Bashing the EU is bordering on sinful

Posted By: November 19, 2016

Patrick Murphy. Irish News (Belfast). Saturday,November 19, 2016.  

Ireland has discovered a new sin. It is not in the same category as failing to keep holy the Sabbath or coveting your neighbor’s goods, but it is more studiously avoided.

This sin is political – well, for Catholics anyway: “Thou shalt not criticize the European Union.”

Throughout the post-Brexit debate, Irish nationalist politicians have criticized Theresa May’s government, with good reason. But while they have all suggested that Brexit should be more conciliatory, none have argued that the EU might abandon the idea of a single European state.

The free movement of goods and people is a reasonable concept, but the argument that it can be achieved only through the political union of up to 30 states is hard to defend. (Although there may soon be an EU army to defend it).

In Catholic Ireland, the EU is close to canonization. For example, when it recently put the brakes on Stormont’s subsidy to United Airlines to keep the New York air link open, only the DUP criticized Brussels. “Unelected bureaucrats,” said Simon Hamilton, adding blasphemy to the original sin.

The SDLP criticized the Stormont Executive, but not the EU, guaranteeing them eternal political salvation. Sinn Féin maintained a saintly silence, even though the Shinners are now in coalition with sinners.

So how did this new sin arise and, like the transient nature of sin in Ireland, both moral and political, will it disappear as new and more pressing sins emerge?

Although the concept of political sin is satirical, like all satire it is based on reality. Ireland’s latest sin has existed in various forms since the year 800 when Pope Leo III crowned King Charlemagne as head of the Holy Roman Empire.

Charlemagne had brutally fashioned this new Catholic state out of parts of what are now Germany, France, and Italy, through military conquest. (Think of it as an aggressive strain of Christianity.)

The Empire, a sort of mini-EU with its own army, lasted for about 1,000 years until 1800. The Church effectively controlled it, not always in the most moral manner, which is how the Reformation came about.

Six months ago, the Pope received the Charlemagne Prize for services to European integration, which ultimately means a single European state.

At the Vatican award ceremony, Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President, said: “Holy Father, you hold Europe and its unification most dear; that I know.” He then condemned the “stupid, pernicious forms of populism that are in danger of rending Europe asunder”. (Well, that’s the DUP told off – and in the Vatican too.)

European Council President, Donald Tusk, offered additional religious fervor: “In a sense, Europe [presumably the EU] is an article of faith.” God wants us to believe in a single European state.

This drive for modern European unity can be traced back to the European Steel and Coal Community in 1950, which was founded by Schuman (France) Adenauer (Germany) and De Gasperi (Italy). All were devout Catholics.

Catholic historian Alan Fimister has argued that all three, particularly Schuman, were strongly influenced by Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum (1891).

It is a foundation of modern Catholic doctrine, based on concerns about the nationalism, liberalism, and anti-clericalism, which followed the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, almost a century earlier. The solution, as later articulated by Pius XII, was the unification of human society across national borders.

French Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain, has argued that a European federation would ultimately lead to the establishment of a new Christendom, identified by Schuman as “a generalized democracy in the Christian sense of the word.”

So the philosophy behind the EU’s single state can be traced (with a few bumps along the way) to Catholic social teaching.

It is difficult to know if Nationalist politicians here have been taught this, or if they have reached their conclusions through some form of theological telepathy. Either way, it explains the Pope’s call for an anti-Brexit vote in Britain.

“Better in than out,” said Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s “foreign minister.” even though David Thompson, editorial director ofThe Catholic Herald, believes that Schuman’s European ideal is outmoded in an age “when globalization is pulling apart every stitch of the social fabric once known as Christendom”.

You may have observed that this column has sinned against the EU on more than one occasion, which destines it for political damnation. It is not necessarily a bad place to be because political sin in Ireland has always been more a function of fashion than morality.

The scary bit, though, is the thought of having to spend eternity with the DUP.