On 16th September 2009 the Bishop of Down and Connor (Noel Treanor) made a presentation to the Irish Parliament as the representative of the Irish Bishops’ Conference to COMECE, having served for 20 years in Brussels. He said that, “Confidence in ourselves as a people and in our capacity to mould and shape Europe – rather than fear or suspicion – should mark our fundamental attitude to Europe”. “A Catholic can, without reserve and good conscience, vote Yes for the LT as there are no grounds to justify a No vote on the basis of religious or ethical concerns”. “The LT does not alter the legal position on abortion in Ireland”. Making reference to the guarantees obtained, “these represent a welcome and significant clarification of the already existing safeguards in the relationships between the competences of the EU institutions and national sovereignty on important ethical issues”. In support of his presentation he quoted Pope Benedict:
“If, after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, certain excessive hopes were disappointed, and on some points justified criticisms can be raised about certain European institutions, the process of unification remains a most significant achievement which has brought about a period of unwonted peace to this continent, formerly consumed by constant conflicts and fatal fratricidal wars. For the countries of central and eastern Europe in particular, participating in this process is a further incentive to the consolidation of freedom, the constitutional state and democracy within their borders. I am sure that God will bless the generous efforts of all who, in a spirit of service, work to build a common European home where every cultural, social and political contribution is directed towards the common good. To you, already involved in different ways in this important human and evangelical undertaking, I express my support and most fervent encouragement.”
Later in September, during the Pope’s visit to the Czech Republic, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, warned that the EU threatens countries’ traditions and identity. “Individual European countries have their own identity. The EU prescribes its laws or views to them and they do not have to fit with their traditions and history. Some countries are logically resisting this – for example Ireland”. The Irish Bishops then warned against using the LT to undermine the fundamental principle of subsidiarity. Their official statement contrasted sharply with the remarks of Bishop Treanor.
Bishop Treanor also spoke at the launch of ‘Christians for Europe’, suggesting that the No side fell into three categories – the misguided, the manipulated and the dishonest. As to grounds such as economic or political considerations, it was a matter of prudent political judgement for each individual based on informed and accurate assessment of all of the issues involved. Accuracy was essential and the moral claim on all involved in the debate encompasses the duty to provide accurate information and to avoid provoking unfounded fears through misinformation. This applied not just to the contents of the LT but also the way in which the debate’s conducted and the accuracy with which the EU institutions are presented. Cautioned against those who would seek to influence the outcome either by offering misleading or patently incorrect information. Evidence that that there are a number of publications and organisations who are intent once again on influencing the Referendum by introducing misleading or inaccurate information, including that the LT would undermine existing legal protection in Ireland for the unborn children, and emphasised that no organisation actively lobbying in the current campaign using either print or other media speaks on behalf of the Catholic Church. This was a thinly veiled attack on Alive and Coir. He placed a lot of reliance on Article 17 of the LT and the regular dialogue provided with Churches and faith communities. Rejection of the LT might jeopardise that. Clearly the COMECE view.
The concern of the laity has surfaced again this month. The counter view to Bishop Treanor was expressed in a letter to Ireland’s Eye from Margaret Herriott of Nenagh. “Even though Church teachings, as handed down from the apostles, are there ‘yesterday, today and forever’, there seems to be some considerable leeway exercised by bishops nowadays as to the interpretation of the code of Church practices in moral and spiritual doctrines of the faith. Following their support for the LT prior to the referendum on Oct’ 2nd, I wonder have they any idea what they were really recommending to the laity? One very serious example is the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is attached to the LT, wherein is enshrined by law the Convention on the elimination of discrimination against women. Under this the European Court of Justice could overrule our Supreme Court if a case is brought against Article 40.3.3 [Irish Constitution protection of the unborn] and for a woman’s right to choose. The Irish Government could be forced to introduce legislation to allow for abortion. In fact all family law is under serious danger under this Treaty and the Charter of Rights, as is our education system as well as freedom of religion, and much more besides. We should ask how long will it be until the EU insists on the removal of mention of the Holy Trinity and God in the preamble to our Irish Constitution? Our cardinals and bishops and politicians have sold us out to an anti-Christian Godless regime, which gives an elite, unelected group total control over the lives of millions of innocent and unaware Europeans.”
Even in the corridors of power across the EU it has started to dawn that foreign ministers and heads of state signed the Treaty without reading it and without working out the consequences.