Cardinal: Ireland Grateful for EU, But Wary

Says "Loss of Christian Memory" Causing Unease

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BALLINA, Ireland, AUG. 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Catholic Primate of All Ireland says that Christians in the nation who were previously enthusiastic about the European Union are now uneasy.



Cardinal Sean Brady, archbishop of Armagh, suggested there is growing wariness about the European Union when he gave the annual Bishop Stock address at the General Humbert Summer School in Ballina on Sunday.

"As the recent referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland suggests, at least some of those who were previously enthusiastic about the founding aims of the European Union, both social and economic, are now expressing unease," the cardinal said.

On June 12, an Irish referendum resulted in a "no" vote to the Treaty of Lisbon, which needed unanimous approval for it to go into effect.

Cardinal Brady said that the reasons for unease about the union, as expressed by the vote, are complex.

"But," he continued, "one reason influencing some Christians may be what Pope John Paul II described as the 'loss of Christian memory' in European institutions and policy. Successive decisions which have undermined the family based on marriage, the right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, the sacredness of the Sabbath, the right of Christian institutions to maintain and promote their ethos, including schools -- these and other decisions have made it more difficult for committed Christians to maintain their instinctive commitment to the European project."

"This coincides with a fairly widespread culture in European affairs which relegates manifestations of one's own religious convictions to the private and subjective sphere," the cardinal added. "It has not been unknown, for example, for individuals to have to defend their right to hold political, public or legislative office within European Union institutions while professing a public commitment to their Christian faith, sometimes against very public and hostile challenge."

Excluded

Cardinal Brady contended that ignoring this trend "and its impact on people of faith" affects support for the project itself.

Quoting Benedict XVI, he asked, "If the governments of the Union want to be 'closer' to their citizens, how can they exclude from Europe's identity an essential element like Christianity with which a vast majority continues to identify themselves?"

"On the other hand," he continued, quoting the Pontiff, "a community that is built without respect for the authentic dignity of human beings, that forgets that each person is created in God's image, ends up not doing any one any good."

The prevailing attitude within the European Union "ends up with Christians as such being denied the right to intervene in public debates or at least having their contribution dismissed as an attempt to protect unjustified privileges, such as, for example the right to employ people who support the ethos of a Christian institution," the 69-year-old prelate lamented. "The same might be said of positions taken over stem cell research, the status of same-sex unions, the primacy of the family based on marriage, the culture of life.

"The prevailing culture and social agenda within the European Union would at least appear to be driven by the secular tradition rather than by the Christian memory and heritage of the vast majority of member states."

Cardinal Brady said this attitude is "in stark contrast" to the United States, where political candidates are expected to respond to questions about their faith and their support for faith-based organizations.

"As it is, in Ireland, as in much of the European Union, the prevailing political correctness and dominant media culture is one of relegation of the search for truth and the value of religion in society in favor of a political environment without God," he said. "In this context, it is not surprising that we might speak of a European continent that is losing confidence in its future. […]

"Without respect for its Christian memory and soul, I believe it is possible to anticipate continuing difficulties for the European project. These will emerge not only in economic terms but in terms of social cohesion and the continued growth of a dangerous individualism that does not care about God or about what the future might have in store."