Channel 4 News at 7 p.m. on 2nd September 2019 included parts of an interview by Jon Snow with Tony Blair, who, apparently earlier in that day, had given a talk at an event under the auspices of the Institute for Government. The talk included, and quite possibly was devoted entirely to, his comments about the Brexit saga. During the interview, Jon Snow asked something like ‘Do you think that people will take any notice of your views?’ Mr. Blair answered that he did not know whether they would, but that even if only one person did he wanted to speak his mind. A few weeks afterwards, when Parliament voted for a General Election, Channel 4 News had another meeting with him. The interviewer, Matt Frei, asked, “Will we see you on the campaign-trail?” Mr. Blair said ‘yes,’ but, repeating what he had told Jon Snow, added “whether anyone will listen to me I don’t know.”
Except for desire to state my case despite uncertainty of its acceptance, my position is very different from that of Mr. Blair. He held high status, and therefore (as probably most people regard as logical) his comments are judged to be worth publicising, whereas I have no ‘status,’ in the generally-used sense of the word, so what I say is not newsworthy. No doubt unlike Mr. Blair, I am not invited to comment; I have to look for opportunities to do so. Another difference concerns his revelation (in a television interview many years ago) that he had kept quiet about his religious belief because he feared that if he spoke about it he would be regarded as a ‘nut-case’; you will notice my candour.
That can be risky, especially when a subject is controversial. During very many years I have noticed that bishops and priests either remain completely silent about controversial subjects or make statements which are so bland and woolly that they amount to nothing; as a civil servant once said in regard to politics, “middle-ground mushiness.” Brexit certainly is controversial, and the statement of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales about the 2016 referendum certainly amounted to nothing. My statements today (as on every previous occasion, as far as I know) will amount to nothing if judged according to how much they affect events, but if people limited their statements to those which could have practical results the world would be a much quieter place.
Why, then, spend time considering what is beyond our control? I remember four people who said that doing so is useless: my uncle; a colleague where I worked; a former class-mate from my school; and a lady who ran a junk-stall in my local market. All of them were Christians. In my experience, and very probably in yours, their opinion was incontrovertible. Considering what is beyond our control is useless. Yet many of us do so. Why is that? My reason is that because we are individually accountable to God for what we do, and for what we do not do, we need to train ourselves to form correct judgments, which requires thinking – more specifically, it requires identifying the correct principles and applying them to circumstances. Many years ago, Bishop Cornelius Lucey of Cork wrote that in matters of governance, politics, public policy and such- like to which many people are able to contribute by opinion and votes, “we are seldom solely responsible for what is done, most of which is the outcome of majority decisions and involves…only what is called joint or collective responsibility. But to have lessened or partial responsibility is not to be without responsibility altogether…for everything we vote for…and even [from] what we could disassociate ourselves but don’t… We may be only one of the many persons responsible. But one at any rate we are,” and he added that just as we cannot escape our responsibility by sharing it with others, we cannot escape it by blaming impersonal factors such as ‘precedent,’ the ‘public interest,’ or what ‘the law’ is. If he were alive today, I believe that he would add other illegitimate excuses such as ‘equality,’ ‘diversity,’ and ‘tolerance’.
That brings me to the legally-United but politically-disunited Kingdom and to the European Union. Discussion about those assumes that they are exclusively-secular subjects, but my purpose is to draw attention to religiously-based considerations which receive very little attention. Although those are my priorities, I do not judge the moral responsibility of people who decide that secular factors are more important. I do not agree that they are, but I understand that for many people they have to be taken into account. What should distinguish a Christian from a non-Christian is that the Christian puts Christian principles above secular factors, as Our Lord told us to do: Your Heavenly Father knows that you need material things which the Gentiles seek, but seek first His righteousness, and material needs will be yours as well. Of course, Christians have different opinions about what God’s righteousness requires and what it forbids; Our Lord established His Church to be His mouthpiece; the hallmark of a Catholic is belief in what it says.
The European Union does not believe that. Its supporters within the Church seem fond of saying that the organisation which is known now as the EU was founded on Catholic social principles. Sometimes they mention that its pioneers included committed Catholics such as Konrad Adenauer (West Germany’s first Chancellor). I have read that the designer of the EU’s flag “was a devout Catholic who was inspired by the traditional 12-star halo of [Our Lady],” and that he “belonged to the Order of the Miraculous Medal, whereon the 12 stars around Our Lady are still seen.” Reference to such historical factors, but omission of certain present realities, raises a suspicion that it its purpose is to induce Catholics to believe that today’s EU has a Catholic mentality. Unless they are astonishingly uninformed, they must know that it is very far indeed from having a Catholic mentality. You will not hear anything about that from bishops or priests.
Before giving you my own presentation of the matter, I quote some comments from an article which together seem to me to summarise it very well. The article’s title is “The Christian retreat from politics,” and its basic message, as expressed in a kind of sub-title, is as follows: “Christian democracy helped create order in post-war Europe, but has largely surrendered to liberalism. It’s time for a rethink.” Here are extracts, ‘knitted together’:
Even if it is true that the European project of “peaceful co-operation in an economic, social and [in more recent times] political union” began as an attempt “to imbue our societies with a Christian vision of the common good, we need only look around today to judge it an obvious failure. … [S]ecular liberalism is not just in the ascendant but is also increasingly radicalised[, and t]hose who [recognise this] have little to fall back on in terms of the [P]arties that avowedly claim to be Christian democratic today. This should not surprise us. Since the 1960s we have seen the Church in its formal leadership continually abdicating its responsibilities…and the surrender of the public square to whatever might take its place. Bishops and clergy began to tear down the walls of Christian doctrine [on the basis that] they imprisoned rather than protected the faithful. Lay Catholics[,] formed all too well by [the idea that bishops and clergy must be right,] began to follow their lead,…sometimes enthusiastically.” That fulfilled a prediction made by H. J. Blackham, former Director of the British Humanist Association, who wrote that in an “open society” the “walls” of religious communities “will be breached from the inside.” “With the Church encouraging the laity to secularise… Christian democratic [P]arties made concessions…,” and “in a political realm that is decidedly pluralist” “liberal [practice] breeds liberal theory sooner or later: it is difficult to play the game while asserting [that] you don’t believe in it. … Sooner or later there is concession after concession, with liberalism moving the goalposts [when necessary].” “The Catholic vision of society has been reduced to just one of several options (if even that)…even within Christian democratic [P]arties themselves. Some gave up the pretence entirely, as when Belgium’s Christian Social Party renamed itself the Humanist Democratic Centre.”
The author of that summary could have added an important reference to the EU Treaty of Lisbon, signed on 13th December 2007 and in force from 1st December 2009. Avoiding mention of God and Christianity, Article 1 says that the E.U. “draw[s] inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe.” Does it matter that the Treaty officially puts religion and humanism on a par with each other? Yes, very much. Why? Here is how H. J. Blackham explained the point: “[P]ractical decisions have to be made for the conduct of life” and “[humanists] assume that man is on his own and this life is all [there is]...” “Humanism is not Christianity minus the faith…[It] starts with a world in which the Christian faith is hardly possible [and] offers possibilities of other kinds. ... There cannot be a conjunction of two inconsistent ways of thinking and living. …It is too easily and foolishly supposed that the two will mix. They will not.” Articles and comments attributed to various bishops and priests, in regard to the EU, have given a very clear impression that they believe that Christianity and humanism can mix, in the sense that we should be tolerant and accommodating and focus on areas of agreement instead of disagreement. The result is evils which are so entrenched that few people seem even aware of them, far less interested in eradicating them.
That is the background which is missing from predominant portrayals of the European Union.
What is now the EU began as an agreement for economic co-operation, but it became steadily and increasingly-openly a political empire in which its member States are provinces which have to obey its rules. I would have no objection to that if the rules were in conformity with Catholicism. Everything should be brought into conformity with Catholicism. As the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” declares, there is no human activity which can be withdrawn from God's dominion. Never forgetting that the Catholic Church was established by God to be His instrument for bringing everything into conformity with His will, the clear conclusion is that everything should be brought into conformity with Catholicism. Related to that is another principle of the “Catechism” - the people who govern human communities should behave as ministers of divine providence.
One of the most basic and most important ways of doing so is the law, and from a Catholic viewpoint it might be difficult to find a more basic and fundamental area of law than what is known as ‘human rights’. At first sight, and in general terms, the UK and the EU seem to support the view that ‘human rights’ are basic and fundamental. That was often a subject on which Western European countries differed from Eastern European ones, which were under the control of the Soviet Union. The difference may well have been much less ‘on paper’ (by which I mean how the laws were worded) than in practice (by which I mean how the laws were interpreted and applied). For example, freedom of religion was a standard provision of the law in communist countries, but there is a ‘Mount Everest’ of evidence that in practice there was little or no such freedom. Christians in the East who resisted atheistic policies were punished, whereas those in the West were free.
The situation in the West has deteriorated, although admittedly not yet to the extent that our position is as dangerous as if we were on the wrong side of the ‘iron curtain’. Probably that is why there is comparatively little publicity and concern about it.
In what way has the situation “deteriorated”? ‘In a nutshell,’European ‘human rights’ law is, on paper, protective of religion and of freedom to manifest religious belief, but is rooted in relativism (that means the idea that what is true and right is impossible to identify), puts religion on a supposedly-equal footing with non-religious beliefs, and in practice has been applied to the disadvantage of religiously-motivated people who have made a stand for principles which conform to Catholic teaching. A prominent member of the EU’s ‘establishment’ said, according to a presumably-reliable report, “We have invented human rights, and not Christian rights, on this Continent.” According to another report, he is a committed Catholic. If so, it seems to be another example of how little can be taken for granted when someone is said to be, or claims to be, a Catholic.
The effects, intentionally or not, and whatever may be said to the contrary, are to establish, in law, direct contradictions of that teaching, and to implement the atheist strategy of limiting as much as possible the ability of Christians to be true to their faith without adverse results. Spiritual credit does, of course, come to Christians who suffer for being true to their faith. In the Sermon on the Mount, Our Lord said that we should be glad when we are persecuted on His account, and St. Peter wrote in his first Letter that even if we do suffer for the sake of what is right we will be blessed and that “it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than for doing wrong.” That is true in terms of our personal spiritual position, but it does not mean that secularist suppression of overt religious influence in society is a good thing. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” says that “From the greatest moral evil ever committed – the rejection and murder of God’s only Son, caused by the sins of all men – God…brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes a good.” We must not allow society to be de-Christianised (negating the missionary mandate given by Our Lord to the Church) because we want to gain some credit for sufferings which come to us in the process.
I think that it’s worth mentioning at this juncture another denominational point. Humanism, relativism, and secularism work against all religions. None of the Christians who were defeated in the cases which I have described was reported to be a Catholic. Non-Catholics are united fundamentally in claiming entitlement to make their own judgments in interpreting God’s will. So they are much nearer to relativism than are authentic Catholics. The fact that non-Catholics have been penalised shows that people who give the required full submission of intellect and will to the Catholic Church’s doctrinal and moral teachings are even more likely to be defeated if they put obedience to God’s law above obedience to the law of the land. We are faced with this challenge, and when voting-time comes there is an opportunity to do something about it.
Should we? Most certainly, if our religion is a living, motivating influence in our lives. Will we? I am not confident that even among people who are under that influence a majority will engage significantly from that point of view with the voting process. Political activity from recognisably-religious roots is not a hallmark of typical Catholics. On paper, the Church has encouraged that activity, although you would hardly know.
When the Church’s official teaching is clear and binding, there is no place for ‘neutrality’ and ‘equality’ between competing values in the ways in which society functions. It is, in any event, an illusion, because when irreconcilable positions claim protection a choice between them has to be made, and experience shows that positions consistent with Catholic principle (which, seemingly in most cases which have come to court, were in fact defended by non-Catholics) is the loser.
It is natural and reasonable to wonder: what, if any, effect does the present situation have on the thinking or action of our religious leaders? The evidence which I have seen suggests that the answer is: none. I have some unfavourable comments to make about that. I make them without rancour, and (I hope) without disrespect, but I believe that they should be made. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” referring to Canon Law, declares that lay Catholics are entitled, and sometimes obliged, to give their opinion on matters affecting the good of the Church, “with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons.” To me, the most important among those words are “the integrity of faith and morals.” The essence of my dissatisfaction with so much of what we get from our religious leaders is its consistently-inadequate portrayal of Catholic doctrine and morality, as if they think that being candid and clear is contrary to “the common good and the dignity of persons.” One context in which this has been evident is that of the EU.
A Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community has existed since 1980, comprising members of the relevant national Catholic Bishops’ Conferences. It operates under a pronunciationally-debatable acronym – ‘COMECE’. Officially its primary objectives are “To monitor and analyse the political process of the European Union; to inform and raise awareness within the Church of the development of EU policy and legislation; and to promote reflection, based on the Church’s social teaching, on the challenges facing a united Europe.” Notice that except to the extent that it might be covered by “raising awareness…of EU policy and legislation,” there is no mention of even the existence of, far less of resistance to, the challenges facing the Church from a relativist, secularist EU. Early in 2016 I asked the Commission to tell me why it approves, or disapproves, of the European Union’s objectives and policies, and to send me the main evidence on which that approval or disapproval is based. No reply.
On the same date I sent the same question to our Bishops’ Conference’s Department of International Affairs. I did receive a reply. It said that “There hasn’t been a statement on the EU yet but it was touched on as an issue in the Bishops’ General Election letter.” That ‘touching on it’ was as follows: Catholics “may wish to bear in mind” “where…candidates stand in…the debate about European institutions,” with regard to “help[ing to] build a society based on love and justice, where decisions are made at the most appropriate level.” Even if you can recognise what that means, it’s feeble.
I was not optimistic that there would be an improvement in any statement which the English and Welsh bishops made about the approaching 2016 referendum on whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU. They did make a statement on it, but I it was almost entirely yet another lesson in limpness. On the other hand, I do not wish to present a distorted picture. So I am happy to give you the good bits from the bishops’ opinions:
“[W]hat we should be saying as bishops…is not the same thing [as what] we might say as citizens.” That was good because it amounted to a recognition (although it could have been made more clear) that there is a difference between a Catholic assessment and a secular assessment. That should be stressed regularly.
“This referendum…is about much more than economics.” “[T]he economic arguments are not the whole picture by any means…” “[H]ave a broad canvas of consideration because economics is not the crucial issue in this debate.” Hear, hear! How true that was.
What was the crucial issue, according to the bishops? If there were more than one, what were they? That was where the encouragement from those quoted comments collapsed. Reading the other parts of the statement reminded me of something which I have been saying for a long time and coincidentally found in a book entitled “The Realm.” It was written by Father Aidan Nichols. I bought it because of the sub-title: “An unfashionable essay on the conversion of England.” Sadly appropriately, the publishers later went out of business; according to someone who was in a very good position to know, “it just wasn’t financially viable.” Page 13 mentions a survey of Catholic life in England since the Second World War. It had led the researcher to conclude that by the 1980s “Catholicism in England had become…unlikely to rock any boats in culture or society. [There had been] an erosion of the distinctiveness of English Catholicism, whereby the Church seemed set to become cosily absorbed and dissolved…in an increasingly secular society, indistinguishable [from other Christian bodies] in its religious beliefs and values, and [indistinguishable from other citizens] in its social and political morality.” The bishops’ statement about the EU referendum was yet another classic example of that. In its 505 words, ‘Catholic’ occurred once (that is equivalent to a fifth of one per cent). References to the common good of all, and/or to the dignity of all, and/or to welcome for all, and/or to care for all were 17.5 times more numerous than reference to ‘Catholic’. Although solicitude for the common good and the well-being of all is a legitimate basic virtue, the conspicuous constant tendency to emphasise it far more than distinctively-Catholic criteria seems symptomatic of what is known, in modern slang, as ‘dumbing-down’. Father Aidan Nichols called it “an increasing evacuation of internal substance,” and added that “A Church which travels this road is insufficiently distinct from its environment to be the focus of passionate loyalty. Its faithful, saddened and demoralized, gradually desert it. In the end it suffers social death by its own hand.” ‘Dumbing down’ provides a smoke-screen of unity-in-ambiguity, which is useful in hiding inconvenient differences of opinion and glossing over the fact that in regard to well-known ‘totem-poles’ of secular liberalism the Church is ‘on the ropes’ and ‘on the run’.
At all levels, our leaders fail to admit that fact. They seem determined to maintain what Peter Stanford (a former Editor of “The Catholic Herald”) called “an air of unruffled reasonableness,” cheerfully managing a Church which is “fundamentally at ease with its environment,” while steadily going down. It reminds me of the musicians on the deck of the sinking “Titanic” who continued to play in an attempt to keep the passengers calm; that was courageous, because they were not employees of the White Star Line and therefore were entitled to get into a lifeboat. In the bishops’ case, I call it ‘armour-plated serenity’. The head-line to an article in the “Catholic Herald” called it “The Church’s disastrous failure to offer rebellion.”
There is a long-established and deliberate failure to make Catholicism ‘a force to be reckoned-with’ in political affairs. Typical Catholics do not involve themselves in political activity in order to pursue distinctively-Catholic objectives, and some of those who are elected vote against fundamental Catholic principles, as happened with the ‘Embryology’ Bill in 2008, and in 2013 with same-sex ‘marriage’. For them, ‘not imposing our views’ trumps ‘inscribing the divine law in the life of the Earthly city’. Nothing is done about that. Secularism is given a ‘clear run’.
The statement by the bishops about the EU referendum was predictably in line with the relentless policy of diffidence. In 2012, one of our hierarchy said that “We should be cautious not to adopt a wholly negative attitude towards secularism…[I]t can certainly have some negative impacts but can also offer a new freedom for the Gospel to be proclaimed.” Astounding. Another said, in 2013, that the deepening religious “twilight” “may not be an entirely negative development…as it requires of Christians a greater clarity in both teaching and witness.” Clarity?! We seem to get very little of that. An editorial in the “Catholic Herald” described this as “an age of episcopal equivocation,” and a contributor to the same edition wrote that “Catholicism has been assimilated into a bland, indecipherable mish-mash of belief more acceptable to society.”A bishop who retired several years ago wrote (in case anybody had not noticed) that because bishops have “divergent views” but have to give an impression of unity, their statements “have a tendency to be…flat and ‘safe’ at a time when we need passionate and courageous public statements that dare to speak the full truth.” It is the ecclesiastical equivalent of what, according to the BBC, an un-named “senior figure in the Labour Party” called the “soggy, drab centralism” of the Party’s leaders and “lack of strident opposition [to coalition Government policies].” As St. Paul asked the Corinthians, rhetorically, if instruments do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is being played, and if a bugler blows an uncertain sound, who will enter the battle? One bishop showed that tendency independently, in his own article about the EU Parliament elections in 2014; it dealt only with the safe subjects of maintaining peace and alleviating poverty. I wrote to him about carefully-avoided Catholic principles which are embarrassingly-controversial in our secular society, suggested that we discuss at least trying to begin giving Catholicism political impact, and said that if we are too timid to be different we may as well ‘pack up’; no reply. A similarly-safe and even-more-overtly pro-EU article was written by the priest employed as the Secretary-General of COMECE. According to him, “key areas of concern highlighted by the bishops” of that body in March 2014 were effects of economic difficulties, youth unemployment, the erosion of Sunday as a day of rest, and the challenges of migration. Each of those subjects is important in its own way, but none is distinctively Catholic. Apparently contented with dissolving Catholicism in the surrounding social consensus, the Secretary-General of COMECE wrote that it is reassuring for Catholics to know that bishops take a close interest in the EU to ensure that Catholic principles “can find their due place in the Europe of tomorrow. … It is vital,” he wrote, “that [those principles] continue to shape the emerging profile of…Europe.”
“[T]heir due place.” What is that? “[C]ontinue to shape” implies that they have been and are doing so. Have they? Are they? “[T]he emerging profile” of Europe. What is it?
Judging by the results of court cases about ‘human rights,’ we can see what the “due place” of Catholic principles means in practice, and whether they have had much success in shaping Europe as represented by the EU. Inevitably, wayward opinions which dominate Europe are reflected in EU policies. Here are some examples. They should make an impact on authentically-Catholic minds.
Firstly, EU Member States are required to contribute to the EU Third World aid-budget. What’s wrong with that? The EU Third World aid-budget pays for abominations such as abortion, and apparently EU rules require Member States not only to contribute to the EU ’s Third World aid budget but also to provide abortions through their own overseas aid budgets. So pro-life taxpayers in the UK are helping to pay for abortions via the NHS, the UK overseas aid budget, and the EU overseas aid budget. Incidentally, in 2004 a pro-lifer complained that “absolutely nothing” had been said about that in the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales statement on the European common good (that expression again). She wrote that “it is no good just hinting or not saying anything at all, and hop[ing] that people will do the right thing. One must put it plainly for all to read.” I wonder whether she noticed that again in the 2016 referendum-statement they only hinted at it, by referring to “the sacredness of the human person” and “inalienable values.” That ignores the fact that ‘inalienable values’ now include legal killing of people who don’t pass the arbitrary, intellectually-gymnastic tests of ‘personhood’.
Here is another example. A procedure called the European Citizens’ Initiative was introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon, allowing a million people representing at least seven Member States to ask the European Commission to put forward “any appropriate proposal” for legislation which the petitioning citizens believed to be needed for the purpose of implementing EU objectives. The second such request made to the Commission was called the ‘One of Us’ Initiative. It was made on 28th February 2014. It had the support of 1.7 million people from a total of 18 Member States. It called for a law to prohibit and end the financing of the destruction of human embryos, particularly in the areas of research, development, and public health, and to stop the financing of abortion in developing countries. Why was that necessary to implement an EU objective? Because the EU’s own law, as set out in Articles 2 and 3 of its “Charter of Fundamental Rights,” contains a commitment to “the right to life, and the right to the integrity of the person.” Despite that, the European Commission rejected the ‘One of Us’ Initiative. Why? Because to stop paying for abortion and embryo-destruction would constrain the Union’s ability to deliver on the objectives set out in the MDGs, particularly on maternal health. The “MDGs” are the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, which include “the empowerment of women,” the improvement of “maternal health,” and the reduction of maternal mortality. So those aims require payment for wholesale destruction of embryos and unborn babies. Of course, we have that in Britain already, but perhaps people should bear in mind that as well as helping to pay for it in Britain we have been helping to pay for it in developing countries through the money which the UK gives to the EU; according to what I heard on the radio, from non-Governmental sources, at the time of the 2016 referendum, the net cost of our membership of the EU (in other words, after taking into account the rebate which Mrs. Thatcher negotiated and the money which we got back in grants from Brussels) was £162m per week (nearly £1m per hour). So remember, ‘overseas aid and development’ includes killing babies and embryos.
Careful readers... would have noticed that after my comment, earlier, that the situation in the West had deteriorated, I added “although admittedly not yet to the extent that our position is as dangerous as if we were on the wrong side of the ‘iron curtain’.” I would, however, draw your attention to an opinion that the EU is well on its way to copying the Soviet Union and becoming the ‘EUSSR’. According to an article in “The Brussels Journal” in 2006, that was the basic message of a speech given by Vladimir Bukovsky, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising. He was a Soviet dissident, and spent twelve years in various labour camps and psychiatric institutions, apparently because he had exposed the use of psychiatric imprisonment against political prisoners. Eventually he was expelled to the West, and after the USSR collapsed the Russian Government invited him to give evidence to an enquiry into whether the Soviet Communist Party had been a criminal organisation. To help him to do so, the Government allowed him to study many documents from Soviet secret archives. Here are some extracts from his speech in Brussels:
“In 1992 I had unprecedented access to Politburo and Central Committee secret documents which have been classified, and still are even now, for 30 years. These documents show very clearly that the whole idea of turning the European common market into a federal state was agreed between the left-wing parties of Europe and Moscow... The Soviets [decided,] and [agreed] with the left-wing parties[,] that if they worked together they could hijack the whole European project and turn it upside down. Instead of an open market they would turn it into a federal state. … If you go through all the structures and features of this emerging European monster you will notice that it more and more resembles the Soviet Union. Of course, it is a milder version of the Soviet Union. Please, do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that it has a Gulag. It has no KGB – not yet… Meanwhile they are introducing more and more ideology…, and a big part of it is…political correctness. I watch very carefully how political correctness spreads and becomes an oppressive ideology… Look at…people like the Swedish pastor who was persecuted… because he said that the Bible does not approve homosexuality. France passed the same law concerning gays. … I watch very carefully who is persecuted for what…, because that is one field in which I am an expert. I know how Gulags spring up.”
As he said, the EU does not have a Gulag. It does, however, have an elaborate system for enforcement of what they regard as ‘human rights’. That would be no cause for concern if ‘human rights’ were interpreted properly. Unfortunately, the interpretation takes place in a vacuum of relativism. American Catholic radio ‘talk-show’ host Al Kresta calls it “feet firmly planted in mid-air.” As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said, people claim complete autonomy with regard to their moral choices, and lawmakers maintain that they are respecting this freedom of choice by enacting laws which ignore eternal truths and pander to populism, “as if every possible outlook on life were of equal value.” The courts adopt that policy.
A well-known result is the ‘anti-discrimination’ and ‘pro-equality’ industry, the main beneficiaries of which seem to be various types of sexual deviant. They certainly should be protected from discrimination which is unjust, but that is very different from encouraging the impression that such a lifestyle is a morally-valid choice – as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said, “it is not.”
A good summary of how ‘human rights’ have been corrupted in this way and enforced vigorously can be found in Gabriele Kuby’s book entitled “The Global Sexual Revolution – Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom.” Some of it deals specifically with the European Union in this regard.
According to Chapter 6, expressions such as gender diversity and anti-discrimination have, in the name of ‘human rights’ or ‘fundamental rights,’ been expanded for the purpose of establishing a new legal and social order, and the EU has developed a power apparatus to implement that new order and to penalise opposition. The legal and social changes reinforce each other.
For example, the general principles of law enforceable within the Union come from three sources: the European Community Treaty (1957, as re-named and amended), the laws of the Member States, and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The Treaty of Maastricht 1992 stated that “the Union shall respect fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, as general principles of Community law.” The European Convention’s rights and freedoms include, as Article 12, the right to marry. It says that “Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.” Although the Convention was already part of EU law, in 2000 the EU adopted a new human rights document, called The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The Charter contains a provision which, if read casually, may seem the same as Article 12 of the Convention: “The right to marry and the right to found a family shall be guaranteed in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of these rights.” As Gabriele Kuby points out, men and women are no longer mentioned. Accordingly, the effect of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights was to imply that marriage and family are institutions unconnected with male-female relationships. This, she writes, opens the door to legal implementation of homosexual ‘marriage.’ The preparation of the ground for these changes was the Treaty of Amsterdam, which was signed on 2nd Oct. 1997, and entered into force on 1st May 1999, in which the term “sexual orientation” was adopted for the first time as a criterion for protection against discrimination – that was a deviation from all previous human rights treaties and from the constitutional traditions of the Member States. Unsurprisingly, Holland was the first country to legalise same-sex ‘marriage’ (with effect from 1st April 2001), and, writes Gabriele Kuby , then the battle began for adoption of “sexual orientation” in the laws of the Member States, with the EU institutions and their considerable financial resources providing help.
She writes that the EU provides between 60 and 70 per cent of funding for the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, and uses money obtained by taxation to fund projects of two large abortion organizations, Marie Stopes International and International Planned Parenthood. “This is,” she says, “camouflaged as “sexual and reproductive health,” even though the EU’s definition of the term explicitly excludes abortion.” The EU is especially ‘hot’ on one of the most frequently-heard expressions, ‘homophobia’. That, writes Mrs. Kuby, is a new word intended to defame people who object to homosexuality. Apparently all such objection, not least when it has a religious root, is to be suppressed by means of administrative and legal action, and campaigns in schools, universities, and the media.
To such evils there is insufficiently-resolute and -concrete response from Catholics. We have not been reared to respond. It does not come naturally to us, and the people responsible for forming us show no significant wish for it. Occasional minimal comments which are broadly in the right direction but amount to just ‘going through the motions’ of opposition are far from what is needed. An allegedly-well-known Syrian proverb says that “Hungry stomachs have no ears,” presumably meaning that we listen only to what affects our priorities. It is not only hungry stomachs which have no ears; nor have sedated minds.
It is true, of course, that Our Lord’s kingdom “is not of this world,” as He said to Pontius Pilate, but if circumstances in this world were unimportant to Him He would not have bothered to tell people how to behave, or to commission the Apostles to teach all nations to observe His commandments. It is not sensible to believe that by saying that His kingdom is not of this world He intended to provide His enemies with Scriptural authority for undermining His teachings. Quoting Scripture in order to undermine Scripture was what Satan did in his three temptations of Our Lord in the desert. On each occasion, Our Lord responded by quoting another part of Scripture. If Satan tempts you to ignore secular defiance of Catholic principle; if he reminds you, ‘Did not Christ say, my kingdom is not of this world?’; remember to answer that Christ also taught us to pray that “[God’s] will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” The Catholic Church is the institution which He established to bring that about, and, because the Church consists almost entirely of the laity, the task is primarily ours. To remind people of that, Pope Pius XI established in 1925, by an Encyclical entitled “Quas primas,” the Feast of Christ the King. In paragraph 24, he mentioned “a certain slowness and timidity in good people, who are reluctant to engage in conflict or oppose but a weak resistance; thus the enemies of the Church become bolder in their attacks.”
Here are just a few examples of the neglected encouragement to win battles rather than to think only of healing the wounded.
“Catechism of the Catholic Church,” paragraph 1884: “those who govern human communities… should behave as ministers of divine providence.” In our type of governmental system, they can’t govern unless they are elected.
“Lumen Gentium,” paragraph 36: “there is no human activity which can be withdrawn from God's dominion…Attempts to build a society with no regard whatever for religion,…attack[ing] and destroy[ing] the religious liberty of its citizens [are] to be rejected.” How should we reject it? Just in our private opinions? That doesn’t achieve anything. We should make it our business to elect the right people and to remove the wrong ones.
“Apostolicam Actuositatem,” paragraphs 7 & 13: Everywhere and in everything, the temporal order must be renewed by Catholicising its mentality, customs, laws, and structures. Paragraph 14: Catholics are obliged to make the weight of their opinion felt in the making of law.
People who are relaxed or (even worse) pleased by the disregard of such exhortations would say, ‘The world has changed. You’re not going to change it back again. Remember a song by The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star” (number 1 in 1979) – there is a line in it which says, “We can’t re-wind; we’ve gone too far.” Why are some religious people so obsessed with opposing progress?’ That’s a very ironic question. The supporters of this so-called ‘progress’ are the really obsessed people. Their manic activity and public ‘flag-waving’ has put opposition well and truly ‘in the shade’ and has been spectacularly successful. As shown by the examples which I have mentioned, they hold the positions of political and financial power. They have done so by means of two factors: their sense of purpose, and the inadequacy of opposition. To a large extent, political and financial power is affected by votes, and so I turn to the next focus for the conflict: the ‘Brexit General Election’.
As always, media coverage and public attention are confined primarily to matters of money and sustaining a national standard of living which is beyond our means and which politicians who want our votes have provided for us by taking the country deeply into debt. Since April 2015, between 80% and 83% of our gross national product has been owed to creditors. So, as a nation, only 17 to 20 pence of every pound which we produce is truly ours to spend as we wish; the rest comes from international money-lenders. Countless individuals live on the same basis. Therefore, in order to find the money to repay the people who sustain our false standard of living, commerce is king. So there should be no surprise that pragmatism often prevails over principle, or that (according to the BBC in 2015) the most senior civil servant in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office said that human rights are not one of the U.K.’s priorities and that the prosperity-agenda is higher up the list. The Government issued a denial, of course. Where do we stand? What are our priorities?
If we confine our minds to the subjects which preoccupy the politicians and journalists, we have no recognisably-distinctive contribution to make; we dissolve in the secular sea, and our votes will not contribute anything to the task of Catholicising society. Probably most Catholics, if they were asked, would neither expect nor desire otherwise. They would say, ‘why should we be different?’ The answer should be, ‘because Catholicism is different’– in substance, rather than in the doctrinally-destitute and morally-minimalist form in which it is commonly presented now.
The result of this ‘Brexit General Election’ depends as much on general attitudes formed over a long time as on what is said during the final few weeks, and most people are passive observers. That passivity is itself something which contributes to those general attitudes formed over a long time. We are called to proclamation, not passivity. To the extent that we keep quiet about what is true and right, we help to clear the way for what is false and wrong. We are supposed to be, as Our Lord said, “the light of the world,” and as darkness increases it becomes false economy to keep the lights off in order to minimise the cost.
Whether you regard as significant or persuasive this way of looking at political events depends on whether you agree that everything should be brought into conformity with Catholicism, and on whether you accept the fact that the law is a vital vehicle for that purpose. The ‘Brexit General Election’ will influence the extent to which distinctively-Catholic principles are contradicted and suppressed by the weight of the law. That is the subject with which my analysis has been primarily concerned, but probably I should say something about relevant aspects of Boris ’s recent agreement with the EU.
The basic position, according to the Preamble, is that if the agreement comes into force, EU law – in its entirety – ceases to apply to the UK, but that is stated to be subject to the arrangements laid down in the agreement. So EU law will still apply to the extent that the agreement allows that. You could ‘split a hair’ by saying that it will not be EU law, but the agreement, which will apply, but that would be no less silly than to have said in 1973, when we joined what was then the European Economic Community, that what bound us was our agreement with the EEC, not EEC law. The agreement ‘opened the door,’ and EEC law entered.
I am not very reassured by the statement, in the introduction to the agreement, that when the agreement comes into force European Union law “in its entirety” would cease to apply to the UK. I shall try to explain simply.
EU law is found in various places. There is a list of them in Article 2 of the agreement. One is, unsurprisingly, “the general principles” of that law. According to what I have read, the Treaty of Maastricht (1992) declared that those general principles include the entitlements which are specified in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The EU itself did not produce that Convention, but (by the Treaty of Maastricht) adopted it. Another source of EU law listed in Article 2 of the agreement is something called “the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”
I have explained that human rights are among the sources of EU law listed in Article 2. However, Article 2 provides that those sources apply “for the purposes of this Agreement.” Article 4 (which, unlike the transition-period, is not time-limited) provides that the agreement and EU law which the agreement makes applicable will have the same legal effects in the UK as in the EU, and the UK Government must ensure compliance. That is a continuing obligation. So it is important to know whether the withdrawal agreement makes ‘human rights’ law applicable to the UK’s departure from the EU.
The only reference to human rights which I have found in the withdrawal agreement is a brief mention of need to safeguard the work of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which of course does not apply to the rest of the UK. So it seems that most of the UK would be free from EU influence as far as human rights are concerned. I would welcome that, for the reasons which I mentioned (much earlier in this assessment) regarding the EU’s relativist, contra-Catholic mind-set and policies.
At this juncture it is appropriate to mention that the UK and EU agreed not only the terms for our withdrawal but also a ‘Political Declaration’. The Declaration contains principles which are to guide the negotiations about the “future relationship” between the UK and the EU, expected to begin after we are (at least nominally) no longer a member. My reason for mentioning it is that whereas the withdrawal agreement would be legally binding, the Political Declaration would not.
Paragraph 7 of the Declaration is as follows: “The future relationship should incorporate the United Kingdom's continued commitment to respect the framework of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), while the Union and its Member States will remain bound by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which reaffirms the rights as they result in particular from the ECHR.” Evidently, therefore, the UK would not be bound by the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. I am not very reassured, because although not legally binding, the Declaration would be a basis on which moral pressure could be put on the UK to conform to the EU’s relativist, contra-Catholic attitude to human rights.
It seems to me that the only ‘cast iron’ form of escape from that EU influence would be for the UK to leave the EU without a ‘withdrawal agreement,’ but there is such an agreement awaiting confirmation.
What is going to happen? That depends, of course, on the outcome of the General Election. If we were to remain bound by EU law, the relativists and secularists among us would celebrate. It would, in particular, be very bad from a pro-life viewpoint, because voting-records show that the ‘pro-life’ case receives negligible support from socialists and liberals. It receives much more support from representatives of the Conservative Party. For example, on 23rd October 2018 when there was a vote on a Private Member’s Bill to remove the residual criminal law against abortion in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, 208 voted ‘yes’ and 123 voted ‘no’. The ‘yes’ voters were 86 per cent Labour, and the ‘no’ voters were 88 per cent Conservative. Even if there had been enough pro-lifers in Parliament to have a reasonable prospect of changing U.K. law for the better, the change could have been defeated on the ground that it would be contrary to the U.K.’s obligations as a member of the European Union. That obstacle will be removed if Brexit goes ahead.
The options for voters seem very clear.
We know that Brexit will be prevented or endangered if the General Election puts Parliament in the control of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, the Welsh Nationalists, the Scottish Nationalists, or any combination of those Parties.
Labour’s policy is to ask the EU for a different (‘watered-down’) Brexit and then to hold another referendum which gives people a choice between (a) ‘leaving’ according to Labour’s re-negotiated terms and (b) abandoning Brexit entirely. It is certain that there would be no significant difference between those alternatives. It is, furthermore, absolutely certain that a withdrawal agreement acceptable to Labour would not restrict abortion or any other sinful symptom of relativist ‘equality’.
The Liberals, the Greens, the Welsh Nationalists, and the Scottish Nationalists, each having campaigned under an explicit promise to disregard the 2016 referendum-result and to “Stop Brexit” would be able to claim a mandate do so. The Liberal Democrats have promised to do it “on Day 1” if they become the Government; the Green Party’s promise is to put the decision to another referendum.
The Conservatives want to leave on the basis of their agreement with the EU, and the Brexit Party (dissatisfied with that agreement, but knowing that full opposition to the Conservatives would help Brexit’s opponents) want enough members elected to prevent the Conservatives from ‘back-sliding’.
The Labour Party will have a candidate in every constituency in the U.K., and the Scottish Nationalists will have one in every constituency in Scotland.
The Liberal Democrats, the Greens, and the Welsh Nationalists have decided that in specified places, together equivalent to about 17 per cent of the next Parliament, only one of those three Parties will put forward a candidate, in order to avoid splitting the ‘Stop Brexit’ support.
The Conservatives and the Brexit Party have no agreement intended to help each other, but on 11th November Nigel Farage announced that the Brexit Party will not put forward a candidate in any of the constituencies which were won by the Conservatives in the 2017 General Election (equivalent to about 49 per cent of all constituencies in the U.K.). In almost every other place, however, those two Parties will be competing against each other. So the danger from the pro-Brexit support being divided has been reduced, but not eliminated.
The political question remains now the same as for many years past: should we remain in or separate ourselves from an international group which has its own equivalent of each Member State’s political and economic systems, very likely in due course its own armed forces, and a long-established agenda of ever-closer union which has the obvious ultimate objective of making Europe a single, federal State? The religious question, also, remains now the same as for many years past: should we, in order to obtain whatever material benefits are available, support an international group whose relativist, secularist philosophy multiplies the UK’s own defiance of fundamental tenets of the Catholic faith (rarely though those seem to be asserted by even the Church’s leaders)?
Some people see the subject in terms of patriotism. In March 2016, David Cameron said at the Scottish Conservative Party Conference that what matters is “putting patriotism into action.” I respect patriotism, although its meaning and the extent to which it should govern decisions are matters for debate, but let us remember that spiritual things are above Earthly ones, and should have priority when there is a conflict, such as when the law of the land breaks God’s law as taught by the Church. Unlike people who give an impression that their number one priority is that the UK should be an entirely-self-governing country, I would vote for government from Europe if I could be sure that it would result in the Catholicising of society. That is what every authentic Catholic should want, and is what Church teaching has advocated, but it is not what has happened and there is no realistic prospect that it will happen if we remain in the European Union.
Voting for the EU means, in effect, voting for ‘EUmanism’. Please remember that: the EU is an instrument of ‘EUmanism’. That is why I am sure the Devil wants us to remain in it. Instead of standing on the solid ground of objective truth, its philosophical and legal ‘feet’ are (to quote Al Kresta again) planted firmly in mid-air. Masquerading behind obviously-bogus ‘neutrality,’ it subjugates Catholic moral principles. The solution does not depend entirely on whether we remain part of the EU, because law made in this country is as deeply rooted in relativism as law made by European Union institutions, but if something important to you is buried, and you want to rescue it and put it in its rightful place, the less the weight on top of it the better; deciding to retain the maximum weight would be mad.
The position of pro-lifers should be recognised clearly. In just over fifty years since de facto abortion on demand was introduced into Britain, there has been no strengthening, but rather a weakening, of support in Parliament for any restriction. It is support for even further liberalisation which has increased. Pro-life effort, such as it is, outside Parliament is generally far too weak to affect election-results. That was not helped by a statement by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales in 2015 which advised that “Voting in a general election should seldom, if ever, be based on a single issue,” because “Elections involve a whole range of issues.” Something seems gravely wrong with a mind which discourages regarding legal mass-murder as the ‘number 1’ issue. The usual “whole range of issues” is on display again this time. The ‘pro-life’ area is ignored, but (such is the dominance of relativism and ‘choice’) no gain would come from general public attention to it. Probably for some pro-lifers abortion has always been the paramount subject, but even they should know that the 12th December General Election will not bring a transformative influx of pro-life Members of Parliament. It has not happened yet, and is as unforeseeable as ever. At this time, the best way to help the pro-life campaign in the U.K. is by liberating the country from one of the two legal systems which obstruct it. Compared with the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ position of individual politicians, who are voted in and out at election-times, to escape from the E.U.’s legal system would be an enduring benefit (unless the defeated ‘Remainers’ were to succeed with a campaign to re-join, but that is something for ‘another day’).
There is, of course, the familiar election-time problem of candidates being ‘good’ in some ways but ‘bad’ in others. Some will be anti-abortion but anti-Brexit, and some will be pro-abortion but pro-Brexit. In normal times pro-lifers would not vote for a candidate whom they knew to be pro-abortion. These are not, however, normal times. That seems to justify a policy which, contrary to its ‘surface-appearance,’ is authentically pro-life. Here is the explanation:
The pro-abortion majority in the British Parliament is very long-established and very large, and the anti-abortion campaign (such as it is) has never had a significant impact on public opinion or been more than a minor irritant to the death-peddlers. Consequently there is no prospect of that situation being changed by the coming General Election. However, current circumstances offer a unique, unprecedented, paradoxical opportunity. The burden of the E.U.’s legally-imposed pro-abortion policies can be lifted from the U.K. by means of Brexit. So the pro-Brexit factor should be recognised to be more important than the candidates’ opinions about abortion, because Brexit would have an anti-abortion effect. Putting it in other ways (and perhaps showing the paradox even more clearly); pro-abortion candidates will be hindering abortion if they are pro-Brexit; likewise, candidates who say they are anti-abortion will be assisting it if they are anti-Brexit.
At this Election, the only way by which pro-lifers can, in practice, sabotage the ‘culture of death’ is by electing a sufficient majority of ‘Leavers,’ and that means candidates for the Conservative Party or the Brexit Party.
“The World This Week-End,” Radio 4, 21st July 2019.
“Christian Citizenship,” Irish Messenger Office, Dublin; undated; p.4.
 Matt. 6:31-33; Lk. 12:29-31.
“Flying the flag for Our Lady,” Mary Kenny; “Catholic Herald,” 29th March 2019, p.24.
 “The Christian retreat from politics,” Andrew Cusack, “Catholic Herald,” 29th March 2019, p.16-17.
“Humanism,” The Harvester Press, 1976, p.63.
 “The Christian retreat from politics,” op. cit.
 “Humanism,” op. cit., p.190.
 Paragraph 912.
 Paragraph 1884.
“Catholic Herald,” 22ndMarch 2019, p.14.
 Matt. 5:12.
 1 Pet. 3:14.
 1 Pet. 3:17.
 Paragraph 312.
 Paragraph 907.
 As reported in the “Catholic Universe” on 22nd April 2016, p.7, and the Archdiocese of Westminster web-site.
 Family Publications, 2008.
 Ibid., p.142.
“Cardinal Hume and the Changing Face of English Catholicism,” Geoffrey Chapman; London and New York, 1993, p.21-22.
 Ibid., p.2.
 “The Band That Played On,” by Steve Turner; 2011, Thomas Nelson.
 18th August 2006, p.10.
“Catholic Today,” March 2012, p.22.
 “Catholic Herald,” 14th June 2013, p.1.
 12th April 2019, p.3.
 Page 29.
 “Fit for Mission? Church – Being Catholic Today,” CTS, 2008, p.92.
 BBC News web-site, 30th July 2015; report by Andy Sully.
 1 Cor. 14:7-8.
 “Catholic Today,” April 2014, p.7.
 Ibid., p.11.
 “Catholic Herald,” 4th March 2011; article by William Oddie.
 “The Catholic Times,” 23rd May 2004, p.6.
 “Dangers to the Faith: Recognizing Catholicism’s 21st-Century Opponents;” Our Sunday Visitor Inc., Publishing Division,
Indiana; 2013, Chapter 8.
 “Doctrinal Note on the Participation of Catholics in Political Life,” 2002; Catholic Truth Society, 2003, p.6).
 “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” paragraph 2358.
 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” 1986, paragraph 3.
 Angelico Press/LifeSite, 2015).
 Ibid., p.83.
 Ibid., p.84.
 Ibid., p.74 & 83.
 Ibid., p.74.
 Ibid., p.170.
 Ibid., p.170-171.
 Quoted in Aid to the Church in Need’s “Mirror,” November/December 2015, p.2.
 John 18:36.
 Matthew 28:19-20.
 Matthew 6:10.
 5th April, Radio 4, 9 a.m., & Radio 5, 10 a.m. .
 Matthew 5:14.
 “The World at One,” BBC Radio 4, 4th March 2016, 1 p.m. .
 See note 43, above.