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    Europe and Human Dignity. A Steinian Discussion of Josef Ratzinger's Understanding of Europe

    Lebech, Mette (2017) Europe and Human Dignity. A Steinian Discussion of Josef Ratzinger's Understanding of Europe. Studia Nauk Teologicznych, 12. pp. 233-248. ISSN 1896-3226

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    Benedict XVI’s Europe Today and Tomorrow2 charts the formation and history of Europe around a mission to reign as a sacred duty, manifested first in the reign of Charlemagne and in the idea of a Holy Roman Empire, and then transposed through many schisms, wars, divisions and crises into the duty to insist on respect for Human Dignity. Benedict XVI thinks this mission to reign as a sacred duty is Christian in origin and that its transformation into an insistence on respect for Human Dignity also is. It is Ratzinger’s concern, as he charts the history of Europe, that we would be able on the one hand to face the future of Europe without loss of identity and on the other distinguish between what is oppressive and what is life giving in European culture3.If Ratzinger is right that the mission to reign as a sacred duty translates into a mission to respect and protect Human Dignity by a process of concentrating on the essential, the two are essentially linked. If, moreover, the fundamental value of Human Dignity is objective, a priori and therefore eternal (not in its realisation, but in its essential being, as Stein will tell us), then the mission to reign for the sake of Human Dignity is rooted in a realm that does not pass, as also Ratzinger asserts, in the fundamental value of Human Dignity. This anchor-age would mean that it would not be rational for us to renounce the attempt to pursue the mission for fear of losing our identity, since the identity results from the pursuit of the mission in whatever way it turns out to be possible. I shall argue here that we on this account of Europe can envisage Europe’s unfolding into the future while at the same time accept the possibility of a progressive absorption of less essential aspects of its cultural identity into a plurality of ethnic, religious and secular cultures. We can do this if we consider the letting go of non-essential aspects of the mission to reign for the sake of Human Dignity as a concentration on it. As the idea of Human Dignity moreover constitutes a criterion for distinguishing between what is good and what is not in European culture, the concentration on the mission is simultaneously a strategy for internal renewal. I shall argue with Stein that such a mission to reign for the sake of Human Dignity has a community creating function that can explain the formation of Europe as well as its role in the world. In what follows, I shall first give an account of Ratzinger’s history of Europe (1). I shall then concentrate on the mission at the heart of it according to Ratzinger, and explain why, in Stein’s view, such a mission would be particularly suited for shaping a people and a continent (2). Finally, I shall discuss Ratzinger’s understanding of Human Dignity in the light of Stein’s understanding of values (3).

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: godność człowieka; human dignity; Joseph Ratzinger; Edith Stein; Jürgen Habermas; Europa; zadanie panowania; task of reign;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > Philosophy
    Item ID: 11610
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Mette Lebech
    Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2019 17:37
    Journal or Publication Title: Studia Nauk Teologicznych
    Publisher: Committee on Theological Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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