Statement of the Standing Committee of the Irish Bishops’ Conference
on the occasion of the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty
The Lisbon Treaty is of the greatest importance, not only for us here in Ireland but also for the future shape of the European project. Although the situation has changed since the June 2008 referendum with the addition of legal assurances to respond to the worries expressed at that time, our 2008 pastoral reflection, Fostering a Community of Values, remains relevant (see www.catholicbishops.ie). In it we highlighted the distinctive roles of politics and religion. While we do not seek to align ourselves with either side of the referendum debate, we wish to make it clear that a Catholic can, in good conscience, vote YES or NO. We urge all Christians to consider carefully the contents of the Treaty; we also wish to stress the responsibility on all of us to vote and to do so with regard not just for our own personal or group interest, but for the good of every citizen and the whole community.
The European Union is not just a common market; it must be a community of values. Values matter. We call on our elected representatives at home and in Europe to promote and ensure respect for the values on which European civilisation and culture have been built, values such as the fundamental right to life and protection of the weakest in our society. The Treaty of Lisbon does not undermine existing legal protections in Ireland for unborn children. It remains our responsibility, as citizens of Ireland and as citizens of the European Union, to promote vigorously the ‘Gospel of Life’ as described by Pope John Paul II in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae. As citizens of Ireland we have a responsibility to make our voices heard about the kind of Europe in which we wish to live. It would not be the first time that Ireland has played such a role.
The very nature of the EU calls for a pooling of sovereignty in specific areas. The common good could be strengthened by a sharing of sovereignty in this context, although it must not be allowed to weaken the principle of ‘subsidiarity’ which is an intrinsic component of the whole European project.
The right of people to exercise their vote freely is of fundamental importance. Last year we condemned the introduction of misleading, incorrect or irrelevant elements into the debate. Any material which misinforms voters is an interference with the exercise of a fundamental right and has no place in church buildings or grounds.