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Cardinal fires new broadside at EU stance on Church values

Cardinal Sean Brady yesterday warned TDs and senators that the EU must not deny its Christian heritage.

The Primate of All Ireland spoke of the growing scepticism among Catholics at the direction the EU was going on social issues and bio-ethics as he made his first official appearance in the Oireachtas.

And he called on the Government to explain EU law more fully to Catholics who had voted against the recent Lisbon referendum.

The Archbishop of Armagh was addressing the Oireachtas sub-committee on Ireland's future in the European Union, which was established by the Government in the wake of the Lisbon defeat to advise on ways of resolving the impasse between Ireland and the other 26 member states. Dr Brady was invited to explain his views following his major speech last August to the Humbert Summer School, in Co Mayo, in which he said that EU hostility to Christian values on issues such as marriage, the family, and stem-cell research, might have been a factor in the referendum rejection.

Failure

Dr Brady told Oireachtas members that the Catholic Church was hugely supportive of EU ideals but had been disappointed at the failure of the governments to make direct reference to God in both the failed Nice Constitution and the Lisbon Reform Treaty.

But he acknowledged the Irish Government had tried hard in the negotiations to obtain recognition of God and of Christianity's contribution to the making of European culture in the statement on EU fundamental law. Dr Brady said the great "vision and energy" of uniting the peoples of Europe which inspired its founding fathers appeared to have been lost in the bureaucracy governing 25 nations, especially on social issues.

He instanced how, during the summer, he had visited Tory Island and was aghast at how EU fisheries regulations had harmed the island's way of life, and he wondered whether "Ireland would become the Tory Island of Europe".

There was widespread apprehension in Ireland, he added, that the judgments of the European Court might taken precedence over the Irish Constitution, which was rooted in support of marriage, the family and the right of Catholic schools to employ Catholic teachers.

Another apprehension was the way in which some EU directives were being applied that did not take account of the rights of the Church and faith-based communities to organise freely and in conformity with their religious convictions.

Dr Brady praised the Government for being the first EU member State to set up a forum for structured dialogue with churches and faith communities, but he said this needed to be developed further.

Belfast priest Fr Tim Bartlett, who liaises with the Stormont government, told the sub-committee that the EU had done a lot in bringing peace and stability to the North, but a perception had grown that the application of EU directives on social and ethical issues did not take account of the situation of the Churches and faith communities.

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Many Christians now felt that EU law was "a Trojan horse" encroaching on their beliefs and values, he added.

Cardinal Brady and Fr Bartlett, however, came under criticism from Fianna Fail Mayo TD Beverley Flynn for not having taken a stronger pro-Lisbon stance last May.

Ms Flynn said that the statement was 90pc supportive of the treaty, but that he remaining 10pc left an element of doubt in the minds of Catholic voters who took any statement from the Church as "very serous and with very high relevance".


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