I am writing to you not only in my capacity as a politician, but as a fellow member of the Church; that communion of believers in the True Faith which together make up the Mystical Body of Christ.
Politicians of faith often find themselves conflicted between the interests of what St. Augustine describes as ‘The Earthly’ and ‘The Heavenly’ Cities; that is to say, our professional lives require a daily balance between attempting to implement what we know to be right according to Divine Will and the interests of the material and temporal. Saint Augustine describes it best when he takes the symbol of the fish, The ikhthýs, as a symbol of Christ moving through the waters which symbolise this world. The ikhthýs was used thus by early Christians as a secret symbol of themselves as the faithful moving through the deep of persecution in a pagan world. As Christianity once again faces persecution throughout the world today, Roman Catholics in public positions find themselves as fish swimming through extremely muddy waters; doing our best to remain faithful whilst facing criticisms of our beliefs and attacks for stating them.
It is at this point I must respond to a point you made in your speech on the day of the Launch of the Official Referendum Campaign:
‘There’s a long tradition in Christianity and in Catholicism in particular of believing in holding things together. There’s a strong tradition in the Catholic vision of life that to start down the path of division almost inevitably leads to further division… So the Catholic instinct is to look for the whole – that’s exactly what the word means. And therefore the Catholic stance towards an effort such as the EU is largely supportive.’
Whilst I agree our faith believes in holding things together, we must first question as Catholics whether that ‘whole’ is congruous with the teachings of Christ and the doctrine and traditions of His Church. Furthermore, I question whether it is right to say the EU has not caused division. Like the fish, we must be careful not to be polluted by the glamour of this ‘whole’ and instead seek the truth.
"Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice." -Rerum Novrum
As Your Eminence will know, Rerum Novarum was a Papal Encyclical by Pope Leo XIII addressing the conditions of the working classes. It has formed the central text and main reference for the Catholic Social Teaching movement, a movement which has grown in strength in recent years as corporate interests once again threaten the conditions of working people.
Protection of the less well-off is a fundamental Catholic position. I can only assume your support of the EU is because it is argued that is has enshrined rights for workers. Whilst this is true in some instances, I do not believe it is necessary for these rights and regulations to come via diktat from Brussels. Indeed, I believe it is right for these decisions to be taken at a National level by a democratically elected parliament and the UK has an enviable history of introducing such rights, most of which are better than the EU’s. I also believe any protection offered by the EU is completely overshadowed by the EU’s inherent interest in protecting big business at the expense of small businesses and workers, a view which has been recently shared by ASLEF, BFAWU and RMT trade unions. Those unions in the same statement also stated their concern for the lack of democracy and the alienation of working people from the decision making process of the EU.
There is another aspect of the EU which has a devastating impact on the dignity of workers in the EU. I draw Your Eminence’s attention to the following excerpt from the same Encyclical:
‘...the labour of the working class—the exercise of their skill, and the employment of their strength, in the cultivation of the land, and in the workshops of trade—is especially responsible and quite indispensable.
Indeed, ... it may be truly said that it is only by the labour of working men that States grow rich.’
The EU is the cause of less labour for fewer working people. Unemployment in Eurozone countries is at excruciating levels, especially for the young (49% youth unemployment in Greece; 41% Spain; 39% Italy). Much of this could have been alleviated for the common good of countries with various solutions, and in the case of Greece, by leaving the EU and the Euro. However, such options are callously denied by Eurozone leaders for the sake of preserving The Project – the ‘whole’ which you described in your speech.
The suffering of workers across the continent is something as Catholics we should display great charity and concern for. But we must also remember the working poor in the UK. Again, in Rerum Novarum:
‘To defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven. "Behold, the hire of the labourers … which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth." Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen’s earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the labouring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred.’
While we must, as Catholics, be welcoming to newcomers, we must use good judgement and wisdom in the matter of wage compression. It has been established both by leaders of the IN campaign such as Lord Rose, by economic research by the OECD, EU and indeed a recent working paper of the Bank of England that mass immigration from the EU into Britain has lowered the wages of those in the lowest paid trades and professions. I fear our good intentions and compassion as Christians towards the Stranger are currently being manipulated by the ill-willed and unscrupulous to artificially lower the wages of the British Working Classes for their own interests; to defraud the poorest worker of his means is against the teachings of the Church. Indeed, the Church upholds it as a mortal sin.
I believe the EU’s current policies therefore are an attack on the worker; its cold-hearted dismissing of the pleas of the poor and the withdrawal from their lives of the dignity of labour for the sake of false absolutes and idolatry of the European Project are in contravention of Catholic Social Teaching and the love Christ demands of us for the poor.
On the Family
It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones.’ –Luke 17:2
"The promotion of the culture of life should be the highest priority in our societies...If the right to life is not defended decisively as a condition for all other rights of the person, all other references to human rights remain deceitful and illusory." – Pope Saint John Paul II
“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” – Pope Saint John Paul II
One area of Law still devolved to member states is in relation to reproductive and family law. However, the EU and its organs are beginning to show a cavalier approach to not only the integrity of member states in such areas, but also the human condition and the family in such a way that Catholics should doubt its intentions. I believe it is certainly questionable whether a future European project will be in keeping with our dedication to preserving ‘The Culture of Life’ in which the Church remains a bulwark against some of the greatest evils of the modern world.
While it must be noted there is a protocol in the Lisbon Treaty specifically relating to Ireland’s ban on abortion, a recent European Commission directive recommending the availability without prescription of the ‘morning after pill’ ellaOne should be cause for concern for the Church. The directive was originally taken as mandatory before this was clarified in a written question to the commission. It nonetheless signals the Commission’s ideological preference for abortifacients to be readily available across member states.
Similarly, the funding of organisations such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation by the EU should cause great alarm for Catholics in the UK and Europe given the recent scandal of the selling of aborted baby parts by its arm in the USA. It is astounding that Church leaders support an institution indirectly funding organisations that are even tangentially involved in such vile practices.
As Catholics recognise the destructive nature of abortion due to our steadfast belief that life begins at conception, so too do we oppose the experimentation on human embryos. A recent petition which called for the EU to cease funding stem-cell research via its Horizon 2020 programme reached seven million verified signatures from across 7 member states. This was worryingly rejected by the European Commission. This is not only another sign of the Commission (which has ultimate authority) having an ideological preference for policies which go against the fundamental teachings of the Church, but also a demonstration of how powerless Catholics in Europe are to stop the implementation of such policies.
As Catholics we view these things as part of a wider culture in the modern world which not only seeks to diminish human dignity, but also the family unit which is the very basis for it. We believe same-sex marriage to be a redefinition of the sacrament around which the Church builds and grows. The EU, despite having no jurisdiction about such matters, has facilitated the recognition of same-sex marriage across Europe. As part of the rules regarding free-movement, member states must recognise unions which occurred in other member states, thus requiring by EU law the recognition of same-sex unions on an equal basis with traditional marriage across the EU. It can also be argued that a case against the British Government which was certain to win in the ECHR by LGBT-activist Peter Tatchell (which questioned the British legal definition of Marriage) was what hastened Prime Minister David Cameron to change the law, not wanting to be seen to have a foreign court impose its will.
While Catholics in the United Kingdom will have to contend with these issues in their own country, and with bad and unjust laws made by their own parliament, they will not have to contend with the democratic deficit of the European Union; they can use their vote and other rights as subjects as wisely as they can to limit or reverse some of the worst of these injustices. Should the EU move in the direction it has indicated, with a greater influence over the laws pertaining to the family and human dignity, Catholics will have no such instrument to reverse them; their elected representatives in the European Parliament being unable to repeal or initiate legislation. Catholics should therefore not only be watchful of the direction of policy at the European level before deciding whether the ‘whole’ which Your Eminence describes should be preserved, but also make a decision based on what will guarantee their influence in the law-making process in the future.
The Beloved City
And they came upon the breadth of the earth, and encompassed the camp of the saints, and the beloved city. – Rev. 20:8
I refer Your Eminence to the following part of your speech in which you rightly refer to Europe’s ancient Christian heritage:
‘We must not forget the profoundly religious roots of European nations; that Europe has a two thousand year-old Christian culture that has shaped the continent and is a dynamic spiritual, moral and intellectual resource as we address the future.’
Many EU leaders at one time argued this position as a case for refusing majority-Muslim Turkey’s accession to the EU.
However we now see a worrying development in how lax the EU has become in defending this heritage. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI accurately described the unique problem of two opposing but complimenting threats to Christianity; that of faith without reason, as demonstrated especially in Islamic fundamentalism, and that of reason decoupled from faith, as demonstrated in aggressive secularism. These two problems could be described as the ‘Gog and Magog’ of modern Western Christian Civilisation, destroying it by their misguidedness and error.
I have described already how aggressive secular ideologies are prevalent within the European Project and are offensive to devout Catholics; I raise the concern of increasingly aggressive or fundamental Islamism which currently seeks to enter the cultural and political landscape via two fronts opened by EU policy; the accession of Turkey as a member state and the current migrant crisis.
The current migrant crisis, caused by a combination of confusion over the Dublin agreement, the Schengen area, and German domestic policy, poses a labyrinth of moral and ethical questions for Catholics. We are obliged, as already mentioned, to welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, feed the hungry. We are certainly obliged to offer refuge to the oppressed and threatened. However we must not confuse genuine refugees with economic migrants. This is very important for reaching a well-considered conclusion; in many cases the emigration of such large numbers of people, particularly the young, leads to a more impoverished state back home; it is certainly not the long-term solution to poverty in such countries.
We also face another moral question with regards to the migrant crisis. It is right to point out that many migrants come from cultures which are radically different from that of Christian Europe. It can be expected, therefore, that such a large number will change the very social fabric of Europe.
Of course, we must not confuse Islam with Islamism, nor moderate Islam with fundamentalist Islam. Christianity in Europe has itself battled with those who rejected reason, and we must support Muslims who do the same. But we must accept that the dynamic of Islam across the world has changed from one of Sufi-like mysticism to a more fundamentalist tone akin to Wahhabism and Salafism which has political ambitions. Nowhere is this more apparent than Turkey.
Turkey has seen itself transformed in recent years from a largely Western-style state into one more Islamic and Ottoman in character, led by the demagogue President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This has not only seen the rise of radical Islam in Turkey, but also an increase in madrassas, in women wearing the veil, and a fleeing of the Christian population. This is under the control of an oppressive Islamic political party which gaols dissidents, critics and journalists. This party remains the majority party in Turkey; I do not believe it to be alarmist to suggest Turkey’s accession to the EU could lead to an Islamic bloc within the European Parliament, with all the power and privileges that would bring.
While Christians and Muslims must cooperate on a number of issues, such as the sanctity of life, we must be cautious at a time when Islam faces its own battle against the unreasonable. Catholics therefore must look at the current events in Europe and question whether continuation of this Project will make their societies less Christian, will hurry the destruction of a cultural hegemony based on the teachings of Christ, and will make life more difficult for the faithful who we believe to be on pilgrimage in this world. I argue that it is the perfection of the ‘whole’ which you describe which has removed internal borders, and the enlargement of the same ‘whole’ which may put in jeopardy that ‘dynamic spiritual, moral and intellectual resource’ which Your Eminence describes.
‘Put not your trust in princes: In the children of men, in whom there is no salvation.’ – Ps. 145:2-3
We look to our own monarch, herself the Supreme Governor of the English Church, anointed by a clergyman, who has taken an oath which promises her service to God. Many monarchs around Europe, Catholic and Protestant alike, do the same. There are few ardently secular states in Europe, many remaining officially neutral to religion while recognising the unique status of Catholicism or other denominations in various bodies, be it in education, legislation, their constitution or their ceremonies.
In contrast, the EU is an atheistic, materialistic, humanistic system which does not hold Christ to be its King. It seeks happiness not in justice and faith, but in existing for its own sake. Its faith is in its own will and ability, based not around what we as Catholics hold to be true, but instead based on a supposed rationality untempered by moral truths. I have given examples of how this steadfast belief in itself, the belief which its followers and leaders have in the Project to create the common good, has instead created common misery, or in some cases facilitated great wrongs. It has sometimes flown in the very face of reason, like the many other forms of secular religion which we have seen throughout history.
As such, it will always fall victim to the same corruptions, idolatries, errors and false absolutes as those previous systems. As it does not owe its ultimate authority to God, it will always be denied Grace, and will never form part of Christ’s plan for the salvation of mankind.
I therefore uphold that Catholics are under no obligation to support it; to suggest otherwise is a gross deceit. I believe a new dynamic form of cooperation between countries would be in the interests of the Faithful; the best way for British Roman Catholics in their number to achieve this would be to vote to leave in the hope that other countries will follow.
Finally, I conclude this letter by bringing Your Eminence’s attention to two passages from The Holy Father’s address to the European parliament in 2014:
‘Despite a larger and stronger Union, Europe seems to give the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard, feeling less and less a protagonist in a world which frequently regards it with aloofness, mistrust and even, at times, suspicion.’
‘In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a “grandmother”, no longer fertile and vibrant. As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions.’
The Holy Father rightly describes the European Union as old, haggard and barren; without the Grace of God it will always be devoid of the wisdom, freshness and renewal which faith brings.
I therefore ask Your Eminence to take into consideration the points I have made. I pray that Catholics in the UK will look at the European Project as a ‘whole’ and consider whether it is truly compatible with their faith; praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance before making a decision based on what is pleasing to God.
I remain, Your Eminence, Yours Faithfully,
Steven Woolfe MEP.