Bishop Noel is of the view that the European Union “is a noble and historic project”. “It is vital,” he says, “that we participate in the European elections to ensure the EU and its institutions continue to evolve democratically in the face of the massive political, social, economic and ethical challenges it is now facing.”
And therein lies the clearest guidance you could possibly get that Christians should not vote for Ukip, for they favour secession, not participation. And they would prefer that the the whole continental construct implode rather than that its institutions continue to evolve democratically, thereby incrementally undermining national sovereignty and diminishing the historic rights of the people. For the Bishop, the EU is a Catholic construct; for Ukip, it is intrinsically anti-Christian (and this debate has been had time and again).
I’ve said elsewhere that Roman Catholicism has Christianity’s best intellectual tradition (in some ways its only one, the Protestant effort is stillborn and the Orthodox bailed on theirs with the death of John of Damascus). But there are some topics where the church lays an intellectual egg, and this is one of them.
The RCC is very insistent of a positive role of the state, especially if that state is a Roman Catholic state. But those are few and far between these days (I can’t really think of one any more except the Vatican itself) and so the Church looks for a substitute. Since another one of the Church’s ideals is to restore the unity of Europe (one broken with the Reformation) an institution that comes along promising to accomplish same is bound to get a sympathetic view from Rome. That institution is the EU, and so the RCC bishops in the UK basically tell the faithful that they have no business voting for UKIP.
The Church would get a clearer picture looking at things historically rather than through an ideal construct. While the unity of Europe would be nice, the EU is a godless, undemocratic institution that has no real use for the RCC or any other church. As Cranmer points out:
Of course, in issuing his guidance, Bishop Noel is mindful of Roman Catholic Social teaching, centred around the right to life; the uniqueness of marriage between a woman and man; the promotion of justice, social inclusion and concern for the poor; and the pursuit of peace and reconciliation.
And therein lies the tension, for the political entity that is the European Union certainly promotes peace, mutual understanding and reconciliation, and yet, in the pursuit of justice and equality, it negates the right to life and nullifies the God-ordained institution of marriage.
While the RCC is certainly capable of tolerating the undemocratic part, you’d think that it would have enough sense to at least skip being the cheerleader for such an enterprise. The EU is, in reality, a competitor to the RCC. (A more balanced Roman Catholic view of the subject is here).
Moreover it’s worth noting that Roman Catholicism’s point of highest place in European history was when the Roman Empire–the last “universal” state in Europe–went away. To some extent the Church became its substitute, with results that were probably better for Europe than they were for the Church. A similar argument could be applied to civil marriage. When the Roman Empire fell, it fell to the church to marry people. When the states came back, they took that “ultimate” right to themselves. So why does the RCC, with its sacramental view of marriage, fight so hard to keep out same-sex civil marriage when it should be applying its considerable resources to dumping it altogether?
All of this avoids another question: should the UK be in the EU in the first place? When the EC was first formed, the idea was to keep the French in, the Germans down and the British out. So when that idea become passé?