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The End of Christian Democracy

What the Movement's Decline Means for Europe

German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Winnenden, Germany, March 2009. Johannes Eisele / Courtesy Reuters

The Europe of today is a creation of Christian Democrats. They were the architects of European integration and of postwar Atlanticism. And they were crucial in shaping the form of constitutional democracy that prevailed in the Western half of the continent after 1945 and has steadily been extended east since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Europe’s most powerful politician, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is a Christian Democrat, as are the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and his designated successor, Jean-Claude Juncker. In last May’s European Parliamentary elections, the continental association of Christian Democratic parties -- the European People’s Party (EPP) -- won the most seats. 

Yet both as a set of ideas and as a political movement, Christian democracy has become less influential and less coherent in recent years. This decline is due not only to the continent’s secular turn. At least

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