As my friend Francis X. Rocca quipped today, don’t say “Happy Holidays” to Pope Francis. The oft-cited war on Christmas in the US often gets “debunked” by media focused on all of the secular celebrations of the holiday. In the US, this issue is more cultural than governmental, and more corporate than public-sector.
However, the European Union went much farther in trying to suppress mentions of the religious holiday. The EU issued a document which attempted to ban official references to Christmas and shift attention instead to the general holiday season, which prompted an unusually strong rebuke from the Vatican a week ago:
On the first Monday of Advent, it was revealed the European Union was attempting to ban the use of the word “Christmas” in an internal dossier promoting “an inclusive communication.”
The dossier recommended, among other things, to stop saying “Merry Christmas” and replace it with “Happy Holidays” and refer to the Christmas holidays as the “winter break.”
The guideline for internal use signed by the European Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli of Malta, was published by an Italian media outlet on Monday. Its content caused such outrage that the office had to cancel it on Tuesday.
Speaking to the Vatican’s official media outlet, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, denounced a tendency to homogenize everything, which risks “annihilating” the human person.
“I believe that the concern to cancel all discrimination is just,” Parolin told Vatican News. ” It is a path of which we have become more aware and which naturally must be translated into practice. However, in my opinion, this is not the way to achieve this goal. Because in the end we risk destroying, annihilating the person.”
In other words, the war in this case was quite a bit more official than in the US. After Cardinal Parolin accused the EU of nihilism, Daili admitted that the EU had misstepped:
The European Commission on Tuesday retracted internal communication guidelines that had proposed substituting the “Christmas period” with “holiday period” after an outcry by conservatives and the Vatican, which termed the document an attempt to “cancel” Europe’s Christian roots.
The European Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, said the draft document had been intended to highlight European diversity and showcase the “inclusive nature of the European Commission.” But in a statement, she said it didn’t meet Commission standards and failed to achieve its stated purpose.
“The guidelines clearly need more work,” she said, adding that a revised document would take into account concerns that had been raised.
That was one week ago. When asked about the controversy this morning, Pope Francis didn’t exactly sound forgiving about the EU’s first draft. While speaking with journalists on the flight back from Greece, the pontiff compared the effort to impose secular “colonialism” to Napoleon, Hitler, and the Communists:
You refer to the European Union document on Christmas… this is an anachronism. In history many, many dictatorships have tried to do so. Think of Napoleon: from there… Think of the Nazi dictatorship, the communist one… it is a fashion of a watered-down secularism, distilled water… But this is something that throughout hasn’t worked.
But this makes me think of something, talking about the European Union, which I believe is necessary: the European Union must take in hand the ideals of the founding fathers, which were ideals of unity, of greatness, and be careful not to take the path of ideological colonisation. This could end up dividing the countries and [causing] the European Union to fail. The European Union must respect each country as it is structured within, the variety of countries, and not want to make them uniform. I don’t think it will do that, it wasn’t its intention, but be careful, because sometimes they come, and they throw projects like this one out there and they don’t know what to do; I don’t know what comes to mind… No, each country has its own peculiarity, but each country is open to the others. The European Union: its sovereignty, the sovereignty of brothers in a unity that respects the individuality of each country. And be careful not to be vehicles of ideological colonisation. That is why [the issue] of Christmas is an anachronism.
Yikes. And that’s not the only point on which Pope Francis engaged the EU. Later in the same presser, the pontiff decried consolidation of international power, including apparently both the EU and the United Nations:
Francis said he sees two current threats to democracy, the first of which is populism, which he said “is starting to show its nails.”
“I am thinking of the populism from last century: Nazism. Nazism was a populism that defended national values. Or so it said. But it managed to annihilate democratic life, it became a dictatorship,” he said, cautioning governments on both the right and left to be careful “not to slip on the road of populism.”
Populism, he said, “has nothing to do with popularism, which is the expression of a nation’s identity, folklore, value,” but is rather a system in which national values are sacrificed and watered-down “in favor of a government that goes beyond national interests.”
“We shouldn’t water down our identity for national gain,” he said, pointing to the 1907 end times novel The Lord of the World, written by English convert Father Robert Hugh Benson, who foresaw the rise of an international government that ruled all other nations.
“This is what happens when a superpower dictates the economic, cultural and social value,” he said.
That’s quite a statement, but it is very consistent with the Catholic Church’s teachings on both solidarity and subsidiarity. It’s the latter that apparently worries Pope Francis most at the moment, and why he objects so strenuously to the super-national EU’s attempts to stomp on European nations’ Catholic/Christian identities and cultures.
Mostly, though, the EU’s approach is nonsensical. Anyone offended by the term “Christmas” has issues that political correctness will only exacerbate and incentivize, not solve.