Cardinal Marx, did you forget something?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | May 06, 2016

When your only tool is a hammer, they say, every problem looks like a nail. So when the cardinal-archbishop of a major European city reflects on the challenges that face Europe today, you might expect him to lead with a comment on the loss of faith. 

That's the insight that St. John Paul II pounded home: the European community was formed by the faith, and without the heritage of faith there's nothing-- aside from shifting economic interests-- holding the societies of Europe together. Pope Benedict XVI followed up by noting that without the faith, Europe is sinking into the dictatorship of relativism, with no firm moral standards, no clear purpose. 

So again, when Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich-- the president of the commission of episcopal conferences of the EU-- speaks on the four great challenges facing the European community, you know what he's going to say, don't you? He's going to talk about the faith, isn't he? 

But wait; the first challenge that he names doesn't directly involve the faith. 

The second, maybe? Nope.

Third time's a charm? Not in this case.

Last chance: No again.

Cardinal Marx has suggestions on several other topics; he's ready to use all sorts of tools to fix Europe's problem. But this time the problem IS a nail, and the cardinal isn't a hammer. 

Oh, dear. I wrote this little piece before reading the address delivered by Pope Francis as he accepted the Charlemagne Prize. No hammer there, either, I'm afraid.


Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - May. 09, 2016 11:37 PM ET USA

    Faith matters, whether or not Cardinal Marx thinks so!!! Mass attendance is important so are there any churches in Europe that are even 1/2 full at any given time? Are the children learning the faith in school, from their parents, or in church?

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - May. 06, 2016 8:38 PM ET USA

    I expect nothing else from Marx, but it astounded me that Pope Francis could deliver such lengthy remarks about Europe's future (in the Charlemagne Prize speech) and never mention the Faith! I guess it's not important anymore, since what is needed most is a "new kind of humanism," he tells us. At some point in Evangelization, doesn't one have to mention Christ?

  • Posted by: Gil125 - May. 06, 2016 5:11 PM ET USA

    Pshaw, Phil. You don't talk about faith if you want to win the Charlemagne Prize---or any other---in Europe in the 21st Century. Yes, J.P.II won an "extraordinary" one in 2004, when he was too close to the end to be able to do any more harm.

  • Posted by: bernie4871 - May. 06, 2016 4:47 PM ET USA

    Never saw so many pop/psych words in one speech. Two small paragraphs near the end seem to relate to the Faith and they were ambiguous. The great dynamic words that jump at you: dialogue, inclusion, consensus, education, encounter, coalitions, humanism, social-economy, transformation, just distribution, sense of belonging, and many others too numerous to list.