A response to Daniel Hannan MEP
In his article for The Catholic Herald, Daniel Hannan MEP states that ‘Catholics in the pews have clipped the EU’s wings’, with a strap line which reads: ‘Ireland's “No” to Lisbon has revealed a gulf between bishops and lay people’.
All of which is undoubtedly and undeniably true.
But Mr Hannan then proceeds to accuse His Grace of ‘anti-Catholic prejudice’ for daring to point out that Roman Catholic bishops stopped just short of issuing guidelines on how the faithful should vote on the matter, and also that the Pope himself had entered the fray on the eve of the referendum. Merely to state this, apparently, revives ‘the oldest of anti-Catholic prejudices: the notion that priests were leading their flocks to the polls’.
But first, let us deal with the accusation that His Grace is ‘acerbically Protestant’.
It is curious that ‘acerbic’ should prefix ‘Protestant’, for Mr Hannan would never talk of ‘acerbically Muslim’ (If he wished to keep his job under Mr Cameron’s increasingly over-sensitive regime) or even ‘acerbically Catholic’ (if he wished to go on writing for the Catholic press). Like the BBC’s ‘Protestant terrorists’ (never ‘Catholic terrorists), or Tony Blair’s ‘Protestant bigots’ (never ‘Catholic bigots’), there is something convenient and easy about sullying Protestants and the Protestant faith with negative prefixes and detracting suffixes. Of course, the comment is ad hominem, but Cranmer is hard-pressed to find bitterness in his spirit or sourness in his soul. He much prefers to deal with irony and bring a wry smile to the faces of his readers and communicants.
That aside, how can it be ‘anti-Catholic’ to state a fact? How can it be ‘prejudice’ when one adduces evidence and reasons systematically?
In their pastoral letter Fostering a Community of Values, the Roman Catholic bishops praise the European project as one which has brought peace and stability to Europe since the Second World War, and which is founded on the actions of three devout Catholic leaders: Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi and Robert Schuman. They emphasise that it is the duty of every citizen to study the contents of the Lisbon Treaty and to vote: ‘It is not a referendum to assess our views on membership of the European Union or to register a protest vote’, they say, but is prompted by the need for institutional reform to equip the union to continue to play ‘a positive role in a rapidly changing world’.
They continue: ‘There is a need for institutional reform that both promotes democracy and contributes to greater transparency and accountability on the part of the EU institutions’. The Lisbon Treaty attempts to address the democratic deficit by strengthening subsidiarity and promoting active citizenship, but the extent to which it manages to address these challenges ‘is open to question’. They conclude that Europe is ‘a civilisation of values’, and that those values are inherently Catholic.
All of that, to His Grace, sounds like an attempt to sway a vote.
Mr Hannan conveniently omits to mention that Cranmer’s sources, all hyperlinked, were The Daily Telegraph, the BBC, and Dr Richard North, all of whom are, of course, well noted for their ‘ant-Catholic prejudice’. The Director General of the BBC is Catholic Mark Thompson; The Daily Telegraph is owned by the Catholic Barclay brothers; and Dr North was Jesuit-educated. And it was he who observed that ‘the Vatican and the EU have a lot in common’ under the provocative headline, speaking of the Pope: ‘Ex Nazi supports Irish “yes”’ (to which His Grace demurred).
Why is it that when a member of the Church of England draws attention to the intervention of the Roman Catholic Church, he is ‘prejudiced’, but when the BBC/Telegraph/Dr North do so, there is no such accusation? Why, when Lord Shore asserts that the manipulating Brussels Commission behaves ‘like a priestly caste’, this is reasoned discourse, but when His Grace quotes this, he is reviving a prejudice?
The reality is that nowhere in the article to which Daniel Hannan refers does Cranmer state ‘priests were leading their flocks to the polls’. This is a convenient caricature, which doubtless brings much pleasure to his commissioning editor, but it is not what His Grace said. The expressions of Treaty support issued by the bishops and the timely sermon by His Holiness on the eve of the referendum were clearly designed to sway the faithful. That is what His Grace said, and that is what the BBC implied when they said the intervention of His Holiness ‘was not accidental’.
Thankfully, many Irish had the good sense to ignore the meddlesome priests, but that does not negate the attempt to religiously influence a political outcome.
It is axiomatic that all quotations are taken out of context, but Mr Hannan chooses to ignore Cranmer’s conclusion which encapsulates the very gulf between the magisterium and the laity to which Mr Hannan refers. Cranmer’s final statement is clear in this discrepancy:
And so His Holiness affirms the anathema and perpetuates the dogma that on the seventh day God created the EU. This is curious, given that it is a distinctly secular, utterly Godless and increasingly anti-Christian construct which is antithetical to all that St Columbanus might have held dear.
Was this point too subtle? The bishops may splutter that Europe is ‘a civilisation of values’, but those values are manifestly not the Catholic ones envisaged by the Founding Fathers. That millions of ordinary Roman Catholics recognise that the EU is antithetical to all that they value and revere is self-evident. Does Mr Hannan think that His Grace does not know of Bill Cash, Edward Leigh, Iain Duncan Smith or Ann Widdecombe? Fine upstanding Catholic Eurosceptics all, actively resisting the authority of their magisterium. And then there are Catholic journalists like Charles Moore who are also nobly opposed to the emerging European Empire. Does Mr Hannan really believe that Cranmer believes they are being led by priests?
It is evident that the Catholic hierarchy perpetuates an inexplicable and wilfully blind adherence to the EU project. His Grace’s article was manifestly about the division between the bishops and the pews, yet Mr Hannan quotes a small section of text and cries ‘prejudice’.
Of course, he has probably collected his