09 September 2003

Staring at the Spectator

I'm heading home for a wedding in a couple of hours, so must rapidly eat, pack, and run. I didn't sleep at all last night, alas. So it goes. Managed a couple of hours this afternoon though.

So, some links. Nice to see that Neil Gaiman's won a well-deserved Hugo Award for the wonderful Coraline. I've bought that book three times, twice as gifts, and both times I've bought it to give to other people I've been startled on opening them to find that they were signed by Neil. Mine isn't. Maybe that's more rare.

There was an excellent article about Pat McCabe in The Guardian a few days ago. Check it out if you can. And of you haven't read it, go read The Butcher Boy. See the film too, while you're at it; I think it's Neil Jordan's best work.

A friend here alerted me earlier to an interesting piece about Tim Robbins and his views on freedom of speech. It's well worth a look, and I'm glad to see how he rightly observes that:
'Too often people abdicate their freedom in their minds and choose not to speak. But once you abdicate that freedom you may as well not have it'.
There's a correlative to that too: if you expect people to keep views you dislike to themselves, you don't really believe in freedom of speech yourself. Censorship doesn't have to be a formal thing.

Catholic Conspiracy?
Heinrich e-mailed me yesterday with a link to an article from The Spectator which makes some thoroughly ludicrous claims. I may as well pillage my reply to him to convey my response to the original absurd article. The indented quotes are from the article. I'm not putting quotation marks around my own words.
'This realm of England is an Empire ...governed by one Supreme Head and King.’ So proclaimed Thomas Cromwell in his most critical piece of legislation, the Act in Restraint of Appeals in 1533. By calling England an empire, he designated it a sovereign state, with a king who owed no submission to any other human ruler and who was invested with plenary power to give his people justice in all causes... the present Queen was reduced to vassal status under the terms of the Maastricht Treaty, which rendered her a European citizen and thereby subject to 'foreign princes and potentates'.
Um, really? That rather ignores the fact that even within England the status of the monarchy had transformed since Henry VIII's day... from an almost all-powerful monarchy to a constitutional one. At one point it ceased to exist, the English people having seen fit to decapitate their king. As for the Maastricht Treaty, one should note that the Queen signed that treaty willingly and on the advice of her Parliament; the ludicrous claim that she is a vassal of 'foreign princes and potentates' will not withstand any scrutiny.
The Pope’s recent demand that 'God' be featured in the emerging European constitution has been echoed by many leading Catholic politicians and bishops. While on the surface such a reference may offend only Europe’s atheist and humanist contingent, it must be observed that when the Vatican refers to God, she sees herself as God’s infallible vice-regent upon earth, the leading organ of divine expression; indeed, according to its publication Dominus Iesus (5 September 2000), as the only mediator in the salvation of God’s elect, insisting that all other Churches, including the Church of England, 'are not Churches in the proper sense'.
Nonsense again. The Pope did not demand that some mention of God be made in the draft of the constitution; he understandably wished that to happen, but the power to demand it was not his. What's more the Church does not see itself as the 'only mediator in the salvation of God's elect' except in a broader sense where the Church means all those who are baptised in Christ (CCC 836); the Catechism makes it quite clear that salvation is through Christ, and that he also does not necessarily deny those who disbelieve in him through no fault of their own.

To allege that the Church claimed that all other churches are not true churches is a blatant lie. The Orthodox churches are all recognised as true churches, and although the Church recently affirmed that Protestant churches are not to be regarded as not true churches, this is an almost entirely semantic point.

Because the Petrine commissions in Matthew, Luke, and John were all political... I see.
The Roman Church is founded on a political dogma claiming that the Pope is ‘supreme ruler of the world’; superior to all kings, prime ministers and presidents.
Really? And there was me thinking it was founded on Jesus' words: 'Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thous shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' (Matt. 16. 17-19). Supreme ruler of the world my foot.
Such would be the fulfilment of a Sunday Telegraph article (21 July 1991) which stated: ‘Karol Wojtyla is calmly preparing to assume the mantle which he solemnly believes to be his Divine Right — that of new Holy Roman Emperor, reigning from the Urals to the Atlantic.’ The Catholic Church is achieving this through its political wings — the Christian Democrat and Christian Socialist parties — with the EU’s ‘Founding Fathers’ now reaping the ultimate reward: sainthood. The Pope has beatified Alcide De Gasperi, Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer for founding the Union ‘on Roman Catholic principles’. A supporter of their canonisation said it shows that Europe ‘was built upon a rock’, adding, ‘I think that the European Union is a design not only of human beings but of God.’ The very act of bestowing sainthoods on politicians is purposely designed to inculcate that European unification is God’s will, and that those who lead it govern by divine right.
Well, ignoring the surreal opening, it strikes me as significant that the journalist either does not know the difference between Beatification and Canonisation or is deliberately blurring the issue. So what if some people think that the EU is a divinely ordained project and its founders should be canonised? Is there any serious reason to believe that founders of the European project are likely subjects for canonisation? And who is this supporter of their canonisation? It strikes me as interesting that the journalist can only muster one unnamed advocate of their canonisation. Who is this guy? A bloke in a pub? That last sentence is particularly insidious, since it implies that the founders of the ECSC and EEC have indeed already been recognised as saints, which could hardly be further from the truth.
During the 1975 referendum campaign, Shirley Williams unambiguously associated the vision of Europe with Rome’s goal of assuming political and religious authority over the lives of all Europeans. She observed, ‘We will be joined to Europe, in which the Catholic religion will be the dominant faith and in which the application of the Catholic Social Doctrine will be a major factor in everyday political and economic life.'
Well, Shirley may have said it, but that doesn't mean Shirley was right. In any case, her point was simply that the Catholic Social Doctrine was a good thing, and likely to be followed in some sense by a united Europe where the majority of citizens were Catholic.

It is hard to deny that our cultural roots are essentially religious
While the EU has adopted many symbols of nationhood [...] and is now moving towards the attributes of government [...], it follows that, since Europe has no unified demos, a 'deeper' cohesive force is necessary to hold the whole project together. When Cardinal Maria Martini of Milan addressed the European Parliament in 1997 in a symposium on Remembering the Origins of the Process of Integration, he identified this 'deeper' something — effectively a common state religion — reminding the Parliament that its true foundation was a religious one. He outlined the importance of a single faith (Catholicism), and emphasised that religions must not support nationalisms (i.e., the Church of England must not defend the English constitution), and Europe must recognise the 'primacy of the divine' (i.e., the primacy of the Pope). His address included demands for a new welfare state, in accordance with Roman Catholic social doctrine, and his contention that European integration was never about economic and monetary issues alone. He said, 'The Europe we must build is a Europe of the spirit.'
This interpretation says more about the journalist's paranoia than it does about Martini's vision. Cardinal Martini, incidentally, was long regarded as the most likely successor to John Paul II in Rome; he is an extraordinarily intelligent and wise man; his spirituality can be taken as read, I imagine.

Of course the true foundation of Europe is a religious one; it is our Christian heritage that gives us our common identity. Of course religions must not support nationalisms; the Thirty Years' War, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the collapse of Yugoslavia are horrific examples of what happens when they do; in any case, surely the Church of England's task is not to defend the English constitution, whatever that is, but to ensure the spiritual wellbeing of its members.

And it takes a frightening leap to assume that any time a member of the Catholic Church speaks of the 'the primacy of the divine' he or she is in fact speaking of 'the primacy of the Pope; I can not imagine any Catholic ever confusing the Pope with God.

Again, saying that Martini demanded a new welfare state is nonsense; his excellency may have wished for the establishment of such, but he hardly demanded it. I imagine that few Europeans, save perhaps some deluded Britons, would ever have claimed that European integration was solely about economic and monetary issues, and Martini is hardly alone in his desire for a 'Europe of the spirit'. After all, could the United States have been born or held together if it had strictly materialistic goals? On the contrary: there is a very potent 'America of the spirit' which has as its sacred scriptures the very doctrinal Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

I'm not sure this chap understands Catholicism, the EU, or Medieval history...
When divinity rules, it is, of course, infallible. According to canon law, the Pope claims immunity from all moral and civil authority: 'The First See is judged by no one.'
Well, that is what Canon 1404 says, yes, but it's not quite as clear as that; for example should a Pope become a heretic he would automatically cease to be Pope. In any case, there's nothing there about infallibility. Papal infallibility only applies when the Pope's teaching is in accordance with the Church; it only applies to matters of doctrine, and serves merely to clarify matters about which there has been some dispute. There has only been one Papal declaration with this status in the last century.
This is precisely the spirit in which the EU governs, with the Court of Justice deeming that political criticism of its leaders is akin to the most extreme forms of blasphemy. It is therefore possible to suppress it without violating freedom of speech, affording the EU an undefined and seemingly unlimited power to restrict political criticism. Like the Papacy, the Court is supreme, accountable to no one, and the sole arbiter of citizens' 'rights'.
Really? You could have fooled me. I thought the Court operated like any supreme court, in accordance with laws made by the collective legislature and treaties agreed by the national legislatures. This would make it the interpreter of citizens' rights, not the arbiter of those rights.
Lord Shore, in his book Separate Ways, observed that the Commission acts precisely 'like a priestly caste — similar to what it must have been in pre-Reformation days, when the Bible was in Latin, not English; the Pope, his cardinals and bishops decided the content of canon law'
Paper tends not to refuse ink. I could equally write that 'David Irving observed that the Holocaust didn't happen,' but that wouldn't make it true for one moment. Leaving that aside, this is a ludicrous comparison. The Commission consists of twenty Commissioners, appointed by the national executives to form what is effectively the EU's cabinet; how this can be compared to an enormously diverse level of European society, which included friars, monks, parish priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes I can not imagine.

Raymond Crotty was a good man, but I think he was wrong on referendums...
Accordingly, any decision of the people which does not accord with the divine will has to be corrected. The very notion of ‘destiny’ is simply a euphemism for government by divine right, and this is the teleological explanation for three referendums in Denmark on the Treaty of Maastricht, two referendums in Ireland on the Treaty of Nice, and the suspension of democracy altogether in Belgium and Italy in order to ratify treaties or force through budgets. In each referendum, there is a ‘wrong’ and a ‘right’ outcome. It also accords with the EU’s sanctioning and funding of ‘acceptable’ political parties, i.e., those who ultimately accord with its own aims. When the United Kingdom votes no to the euro, the wrath of God will be poured out again and again until the people repent and accept their predestined fate.
There are valid points here about how referendums are not necessarily the best way of deciding whether countries should sign up to extremely subtle and complicated international treaties. Furthermore the legislative issues in Belgium and Italy are indeed troubling, but to fully understand them I think I'd need to be familiar with the constitutions of those two countries. I'm fairly sure that the author of this laughable piece is no more familiar with them than I am.

In any case, these criticisms have nothing to do with the Catholic Church. As for governing for divine right, weren't British monarchs still claiming that power a century after Henry VIII? I know the EU claims no such sanction, with a conscious decision being made to exclude any mention of God from the proposed constitution.

This chap seems to mistake subsidiarity for its opposite...
Such a destiny can be foisted upon recalcitrant nations only when they are weakened. The Roman principle of divide and rule is resurrected in the ‘Europe of Regions’ strategy, which encourages each ‘region’ of Europe to look directly to Brussels for policy and funding, bypassing national parliaments in the process. This is a recreation of a mediaeval Europe of small, ineffectual states which can be easily dominated.
Ah, the Roman principle of divide and rule, as practised so effectively by the British for centuries...

Anybody who thinks medieval Europe consisted of easily dominated ineffectual states need to go back to their history books. At times the papacy was at the mercy of these squabbling kingdoms and duchies. And many of the rulers of those states were in turn dominated by their own notional vassals. The 'Europe of the Regions' strategy, far from being a mechanism to allow Brussels to control Europe is instead a mechanism to develop the poorer parts of the Union while similutaneously empowering those whose voices have been supressed too long by national elites.
Subsidiarity was designed not to permit the tributaries to ‘claw back’ what may best be performed at a lower level, but to permit the infallible centre to decide what freedoms to grant the subsidiary levels. Whether it be termed federalism or centralism, ‘subsidiarity’ denotes the downward devolvement of certain powers for the practical outworking of the Supreme Power’s objectives.

What is this 'Protestant Ethos' of which you speak?
Leaving aside the ridiculous analogy with the Catholic hierarchical structure that preceded it - equally valid (or invalid) analogies could be made with the Roman Empire, any army you care to mention, or nowadays most businesses - this claim still looks flimsy. It might be slightly more credible if the journalist decided to support his broad and polemical claims with even a hint of evidence. Of course, that might be rather difficult.
A Catholic EU will inevitably result in the subjugation of Britain’s Protestant ethos to Roman Catholic social, political and religious teachings.
Well, I'm not sure what Britain's Protestant ethos is nowadays, seeing as Muslims and Hindus are making significant inroads into British life and many of Britain's Protestants are religious in name only; of Britain's Christian groups, Catholics may well be the largest single group now, at least in the sense that they practice their religion in far greater numbers than Anglicans, at any rate.

It's also worth remembering that the EU is not an exclusively Catholic organisation. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and much of Germany have for centuries been predominantly Protestant, while the Orthodox Church holds sway in Greece. I'm quite curious about what the social and political teachings of the Catholic Church are, by the way. Note to self: find out more.
Under the constitution for Europe, the EU will have a Catholic Caesar presiding over the Protestant monarch.
Nonsense. Aside from the fact that the constitution hasn't been remotely finalised - it's still just a draft, albeit a very elaborate one - this histrionic statement displays a shocking inability to reason. It will almost certainly be the case that the EU President will have to have served as President or Prime Minister of his or her own country, and since Catholics are a minority in seven of the fifteen EU member states, there is no reason to automatically assume that the EU's President would be a Catholic.
Adrian Hilton is a former parliamentary candidate and author of The Principality and Power of Europe. He teaches Philosophy and Religious Studies. He is an approved candidate for the Conservative party.
Is he the best the Tories can muster to make their case? They're finished if he is. Incidentally, I wonder if he realises that his own party leader is a Catholic.

Right, I've a train to catch.

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