A Christian or a Laic Europe? Moving beyond a False Dichotomy

By Ungureanu, Camil | Romanian Journal of Political Science, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

A Christian or a Laic Europe? Moving beyond a False Dichotomy


Ungureanu, Camil, Romanian Journal of Political Science


Abstract:

In order to assess the debate concerning the constitutional recognition of Christianity in Europe, we need to pose the more general question of the role (if any) of the symbolic function of the modern democratic constitution in relation to religion. In the present paper, we differentiate between three stylized understandings of constitution-making, namely communitarian, liberal and discursive. Our argument is that the discursive "model" of the symbolic function of the constitution combines the merits and avoids the demerits of communitarianism and liberalism.

Keywords: European constitutionalism, democracy, religion, Habermas, Rawls, communitarianism.

Introduction

The failure of the "Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe" has given a fresh impetus to the advocates of introducing a reference to Christianity in the Preamble of the future European Constitution: Angela Merkel's renewed plea is a prime example of this positioning. (1) According to it, a stronger anchorage into the Christian dimension of the European identity would not merely reflect the realities of the European historical and legal-constitutional traditions, but it would also offset the lack of solidarity and concrete motivation for furthering the European political project. The fiasco of the Constitutional Treaty is yet another confirmation that a European polity founded on private economic interest or on abstractions such as procedural democracy and constitutional patriotism is unworkable. Thus, the spiritless European political body would need a transfusion of religious blood: the constitutional recognition of Christianity is, as the argument goes, a necessary step in this direction.

In order to clarify the issue of the desirability of introducing a reference to Christianity in the European Constitution, we need to tackle the general question of the function and purpose of a constitution in modern democracies. A modern democratic constitution fulfils normally a plurality of functions out of which three are almost always present. The first is the organization of the state powers and the repartition of institutional competencies. The second is defining and specifying the relations between individuals and the public authority. This includes catalogues of individual rights but also of duties and responsibilities--for instance the contribution to military defence and other public expenses. Third, a constitution can have a symbolic function in that it is also "a kind of deposit that reflects and fosters values, ideals and symbols shared by a particular society." (2) While the first two functions are in principle accepted by the main currents of contemporary political-legal thought, the third symbolic one is subject of deep controversy. The debate concerning the recognition of Christianity by the European Constitution is about how to conceive its symbolic function: in the first place, is it desirable? If so, should it include references to secular values or also to Christian religious values? Then, what could be the legal, political and symbolic consequences of making a reference to Christianity in the European Constitution?

In this paper, we advance the distinction between three stylised conceptions of constitution-making (communitarian, liberal and discursive) and analyze what they entail for the question of the constitutional recognition of Christianity in Europe. First, communitarianism regards the communal identity and the values of community as foundational for the constitutional project: a constitution is supposed to reflect a pre-political identity and a set of communal goods. (3) This stance has been recently adapted and applied to Europe by J. Weiler in his Un'Europa Cristiana. According to this view, the European Constitution should emerge out of the European identity and, therefore, mirror the Christian dimension of this identity. Weiler interprets the constitutional recognition of Christianity as having at least three positive consequences:--it can enhance a fruitful interaction between the Christian (and, more generally, religious) discourse and democratic discourse;--it entails that the Christian discourse can have a direct impact on the legal decision-making;--it would have not only integrative effects for the European Christians, but also for other religious persons in virtue of the implicit recognition of the general salience of religion for people's life (Section I). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Christian or a Laic Europe? Moving beyond a False Dichotomy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.