Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mark Mardell on the EU’s Catholic/Protestant fault-line

The Roman Catholic foundation of the European Union is not usually a topic one hears about from the MSM, and certainly not the BBC, and most definitely not from Mark Mardell. But in his examination of hypocrisy, Mr Mardell puts all misunderstandings down to the disparity between the Protestant work ethic and Roman Catholic ‘culture’.

The whole article can be found here, but one is warned that links to it will always lead to the latest update, and Cranmer half suspects it will soon disappear into the BBC’s black hole of obscure archives. In order to sustain this rare internet presence, some of Mr Mardell’s most interesting observations include:

The gist of it was that (Manuel Barosso) could not see why politicians - technical experts at designing the best possible laws - should have to behave in a certain moral fashion before any such law is introduced.

My contact claims this is a line through Europe, much more wobbly and patchy but just as real as the olive oil / butter line. It is the political line between Catholic and Protestant Europe. He thinks it is very Protestant to expect politicians to be secular saints who lead by example.

According to this theory, most Catholic nations accept flawed human nature for what it is and know that preachers may stumble in practice without affecting the truth of their doctrine, or indeed the wisdom of their laws. The flaw in this argument is that in resolutely Catholic Belgium it has been a great sport for the press comparing what monstrous cars ministers drive…

…the difference in European social policies goes back to the ancient Greeks. To sub down a complex argument to its very basics, he says that the Aristotelian tradition of man as a social being fed in to Catholicism, but the Stoic distrust of emotion and human motives contributed to Protestant thought.

So Aristotle's theory of natural social hierarchies leads to a welfare service run by society at large and focused on those in most need. Stoicism, with its distrust of human nature, leads to universal provision run by the state. And he suggests the Calvinist doctrine of the elect, saved spiritually and rewarded by God materially, leads to an ‘on yer bike’ mentality which ‘one might be inclined to blame... for... some of the acute problems of modern neo-liberalist ideologies’.


Although superficial in his analysis (an undoubted understatement), Mr Mardell does in fact touch on something quite profound about the nature of the European Union. There is a certain tendency to infallibility in the Commission’s view of itself, of its creation, and of its ultimate destination. And there is further an acceptance, quite antithetical to the traditions of the United Kingdom, that fraud, tax evasion, nepotism, inefficiency, and corruption, are all par for the course. Mr Mardell is not the first to posit the view that one may stem from the Protestant doctrine of individual accountability, and the other a consequence of a corporate and unaccountably hierarchical worldview.

Mr Mardell has, however, got Aristotle quite wrong, but he probably did not do Classics, and would probably favour its eradication from the education system.

39 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Acceptance that "fraud, tax evasion, nepotism, inefficiency, and corruption are all par for the course" may be "quite antithetical" to the traditions of England, but not to that part of the United Kingdom which is the Principality of Wales.

15 March 2007 at 12:46  
Anonymous billy said...

There has long been a theory, very simplified, that the Industrial Revolution happened here because Protestants seek reward through work while Catholics sit on their arse and wait for their reward in Heaven.
Seems right to me, but is there a country split between Protestants and Catholics where it can be seen to be so?

15 March 2007 at 12:54  
Anonymous Tom said...

I'm pretty sure that the substance of Mark Mardell's argument was put forward (more eurditely) in the Economist magazine about a month ago.

15 March 2007 at 13:51  
Blogger tim said...

Billy—

I don't know if it can be seen to be so, but I'd suggest a couple of places to look: Germany, which has fairly distinct Protestant and Catholic regions, and possibly Ireland vs. Northern Ireland.

15 March 2007 at 16:05  
Blogger Cranmer said...

I'm pretty sure that the substance of Mark Mardell's argument was put forward (more eurditely) in the Economist magazine about a month ago.

Indeed: here

15 March 2007 at 17:14  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

Billy: Ruth Dudley Edwards touches on this in her book, "The Faithful Tribe" _ about the Orange Order in N. Ireland.

15 March 2007 at 18:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Billy, you've got that theory the wrong way round. Proddy's worked hard to demonstrate that they were chosen by god - their riches would show to everyone that they were part of "the elect" (read Max Weber). They don't believe that anything they can do on earth can justify entry into heaven. Its their "faith alone" - so they claim - that gets them in.

15 March 2007 at 19:00  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Mardell was educated at Epsom College in Surrey and studied Politics at the University of Kent.

Founded in 1853 with Royal patronage granted by Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1855, the founder, Dr. John Propert, raised funds to build a foundation to help orphans and widows of members of the medical profession. The Royal Medical Benevolent College opened its doors in 1855, at first providing for fewer than 100 boys. Today the College numbers 726 pupils.


Barroso's political activity began in his college days, before the Carnation Revolution of 25 April 1974. He was one of the leaders of the underground Maoist MRPP (Reorganising Movement of the Proletariat Party, later PCTP/MRPP-Communist Party of the Portuguese Workers/Revolutionary Movement of the Portuguese Proletariat).

In December 1980, Barroso joined the right-of-centre PPD (Democratic Popular Party, later PPD/PSD-Social Democratic Party), where he remains to the present day.



So it might be the laxity of societies where dirt under the fingernails receives a discreet priestly absolution in contrast to a Protestant Church where the Confession is before the whole congregation

Portugal was an interesting colonial power. Whereas the British took their wives out to the Empire Portuguese did not, but interrelated with the natives in lax manner and the merging of Catholic Saints with African pagan deities is evident in Northern Brazil as a consequence


It might also be said that the Anglo-Saxons are institution-builders par-excellence and Hispanics are not. Looking at North America in contrast to Latin America reveals marked contrast between institutional government and personality-government


Protestantism belueves the Individual has a date with Judgment Day whereas a Catholic believes he dies Sinless when his Church absolves him and then keeps stumm about his transgressions

15 March 2007 at 19:13  
Blogger tim said...

Well, I've wondered about how well the theology supposedly behind the Protestant work ethic applies to us Arminians? Unconditional election is not agreed upon across the Protestant spectrum.

In this US, the Methodists, Southern Baptists (essentially), and Episcopalians are certainly Arminian, not Calvinist, and we're in the majority. Calvinists are fewer.

Since we don't believe in unconditional election, we shouldn't have the same theological reason the old Calvinists supposedly had for working hard—material success as evidence of predestined election. But the US certainly has a strong work ethic.

Or maybe the Protestant work ethic is not exclusively for the unconditional-election reasons I'd heard it attributed to.

15 March 2007 at 19:15  
Blogger tim said...

Thinking of what Voyager raised—

How about the Catholic support for strong and absolute monarchs, vs. the Protestant emphasis on more democratic forms of government—could these play a role?

Some cultures might view government as a thing for the elites alone—the royalty and nobility, or in France, the modern bureaucratic class. Then the government is theirs to fleece as they wish. The citizenry has no "ownership" of the government and no claim on how it is run.

Then there are cultures that emphasize citizen participation in government. Citizen-legislators who go from private life to government for a few years and will return. And we expect the same honesty out of them in either sphere.

The religious divide is between denominations with rigid hierarchies, a top-down approach to church government, and needing the priests as intermediaries between man and God, as against those with a leveller government, and each man has direct recourse to God. The church governments give religious support to (and are supported by) similar forms of civil government.

Would that be a model for explaining the difference?

15 March 2007 at 19:58  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Tim - don't forget Luther believed in Electionism too

Alister McGrath has a book Luther's Theology of the Cross

Look also at John Adair Puritans: Religion and Politics in 17th Century england and America

and look at the Church of England XXXIX Articles which are Calvinist

15 March 2007 at 20:32  
Anonymous bob said...

a Catholic believes he dies Sinless when his Church absolves him and then keeps stumm about his transgressions

For Catholics it's God who absolves sins not the Church - whether you believe that doctrine or not is a matter for your own intellectual and spiritual scrutiny, but as you've stated it, it is a misrepresentation of Catholic theology.

15 March 2007 at 20:57  
Blogger tim said...

Voyager—

True. I forgot about Luther because there are relatively few Lutherans in America. But certainly a big influence in Germany and the Scandinavian countries.

I know there's a Calvinist strain in the 39 Articles (particularly in the one on predestination), but it's been interpreted widely enough to accomodate both Arminians and Calvinists. In America, the Episcopal Church (our branch of the Anglican) is Arminian. Reading through works on early Methodism, I have understood that the Anglican Church had become primarily Arminian sometime after the end of the Commonwealth.

But on which side of the Calvinist/Arminian divide does the Church of England lie today? And do you think that the changing tides within the church over time also affected the work ethic? Maybe the early Calvinism left indelible effects on the society, even after it faded in religious influence.

15 March 2007 at 21:04  
Blogger tim said...

For Catholics it's God who absolves sins not the Church

Bob—

I'm glad you hold to that, but a lot of us Protestants could easily get the wrong idea from Catholic discussions on the topic like this one:

jimmyakin.typepad.com/defensor_fidei/2007/02/ecclesia_suplet.htm

15 March 2007 at 21:14  
Blogger The Ludingtonian said...

Voyager -

Luther most certainly did not believe in Electionism. Luther's soteriology is neither Calvinist nor Armminiam, regardless of whatever McGrath might say.

Tim -
Lutherans are not a minor factor in American Protestantism. "Relatively" speaking, you are correct. But absolutely they represent about 2% of the American population, IIRC. Common enough that Garrison Keillor can easily make reference to them and an entire episode of the sitcom 'Cheers' can revolve around the differences between the ELCE and the Missouri Synod.

15 March 2007 at 21:34  
Anonymous bob said...

Tim - the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the offical compendium of Catholic dotrines - it's quite clear:

1441 Only God forgives sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, "The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" and exercises this divine power: "Your sins are forgiven." Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.

1442 Christ has willed that in her prayer and life and action his whole Church should be the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and reconciliation that he acquired for us at the price of his blood. But he entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the apostolic ministry which he charged with the "ministry of reconciliation." The apostle is sent out "on behalf of Christ" with "God making his appeal" through him and pleading: "Be reconciled to God."


One need only read the first line if there's any doubt.

15 March 2007 at 21:50  
Anonymous Voyager said...

In America, the Episcopal Church (our branch of the Anglican) is Arminian.

That's putting it mildly....it seems to be open to Non-Christians

15 March 2007 at 21:55  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Luther most certainly did not believe in Electionism

I believe you err. Luther did not subscribe to Calvin's Double Predestination but I most certainly do believe he saw those drawn to the Cross did so through the Grace of God and that the redemption earned through the Crufixion was only available to those who by Grace came to the Cross and not to manking universally

15 March 2007 at 22:08  
Blogger tim said...

Ludingtonian—Ahh, yes! In fact, all I know of the Lutheran church is what I get from "A Praire Home Companion" and Cheers discussion between Woody and his fiancee. Well, if I recall, the "discussion" went something like this: "HERETIC!!!"

Bob—Glad to hear this. But you might want to straighten out some of your co-religionists on that point. The thread I linked to seemed to have several people leaning towards the "priest forgives sins" idea.

Voyager—Yeah, no argument from me. I can only hope the conservatives in the Episcopal church band together enough to affect a real change. Reminds me of a friend of mine who said her (Reformed Judaism) synagogue really did have some atheists in it. Like it was a social club or something.

Could you help me out on the current state of Calvinism vs. Arminianism in the Anglican church?

15 March 2007 at 22:14  
Anonymous bob said...

Tim - but if I did that who'd be left to straighten out the Protestants?

15 March 2007 at 22:22  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Could you help me out on the current state of Calvinism vs. Arminianism in the Anglican church?

I wish I could - I may His Grace offer up some thoughts. The Anglican Church tends to vary from parish to parish and have a weak theological base amomng its parishioners

15 March 2007 at 22:29  
Blogger The Ludingtonian said...

Voyager

I believe you err.

As you wish. But as a Lutheran theologian, I do not, as may be expected, agree. There is no concept of pre-destination in Lutheran soteriology, either Calvinist or Arminian. We repudiate both camps.

15 March 2007 at 23:11  
Anonymous billy said...

Anonymous said...
Billy, you've got that theory the wrong way round. Proddy's worked hard to demonstrate that they were chosen by god - their riches would show to everyone that they were part of "the elect" (read Max Weber). They don't believe that anything they can do on earth can justify entry into heaven. Its their "faith alone" - so they claim - that gets them in.

7:00 PM

Well, there are Protestants and Protestants. I'm of the persuasion that 'faith without works is dead' after all James was there from the beginning, and Paul was but a Johnny come lately.

16 March 2007 at 00:52  
Anonymous Voyager said...

There is no concept of pre-destination in Lutheran soteriology

Yet you look at Electionism through Calvinist glasses which i find strange.

Calvin had Double Predestination in that those enjoying Grace were selected before the dawn of time, and those not so chosen were damned.

Luther had Election rather as St Paul in that it was God's Grace that brought the Sinner to belief and faith

The Arminians operate on the Church collecting souls for redemption and growing by numbers....which in its decadent form becomes "inclusivity" of just getting warm bodies into the church building irrespective of belief

16 March 2007 at 07:11  
Anonymous Voyager said...

all James was there from the beginning, and Paul was but a Johnny come lately.

and both were Jews....with understanding of Torah rather than 20th Century "Christians"

Surely Luther's point was what motivated "Works" and he was watching a 23-year old Archbishop in Brandenbirg collecting archbishoprics in breach of Church Law and subcontacting revenue collection by sale of Indulgences with a rake off for the Archbishop and a cut for Rome.

This used to be called "tax-farming". I think Luther preferred people to do works as a consequence of faith rather than as an act towards the Church hoping to 'buy' redemption from God.

16 March 2007 at 07:18  
Blogger Ian Hall said...

For those who desire a clear and scholarly exposition of the biblical doctrine of justification and a renunciation of Rome's false teaching check out Richard Bennett's article at www.protestant-gazette.blogspot.com

16 March 2007 at 09:36  
Blogger Newmania said...

He seem from these excerpts to be writing as a cultural commentator rather than a theologian.. I believe myself that the square peg /round hole position of the UK in Europe , has more to do with Common Law ,Parliament ,Property and trade than religion. The English have been able to change religion without disturbing their merry equanimity and religions can , as Voyager deplores , be interpreted flexibly enough to fit their milieu .

I read a most interesting piece about the concept of Common Law not being made but “ discovered “, the assumption was that the law flowed from central concepts of fairness and it lay there waiting to be found and described. Isn`t that an oddly liberating notion , the relation of the monarch at the apex of the hierarchy in which this fairness was dispensed is quite dissimilar to the law making continent, and closely associated with a sense of nation for a very early point . I see the place of Protestantism ,in this nationhood, as one of the threads, but not the primary one .

I greatly enjoyed listening to John Hayes speak at the IZ Con Dinner the other day and he traced this romantic attachment to a living nation expressed thorough institutions but also the continuity of its architecture and culture . Not hard to satirise as John Major found ,but struggling to express something difficult and important is always to be treated kindly
When I think on this fascinating subject ,one of the things that strikes me is that the English are noticeably less religious than their new Continental masters .Is it really , then , a religious polarity ,

I have doubts .

16 March 2007 at 10:25  
Blogger The Ludingtonian said...

Voyager -

Yet you look at Electionism through Calvinist glasses which i find strange.

Hmm, I suspect this is an inter-denominational linguistic usage whatsit. "Election" is quite a loaded word within Lutheran theology. I'm afraid that we do tend to associate its use with Calvinist ideas when we hear it.

I hesitate to hijack His Grace's thread and turn it into a discussion of Lutheran theology, but the Lutheran Confessions go to some length to declare that there are some areas of God's mind which are closed to us and which we are therefore forbidden to contemplate. Election is one of them. Yes, our salvation is secure, provided we do not subsequently reject it, because God has promised it to us even before the foundations of the world were laid. On the other hand, as to why some are saved and others not, that is God's business alone and is hidden to us.

16 March 2007 at 11:31  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Yes, our salvation is secure, provided we do not subsequently reject it

Yes but there must be a purpose in that some are drawn to Believe and others not to do so. there must be a distinction between those who have Faith and those who do not...and by what means are some drawn to Faith and others to rejection ?

16 March 2007 at 12:37  
Anonymous billy said...

Voyager said...
I think Luther preferred people to do works as a consequence of faith rather than as an act towards the Church hoping to 'buy' redemption from God.
7:18 AM

If faith without works is dead I would have thought that the two go hand in hand for redemption. Perhaps a good Protestant industrialist of the early 1700's would have faith in his ultimate salvation but would also want to express that faith by hard work here on earth. While materially enriching themselves they also improved the lot of many others.
As you say, you cannot buy redemption but you can show that you are willing to earn it.

16 March 2007 at 14:48  
Blogger tim said...

Bob—

but if I did that who'd be left to straighten out the Protestants?

Heh, heh...true enough! But surely it wouldn't take you as long to straighten out your fellow Catholics as it does for us, would it? Then you'd still be left with plenty of time to keep us on the straight and narrow. ;)

16 March 2007 at 15:04  
Blogger The Ludingtonian said...

Voyager -

...by what means are some drawn to Faith...

Through the preaching of the Gospel, which is both necessary and sufficient.

...and others to rejection?

We don't know. That is within in the mind of God, wherein we are forbidden to speculate. As Wittgenstein said, "Whereof we cannot speak we must keep silent."

There is a fair bit of that in Lutheran theology. God didn't tell us why and so we don't know. But we trust him to be telling the truth to us.

I know that sounds rather anti-rational. And Lutherans are anything but. It's just a realisation of the limits of human reasoning. And let's face it, it is a rather esoteric question, more something one is apt to ponder over a decent malt before the fire of an evening than something that is likely to trouble the spiritual life of the average parishioner.

16 March 2007 at 15:17  
Anonymous i spy strangers said...

"So Aristotle's theory of natural social hierarchies leads to a welfare service run by society at large and focused on those in most need. Stoicism, with its distrust of human nature, leads to universal provision run by the state ..."

Rarely have I read such tripe, even on the BBC web site. (Although, as your Grace discerns, there is the kernel of an interesting thesis in Mardell's witterings.)

If nothing else, it might encourage me to dig out Simone Weil's excellent book on the prefiguring of Christian thought amingst the ancient Greek philosophers.

16 March 2007 at 15:22  
Anonymous bob said...

Tim - very true, but as you are know aware of information, you can straighten out the Catholics yourself.

16 March 2007 at 15:29  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

Ludingtonian: are you sure that Lutherans are only 2% of the population. I have been googling & was told over 5%.

16 March 2007 at 15:50  
Blogger The Ludingtonian said...

No, Little Black Sambo, I'm not sure. It's been a lot of years since I did the sums and I was going on (likely faulty) memory.

Off the top of my head, the order from largest to small is something like ELCE, then the Missouri Synod, then the Wisconsin Synod, then a handful of small groups. I don't have the numbers for the individual synods.

16 March 2007 at 16:04  
Blogger tim said...

Why, thank you, Bob! I'll trade you.

Voyager—I take it from this and some other discussions, that you're a Calvinist Anglican? So there are certainly some of y'all in the church, whether or not it's a majority.

And by the way, while I'm a confirmed Wesleyan Arminian, my wife's Presbyterian. And I've found out that even in the disagreements our churches have over predestination, we're close on other issues and are at least coming from the same starting points.

17 March 2007 at 23:35  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Voyager—I take it from this and some other discussions, that you're a Calvinist Anglican? So there are certainly some of y'all in the church, whether or not it's a majority.

Hadn't thought it needed to be hyphenated - Anglican is the Church we started with....what it has become in its distorted current form is somewhat alien to its origins

18 March 2007 at 11:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those seeking old fashion confessional Lutherism, see the Apology of the Augsburg Confession. Many above topics are addressed. By the way, some Lutheran synods are much more conservative (Biblical) than others. There is also "The Book of Concord" by Theodore G. Tappert put out by Fortress Press. It contains the Luth.Confessions. (Some parts may offend Roman Catholics)

17 April 2007 at 07:20  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older