Rorate Caeli

Migration Crisis: The Pope despises European Christendom and doesn't understand the specificity of each single human community and the importance of the Nation -- by Pierre Manent

"The Pope, immigration and the Catholic Church before the Nations"

Pierre Manent
Le Figaro
Paris, September 25, 2023

Op-Ed: By criticizing European nations over immigration, the Pope shows little regard for the singularity of each human community, analyzes the philosopher. It's to forget how indispensable families, cities, nations and the Church are to each other respectively.

Pierre Manent's latest publication

Pope Francis has said it again: he did not come to France, but to Marseille. The French, however, need not be mortified by this, since, as he emphasized, his firm resolve is not to visit any "major European country." It doesn't matter that he is warmly and eagerly received by the Prime Minister and the President of the French Republic, that he is protected at every second by the French police, gendarmes and military, it doesn't matter that the city of Marseille is today the city in France most dependent on the goodwill of the government and the resources of the State: for him this nation, like other European nations, cannot be the object of his care nor the recipient of his intentions, as far as he is concerned it doesn't exist. "Marseilles and the Mediterranean" is the circumscription from which the truth of the present world emerges, and from which we must draw the principal motives for our actions.

On the contrary, the popes who were his predecessors had shown a lively and friendly attention to the different European nations, knowing how closely the history of the Church and of Christianity was interwoven with the history of the European nations. Even today, each nation's physiognomy is strongly marked by the way it received the Christian religion and by the character of its relations with the Catholic Church. The popes had something to say to each of our nations, as can be seen from Pope Benedict XVI's addresses to the British Parliament, the Bundestag, and the Bernardins in Paris, in three countries where the Roman Church was the subject and object of bitter conflict. The Church's respect for nations stems not only from our history, but is an expression of her respect for human communities, for all the mediations through which humanity gathers and governs itself. As we know, the Church sees herself as the mediator between humanity and God Himself, as the conciliar constitution Lumen gentium explains in magnificent terms.

Pope Francis' view of the state of the world is first and foremost political. In his eyes, migration - at least that for which Europe is the main destination - is the most significant phenomenon of our time, and the one against which all the issues that trouble us must first be assessed. The old nations of Europe therefore have a primary obligation to do everything in their power to facilitate migratory movements and the settlement of populations who simply ask for "hospitality". No distinction is made between the duty to help, which is indeed unconditional, and the obligation to receive in citizenship, which cannot have the same character. 

We are struck by the lightness with which Pope Francis considers human attachments. Human beings love, often passionately, the families, cities, nations and ways of life in which they have grown up and received their education. Dangerous attachments, like everything human, but without which nothing great has ever been achieved in the world. Do we have a duty of indifference to our families, our nations, even our Church?

Pope Francis' political approach would arouse fewer reservations if it were not accompanied by an equally biased religious perspective, with which it ultimately merges. In the 1950s, part of Catholic opinion had become convinced that the proletariat gave meaning to the history being made, that it should be the special object of Christian charity even when it joined the communist movement. Taking part in the struggles of the proletariat had redemptive value. Many Christians were thus led to show active sympathy not only for the workers' movement, which was perfectly legitimate, but also for the communist movement and the communist regime. A similar phenomenon is occurring today. Migrants, like proletarians in the past, are for some Christians the meeting place between heaven and earth. And just as people once refused to take into account the link between some proletarians and communism, today they dismiss as impiety the link between migration and Islam. The unconditional welcome of migrants has become the exclusive, or at least principal, criterion of a sincere Christian faith.

The "civilization" that Pope Francis declares possible, and passionately wants to make desirable to us, mainly concerns the nations of Europe. He is inviting them to disappear in order to become better. Neither China, nor Russia, nor India, nor the Muslim countries are concerned by his appeals. It is around the Mediterranean that the great work must be accomplished. The reasoning that leads to the obliteration of nations necessarily also implies the obliteration of the Church. Why should the Church keep its form, its inner principle, its sacraments, all those characteristics that distinguish it? Why remain in the Church when it asks us to melt into humanity?