Contrasting the civilization that produced the starkly modernist "cube" of the Great Arch of La Defense in Paris with the civilization that produced the "cathedral" Notre Dame, Weigel argues that Europe's embrace of a narrow secularism has led to a crisis of morale that is eroding Europe's soul.
Paris's modernist La Grande Arche de la D?fense and the Gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dame serve as metaphors for papal biographer Weigel's (Witness to Hope) examination of what has happened to Europe in the last several decades and its significance to Americans. Weigel, an American Catholic theologian who has lived and worked on the continent, defines the "Europe problem" as the sharp divergence of European views on democracy, the world and politics from those held by Americans like himself. For him, La Grande Arche ("The Cube") symbolizes the new Europe, retreating from democracy, en route to depoliticization, enamored of international organizations and intellectually Christophobic. Notre-Dame, which guidebooks claim would fit inside the Cube, embodies Europe's Christian history, now strangely absent from the constitution of the European Union. Weigel traces the "Europe problem" to the 19th-century rise of "atheistic humanism" and "the related triumph of secularization, or de-Christianization, in western Europe." He urges Americans to pay attention to what has happened there because it has implications for the future of democracy in the United States and throughout the world. In developing his thesis, Weigel draws on diverse sources, including the Polish-born Pope John Paul II, who has been keenly interested in Europe's democracies. Readers given to pondering European affairs will find much to pique thoughtful discussion. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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February 28, 2006
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