Pope Benedict XVI called Marcello Pera’s 2008 book Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians a work “of fundamental importance at this hour in Europe and the world.”
It presents the case that Europe must recognize its Christian roots because only then will it be truly united. At the book launch, Pera argued that the book calls on Europeans to ask themselves who they are, what they believe in, and what their identity is.
“If I do not ask these questions,” he said, “I do not know how to defend myself from those who attack me, and I do not even know what to teach.”
Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians is a sequel to Pera’s earlier work Without Roots, written with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and published in 2004.
Pera, who is both an Italian senator and philosophy professor, spoke to Edward Pentin earlier this year about his new book, his concerns for the United States and Europe, and his views on President Barack Obama.
How does this book build upon Without Roots?
It’s more a systematic work, from a philosophical and cultural point of view. The problem explained in this book, as the title says, is that we must call ourselves Christians if we want to preserve our liberties — fundamental liberties — and to defend them.
If we want to unify Europe, in this sense, we must recognize Europe’s Christian roots. We must also recognize them if we want to save our morality and public ethics from all this relativism — and especially bioethical issues. So if we want to keep our liberal societies, if, on this continent, we want to have political unification, to have a political European identity, and — the third if — if we want to save our public ethics, then we must call ourselves Christian.
So that’s the link between the previous book and this one. In this one, for example, I have tried to show that the fathers of liberty were all nourished by the Christian faith.
Since you wrote your first book, have you become more optimistic and noticed a general return to recognizing Europe’s Christian roots, as you hoped?
No, and I’m concerned about Americans. It seems to me America is turning more European, more secular, at least if you look at the intellectual and political elite. Not the ordinary people, fortunately, which is the strength of the United States.
The majority because ordinary people seem to have different views and at least tend to resist secularism. But looking at the elite — the media, the universities, probably the Obama administration — it seems that there America is turning European.
So are you more optimistic about Europe than America?
No, I’m not optimistic about Europe. I don’t like the secularism that is so widespread in Europe; although I start to see something new, especially due to this Pope and the previous one — a new sort of resurgence. But I am not optimistic about Europe, also Eastern Europe because the continent is becoming very de-Christianised.
I am more optimistic about America, especially because of its history, but I am concerned about its present and future.
Do you foresee a radical secularism taking hold in America over the next few years? Is that your major concern?
I’m expecting more fighting, more quarrels, more culture wars in our society, not just between different denominations and religions, but between believers and agnostics and non-believers.
President Barack Obama has promised to bring more consensus to politics and make it less partisan.
That is a dream, but in order for that to be materialized, you need to make choices. And as far as I understand it, Obama is not making unifying choices.
Edward Pentin writes