly-Christian Europe)

– a pop tart, Lady Gaga, has recommended that young people don’t have sex at all, because they ought not to bother with other people, they are sufficient in an of themselves: they don’t need anyone

– it is possible that, within 10 years, an artificial womb may be viable, functional

Against that backdrop, I read that Pope Francis addressed the parliament of the European Union (for what it’s worth… and I don’t the the EUP is worth much).

Something of what he said.  It’s really long, so I’ll give just a few bits:

[…]

I feel bound to stress the close bond between these two words: “dignity” and “transcendent”.
“Dignity” was the pivotal concept in the process of rebuilding which followed the Second World War. [Thank you USA and the Marshall Plan] Our recent past has been marked by the concern to protect human dignity, in constrast to the manifold instances of violence and discrimination which, even in Europe, took place in the course of the centuries. Recognition of the importance of human rights came about as the result of a lengthy process, entailing much suffering and sacrifice, which helped shape an awareness of the unique worth of each individual human person. This awareness was grounded not only in historical events, but above all in European thought, characterized as it is by an enriching encounter whose “distant springs are many, coming from Greece and Rome, from Celtic, Germanic and Slavic sources, and from Christianity which profoundly shaped them”,2 [that’s a footnote… I’m ignoring them for now] thus forging the very concept of the “person”. [Which includes the unborn.]
Today, the promotion of human rights is central to the commitment of the European Union to advance the dignity of the person, both within the Union and in its relations with other countries. This is an important and praiseworthy commitment, since there are still too many situations in which human beings are treated as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age. [or being still unborn?]
In the end, what kind of dignity is there without the possibility of freely expressing one’s thought or professing one’s religious faith? What dignity can there be without a clear juridical framework which limits the rule of force and enables the rule of law to prevail over the power of tyranny? What dignity can men and women ever enjoy if they are subjected to all types of discrimination? What dignity can a person ever hope to find when he or she lacks food and the bare essentials for survival and, worse yet, when they lack the work which confers dignity?
Promoting the dignity of the person means recognizing that he or she possesses inalienable rights which no one may take away arbitrarily, much less for the sake of economic interests.
At the same time, however, care must be taken not to fall into certain errors which can arise from a misunderstanding of the concept of human rights and from its misuse. [Homosexual unions falsely called “marriages” are NOT a right.] Today there is a tendency to claim ever broader individual rights; underlying this is a conception of the human person as detached from all social and anthropological contexts, as if the person were a “monad”[see above] I believe, therefore, that it is vital to develop a culture of human rights which wisely links the individual, or better, the personal aspect, to that of the common good, of the “all of us” made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society.3 In fact, unless the rights of each individual are harmoniously ordered to the greater good, those rights will end up being considered limitless and consequently will become a source of conflicts and violence.
To speak of transcendent human dignity thus means appealing to human nature, to our innate capacity to distinguish good from evil, to that “compass” deep within our hearts, which God has impressed upon all creation.4 Above all, it means regarding human beings not as absolutes, but as beings in relation. In my view, one of the most common diseases in Europe today is the loneliness typical of those who have no connection with others. This is especially true of the elderly, who are often abandoned to their fate, and also in the young who lack clear points of reference and opportunities for the future. It is also seen in the many poor who dwell in our cities and in the disorientation of immigrants who came here seeking a better future.
This loneliness has become more acute as a result of the economic crisis, whose effects continue to have tragic consequences for the life of society. In recent years, as the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful. [WATCH THIS…] In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a “grandmother”, no longer fertile and vibrant. As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions.
Together with this, we encounter certain rather selfish lifestyles, [like refusing to have children or being in relationships which are intended to be sterile] marked by an opulence which is no longer sustainable and frequently indifferent to the world around us, and especially to the poorest of the poor. To our dismay we see technical and economic questions dominating political debate, to the detriment of genuine concern for human beings.5 Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited, with the result that – as is so tragically apparent – whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms, as in the case of the terminally ill, the elderly who are abandoned and uncared for, and children who are killed in the womb.
This is the great mistake made “when technology is allowed to take over”;6 the result is a confusion between ends and means”.7 It is the inevitable consequence of a “throwaway culture” and an uncontrolled consumerism. Upholding the dignity of the person means instead acknowledging the value of human life, which is freely given us and hence cannot be an object of trade or commerce. As members of this Parliament, you are called to a great mission which may at times seem an impossible one: to tend to the needs of individuals and peoples. To tend to those in need takes strength and tenderness, effort and generosity in the midst of a functionalistic and privatized mindset which inexorably leads to a “throwaway culture”. To care for individuals and peoples in need means protecting memory and hope; it means taking responsibility for the present with its situations of utter marginalization and anguish, and being capable of bestowing dignity upon it.8
How, then, can hope in the future be restored, so that, beginning with the younger generation, there can be a rediscovery of that confidence needed to pursue the great ideal of a united and peaceful Europe, a Europe which is creative and resourceful, respectful of rights and conscious of its duties?
To answer this question, allow me to use an image. One of the most celebrated frescoes of Raphael is found in the Vatican and depicts the so-called “School of Athens”. Plato and Aristotle are in the centre. Plato’s finger is pointed upward, to the world of ideas, to the sky, to heaven as we might say. Aristotle holds his hand out before him, towards the viewer, towards the world, concrete reality. This strikes me as a very apt image of Europe and her history, made up of the constant interplay between heaven and earth, where the sky suggests that openness to the transcendent – to God – which has always distinguished the peoples of Europe, while the earth represents Europe’s practical and concrete ability to confront situations and problems. [A deep concern of Ratzinger/Benedict is the identity of Europe and her future if Christianity is jettisoned.  In other words, whatever else it might be, without Christianity, Europe isn’t Europe.]
The future of Europe depends on the recovery of the vital connection between these two elements. A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks slowly losing its own soul and that “humanistic spirit” which it still loves and defends.
Taking as a starting point this opening to the transcendent, I would like to reaffirm the centrality of the human person, which otherwise is at the mercy of the whims and the powers of the moment. I consider to be fundamental not only the legacy that Christianity has offered in the past to the social and cultural formation of the continent, but above all the contribution which it desires to offer today, and in the future, to Europe’s growth. This contribution does not represent a threat to the secularity of states or to the independence of the institutions of the European Union, but rather an enrichment. This is clear from the ideals which shaped Europe from the beginning, such as peace, subsidiarity and reciprocal solidarity, and a humanism centred on respect for the dignity of the human person.

[…]

That’s enough for now.  You can read the rest there.

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28 Responses to Pope Francis: “Europe is now a “grandmother”, no longer fertile and vibrant”

  1. Fr. Andrew says:

    I usually am not sympathetic with His Holiness’ writing style, but this was Ratzinger-esq. Towards the end he recalls the Patristic quote of Christians in society being like the soul in the body. A good recognition of the similarities between the current EU culture and pagan Rome.

    PS- have you heard of/read the novels about the demise of the culture of death? Fatherless, Motherless, and Childless? Fun/fast reads on the progress of the culture of death. They are evocative imaginings of what death’s mocking of life might look like and how that will cause society’s demise.

  2. NBW says:

    I am a bit concerned with some parts of the speech especially the “laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples”.

  3. Polycarpio says:

    The very last point made in this excerpt is an important one, because it dovetails the message of Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict, who said that for the individual to accept a Christian identity does not require the individual to be less free, to enjoy life less, or be subjected to a limitation. Instead, Christianity offers a vast expansion of freedom and self realization. Here, Francis is saying that for Europe to embrace its Christian heritage would not imply a narrower option, but it would enrich and enhance the culture and society. This recalls Bl. Paul VI’s speech at the end of Vatican II: “Do not fear [the Church]. She is made after the image of her Master, whose mysterious action does not interfere with your prerogatives but heals everything human of its fatal weakness, transfigures it and fills it with hope, truth and beauty.”

  4. anilwang says:

    NBW says: “I am a bit concerned with some parts of the speech especially the “laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples”.”

    Actually, this is not a case of antinomianism. Note that he said “individual peoples” not not individuals. There’s a key distinction. It has to do with subsidiarity. Once the state starts ignoring “peoples” and “families” and just deal with the individual, the state has overstepped its bounds and that ultimately leads to the destruction of society. Carle Zimmerman has a good analysis of what happens when a family changes from what he calls a “Trustee Family” (e.g. 12 tribes of Israel) devolves into the domestic family (e.g. “Traditional” American family) to the Atomic family (e.g. Modern Family with just parents and kids and no relatives) and how societies collapse when this happens. (see https://bonald.wordpress.com/book-reviews-society/family-and-civilization/ for more information).

    If he were around today, he’d probably add “ad hoc” families to the list since states now harp on how even the atomic family is too “idealistic” and “restrictive”.

  5. Faith says:

    Father Z, since when are grandmothers not vibrant?

  6. marcelus says:

    I was watching a video on youtube called “welcome to belgistan, the muslim capital of europe”

    It is extremely interesting, it shows how Belgium is literaly being eaten up by muslims. They estimate by 2030 muslims will acccount for more than 50 % of the population,

    At every level. The ending line from the head of the group that would like to see sharia imposed in Belgium (that is their goal), he gets asked: “how do you see the people of Belgium countering this? or something like : can the people of Belgium do anything about it?

    He guy goes: “Well , I believe they can not, we shall rule unles they start having two or three wives and becoming poligamic.”

    Sad sad expectations for Old Europa.

    This is the link I think:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDKk15KcqNk

    And they did not want to bring inmigrants from Latinamerica, countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Chile (leaving Argentina aside here, since most Argentinians carry european passports too) etc, which would have somehow tended to balance the birth rate over there.

  7. Let’s get this straight: Pope Francis stands up for the unborn from abortion and IVF, for the elderly against euthanasia, implies that a lack of fertility is harming the continent and the BBC neglects to mention this?

    This suggests to me that there are two Pope Francises. The real one who’s Catholic, albeit who makes ill advised decisions at times – and a fake one who’s a hippy construct of the luvvy media who wants us all to hug and blow kisses at each other whilst having abortions and attending “gay” “marriages”.

  8. Scott W. says:

    I had the flash of a thought recently with the appointment of an African cardinal to a major position that Pope Francis is not sweeping out conservatives, but rather staring the groundwork for bringing in non-Westerners were the Faith is flourishing as opposed to being in a demographic death-spiral.

  9. pseudomodo says:

    To Europeans…

    “They’d better start having babies.”

    – Commander Adama, Battlestar Galactica.

  10. yatzer says:

    He has exceedingly good points, but I too was put off by the rather depressing view of grandmothers, probably because I am one and think I have some vibrancy left, thank you very much.

  11. Robbie says:

    I don’t think it’s any coincidence Europe’s decline coincides with the collapse on Catholicism, or faith in general, on the continent.

  12. pelerin says:

    Having been out all day I was disappointed to see so little coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to Strasbourg on the British News this evening. On the Independant news there was barely 6 seconds showing Pope Francis entering the chamber whereas there were several minutes devoted to an unfortunate cricketer who had been hit on the head by a cricket ball.

    Many here in Britain have no interest whatsoever in what happens in Europe and although we are all represented by an MEP (Member of the European Parliament) I am sure that most could not name their MEP. And no I am ashamed to say I have no idea who mine is either.

    Sadly the ‘Femen’ demonstrators have again been active there and I am pleased that our news has ignored their disgusting antics in Strasbourg Cathedral.

  13. Joseph-Mary says:

    This is one of the best true pope speeches I have seen from the present pontiff.

  14. Kerry says:

    In David (aka Spengler) Goldman’s book, How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too), he disagrees about the Moo-slims. Especially in trouble is Iran.

  15. It would be quite interesting to compare this to Benedict’s Regensberg lecture… I bet there would be some rather interesting similarities (and differences as well).

  16. It would be quite interesting to compare this to Benedict’s Regensberg lecture… I bet there would be some rather interesting similarities (and differences as well).

  17. KateD says:

    Amazing what a difference good translators can make!

  18. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    yatzer,

    It has long been a feature of the use of imagery – and one that we (or I, at least) often lose sight of – that the same image can be used in different, even opposite, ways – by bringing out some of its different features, selectively. For example, owl as image of wisdom, but also owl as image of bewilderment in the presence of clear daylight (with light as image of truth).

    I think in the case of ‘grandmother’ as image here, the details which follow are meant to point out the limits of its use: “no longer fertile and vibrant.” I do not know what the Italian text translated here has – perhaps something much closer to a variation on “no longer fertile” lies behind the “vibrant”-word(s) as well.

    In the “School of Athens” by Raphael, analyzed in the speech, Plato, whose “finger is pointed upward, to the world of ideas, to the sky, to heaven as we might say” – as part of “a very apt image of Europe and her history, made up of the constant interplay between heaven and earth, where the sky suggests that openness to the transcendent – to God” – that ‘vibrant’ Plato is depicted as as very old man – of ‘a grandfatherly age’, we might say. “Europe and her history”, deeply and broadly heeding that “openness to the transcendent – to God” again, may easily, if implicitly, be imagined as the most vibrant of ‘grandmothers’.

  19. marcelus says:

    yatzer says:
    25 November 2014 at 4:50 pm
    He has exceedingly good points, but I too was put off by the rather depressing view of grandmothers, probably because I am one and think I have some vibrancy left, thank you very much.

    I believe he meant and clearly, Europe should be vibrant! flourishing with pregnant women. Which is not happening .Grandmothers are expected to have been thru that phase of life already.

  20. NBW says:

    @ Anilwang: I thought the Pope might be referring to some of the laws in France and perhaps elsewhere in Europe that were “insensitive” to the Muslim peoples.

  21. Traductora says:

    This is one of the best and most coherent addresses he has given and was clearly written by someone else, which is not a bad thing; he stuck to the text and it made sense. Unfortunately, he got near journalists on the flight from Strasbourg and there was no prepared text. He said some truly strange things.

  22. Bea says:

    “Individual rights”
    ” it is vital to develop a culture of human rights ”
    “agriculture”
    “migrants, immigration and immigrants”
    “protection of the environment”
    “The young seeking education”
    “a Europe which risks slowly losing ….. that “humanistic spirit” which it still loves and defends.”
    “mutual assistance can prevail and progress can be made on the basis of mutual trust.”
    “finding new ways of joining market flexibility …. these are indispensable for their human development.”
    “lofty ideals. A Europe which cares for, defends and protects man”

    All of the above quote seemed to be the meat of his talk. He did mention God a couple of times.

    @ Pelerin
    “Having been out all day I was disappointed to see so little coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to Strasbourg”

    Maybe it’s because Strasbourg was not interested so it was not much covered there.
    There were hardly any people to wave to him on his arrival and his trip to parliament.
    An interesting comment made by a resident: “”Strasbourg [is] empty… The Pope did not wish to see the Alsatians. The Alsatians did not wish to see the Pope. A visit [that was] as short as it was… sad.”
    It seems he took no trouble to visit any prelate or church while he was there. The faithful seemed to resent this, maybe the media did too.

  23. Vincent says:

    Pelerin, that’s probably because they only had a few seconds of usable content that could be balanced as being pro-EU but it needing reform, which is precisely how the BBC presented it…

    also, on the cricket side of things, it’s very unusual for a cricketer to be so badly hurt whilst playing. so from a journalistic point of view it’s really a better story… after all, Pope Francis says something nearly every week….

  24. Supertradmum says:

    In the past four years, I have been in Europe more than in the States. Out of 48 months, I have spent only 12 months in the States.

    The three biggest problems are so obvious not to be missed.

    One, the priests have allowed contraception, giving parents passes in the confessional since the 1970s. Ergo, fewer babies. I spoke with a Maltese woman of 35 last week who considers herself Catholic. She has one child and will have no more. Her mother had two, while the maternal grandmother had eight. This type of disobedience is rampant in England, Ireland, and other EU countries. with people going to Mass and Communion in that state of sin.

    Consumerism and contraception go together-status and things are more important than children.

    Two, there is no hard teaching from the pulpit in most countries about anything. It is as if the priests simply do not want to talk about the hard things. Leadership is lacking among the bishops and cardinals, even in Ireland. Try and find a solidly orthodox priest even in Malta is difficult. Those young men who are not liberal and love the Latin Mass either go to other countries to be priests or do not follow a vocation. Across Europe, the priest shortage and seminarian shortage is appalling.

    Three, the laity are not only wimps, but children, who has never bothered to learn their Faith. Two excellent priests, one in Ireland and one here in Malta told me that the weakness of the laity is their own fault for falling into sloth and simply never reading anything about the Faith. The vast majority of Catholic adults I have met in Europe have never read one bit of the CCC.

    The Church so weakened from within cannot withstand the onslaught of socialism and the reemergence of communism. Many people fear war across the continent, which is a reality as Russia wants to reassert the rule of the USSR, but few connect the fall of European energies with the absence of religion.

    Some people are thirsty, but the EU has passed laws specifically forbidding dioceses from sponsoring sems from other countries, such as Africa. Also, lay people like myself, who love the EU, are not allowed to work here in the Church. Big Brother has halted the movement of Catholics.

    And, which institution in the world is the only one which crosses international boundaries with the Gospel Truth, with the Mass and sacraments? The Catholic Church…as we are heading for huge persecution, not seen since Stalin and Hitler against the Catholic Church.

    The Pope needs to address this again and again, as the Europeans listen to him.

  25. Supertradmum says:

    oppsie, found three more American months–cannot count-15 in the States and 33 in various EU countries

  26. Supertradmum says:

    oppsie, found three more American months–cannot count-15 in the States and 33 in various EU countries

  27. PA mom says:

    Beautifully said. Love the grandmother reference. After all, we love our grandmothers, but generally see them as assisting the next generations in their development, not so much creating for themselves anymore.

    Europe should not be destined to societal death. There are many persons of European descent here in the US, some of whom would certainly desire to migrate if there was work for them.
    German Catholics could lobby together to reduce the Church tax so as to relieve some of the pressure on the family in that country.
    I have heard that Italians have a truly frightening system for childbirth, in that if your specific doctor assists you during birthing, then all is free, but if not, then the bill is all on you. Sounds a bit like financial Russian roulette, and would certainly discourage multiple such hazardous events.

    Maybe they need to invite some Quiverfull families from the US to get the movement going…

  28. The Cobbler says:

    “During the last few days someone remarked to me…

    – birth rates are lower than ever in developed countries (except where certain groups seem to be having lots of children, such as Muslims in formerly-Christian Europe)”
    How low they are now will only be the lowest until they get lower again…

    “- a pop tart, Lady Gaga, has recommended that young people don’t have sex at all, because they ought not to bother with other people, they are sufficient in an of themselves: they don’t need anyone”
    I’m having a hard time imagining Christians being called puritanical or at least backwards for actually having marital intercourse in defiance of culturally established ego-worship. The ego-worshippers must be kept busy somehow, mustn’t they?

    “- it is possible that, within 10 years, an artificial womb may be viable, functional”
    My first thought is something like, “[citation needed]”, my second something like, “File that with the subject matter from horror movies and such,” but my third is, “I’ve seen these hypocrites at their work. If they ever actually pull it off, they’ll spend the next century condemning anyone who points out problems with it all the while demanding we all pay them to research solutions for the inevitable deluge of problems with it!” Now I’m angry. I could shrug at — or even argue with — people who want to conquer human nature and admit it; but the number of people out there who will, as reliably as the laws of thermodynamics, turn their crusade against human nature into a duplicitous mockery of the law of non-contradiction in order to admit of no argument and spit on their enemies merely for being sane… Ach, I’ll think no more of it, lest I need to go to Confession again.

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