Bishops see more selfish Europe 20 years after Berlin Wall fell
Photo; Irish “Yes” campaigners celebrate in Dublin, 3 Oct 2009/Cathal McNaughton)
Europe has become increasingly selfish and materialistic in the 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the heads of the Roman Catholic bishops’ conferences across Europe said at the end of their three-day annual meeting at the weekend. “The crisis sweeping Europe today is serious,” they said in a statement after the session in Paris. They cited materialism, individualism and relativism as major challenges facing European society.
The bishops’ sober assessment contrasted with the upbeat mood that the overwhelming “Yes” vote in Ireland’s Lisbon Treaty referendum created. It must be noted they drew up their statement before they’d heard the news from Dublin on Saturday. And their statement ended with a note of Christian hopefulness. Still, their diagnosis is so fundamental it’s hard to imagine they would have changed much in the text.
Here’s the way they put it:
“All that has happened since the fall of the Berlin Wall has been a great stepping stone in the European adventure… (but) twenty years later, we now see that the incredible European project, with a strong ethical basis, has greatly weakened… The hopes placed on building Europe have not so far been fulfilled. Here we take note of the influence of several factors:
- “The development of the European Union has gone hand in hand with a growth in consumption, at least for some people. The mere constant acquisition of goods will never fill people’s hearts… The rules of the market and competition will never give birth to the ideal.
- “Present society wishes to give to the individual every possible opportunity to exercise individual choice and to seek personal fulfilment. In doing so it risks simply locking the individual into the defence of self-interest or acquired benefits… A society in which each individual, each group, each nation defends only their own vested interests cannot but be the jungle… We should not be surprised then if mafia and terrorist organizations thrive against this background…
- “A pluralistic society often risks being tempted by relativism, and particularly by ethical relativism. Each person sets their own norms and claims their own rights. Social life can only rest on common rules, on a vision of humanity that does not change according to shifting lobbies or opinion polls…
“The crisis sweeping Europe today is serious. Low birth rates and the future of its demography do not lead to optimism. However, we do not intend to be prophets of doom. Things are not necessarily doomed to get worse! Our faith calls us turn our attention to the European society in which we live, and to gaze on it with hope.”
Do you think materialism, individualism and relativism are the main problems nagging Europe? If so, will it take more than the feel-good factor from the Irish vote to put “EU show… back on the road” again?