Ethics & Public Policy Center

George Weigel Discusses Europe and Religion on CNN

Published in Lou Dobbs Tonight (CNN) on June 7, 2005


George Weigel

Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies


[The following is an excerpt from the full transcript of the CNN show Lou Dobbs Tonight with EPPC Senior Fellow George Weigel.]

DOBBS: My next guest can hardly be surprised that both France and the Netherlands rejected the European constitution — a constitution, he says, that is sadly bereft of not even a slight nod to 1500 years of Christianity in Europe.

Renowned theologian and biographer of Pope John Paul II, George Weigel, maintains that Europe is in an ominous spiritual and demographic decline.

And he says the United States faces much the same in the way of social and cultural threats. George Weigel is the author of the highly-acclaimed new book The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America and Politics Without God.

Joining us tonight from Washington.

Good to have you with us.

GEORGE WEIGEL, AUTHOR: Thanks, Lou. Good to be here.

DOBBS: George, let’s — I would like to do something, because the numbers are really very, to me, are stunning. If we could put up, and forgive me for doing this, a chart that shows the number of people in various countries and the way in which they describe religion as important to their lives.

In the United States, 62 percent of us say that religion is important in our lives. And then look at France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy. Italy, surprising, not because it’s twice as much as Spain, but rather because of being the seat of the Vatican and Catholicism, is not even higher.

These trends — obviously you’re focused on — and you’re shocked by the constitution.

Tell us why.

WEIGEL: The European constitution that was just rejected in France and the Netherlands, commits a deliberate act of historical amnesia by wiping out 1500 years of Christian history from the sources of European civilization.

That’s bad enough historically, but it was done in aid of, I think, a future project. And that is creating a kind of secular, dramatically secular, thoroughly secular, public space in the new European Union.

Why is that bad news? It’s bad news because this kind of vacuous secularism has created, over the past three generations in Europe, an enormous demographic problem.

Europe is depopulating itself in numbers not seen since the Black Death in the 14th century.

DOBBS: And when you say depopulating, George, you’re talking about simply a refusal to reproduce in most of the developed — in most of the western states of Europe?

WEIGEL: Here’s the statistic, Lou, that I think brings this home for a lot us in the United States who haven’t been paying much attention to this. It’s bad enough that Spain will lose approximately 25 percent of its population by 2050; or that Germany, by that time, will lose the equivalent in population of the former East Germany.

What really brings it home is to think that by 2050, 60 percent of Italians will not know, from personal experience, what a brother, a sister, an aunt, an uncle or a cousin is.

This kind of de-population, this willful refusal to create the human future, in the most elemental sense of creating the human future, seems to me to suggest a great cultural crisis, indeed, a great spiritual crisis.

You can’t explain this simply, politically, economically, sociologically. Something is hollow in the European soul, and it’s threatening the great project of a free, secure, peaceful and prosperous Europe.

DOBBS: Peaceful, free, prosperous — almost word-for-word what President Bush said today in his joint press conference with Tony Blair.

But what you’re really describing is a Europe that is imploding demographically. And in terms of its spirituality, absolutely leaving behind its history.

You point to the implications — to this country.

What do you believe is the linkage between what we are witnessing in Europe, which the Europeans may consider themselves to be in denial, and the United States’ future?

WEIGEL: Well, there are two real issues for those of us on this side of the Atlantic, at least in the practical order. Europe, depopulating this way, is going to be in fiscal and social crisis in the next 20 years, because it simply isn’t going to be able to pay for its health care and pension systems.

That kind of social chaos could lead to real economic meltdown, which is not good for anybody and particularly, for the rest of the developed world. There’s also a security issue here, and that is, that the demographic vacuum in Europe is not going to remain unfilled. It’s going to be filled by immigration, and as those immigrants largely come from the Islamic world — the threat of their becoming radicalized in the process, as we’ve seen happen in Germany, France and now in Britain, where for the first time, in the most recent British election, you had block voting by Muslim voters under the instruction of radical imams in east London madrassas.

That’s how George Galloway got reelected to Parliament. This is really bad news from a security point of view. But there’s one other thing that I think we need to recognize: We grew out of Europe. America is Europe transplanted. The death of the roots of our own civilizational achievement can’t be good for us, especially if some of those problems we see — this kind of vacuous secularism and high culture.

An inability to think beyond my own immediate pleasures. If that takes hold in our own country, then we’re going to be in the same sort of trouble 50, 70, 100 years down, that Europe is in today.

DOBBS: George Weigel, obviously, we need far more time. We appreciate the time you’ve given us here this evening.

We hope you’ll come back.

WEIGEL: I’d like that, Lou, thank you.

DOBBS: Thank you, George.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

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