Dear Donald Tusk, if Brexit is delayed will I still go to hell?

Posted By: March 24, 2019

Patrick Murphy. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, March 23,  2019 
Dear Donald Tusk,
Forgive my curiosity, but I was wondering if I might still go to hell. You claimed that there was a special place in hell for those who advocated Brexit, without a detailed description of what they meant.

So, I assume there is an ordinary place in hell for those who supported it (and if I am wrong, maybe you could be more specific about who exactly is bound for hell and why.) I agreed with Brexit in the belief that free trade does not require a political union, as Irish history shows.

So, now that Brexit may be delayed, I was hoping for an update on where I will spend eternity. You will understand my asking, because there is something oddly reassuring about being told you are going to hell, on the basis that things cannot get much worse.

Fortunately,  I am used to the idea, because this is the second time I have been condemned to eternal damnation. The first was many years ago, during the civil rights campaign, when a priest told me that I was heading for hell for selling the United Irishman newspaper in public, in defiance of the Special Powers Act.

At that time challenging the Unionist government was a sin. But, just like the 1916 Rising, as the civil rights campaign grew in popularity, supporting it became a moral obligation. Sin, it appears, is mainly a matter of timing.

So you see, Mr. Tusk, we have a long history of being condemned to hell in Ireland for political beliefs. Religion here has always included the concept of political sin. You are merely following in the tradition of those like Kerry’s Bishop Moriarty who, in 1867, said that hell was not hot enough, nor eternity long enough for the Fenians.

Obviously, I would prefer to go to heaven with Sinn Féin, following its political conversion to support the EU, to get in step with Fine Gael (long before Brexit was even considered). Indeed, hell is most unappealing, especially since the sin has not yet been invented which would warrant having to spend eternity with Jacob Rees-Mogg.

However, your belief that you have the moral authority to judge the political consciences of others remains breathtakingly medieval. For example, James I of England (who was responsible for the Ulster Plantation) believed that he derived the right to rule directly from God. Like yourself, he was not elected to his position.

In fairness, your religious posturing is in keeping with much of the founding spirit of what became the EU, as designed by three devout Catholics: Robert Schuman, of France, Konrad Adenauer of Germany and the Italian Alcide de Gasperi.

Schuman, who has been described by Pope Benedict XVI as a “servant of God” and may be on the way to sainthood, has argued that the original idea of the EU came from the Catholic social teaching of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903). Leo wanted a more orderly Europe following the 1806 collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, which included Germany, Italy, Bohemia, and parts of France.

So, Mr. Tusk, you might be right about hell. The EU concept of subsidiarity, for example, comes from the Church’s belief that what cannot be dealt with at lower levels, should be delegated to a higher authority. Fr Ashley Beck of St Mary’s University, London, has written, “You cannot be a faithful Catholic and a Eurosceptic”, quoting Pope Paul II’s view that a united Europe “certainly embodies a great hope”.

Indeed the EU is quite similar to the Church in that its leaders are appointed by, and are accountable to, each other, not the people over whom they rule.

As Mass attendances plummet, it would appear reasonable to suggest that the Treaty of Rome has now replaced the Church of Rome as the main moral arbiter in Ireland. Fifty years ago here a priest, representing the Church, considered opposition to union with Britain as wrong. Today you, representing the Treaty, suggest that opposing union with 26 other countries is wrong and the vast majority in Ireland agree. This tells us something about the Irish.

Despite (or maybe because of) 800 years of English rule, they either will not or cannot accept the legitimacy of their own democratic politics and they, therefore, rely on a German-dominated imperial government for their authority. Britain’s shambolic handling of Brexit has reinforced this view.

So maybe you could write them an encyclical, explaining how the EU became their new Church and how you represent the new hierarchy. The French say that the more things change, the more they remain the same. They have a point.