Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Boris Johnson's 'Dream of Rome' - is the EU the Roman Empire restored?

Boris Johnson MP makes a fine case for the uncanny parallels there are between the Roman Empire and the European Union. Setting aside the obvious divergence, that the former was achieved through conquest and the latter through peaceful co-operation, their systems of government and forces of cohesion have much in common.

For some reason, he fails to probe some of the contemporary issues (like the lack of an 'emperor' to hold the union together), and as a result misses some of the obvious answers. He ignores completely the rise of the Holy Roman Empire, and the profound effect the concept of Christendom has had (and continues to have) on the development of the EU. You only have to observe the continuing wranglings over whether or not 'God' should get a credit in the Constitution to understand the importance of Europe's spiritual heritage. In fact, Boris come across as somewhat anti-Christian. On p188 he states: 'In their suicidal behaviour, in their belief in an afterlife, and in their rejection of the values of the culture in which they found themselves, the early Christians evoke obvious comparisons with Islamic suicide bombers of today'. As one commentator on Boris' blog has observed: 'I don't recall Tacitus or Eusebius mentioning large explosions and multiple deaths when a Christian was put to death by others for their beliefs'. Indeed not.

That said, 'The Dream of Rome' is a fine introduction to a cogent thesis, but it needs following by Adrian Hilton's 'The Principality and Power of Europe' for analysis of the enduring effects of the concept of Christendom upon the EU's development.


Blogger Richard Bailey said...

Boris' TV essay on this issue was outstanding.
Sure he left out bits that didn't fit with his line of arguement but he posed some very astute observations of the reality of a European Empire and indeed all empires that followed.
His primary conclusion was that 'Empires' hang together effectively when the people want to enjoy the benefits that come with 'belonging'. And that is where the current EU has lost the plot. No-one wants to belong because there are no benefits.

12 April 2006 at 11:43  
Anonymous olly said...

"Sure he left out bits that didn't fit with his line of arguement.."

That's a huge flaw, isn't it? Where's the scholarly objectivity?

If the rise of Christianity didn't fit in with his line of argument, an intelligent person adapts that argument, not conveniently ignore what's staring you in the face!

12 April 2006 at 15:21  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard Bailey is living on a different planet and it's him who's lost the plot. People do want the EU and there are loads of benefits, it's kept the peace for 50 years and it's good for trade and international cooperation. It's just the Murdoch-dominated British press that persuades loads of people otherwise. Sites like this and the Dream of Rome by show-me-the-spotlight and giz-a-shag Boris are just stoking ignorance.

12 April 2006 at 20:28  
Blogger Cranmer said...


Be off with you.

Go on, run along.

13 April 2006 at 09:02  
Blogger Serf said...

Sites like this ... are just stoking ignorance

Up such a short time and already part of the Murdoch Anti EU Conspiracy.

I have to congratulate you.

13 April 2006 at 11:59  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

serf, it's not a conspiracy, you only have to read the Murdoch media to see how he's brainwashing millions of people and he doesn't even live in Europe or the UK so he's got no right interfering in our politics. It's not only this site but it's just one of dozens just popping up all over the place harking back to an Olde Englande of centuries ago. Times move on, and so should politics. Boris Johnson's degree in the defunct subject classics is useful only in a constituency like Henley, which gives him time to write books about empires past which no-one really wants to read and contributes nothing to the present or the future.

13 April 2006 at 17:43  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Classics is only 'defunct' to the ignorant. It is among the richest sources of political wisdom, theological truth, and social insight.

Now run along. Go and rant somewhere else.

14 April 2006 at 11:43  
Anonymous olly said...

No, it's not a conspiracy, anonymous. Rumours of conspiracy are only ever spread by subterfuge, secrets, and by people who speak anonymously.

15 April 2006 at 10:15  
Anonymous Martin said...

My copy of Adrian Hilton’s The Principality and Power of Europe arrived today. I turned immediately to chapter two, as this chapter dealt with his views on the Vatican, the Act of Settlement, and all things Catholic. I would have to say I disagreed strongly with more or less all of what he had to say. I also found several errors of fact.

He takes issue with the flag of the EU as being obviously designed around the symbol of the “halo” that surrounds Mary in Catholic art. He makes no mention of the possibility that the stars might equally represent 12 symbols of the zodiac; 12 hours on a clock; 12 months in a year; 12 Apostles; 12 Caesars chronicled by Suetonius; 12 Olympian gods; 12 tables of Roman Law. He also states that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on 11th December. It is in fact celebrated on 8th December.

He indulges in complete conjecture when he states that the Queen “symbolically submitted herself to the radiance of his [the Pope’s] whiteness” when she first met with the Pope. Here he presents his opinion as an undisputed fact.

He speaks of the huge efforts being made to reconcile the Monarchy and the Papacy, giving the impression that it is all part of a drive to put a Catholic on the throne. He makes no mention of the possibility that the Queen is making attempts to be inclusive of her Catholic subjects.

In 1993 he says that a High Mass was celebrated in the Palace of Westminster. This is factually inaccurate as the term “High Mass” is no longer used.

He states that “the nation had learnt by bitter experience that when a Roman Catholic monarch is upon the Throne, religious and civil liberty is lost.” In this he rather conveniently sidesteps the fact that during the reign of Protestant monarch the Penal Laws in Ireland. This meant that Catholics were barred from holding public office from 1607. Presbyterians were also barred form public from 1707; barred from bearing arms or serving in the armed forces up to the 1790s; excluded from membership in either the Parliament of Ireland or the Parliament of Great Britain from 1652, rescinded 1688, reinstated 1691; excluded from voting after 1727; excluded from certain professions, including law; intermarriage with Protestants was forbidden; converting from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism was forbidden; Catholics were forbidden to buy land; custody of orphans was forbidden to be granted to Catholics; Catholics were forbidden from inheriting Protestant land. It could justifiably be argued, then, that religious and civil liberties were lost under Protestant monarchs as well as Catholic ones.

He seems convinced throughout the chapter that a Catholic monarch would result in “Rome Rule.” This, to me, flies in the face of the experience of the modern world. Spain, for instance, has a Catholic monarch but has recently introduced several pieces of legislation that are very much at odds with Catholic teaching, for example the recognition of homosexual marriages. Having a Catholic monarch did nothing to help the cause of Catholicism in this instance.

He selectively quotes from the Code of Canon Law without providing the appropriate context. For example he quotes canon 1405 as saying “It is the right of the Roman Pontiff himself to judge… those who hold the highest civil office in a state…” He uses this quotation as evidence that the Pope is “over all kings, prime ministers, and presidents”. However a fuller quotation from canon 1405 drastically changes the picture – “Can. 1405 §1. It is solely the right of the Roman Pontiff himself to judge in the cases mentioned in can. 1401: 1/ those who hold the highest civil office of a state; 2/ cardinals; 3/ legates of the Apostolic See and, in penal cases, bishops; 4/ other cases which he has called to his own judgment.” Canon 1401, which is referenced, states – “Can. 1401 By proper and exclusive right the Church adjudicates: 1/ cases which regard spiritual matters or those connected to spiritual matters; 2/ the violation of ecclesiastical laws and all those matters in which there is a question of sin, in what pertains to the determination of culpability and the imposition of ecclesiastical penalties.” So, the Pope is judge of those who hold the highest civil office of a state only in cases which regard spiritual matters or those connected to spiritual matters, or which regard the violation of ecclesiastical law. Canon 1 also is of importance here “Can. 1 The canons of this Code regard only the Latin Church.” Therefore the terms of reference are narrowed down even more to being only those who hold the highest civil office of a state who are Roman Catholics.

He makes several references to the ceremony of Papal Coronation even though this ceremony has not been seen since 1963 with the coronation of Pope Paul. The last three Popes have not been crowned.

18 April 2006 at 16:21  
Anonymous olly said...

Martin, I don't know about all the things youi highlight here, but I've read in a number of places that the 12 stars are drawn from Revelations and Catholic imagery. Sure, it could be a dozen eggs, but that's not likely in the context of the EEC being founded by Catholics. I've seen numerous pictures of mary surrounded by a 12-star halo, so it's at least possible!

I've just googled, and not only discovered a picture of Mary surrounded by stars, but it's a Catholic site thay says the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on 11th December.

There's at least some doubt about it!

18 April 2006 at 21:08  
Anonymous Martin said...

As a practising Catholic I can very much assure you that the feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on 8th December, and if needs be I can supply you with ample resources as evidence.

My main objection with regard to Hilton's analysis of the EU flag was simply that he did not leave any room for the possibility that the 12 stars could have been drawn from anything other than than Marian symbolism. He also provides no primary source as evidence for his claims, i.e. no direct quotation from anyone involved in the design of the flag. What I object to is the presentation of conjecture and speculation as fact. An opinion is not a fact. A fact is supported and upheld by clear and insurmountable and on this issue I remain unconvinced by Hilton's position.

18 April 2006 at 21:28  
Blogger Cranmer said...


Are you reading Hilton's second edition? I have just checked your assertion that there are no authoritative references for the EU flag. In fact, on p55 he quotes Dr William Crampton, director of the Flag Institute, and also has an end note reference (#36). Oddly enough, you have also ignored the endnote reference of The European newspaper, December 1995, which apears to corroborate that Marian imagery inspired the design of the flag.

20 April 2006 at 09:33  
Anonymous Martin said...

I was reading the second edition. I did not miss the quotes from Dr Crampton, or the reference to The European. However what I said was that Hilton provides no primary source evidence. Dr Crampton and The European constitute secondary sources. The pieces from The European provides no provenance for its story, or at least Hilton does not provide it in his book. We also are left in the dark as to how, when and in what manner Dr Crampton came to possess his information. Hilton's case on this issue would be much stronger if he could provide clear primary source evidence. I accept the possibility that what he's saying could be true, but his presentation of the evidence needs to be more airtight to be fully convincing. Without primary source material it remains, in my view, a theory which fits the facts.

20 April 2006 at 09:53  
Anonymous Martin said...

I did not brief research of my own and I am willing to concede on the issue of the flag on the basis of this article that I found, which (to be the pedant that I am) gives provenance to a primary source!

I stand over the rest of my observations though, and my opinion that his treatment of the flag issue could have been more convincingly presented.

20 April 2006 at 10:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This Orthodox proposal to change the flag's design is also interesting:

Click here

20 April 2006 at 13:00  
Blogger Cranmer said...

A concession, Martin? Well done, most admirable. I welcome those who can genuinely engage in discussion and change their mind when evidence is adduced.

I think I agree with you that Hilton was wrong on 11th December as the date for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (though Olly's observation on that one Catholic site is correct). But the interesting thing is that Hilton was wrong to state that the feast-day fell on 11th December; if you research, the flag's 'birthday' was indeed the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (8th Dec), so Hilton's observation of 'coincidence' stands. Again though, I agree, he could have corrected the error to make his point clearer.

20 April 2006 at 20:53  
Anonymous Martin said...

As I concede on the issue of the flag so I also concede the possibility that the error regarding the date of the Immaculate Conception could have been an editing rather than a factual error. All of which means that the coincidence stands. I think the key question is whether it is merely a concidence. From what I can gather the EU flag was chosen from a number of designs submitted, but I can't say they others were any less inspired by Catholicism, nor indeed can I know what the person who chose the flag saw in it when he looked at it.

21 April 2006 at 10:45  
Anonymous olly said...

Maybe it's more interesting to ask what the flag's designer thought others would recognise in the flag when they saw it?

Doesn't it perpetuate the whole Europe belonging to Mary thing? Isn't she a patron saint of Europe?

22 April 2006 at 09:54  
Anonymous Martin said...

There is no universal feast (i.e. a feast day which is celebrated throughout the world) for Mary within Catholicism which celebrates her under the title of patroness of Europe. I believe that in 1979 Pope John Paul II officially approved the title of Our Lady of Europe as patroness of Gibraltar and the transfer of her feastday to the 5th May, which was also Europe day. The Catholic Church has nominated Saints Benedict, Bridget of Sweden; Catherine of Siena, Cyril, Methodius, and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) as patron saints of Europe.

Your point does raise the idea of the subjectivity of perception. The artist's intention aside, perhaps people perceive in the flag what they want it to mean.

22 April 2006 at 11:44  
Blogger Cranmer said...

I think that was possibly Hilton's concern, that there would be a high likelihood that the flag's imagery would invoke for many Catholics Mary, the Church, or the reference to Revelation - it was a purposeful 'religious' choice, as was the date of its inauguration.

This sort of 'coincidence' takes on more credence if you consider events or papal pronouncements since Hilton's book, especially John-Paul II's embracing of the single currency, with the Catholic Church throughout the EU encouraging the faithful towards its acceptance, and JPII's speech at its inception, lauding the first European currency since the Roman Empire.

Even with the Pope as monarch, you must concede that this sort of overt involvement in EU economics and issues of Mammon is a little beyond his role as simply a spiritual leader.

23 April 2006 at 09:39  
Anonymous Martin said...

Firstly I can say that I will soon turn 30, and so I grew up as a practising Catholic having seen the EU flag on countless occasions in books, televisions and flying on flagpoles and buildings. I can honestly say that in all my years until I read this blog and Hilton's book I never connected the flag with Marian iconography. Perhaps I lack the powers of observation that Hilton has.

As regards the Pope and the EU, I would imagine that having grown up and lived in Poland during the Nazi occupation and then in the Soviet regime which was implanted there following Yalta, that the Pope's views on Europe would have been formed from those experiences, and from reflection upon them. Perhaps he saw it as a greater good that the continent work towards peaceful unity rather than resort to the wars that had almost destroyed her.

It is also pertinent to note that Catholicism is now a religion which concerns itself solely with spiritual practices within the confines of a chruch. In my experience it is a religion which embraces the whole sphere of life and attempts to do all things for the greater glory of God. It's a religion that is a way of life. And so within that view all aspects of life fall within the sphere of what is of importance to the Catholic Church, which is why the Pope concerns himself with so many things.

I'm also eagerly awaiting any comments on the other issues I raised in regard to Hilton's book.

23 April 2006 at 12:10  
Anonymous olly said...

"It is also pertinent to note that Catholicism is now a religion which concerns itself solely with spiritual practices within the confines of a chruch"

Solely?! That's just not true, Martin. It is very political, and involves itself in global 'secular' politics. How is Ratzinger's refusal to admit Turkey into the EU a concern of 'the spiritual practices within the confines of the church'? How is promoting the euro a 'spiritual confine of the church'?

23 April 2006 at 22:11  
Anonymous TT said...

“symbolically submitted herself to the radiance of his [the Pope’s] whiteness”

Why is this 'complete conjecture'? Colours are intrinsic to images and symbols, and powerful. White is radiant, and associated with good, holiness, purity, and black is associated with evil, death. You don't have to see Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vador to know that. Whether the Queen wore black by coincidence is not known, though I doubt it, and there was a clear unspoken message conveyed. How many brides have you seen wearing black?

24 April 2006 at 13:50  
Anonymous Martin said...

It is also pertinent to note that Catholicism is now a religion which concerns itself solely with spiritual practices within the confines of a chruch
Apologies for this but the word "now" in the above should have been the word "not" - my bad typing is to blame.

Why is this 'complete conjecture'?
I argue that it's conjecture because it is one person's interpretation of the event. I'm sure if the Queen or the Pope were asked they would not have viewed the event as a symbolic act of submission. As it is one person's opinion of the events which has not reference to the thoughts of those involved I would argue that it is, therefore, conjecture.

24 April 2006 at 15:26  
Anonymous TT said...

I think you make my point for me. I don't know the book, but the quote isn't conjecture. He wore white; she wore black. Those are facts. The only conjecture is the word 'radiance' because (presumably) the writer wasn't at the meeting, and couldn't see if Daz or Aerial produced any whiter than whiteness. I think you're ignoring the potency of symbols. To many faithful members of the Church of England, black is associated not only with evil or death, but with heresy, and centuries ago it was an enforced colour to wear if you were found guilty of the crime. For the Head of the Church of England to wear black in a meeting with the Pope is certainly symbolic. Whether the Pope or the Queen intended this doesn't matter a fig. In this day and age we are judged by what we wear. Symbols are interpreted, and so what her subjects potentially think is more important than what she (or the Pope) thinks. And btw, the Queen is a very devout Christian, takes her faith very seriously, and would certainly have known of the significance of a black dress.

24 April 2006 at 17:17  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Thank you, TT, and welcome.

One correction:

Her Majesty is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Christ is the Head (Eph 5:23).

24 April 2006 at 17:36  
Anonymous olly said...

If Catholicism concerns itself with every part of life, why does it consider itself immune from political criticism? If it has policies on Turkey being in the EU, abortion, homosexuality, money, etc etc, why does it hide behind a holy facade when someone questions or criticises these policies?

24 April 2006 at 18:22  
Anonymous Martin said...

I wasn't aware that it hid behind a holy facade (although the use of the word facade would imply that the holiness in not genuine which I think is not the case). I think the Catholic Church takes a clear stand on issues. The teaching is there. It is accessible for anyone who wishes to see it, and as far as I'm aware reasons and arguments are supplied for the positions taken. If people don't agree with the positions taken then that is their right, and they have an equal right to make arguments for whatever position they hold. But because people disagree it does not logically follow that the Catholic Church should then change it's position.

As regards the Queen wearing black - that is simply a matter of protocol. It may interest you to know that the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese (a practising Catholic) was similarly dressed when she met the Pope. By virtue of Hilton's argument she too was symbolically submitting to the Pope, even though she was already a Catholic. Other than a few historical exceptions, the dress code for women visitors to an audience with the Pope is as the Queen was dressed.

25 April 2006 at 11:47  
Blogger Cranmer said...

An interesting point... but the Pope was a guest in her Realm. She was receiving him into her Royal Court.

One might expect Catholic women - Mary McAleese or Cherie Blair - to adhere to Papal protocol, but Her Majesty, in her constitutional role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, should not have acted as though the Pope was receiving her into his presence.

However it is viewed, 'protocol' or not, to demand that anyone wear black while you wear white is an implicit demand for submission, symbolic or otherwise.

25 April 2006 at 13:30  
Anonymous Martin said...

I would imagine that if Queen Elizabeth was within her own domain that the choice of clothing was hers.

If we're interpreting colours we could equally say that the Queen was wearing black because she considered herself in mourning because she had to meet the Pope. Black is the symbolic colour of mourning and grief after all. The interpretaion fits the facts, although I doubt it has much merit. I use it merely to show that we cannot definitively interpret an event merely by using the 'symbolism' of colours worn.

26 April 2006 at 09:18  
Anonymous TT said...

"As regards the Queen wearing black - that is simply a matter of protocol. It may interest you to know that the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese (a practising Catholic) was similarly dressed when she met the Pope"

Wrong. The Queen debased herself, voluntarily or not. Cherie Blair meets the Pope dressed in white, no veil, just white. The Queen of Spain meets the Pope similarly dressed. The Queen of England was neither constrained by protocol nor her ministers. Her choice of black was a symbolic submission.

29 April 2006 at 23:19  
Anonymous Martin said...

Wrong. The Queen debased herself, voluntarily or not. Cherie Blair meets the Pope dressed in white, no veil, just white. The Queen of Spain meets the Pope similarly dressed. The Queen of England was neither constrained by protocol nor her ministers. Her choice of black was a symbolic submission.

You're entitled to your opinion, as I am entitled to mine, but without substantive evidence to establish it as fact it remains what it is - an opinion, not a fact.

30 April 2006 at 08:27  
Anonymous TT said...

Hang on. You can't have it both ways. Either the Queen wore black because of protocol, as you previously asserted, or she did it as a choice - one which (for anyone with a ounce of sensitivity on the potency of symbolism) places her on an inferior status.

Since Cherie Blair and the Queen of Spain both wear white to meet the Pope, that blows your 'established protocol' assertion out of the water. Since one is a commoner and the other Catholic royalty, the 'protocol' argument has gone.

That must mean her decision to wear black was purposeful symbolic submission to his white.

Why else would it ever have been 'protocol' for a woman to wear black in his presence, if it were not for some sort of papal assertion of the inferiority of women? That black also happens to be the colour of heresy is unfortunate. But your 'opinion' on this has much less credibility than Hilton's (if that is correctly reported by you), which, having seen the pictures of Cherie and the Queen of Spain, has more credible objectivity than it had in my own mind last week.

30 April 2006 at 11:51  
Anonymous Martin said...

I merely meant it is an opinion unless you claim to know what the inner working of the Queen's mind is. To the best of my knowledge she has never given any insight into her decisions on these matters, and so any interpretaion of how and why she dressed in a particulare way (including my own assertions) are speculative and not authoratitive.

I offered my opinion based on the facts I have to hand, i.e. the protocol arrangements for visiting dignitaries at the Vatican. That some choose to ignore that protocol does not mean the protocol does not exist. As it happens the Queen of Spain is actually following protocol, as she and a number of other female Catholic royals are granted the distinction of wearing white when being received by the Pope. If you wish to check these facts for yourself the information is available in a book called The Church Visible by James Charles Noonan.

30 April 2006 at 12:12  
Blogger Cranmer said...

I offered my opinion based on the facts I have to hand, i.e. the protocol arrangements for visiting dignitaries at the Vatican.

TT, thank you for the interesting observation that Cherie Blair robed in white at the Vatican. I think it does provide the Hilton theory with more foundation.

Martin, you retierate here that the protocol is for those dignitaries who visit the Vatican. I refer to my earlier point, that Her Majesty was in her own realm. There is no protocol (or has not been for five centuries) for receiving a pope into the Royal Court of St James.

Since Her Majesty was known not to be in mourning (the alternative possibility you proffer) the only possibilities are an admission of gender inferiority (if all women are supposed to wear black in the Pope's presence), of heresy (as an excommunicant), or of some other sort of inferiority.

Even if one cannot enter the mind of Her Majesty, these conclusions seem reasonable to me.

30 April 2006 at 13:10  
Anonymous Martin said...

You neglect the possibility that Queen Elizabeth wished to dress in a solemn manner out of respect for her visitor. However, if the possibility that Queen was symbolically submitting herself is accepted, then, as the choice of dress was hers alone within her own realm, I venture that it should be grounds to call for the Queen to abdicate, given that, if we follow this theory to its logical conclusion, she obviously no longer believes in the veracity of the Anglican faith, and as such cannot act as it's Supreme Governor. If you all believe as Hilton does then, in my own opinion, you have a duty of conscience to call for Queen Elizabeth to vacate the throne immediately.

30 April 2006 at 17:58  
Anonymous olly said...

I don't know if we 'all believe what Hilton does', but I know some people who are of the opinion that if the Queen breaks her Coronoation Oath, she has abdicated her right to reign. It may not be her fault, of course, because she only ever acts on the advice of her ministers. If they wrongly advise her, I think the term is 'deceived in her grant'.

1 May 2006 at 11:14  
Anonymous Martin said...

If this symbolism is as obvious as everyone tells me it is then it should have been as obvious to the Queen when she chose to wear black. If that was the case then it is difficult to see how in good conscience she can be accepted as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The only other conclusion is that the symbolism is not as obvious as I have been assured that it is.

1 May 2006 at 13:37  
Anonymous olly said...

That's not the only other conclusion. Could it be that the Church of England does not take itself seriously any more? How many Anglican priests take seriously the 39 Articles of its foundation? Let's face it, it ceased being Protestant decades ago. The Church has probably got the leader it deserves. In matters of faith, compromise breeds compromise, and this leads to declining standards and declining numbers. QED.

1 May 2006 at 13:44  

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