Universe Column for September 21st 2003
By David Alton
In December, Britain must give its view at a summit of EU leaders over whether to back the proposed new European Constitution. The document formally recognises the European Union as a ‘legal entity’. It is being sold by the Government to a sceptical public as a deal to solemnise an unholy relationship between member states. Although the public were not told it at the time of British entry, the Constitution recognises decades later that the real laws that will matter in Britain will no longer be decided at Westminster .
On the horizon, however, a controversy is emerging among our European partners that may supercede British concerns about the transfer of powers, or such proposals as the appointment of a new EU Foreign Minister. The argument is over Christianity and its role in the culture, history and emergence of democracy in Europe . Giscard D’Estaing, the former French P resident and chairman of the Convention that proposed the text, says he wants the document finalised and agreed by member states in time for European elections on June 15 next year. But in June four Roman Catholic states, Poland , Portugal , Italy and Spain , joined Pope John Paul II in demanding a formal mention of Christianity in the draft’s historic preamble.
Giscard is a member of the Christian Democratic group in the EU Parliament, the EPP, and although happy himself to make a reference, admits he could not overcome secular opposition. The compromise reference is to Europe ‘s “cultural, religious and humanist inheritance”. This offering compares poorly with the ‘dignified parts’ of the ancient British constitution, where Parliament opens each day in prayer in order to seek wisdom from God and where the monarch, in the Coronation Oath, pledges “to subject the rule of earthly government to the Empire of Christ the Redeemer.” Given th e rich Christian traditions that are imprinted upon our own historic constitution, why should Britain exchange its own political birthright for this proposed European mess of potage?
At the beginning of the summer, the Archbishop of Glasgow, the Most Rev Mario Conti, dismissed the proposed new Constitution as “cultural vandalism” for its failure to acknowledge Europe’s Christian heritage. Using trenchant words, he said the exclusion of Christianity from the text’s draft preamble was a “profoundly dishonest reworking of history”. He said: “A Europe which disavows its past, denying the fact of religion, and which has no recognition of the spiritual dimension will be greatly impoverished.” In June, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham, presented the post-synodal document, Ecclesia in Europa in similar terms, saying “No presentation of Europe can be honest if it fails to recognise the part already played, and still played, by Christianity in the shaping of Europe . To omit such matters would be an act of ideology and unworthy of the framers of such an historic document.”
Next month, the Christian Peoples Alliance – Britain’s Chrsitian Democrats – are launching a cross-party campaign in Britain to challenge the omission of Christianity and to call upon the Government to seek amends. Its leader, Ram Gidoomal CBE, will be calling for the British people to be given a referendum on the proposed EU Constitution – and he will deserve our support.. It will not be another effort to knock the EU – Ram is on the Council of the EU friendly ‘ Britain in Europe ‘ group – but it will challenge the Government’s anti-democratic stance which opposes giving the people the final say. It’s not about being anti-Europe but opposing a secular Europe that abandons its traditions and beliefs. A copy of the petition can be downloaded and used locally by visiting the CPA website, http://www.cpalliance.net
The Christian Peoples Alliance can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Universe Column for September 21st 2003