maandag 21 maart 2011

Maak kennis met Joseph Weiler

Afgelopen vrijdag heeft de Grote Kamer van het Europese Hof voor de Rechten van de Mens in Straatsburg met vijftien stemmen tegen twee vastgesteld dat het niet in strijd is met het recht op opvoeding als er in de klassen van Italiaanse scholen een kruisbeeld hangt.
Italië en de landen die zich tijdens het proces bij Italië aansloten werden juridisch bijgestaan (pro Deo) door een zekere Joseph Weiler, internationaal jurist van wereldfaam en orthodoxe jood. Ter kennismaking, warm aanbevolen een interview dat John Allen met Weiler maakte (ruim voor de uitspraak van afgelopen vrijdag). We citeren hieronder slechts de eerste alinea's en de laatste vragen en antwoorden, maar lees het hele interview!
Fascinating characters have always populated the landscape of Jewish-Catholic relations, but even in that milieu it's tough to find a more intriguing personality these days than Joseph Weiler. A South-African born legal scholar and the son of a Latvian rabbi, Weiler is considered a leading expert on European constitutional law. From his perch at the NYU Law School, of all places, he edits the ultra-prestigious European Journal of International Law, and it would be easier to list the elite European universities from which he doesn't hold honorary doctorates.
Weiler is living proof that a rock-solid sense of one's own identity can fuel a remarkable capacity to defy the expectations of others.
We're talking about a deeply faithful Orthodox Jew, the father of a large Jewish family in the Bronx which keeps kosher and strictly observes the Sabbath. Yet in 2003, Weiler published the best-selling book A Christian Europe, pleading for the European Union to embrace its Christian heritage. Sporting a kippah, Weiler also recently stood before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights to defend Italy's right to display the crucifix in public school classrooms. He took the case pro bono - arguing that forcing Italy to take down the cross would be a blow not against Christianity, but against pluralism.


How did your friendship with Comunione e Liberazione come about?

By accident. I was invited to come to their annual meeting in Rimini in 2002 or 2003. I had no idea what it was. I thought it was just some kind of academic conference, but it was a jaw-dropping experience. I was told these are awful people, these are intolerant people, and so on, but I've never seen a more open atmosphere. Every meeting I've been to, I have been impressed by the range of voices: Jews, Muslims, Communists, Atheists, kings and paupers, prime ministers, writers, scientists.
I joke that my best friends in Italy said two things to me about going to Rimini: How can you agree to be a part of 'that thing,' and how can I get an invitation? It's like the old Jewish joke … the food's terrible, and such small portions!

What do you find attractive about Fr. Luigi Giussani, the founder of Comunione e Liberazione?

He rejected the position of many young people in high school and college in his day, which is that if I'm a believing Catholic it's a matter of faith, but reason is something else. Already in the 1950s, Giussani was saying no, folks, if you cannot justify it by your best faculties of reason, you should forget about it. That's totally admirable. That's Maimonides.
I also admire his insistence that religious life is not just about morality, but about presence, which for Catholics is particularly expressed in the Eucharist. His book, The Religious Sense, is a major theological treatise.
I'm worried about a world with a declining church, which I find alarming.


Christianity - indeed, the Judeo-Christian tradition - is one of the foundations of Western Civilization, and the best of that civilization is worth preserving.
Further, think about the century I grew up in, the 20th century. There were three movements which dwarf everything else in terms of a scale of evil. The Inquisition was terrible, but it's nothing compared to Hitler, Stalin and Mao. They represent a world in which man is made God, in which man thinks that his liberty is absolute to do whatever he wants. Hitchens and Dawkins may make a good point here and there, but the fact of Hitler, Mao and Stalin is overwhelming.

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