Catholic EU Referendum Debate
A vital public debate on the eve of the historic referendum that will be one of the defining moments of 21st century history, to consider whether Catholic values and interests are best upheld by the UK remaining a member of the EU.
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales in their statement on the historic EU referendum on 23 June have called for Catholics to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, inform themselves of the arguments of both sides, and to exercise their vote with a view to the common good of all.
Stressing that this referendum is "about much more than economics", they remind us of the profoundly religious ideals that animate European tradition, while acknowledging that "each person will have their own views about the best political framework in which to realise these ideals".
"This referendum," they add, "is an opportunity to reflect on those values we cherish as a nation and as Catholics."
The Catholic Voices debate just a week before the historic ballot is intended to assist that discernment by exploring whether our Catholic Christian values are promoted or weakened by the UK remaining in the EU.
The debate between leading politicians and pundits in the Church has both an internal and external target: both the UK's 5m Catholics who need to grasp the deeper issues behind their vote, and British public opinion, which needs to be informed of the ideals behind the founding of the modern European project in the vision of Alcide Di Gasperi, Konrad Adenauer and Robert Schuman.
The speakers will seek to persuade the audience either that the ideals of those founders continue to animate the modern European Union, or have been betrayed by them; and whether these values will best be promoted or restored by staying in or leaving.
The European Union is the most ambitious experiment in pooling sovereignty in modern history -- a bold attempt to synchronise laws and remove internal barriers and borders for the sake of peace, development and cooperation. Yet its critics say it is also a overweening political project that aims to centralise power and usurp local identity and sovereignty. They complain that what was intended as an economic project has become a federalist one.
Even its supporters admit the EU is suffering from an identity crisis and a failure of leadership. Distant from ordinary people, the Brussels institutions appear to many unaccountable yet controlling. As Pope Francis asked, in his speech receiving the Charlemagne Award on 6 May: "What has happened to you, Europe, the mother of peoples and nations, the mother of great men and women who upheld, and even sacrificed their lives for, the dignity of their brothers and sisters?"
But is this a reason for leaving or, as the Pope suggests, for restoring the values that underlie the project? The UK's departure would be a seismic shock to the international order and bring years of uncertainty, while giving it less say in the trading and other regulations we will still need to abide by.
"We all have a responsibility to keep the dignity of the human person at the forefront of the debate," say the bishops. "We must ask ourselves, in the face of every issue, what will best serve the dignity of all people both within Europe and beyond."
Stay or leave? That is our debate.
“This House believes Catholic values are best served by remaining in the European Union”.
For the Motion: Baroness Julie Smith of Newnham (Lib-Dem), Tom Tugendhat MP (Cons)
Against the Motion: Gisela Stuart MP (Lab), Tim Stanley (Daily Telegraph)
Two speakers on each side. PROPOSITION and OPPOSITION speakers each speak for 10 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of floor speeches, in which representatives of Catholic institutions as well as individual members of the audience will be asked for their views. One Proposition & Opposition speaker from each side then sums up in 7 minutes.
A vote will be taken, both before and after the speeches, to gauge the House's state of opinion.
Tickets for this event are available from Eventbrite.
You can download the poster from here.