This fall, as the Eurozone’s constitutional and economic crisis deepened, some observers suggested a religious explanation: the crisis had resulted from different worldviews in the Protestant north and the Catholic (and Orthodox) south. The Protestant culture of the north is thrifty, sober, and bourgeois: a contract society. The Catholic (and Orthodox) culture of the south is profligate, emotional, and traditional: a status society. Among the observers who have offered such explanations are Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Harvard Professor Steven Ozment.
As First Things’s Matt Schmitz points out in a fun post yesterday, these observations have an implicit moral component: Protestant values are better, or at least better promote economic efficiency. Maybe, says Schmitz, morality cuts the other way. The “passionate and ecstatic culture” of the Catholic and Orthodox south, he writes (quoting Christopher Dawson), a culture which “finds its supreme expressions in the art of music and in religious mysticism,” may, in fact, be morally superior. Schmitz would doubtless agree with Hillaire Belloc’s famous observation:
Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
I need to think some more about all this. But it’ll have to wait till tomorrow. Here at the Center, we knock off early on Fridays, so we can drink ouzo and listen to Monteverdi.