Catholics Reignite EU Constitution Debate
The Roman Catholic Church is taking steps that will reignite religious debate surrounding the European Union constitution.
On September 11, a high-profile group of Roman Catholics held their first meeting to draft a report on the EU’s common values at the behest of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (comece). The report is intended to fuel the debate for Catholic representation in text of the new EU treaty.
Philippe de Schoutheete, former Belgian ambassador to the EU, said one purpose of the project is to increase public awareness of European (Catholic) values. There is “something more” to the EU that most people, he said, are “totally ignorant or unaware” of. The report will identify the values that motivated the EU’s founders and that can be “linked to Christian faith.”
“The EU process has clearly been based on a certain number of values, but in the course of the process they have been largely forgotten,” said Schoutheete.
The comece project is “indirectly” designed to influence the EU’s political declaration set for March 25, 2007, the EU’s 50th anniversary, according to one representative.
EUobserver.com reported: “The member states’ EU birthday declaration is likely to spark fresh debate on Europe’s Christian heritage as the basis of its common values—a debate which was recently re-opened by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel who made a plea for including ‘God’ in a new EU treaty text.”
When Merkel visited Rome in August, she told the pope she believed “this treaty should be linked to Christianity and God because Christianity was decisive in the formation of Europe.”
Why such pressure from Germany? Jacek Kucharczyk, from the Poland-based Institute of Public Affairs, observed, “From the point of view of Chancellor Merkel, this can be a clever way of keeping Turkey out. We knew that Christian Democrats in Germany are quite unhappy with the prospect of Turkish membership” (Radio Poland, September 7). Taking a stronger Catholic posture can also be interpreted as a defensive measure against the encroaching danger of radical Islam.
comece’s secretary general took Merkel’s cue and considered the closed religious issue on the constitution re-opened. Back in 2003-04, comece lobbied heavily for Christian representation in the draft constitution. In fact, eight member nations—Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ireland—pressed for direct references to God to be included during those original talks.
The current preamble makes a vague reference to the “cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe.” While many leading EU politicians feel that isn’t strong enough, the EU then had trouble getting the constitution past voters. When the treaty was rejected by French and Dutch voters last year, all referenda across Europe were halted.
Trumpet readers shouldn’t expect future referenda to delay the constitution’s progress. Poland, for example, has made it clear that it will not put the constitution to a referendum because voters would definitely reject it.
Note that Germany took the lead to re-open the Christian constitution debate. Watch for fellow EU national governments to increasingly follow Germany’s lead on political and religious matters. Regarding the talks about the constitution, Poland’s Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said , “In my opinion we have to find a compromise on how to give Germany more political importance without changing the balance between the other states in the European Union” (ibid.; emphasis ours).
The Trumpet has repeatedly stated that Europe, led by Germany, will garner power from its Catholic heritage—a commonality that will bind member nations and dominate foreign-policy decisions. For more information, request Germany and the Holy Roman Empire.