Church approach to Lisbon vote criticised


Members of an Oireachtas Committee examining the fallout from Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon treaty today told Catholic bishops that they should have called for a definitive "Yes" vote.

Addressing the Committee on Ireland’s Future in the European Union, Fianna Fáil TD Beverly Flynn said the church shouldn’t have been allowed “to sit back” on an issue as important as the Lisbon treaty.

“There is an obligation on the church to give a very strong message on something like this,” she stated.

Fine Gael TD Billy Timmins said: “The church isn’t afraid to come out and enunciate in a black and white way on certain issues when it wants.”

The committee chairman, Fine Gael senator Paschal Donohoe, also urged Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate of All-Ireland, and the Catholic bishops to publicly endorse one side in the Lisbon debate.

However, addressing the committee, Dr Brady said that putting out a 100 per cent resounding "Yes" for Lisbon "would get people’s backs up" and could be viewed as showing contempt for voters.

“Ireland must stay at the heart of Europe. Our population may be small but we do stand for something important in Europe,” he said. Dr Brady, who worked for 20 years in Rome added: “Irish bishops believe passionately in Europe.”

But he claimed that the aspirations and visions of the founders of the EU may have been suffocated by layers of bureaucracy in recent years.

Dr Brady added that it was once said that the EU seemed to care about turf bogs and earthworms but was indifferent to the religious and cultural history of Europe.

The Catholic Church released a statement that was broadly supportive of the Lisbon referendum.

Some members of the committee also said a right-wing Catholic newspaper that said a No vote was a vote for God should have been banned from churches.

TDs and senators told Dr Brady the Alivepaper confused and offended worshippers trying to make up their minds on the issue.

But Dr Brady told the committee that churches were open and welcoming places and that it was difficult to stop people placing literature in porches or on seats.

Catholic Communications Office director said that the only official publication of the Catholic Bishops was Intercom, which was published ten times a year.

The Committee on Ireland’s Future in the European Union, which was set up in September, is holding public hearings with stakeholders every week and is due to compile a report for the Government before the end of this month.