On Monday, May 31, 2021, Mexican Father Mario Arroyo Martinez shared with Exaudi’s readers his article in “Theology for Millennials,” entitled “A Holy Politician? Which highlights the possibility of attaining sanctity in the complex world of politics.
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Robert Schuman, one of the Fathers of the European Union, is about to be recognized as “Venerable” by the Catholic Church. He lived the virtues heroically and can be proposed as a model, although he cannot yet be given public devotion. It is the prior step to being recognized as Blessed, for which a miracle must be verified, wrought by his intercession. A second verified miracle opens the doors to sainthood.
The subject is intense, as it is hard to believe that a profession, usually reviled as corrupt and opportunistic, where situations and agreements are almost inevitably immoral, a successful politician can be proposed as a model and recognized as a Saint. Robert Schuman was not just any politician; he was one of the four Founding Fathers of the European Union, three of whom were practicing Catholics and the fourth now on his way to the altars, the Servant of God Alcide De Gasperi (Konrad Adenauer was the other Catholic). They are examples of the Pope’s idea that “politics is a high form of charity,” which is not reduced to a happy, occasional phrase, but is embodied in concrete individuals and, above all, is realizable.
Therefore, more than ever, it is opportune to have the example of recent holy politicians. We already have Thomas More, but he is a 16th-century martyr. We need politicians that have died in their bed, but who demonstrated that, through the pitfalls of political activity, one can be faithful to God and serve the common good effectively. And not as “second-tier” politicians, but leaders in political life, such as Schuman, who was President of the Council of France, Minister of Justice and Foreign Affairs and Deputy for many years, as well as first President of the European Parliamentary Assembly. However, what is essential is that it was Schuman who, in his famous address known as the Schuman Declaration of May 9, 1950, proposed the creation of a Franco-German coal and steel community, to avoid future wars — World War II had ended five years before –, and thus initiate a project of unity. It was the birth of the European Coal and Steel Community, to which Belgium and Italy were added. It was the first step in the configuration years later of the European Union.
It is ironic that the European Union, which at present is so markedly secular, has at its roots two Catholic politicians on their way to the altars. It is at once both ironic and tragic. Even Europe’s flag, designed by Catholic Arsène Heitz, has the Apocalyptic Virgin Mary (“A woman, clothed with the sun . . . with a crown of twelve stars on her head,” (Revelation 12:1) as the source of the artist’s inspiration. In fact, Europe’s flag is blue, the color of the Virgin; it has 12 stars, not representing the States, as in 1955 when it was designed, there were not yet 12 Member States and now there are many more, but the Virgin. To a great extent, it was practicing Catholics that made this wonderful unity possible — from which Great Britain has now withdrawn – which is the European Union.
However, to recognize Schuman as Venerable means to affirm, after a detailed historical investigation, that in so far as it can be known, he was coherent in his faith and, of course, in his morality, when it came to holding high public office — the most difficult — and also in his private life. Thus he is offered as a model to many other Catholic politicians facing the dilemma of being timid and thinking that, if they want to be faithful to their conscience, they must be content with peripheral or marginal offices, or leave politics flat out. Schuman is also presented as a model for other successful Catholic politicians, who have left their Catholic principles at home so that they do not “influence politics” for the sake of alleged political neutrality. We can’t help but think of Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau, who, acknowledging themselves practicing Catholics, promote policies that are radically opposed to the principles of Catholicism.
Robert Schuman and Alcide De Gasperi show with their lives that one can be a highly effective politician, work for the common good and remain faithful to one’s Catholic identity in the public as well as the private realm.
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester