Why do Catholic bishops mistake EU integration for solidarity?

Our CDP position on the EU is contrary to that of our Catholic Bishops, who are of course in tune with their fellow bishops in COMECE [the {Catholic} Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community], which has a permanent Secretariat in Brussels.  In October 2009, I pointed out the irony of the support of COMECE for the Lisbon Treaty resulting in them having to change their name, because the European Community would no longer exist after the Treaty as the single identity and personality of the European Union was adopted.  They should have become COMEUE, but they did not, and that explains the problem – they are still looking at Europe as if it was the EEC or EC.

Their main purpose was liaison with the European Community, with the objectives to monitor and analyse the political process of what became the EU, and to inform and raise awareness within the Church about EU policy and legislation.  They were to promote reflection on the challenges arising from European Unity, based on Catholic Social Teaching.  Remain or Leave, the choice is not a matter of faith or morals.  We are free to take a contrary position.

For this post our starting point is the Catholic Herald article > http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2016/05/12/why-bishops-love-the-eu/

Since that article the Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York have stated their support for remaining.  We have also seen Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark take a contrary position and Auxiliary Bishop William Kenney of Birmingham saying that Catholic aid agencies will lose grants if we vote to leave the EU.  He did say that he would prefer Britain to remain in a reformed EU.  So once again he confirms what both sides of the debate are saying, the EU needs reforming.  The EU has been reforming since 1992, but everyone says it needs to be reformed.  The only conclusion is that it was the wrong reform.  COMECE are aware that more than political reform is required and of the fundamental issues that are an affront to Catholic teaching.  But, why do they then still support the EU and its institutions, which refuse to listen and to reform?  It is a complete mystery and of some concern to us that they continue support for the Lisbon Treaty and the establishment of a particular form of government for the Continent.

The dichotomy became apparent to me when, as part of the Euro-Solidarity delegation, I attended the First Catholic Social Days for Europe held in Gdansk (8th – 11th October 2009).  This COMECE conference certainly fell within their legitimate remit and it was opportune as the Lisbon Treaty, which provided for a formal dialogue process with Churches and Religions, was to come in to effect at the end of the year.  The Archbishop of Dublin in his key address to the first session of the Conference made the salient point, “it is time for Catholics to further develop their own European strategy”.  The proposition was that this be done together with other Christian traditions and Catholic Social Teaching was a good starting point.  So far so good, but there was and is a worry about political drift.

At the Opening Ceremony of the Conference the President of COMECE [the Bishop of Rotterdam] recorded his relief the Bishops in Ireland had voted in favour of the Lisbon Treaty in the previous week’s referendum.  Following the European Parliament election that June he made public his hope that dialogue between the Churches and the EU institutions would be deepened for the sake of human dignity and the common welfare.  He also regretted the low voter turnout of 43% [the turnout has dropped at every EP election since 1979 and in 2014 was 42.54%, with the UK turnout being only 34.5%] saying, “Such a low turnout is all the more inexplicable as the EP will stand to gain additional influence and competences when the Lisbon Treaty comes into force. By intensifying the process of democratisation the EP can become a more powerful representative of its citizens. The low turnout indicates that a European Civil Society is still missing. Compared to the Single Market there has been too little focus on civil society. The European institutions, the national governments, the political parties and perhaps even the Churches should therefore ask themselves; Was our contribution big enough to raise the European conscience of our fellow citizens?”

He emphasised that European integration has been a unique process and given the worldwide economic crisis, climate change and the food crisis there was in fact no alternative to a united Europe speaking with one voice and standing up for justice and peace on its own continent and in the world.  I contend that there is an alternative to the EU that enables the Continent to act in solidarity without becoming the United States of Europe, that integration is not the same as solidarity, and the EU has failed miserably to achieve the goals set out in the Bishop’s Declaration – Building a better European home – published by COMECE prior to the 2009 EP election.

That Declaration sets out their aspirations and goals, in particular paragraph 3 – What Christians expect of the European Parliament.  By clicking on the archive posts for October 2009 you will be able to get a full sense of the Conference.  The full Declaration was posted to enable it to serve as a benchmark so that we could judge whether the ‘work in progress’ was meeting up to those goals.  You can judge for yourself and go direct to > https://resurgenceuk.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/building-a-better-european-home/#more-294/

Many of the lay Catholics present, including MEPs and EU officials, expressed exasperation with the institutions that they were part of.  Noting the MEPs and their parties having a pro-abortion and GAY agenda, which undermines the right to life and traditional family values.  In congratulating all MEPs following the election the Bishop of Rotterdam was, perhaps inadvertently, congratulating some MEPs who should be condemned.  By contrast Dairmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, acknowledged that initial support by the Catholic Church had become more qualified over the years and critical remarks often accompanied positive evaluation.  He also regretted the omission of any reference to God in the Constitution.

Stating that there is no alternative to a united Europe should not mean that the only option is a structure of a federal nature as will follow from the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty.  There is an alternative model with fully sovereign States working together by consensus.  That might explain why the missing European Civil Society, as indicated by the low EP turnout, is apparent.  Citizens in the Member States do not consider themselves to be citizens of a European State, no matter what it says on the front cover of their passports.

The policy position of COMECE is fundamentally sound, as should be expected, and they are fully aware of the dangers that threaten our Europe founded on Christian principles.  It is therefore difficult to understand why they are so enthusiastic for and supportive of the political structure that has been developed for the EU, which is not only undemocratic but also anti-democratic.  The question they need to answer is Why?  They also need to row-back from the drift in to the political stream.

Finally, I question the wisdom of Pope Francis accepting the Charlemagne Prize for services to European integration.  Popes do not receive awards and prizes in this life, they bestow honours.  In accepting the prize it was a form of endorsement.  The three EU Presidents addressing the awards ceremony should have been admonished because their institutions promote pornography, LGBT rights that undermine the traditional family, abortion and euthanasia that disrespect human life, and attack Christianity.

The COMECE conference concluded that ‘Solidarity is the soul of Europe’.  Francis identified Brussels with the ‘soul of Europe’.  We beg to differ.  Christianity is the soul of Europe and its brain is in Rome, the Holy See.  The sooner that is made clear and co-operation suspended, the sooner the European Union will be reformed.

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2 Responses to Why do Catholic bishops mistake EU integration for solidarity?

  1. Richard says:

    Catholic Bishops from the Pope down have a lot of questions to answer at the moment.

    “Is the Pope a Catholic?” is no longer the rhetorical question it once was.

  2. Ericl says:

    The title of that posting says everything I was thinking.

    EU membership is destroying Catholic Malta, and dare I say it, Catholics in Poland shouldn’t feel too smug about what EU membership is doing to their country.

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