Action Alert!

Why is a Catholic bishops’ conference cheerleading for the European Union?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | May 09, 2017

Yesterday in this space I remarked on the unsustainable ideology of the European Union, which invents new “human rights” on a regular basis, without recognizing any corresponding duties. Just for example, the European Commission recently promulgated a Pillar of Social Rights, explaining that the purpose of this instrument was “delivering new and more effective rights for citizens, based upon 20 key principles.”

The language of the announcement sounds suspiciously similar to an advertisement for a “new and more effective” laundry detergent, and the promises implied are just as difficult to pin down. If these rights truly are “new,” who created them? Rights, by themselves, cannot be “more effective;” someone must guarantee them. So who is the guarantor, and what is the nature of the guarantee? For that matter, how does a “social” right differ from other rights?

The European Pillar of Social Rights raises more questions than it answers. And since, as a general rule, prelates should avoid political questions, it would be prudent for European bishops to let this announcement pass without notice. But the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), rushed in, where angels fear to tread. COMECE welcomed the Pillar of Social Rights as “an important step toward the European treaties’ objective of a social market economy.”

Why? Why did COMECE feel obliged to say anything at all about this document? Why does COMECE act as a cheerleader for the European Union? Come to think of it, why does COMECE exist, in addition to the episcopal conferences of each of the EU nations?

And what are these “social rights” that COMECE has endorsed? Some are laudable in principle, but difficult to vindicate:

  • Children have the right to protection from poverty. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds have the right to specific measures to enhance equal opportunities.
  • Everyone lacking sufficient resources has the right to adequate minimum income benefits ensuring a life in dignity at all stages of life, and effective access to enabling goods and services.

So the European Commission has now made a commitment to the abolition of poverty. So does that imply a much more productive economy, with everyone working harder to raise standards of living? Not quite.

  • Parents and people with caring responsibilities have the right to suitable leave, flexible working arrangements and access to care services. Women and men shall have equal access to special leaves of absence in order to fulfil their caring responsibilities and be encouraged to use them in a balanced way.

And then some parts of the Pillar are downright dangerous:

  • Regardless of gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, everyone has the right to equal treatment and opportunities regarding employment, social protection, education, and access to goods and services available to the public.

It’s only a matter of time before aggrieved European citizens, citing the Pillar of Social Rights, will demand sanctions against Catholic institutions that do not employ homosexuals, or ordain women, or agree to alter the gender on a baptismal certificate. By praising the Pillar, COMECE has put those Catholic institutions at risk. And for what?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: rickt26170 - May. 30, 2017 5:42 PM ET USA

    This is the land of Marx, Kasper and Danneels: they and all too many like them have helped do serious damage to the Church in Europe. We must pray that the Vatican does not listen to any of them because their road leads to religious ruin. But I fear that the Vatican does.

  • Posted by: Thomas429 - May. 12, 2017 2:45 AM ET USA

    It is worse than that. They speak in oxymorons. It may not be on a list of glaring ones but "a social market economy" is definitely one.

  • Posted by: Philopus - May. 10, 2017 11:13 AM ET USA

    Things could be worse; how it is that these bishops have not formed a similar group for the UN (COMWCE - Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the World Community)? Just think what they could condone? How much more of the church’s responsibility they could transfer to the state?