ECONOMIST: "IN THE Europe of 2017, can there be such a thing as a Catholic political leader? That seems like a topical question in a year when the European Union is being shaken to its foundations and at least three European democracies (France, Germany, the Netherlands) face elections in which issues of culture and identity loom large.
Before even thinking about the matter, it is worth recalling that Europe’s transnational institutions, as they emerged after 1945, were deeply Catholic in inspiration. Devout statesmen such as Robert Schuman of France, Italy’s Alcide De Gasperi and Konrad Adenauer of Germany (pictured, left to right) laid the groundwork for a new continental order in which national divisions would be overcome and Western Europe, at least, would stand firm against totalitarianism. Politicians who had resisted fascism, in the name of their Catholic faith, were seen as well-placed to oppose the new menace of atheist communism, and the movement known as Christian Democracy took shape.
These days, Catholicism still surfaces in European debates, albeit not usually as a decisive factor. At a time when Islam is the fastest-growing form of religious practice on the continent, politicians of the right, centre-right and even centre-left can still appeal to nativist sentiment by stressing the importance of the continent’s historic faith. But the evidence suggests that any aspiring politician who tried, in the name of Catholicism, to roll back the liberal consensus on bio-ethical and reproductive issues would be thumped electorally."