Monday 12 October 2009

Catholics are free to warn against the Lisbon treaty

Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone (pictured), the Vatican secretary of state, recently told the Czech president, with reference to the Lisbon treaty:
“Each European state has its own identity. The European Union will stipulate its rights and points of view that may not fit in with their own traditions and history. Some states naturally defend themselves against it – i.e. Ireland. If, for example, Europe acknowledges the union of homosexual couples as equal to marriage, it would go against its own history. And it would be appropriate to object to it. The Church wants to support states in this.“ (English translation courtesy of SPUC)
I note the contrast between Cardinal Bertone's words and those of Bishop Noel Treanor, representative of the Irish Bishops' Conference, to the Irish parliament:
"I state unequivocally that a Catholic can, without reserve and in good conscience, vote “Yes” for the Lisbon treaty. There are no grounds to justify a “No” vote on the Lisbon treaty on the basis of specifically religious or ethical concerns ... [N]o organisation actively lobbying in the current campaign, using either print or other media, speaks for or on behalf of the Catholic Church."
I am puzzled by Bishop Treanor's comment that none of the groups which campaigned against the Lisbon treaty "speaks for or on behalf of the Catholic Church". Canon 224-2 of the Code of Canon Law says:
"Lay members of Christ's faithful [have] the special obligation to permeate and perfect the temporal order of things with the spirit of the Gospel."
I know for a fact that many of those lay people who campaigned against the Lisbon treaty were intentionally seeking to fulfil that special obligation. Whilst it is understandable that the Irish bishops' conference seeks to speak for and on behalf of the Catholic Church, it may be illuminating to read what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) said whilst Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:
"We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated ... No episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission: its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given to them by the individual bishops."
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