Can you be a Catholic and a Eurosceptic? This was the question raised recently in the letters page of the Catholic Herald, and the consensus seems to be that this is a question to which the answer is “Yes”. It’s not simply that a lot of Catholics seem to be preparing to vote ‘leave’, but it is also the case, it seems to me, that there is no real religious truth at stake here.
We all know about Catholic Social Teaching, or at least we should. Catholics believe in subsidiarity, solidarity and participation. That is not up for discussion. What is to be discussed is the best way of achieving this. It is surely arguable that we can best promote these goals from outside the EU as from within it. Again, what do we do when we find that there is an apparent contradiction between the goals? In other words, when we are in a political system that promotes solidarity at the expense of participation, and at the expense of subsidiarity?
All this remains rather theoretical, and it is probable that most voters would prefer to make their minds up by considering concrete factors. So it is best not to think of what a Britain outside the EU might be like, as we have no real way of knowing the future. Much better that we consider what the EU has done so far and judge the EU on its achievements, or lack of them.
First of all, the immigrant crisis. Last summer (and this summer may well be the same) over a million people came to Europe from Syria and other war zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq. The EU, with its commitment to solidarity and co-operation between nations, should have forged a common response to this humanitarian crisis, but it failed to do so. This was not because the EU was taken unawares by the crisis – this crisis has been building for years. Moreover, the EU has come up with no effective way of helping the countries in the front line such as Greece, Malta and Italy. And yet this is, you would think, just the sort of opportunity for a supranational body such as the EU to prove its essential worth.
To this first failure we must add another failure. The Euro has failed. The single currency, which was introduced after fudging the criteria, has not brought closer co-operation between the nations. Rather it has reduced Greece to beggary, and created a feud between Greece and Germany. It has not worked in other countries as well, which might in the course of time follow the Greek trajectory. And consider those original criteria about economic convergence. These rules were created by the EU, and then broken by the same EU that was under no obligation to create them in the first place. Why? Because the Euro was never an economic project, it was always a political one. Greece is locked into a political project for which it pays a very high economic price.
Given the above failures, can one really say that solidarity, subsidiarity and participation are best served by being in the EU? The Greeks, for example, may well feel solidarity with the rest of the EU, but decisions are being made for them by others over which they have no real control: there is no participation, and no real subsidiarity either.
Imagine you were buying a car. The salesman sings its praises, but admits one slight drawback. Magnificent as this car is, it doesn’t actually move. But, he assures you, it can be fixed, it will be fixed, all you have to do is trust him to fix it. But you may well baulk at buying it, given the fact that the salesman has tried to fix it before now and always failed to do so. You might, as you listen to the salesman singing the praises of this car that doesn’t actually work, start eyeing the door marked EXIT, wondering how you can make your excuses and leave.