The promised EU ‘debate’ has so often declined to the level of one set of strident claims set against another set of strident claims.
There has been a battle of the sound-bite concerning sovereignty, economics and migration. Many people feel that there has been a lack of authentic political/democratic leadership dedicated to help the electorate to better understand the options and their consequences, and to consider the values that underpin them.
Archbishop Bernard offers some thoughts on the matter in the new issue of Catholic Today, available in the church porch .
Catholics can in good conscience vote to leave or remain the EU – we are ‘simply’ invited to make a prudential judgement about what is best for us and others and vote accordingly.
But to do this in good conscience we need to be careful to vote for the common good, for love of God’s will and love of neighbour.
In the last few days before we cast our vote it is probably helpful to reconsider the recent statement from the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.
Bishops’ Statement on the EU referendum
Reflecting on the forthcoming vote, we recognise the historic nature of this referendum and its implications for future generations. The outcome will have consequences for the future not only of the United Kingdom, but for Europe and for the world.
In our view, three things are essential:
- that we pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit;
- that we all inform ourselves of the arguments on both sides of the debate;
- that we each exercise our vote with a view to the common good of all.
The coming together of European countries in the aftermath of a catastrophic war was designed to bind together former combatants and the contribution of the European project to peace in Western Europe should be recognised. Pope Francis reminds us, in his address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 25 November 2014, that the ideals which shaped this European project from the beginning were peace, subsidiarity and solidarity. In the Treaty of Rome, trade was harnessed to peace. The peace achieved in Western Europe shows indeed how “our problems can become powerful forces for unity” (par 5). Our decision in the referendum should thus be taken in the context of how best we can promote justice and peace.
Our focus needs to be above all on the human person. We need to build a Europe “which revolves not around the economy but around the sacredness of the human person, around inalienable values” (par 37). We all have a responsibility to keep the dignity of the human person at the forefront of the debate. We must ask ourselves, in the face of every issue, what will best serve the dignity of all people both within Europe and beyond.
This referendum therefore is about much more than economics.
We might find it helpful also to (re-)read the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the duty of citizens, (for example CCC 2234-2257)
It may come as a surprise for us to be reminded there that the Church acknowledges that Christians reside in their own nations, but that they do so as resident aliens! We are to participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners… to obey the established laws but, at the same time, by our way of life to surpass the laws. So noble is the position to which God has assigned to us that we are not allowed to desert it.