There was a letter in the Yorkshire Post yesterday from a regular eurosceptic correspondent, Keith Johnston. His latest theme is that the constitution is an anti-Christian document and the EU is a humanist conspiracy:
In our ever-closer union in Europe, this is a fundamental point to be considered when we vote on the Constitution. Is God to be relegated and humanism to take over?…There is no such conspiracy, of course. In fact, the constitution recognises our rich “religious and humanist” heritage, which seems to cover all the bases. Nowhere does it state that “humanism [is] the ethical basis of the European Union”. In fact, it explicitly commits us to respecting Europe’s cultural and religious diversity when we take decisions at European level (Article 82).
One can see it at work in the European Union, with its Charter of Fundamental Rights, and its unending stream of laws, regulations and decisions of the courts affecting all aspects of our lives.
Mr Johnston also brings up the old myth about rejecting a Catholic Commissioner:
It was there, too, in the rejection of an Italian commissioner who was a devout Catholic.Now, we certainly did not vote against Rocco Buttiglione because he was a Catholic! Religion didn’t come into it. After all, several other Commissioners are also devout Catholics – this really isn’t a problem.
But Mr Buttiglione expressed views about homosexuality, women and the family which ran directly counter to the fundamental principles of equality already agreed by all EU countries. Incidentally, many Christians also found his views unacceptable. He was, of course, entitled to express them, but he was not entitled to let them affect his decisions as a Commissioner – and he was unable to guarantee that he would not.
MEPs from several parties therefore felt unable to give him a vote of confidence, and the President of the Commission responded by withdrawing his nomination. Quite how this could be seen as a victory for humanism over Christianity is a mystery to me!
Anyway, Mr Johnston's assertions about Christianity have been undermined somewhat by this breaking news: the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), representing Catholic bishops from across the EU, has given its backing to the constitution and commended it to Catholic congregations:
While regretting that the Union had not heeded calls by John Paul II to include a reference to Christianity in the text of the Constitution, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) has commended it to their congregation. The Constitution is a "breakthrough for Church and society" which "reflects core principles of Christian anthropology", the Bishops said in a statement.That last point is particularly interesting because, elsewhere in his letter, Mr Johnston claims that the concept of fundamental rights is a humanist concept that runs counter to Christian thinking. The bishops disagree!
In a meeting with President Barroso on 11 March, COMECE affirmed the backing of the Church for the goals and values of the Union. The Bishops approved the Lisbon aims of economic progress, the rule of law and a strong civil society and pledged support in particular for the creation of an EU fundamental rights agency.
Edit: I wrote a few days ago about the fact that Muslims support the constitution "unequivocally" and, in particular, that European Muslims are also committed to the principle of human rights. Some humanist conspiracy…