No Papal bull for the Eurocrats
Belief in a progressive, kaleidoscopic multi-cultural society in which numerous lifestyles are promoted along with diverse ethnic cultures has seized the commanding heights of the EU. The Pope's moral clarity does not sit well with the Eurocrats
If the firmly secular mandarins and Europhile politicians who largely run matters at the key EU institutions had assumed that Pope Francis would deliver a speech replete with progressive shibboleths on his visit to the European Parliament on Tuesday, they were in for a let-down.
He punctured the human rights culture that is dominant in the EU by pointing out that rights could only be meaningful if citizens were urged to shoulder their responsibilities for holding society together. This declaration is bound to have jarred with those who see duties as being the preserve of a paternalistic and activist state.
He criticised the ‘the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions’ (hardly a revolutionary pronouncement) and urged less focus on ‘economic questions’ and more on ‘the sacredness of the human person’.
He had little to say about the Eurozone crisis but propping up a dysfunctional currency union at huge human cost, could easily be interpreted as devaluing the worth of individual Europeans. Millions of young people, especially in once vigorously Catholic north Mediterranean states, face decades of unemployment unless they emigrate.
Conservative members of the EP, in the European Peoples party burst into applause when he underlined the value of human life , including ‘children who are killed before they are born’. But the once powerful Christian Democratic parties on the continent have largely been swept along by the secularist tide. They lack an ethical vision for Europe based on philosophical beliefs or what should be the end and means of government.
A partnership between the EU and the Vatican had noticeably failed to emerge during the long Papacy of John Paul II (1979-2005). In 1981, on what would be his only visit to the European parliament, he had been heckled by the Rev Ian Paisley from Northern Ireland.
But the church faced more enduring opposition from mobilised groups who wished Europe to embark on a post-Christian and relativist direction. No lead culture would be encouraged, especially one that could socialise immigrants, enabling them to be integrated into host societies.
Instead, backers of a kaleidoscopic multi-cultural society in which numerous lifestyles were promoted along with diverse ethnic cultures, seized the commanding heights of the EU. These groups, heavily drawn from academia, and NGOs enjoying favour in the EU, enjoy much greater leverage in the EU power structures than any group allied to the Catholic church.
Its peripheral role was highlighted in 2003 when France successfully objected to any reference to ‘Europe’s Christian heritage’ in the preamble to the proposed Constitution.
It has been claimed that Pope John Paul II distrusted Jacques Delors, the most powerful head of the European Commission so far seen. (Charles Grant, Delors, Inside the House that Jacques Built (London: Nicolas Brealey 1994), p.83.)
In his decade in charge (1994-1993), this left-wing Catholic promoted policies that hollowed out the nation-state. He believed that the EU could aspire to become a model for world governance through its commitment to equality and insistence that green energy be given an early push to save the planet from the ravages of fossil fuels.
Pope Francis has one of Britain’s most prominent Catholic left-wingers, Chris (Lord) Patten as a senior media adviser and it is not surprising that in his speech, he criticised the EU’s resistance to taking in more migrants. The Pope’s homeland, Argentina, is one that was largely made by immigrants.
Roman Catholicism, especially in countries like Britain, where secularism has become entrenched, has forestalled a collapse in adherents thanks to immigrants from the Philippines and parts of Africa.
The journalist Ed West (himself a Catholic, like me) recently pointed out that: The Catholic Church in England has even put its weight behind asylum amnesties that would have resulted in half a million people being legalised, even though similar schemes in Spain have encouraged further illegal immigration (and resulted in many deaths, of Africans drowned trying to reach Europe).’
Christian teaching places a responsibility on those with material means to assist others who face hunger and want. One interpretation of the Catholic catechism is quite interesting in this regard:
‘The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
'Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens’.
As Christian communities face decimation across the Middle East, perhaps the time is ripe for a debate within the Catholic Church in Britain on how to reconcile the concept of borders with a Christian outlook. What kind of immigration policy can adhere to at least some core social justice values without collapsing the value of labour at home and avoiding changes that are massively disruptive to long established communities.
The answers are not easy but the Church should not close-down such a debate, the EU’s customary stance whenever reality breaks in on its utopian vision.
Tom Gallagher’s book Europe’s Path to Crisis: Disintegration Through Monetary Union was published last month by Manchester University Press in hardback and paperback
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