Secularisation may have affected Lisbon vote - Brady


The “loss of Christian memory” and the undermining of traditional values by the institutions of the EU has made it difficult for Christians to maintain their “instinctive commitment” to Europe and may have been a factor in the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, Cardinal Seán Brady said today.

Cardinal Brady was addressing the Humbert summer school in Ballina, Co Mayo and also spoke in a radio interview.

He said he did not know whether the Irish electorate would reject a second vote on Lisbon but said he was raising the issues to have them debated a "cooler, calmer atmosphere" and he hoped that people would recognise the advantages, but also note the reservations, in the future debate on the matter.

In his address to the summer school, Cardinal Brady noted the views of the late Pope John Paul II on the EU debate.

He said the late pontiff, while noting his respect for the secular nature of the European institutions, had asked that the proposed treaty would include a reference to the religious and Christian heritage of Europe.

Progress in a number of areas, such as the call for the union to respect the juridicial status already enjoyed by Christian churches, was one of the reasons the Catholic Church was “generally positive” towards the European project, Cardinal Brady said.

“But this is a qualified support. 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 EU, both social and economic are now expressing unease.”

Cardinal Brady said the reasons for this were “complex”.

“But 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.”

Cardinal Brady said this coincided with “a fairly widespread culture in European affairs which relegates manifestations of one’s own religious convictions to the private and subjective sphere”.

“It has not been unknown, for example, for individuals to have to defend their right to hold political, public or legislative office within EU institutions while professing a public commitment to their Christian faith, sometimes against very public and hostile challenge.

“Ignoring this trend within the EU and its impact on people of faith has inevitable political and social consequences, not least on levels of support for the project itself.”

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Cardinal Brady said policy decisions seem to be "frequently made without reference to
religious values and convictions despite the fact that so many Europeans have religious faith and convictions".

“I am just asking for calm consideration and reflection on those things. What we need is a Europe that doesn’t confine it’s debate to politics or history but also takes into consideration values, social values, social cohesion, the family, the place of the family, respect for the views of parents in educational matters.

“I am just asking that those matters be reflected upon especially in the wake of recent events,’’ he added.

He said many people were “uneasy” about the Lisbon Treaty.

“It’s there in people’s minds and hearts,” he said.

“I think the people who are hostile to Europe need to open their eyes to the contributions of Europe and those who are totally supportive of Europe need to listen to the concerns and the reservations. We need a respectful listening to the views of each side.”

He said he was “quite confident” a good decision will be reached “because I know the part that Irish politicians and civil servants and diplomats have played in framing this”.

The Cardinal said he did not know if people would reject a second vote on Lisbon.

“I’m raising these subjects to have them debated in the cooler, calmer atmosphere. People will recognise the distinct advantages but also the reservations .

“I’m not in the job of gazing into the future and seeing what results might be but appealing to people to take on board all of these considerations.”