Richard North, 01/05/2004  

Sources: Times, Telegraph, The Great Deception.

Buried in the welter of stories about enlargement today is a worrying piece in The Times about the Roman Catholic Church throwing its weight behind the constitution.

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have declared that the enlarged community of 455 million people needed democratic and accountable institutions as well as a “moral vision”. “A constitutional treaty that helps to secure these and enjoys popular legitimacy is vital if enlargement is to be a success,” they claim.

Readers will recall the dramatic intervention by the Pope, just prior to the Polish accession referendum, which almost certainly had a significant effect on the result, and now it appears that the catholic bishops have ambitions of achieving a similar result here.

Nevertheless, according to the Times, Fr Frank Turner, the Jesuit priest with responsibility for international affairs for the conference (it had to be a Jesuit - ed), denied any political motivation, “It is not a directly political statement trying to arbitrate the various political disputes between and within the parties”, he said. “That is not the function of the bishops”.

Such protestations can be treated with the contempt they deserve – unless we are seeing unworldy naivity, but that is hardly likely in a Jesuit. With the two main political parties lined up in opposite camps, this is clearly a political act. The bishops are playing a very dark game.

However, veterans of the 1975 referendum will recall that a special effort was made to recruit Church of England bishops, to counter any charge that the (then) EEC was a Roman Catholic conspiracy (Of the founding fathers, De Gasperi, Adenaueur and Schuman were all Roman Catholics, and Monnet was a lapsed Catholic).

The man behind this initiative was a young Conservative would-be MP, none other than John Selwyn Gummer, since converted to Catholicism. He claimed to have enlisted the support of over one-quarter of all clergy of all denominations, including almost all Anglican bishops. “Prayers for Europe” were said in many Anglican churches and supportive items were placed in parish magazines.

In the largely secular Britain of today, however, “God’s endorsement” may have little impact. Who cares what the Catholic bishops say anyway? And, in any case, the mood may be changing, not only in the UK but EU-wide.

Perhaps with a certain amount of prescience, an old woman on a phone-in to the Polish Radio Marjya told the presenter, “Poland is on the verge of destruction… We must trust in God if we are to survive in this Satanic Europe”. Quite.

To see the Times article, click here.

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