Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Bishops used as pro-EU cover

Briefing. To say this is cheeky, given the government's relentless attacks on the Church, is the understatement of the year. But it is true that the bishops seem naive about the EU.

From CFNews: David Milliband, the Foreign Secretary, has used the Catholic bishops to help push through the controversial EU Lisbon Treaty without a popular vote, it was claimed this week. He told Parliament that a number of charities supported the treaty, including 'the commission of bishops' - by which he meant the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), to which the bishops of England and Wales belong. Edward Leigh, MP, has accused Mr Miliband of compromising the bishops' impartiality. 'For a Foreign Secretary to drag the bishops into a debate about a contentious treaty is ludicrous, let alone using them to support not having a referendum. This is underhand politics.'

COMECE supports most of the Lisbon Treaty but has no official policy on the referendum. Its members are Catholic bishops who monitor and advise the EU, but are independent of it. However, once the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, COMECE will have 'a fixed and official relationship with the EU', its spokeswoman said this week. As a result, say Eurosceptics, Europe's Catholic bishops will have been drawn into the machinery of the European Union. The impartiality of the bishops of England and Wales on the subject of the EU has been called into question in the past, when the bishops were accused by critics of lending their support to the European Constitution.

In 2004, the bishops' conference released a statement which said that Europe 'requires not just democratic and accountable institutions but also a moral vision'. It said: 'A constitutional treaty that helps secure these, and enjoys popular legitimacy, is vital if enlargement is to be a success.' The bishops' adviser on foreign affairs, Fr Frank Turner, said: 'A constitution is better than no constitution'. Fr Turner insisted that the statement was impartial but the bishops were nevertheless criticised by Eurosceptics. Pope Benedict XVI sharply criticised the European Union on its 50th anniversary last year for leaving out any mention of Europe's Christian heritage in its anniversary declaration. He said: 'If on the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome the governments of the union want to get closer to their citizens, how can they exclude an element as essential to the identity of Europe as Christianity, in which the vast majority of its people continue to identify? Does not this unique form of apostasy of itself, even before God, lead it [Europe] to doubt its very identity?'

In an editorial the Catholic Herald says: 'Edward Leigh, the Catholic Conservative MP, is right to suspect that the Bishops of England and Wales have been dragged by the Foreign Secretary into a complex area of policy in which they have no special expertise.. The bishops must be careful . . . We ask merely for scrupulous impartiality from our bishops'. [Catholic Herald]

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen