EU divided along religious lines
While the focus remains on the impending not-a-constitution Reform Treaty of 2007, one minor footnote has been largely ignored: footnote 18 to the proposed draft wording for a replacement of Article 6 on fundamental rights. It is termed a ‘Unilateral Declaration by Poland’, and states quite clearly that the ‘Charter does not affect in any way the right of Member States to legislate in the sphere of public morality, family law as well as the protection of human dignity and respect for human physical and moral integrity.’
This is quite a significant issue to deal with in a mere footnote; indeed, it is of such great significance that it ought to have be included in the main body of text. One can only assume that those who drew up the not-a-constitution Reform Treaty intended that it would not be spotted, but (as ever) the Devil is in the detail.
The Spectator notes that ‘the protection of human dignity and respect for human physical and moral integrity’ is EU-speak for bans on new medical areas such as embryonic stem cell research, gene therapy and even the latest breakthrough, RNA (ribonucleic acid). The ‘Unilateral Declaration by Poland’ is designed to ensure that EU member states will remain free to ban such research, fearful, as they were (and are) that the new voting arrangements threaten to trample over their liberties to legislate upon such matters.
Opposition to controversial stem cell research usually emanates from the religiously conservative. For the vast majority of Jews, Christians and Muslims, an embryo is a person, or at least a potential person whose potential ought not to be extinguished for the sake of expedience. Since Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammed were at one time embryos, one might understand why Roman Catholic bishops have decreed that such research is ‘immoral, illegal and unnecessary’.
Yet for Roman Catholics it is universally taught and generally accepted that euthanasia, abortion, and the creation for research purposes of human embryos, are ‘evil’. This was the expressed opinion of John Paul II, and Benedict XVI has since added that the destruction of human embryos to harvest stem cells is ‘not only devoid of the light of God but is also devoid of humanity’. In those countries where Rome is strong, stem cell research will remain banned.
But the Roman Catholic Church, acting through staunchly Catholic countries like Poland, is not merely contending against the EU’s secular-scientific-atheism; Protestants generally have a much more utilitarian view of such ethical issues, as if there were some Kantian moral imperative with transcends the transcendent, and among the Muslims there are also divergent views, with the majority holding that embryonic stem cell research is permissible provided that the motive is the amelioration of human health. Cranmer could not help but smile at The Spectator’s principal observation:
Powerful opposition…coincides with a strong church. It should not therefore be surprising that a country such as Britain, with some of the most ineffectual religious leadership, has some of the most permissive research laws.
Protestant Europe and Catholic Europe will therefore contend against each other on this one. The irony, of course, is that the moment discoveries are made and cures are found in the Protestant parts, all of those Polish Roman Catholics will board their planes and fly to an EU country where treatment is legal. And it is mainly the wealthy who will be able to take advantage of the fact that EU citizens may elect to be treated wherever they wish, when denied treatment in their own countries. Where is the privilege for the poor in that?