- Posted by Jonny hough
- On June 17, 2016
Farm Street Church in Mayfair, central London, was packed on Tuesday 9th June for a debate entitled: ‘Faith Matters Question Time – A Christian response to the EU Referendum’, chaired by Revd Lucy Winkett, Rector of Saint James Church, Piccadilly.
The three Catholic speakers were Dr Frank Turner SJ, Fellow in Political Theology, Campion Hall, Oxford; Jimmy Burns, author and journalist; Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative MP for North West Somerset. Each had a few minutes to state their case, before the panel received questions from the floor.
Fr Frank Turner began by stating that: “The EU is a good and necessary institution. Describing the origins of the EU, he said it was established not initially as an economic project, but one to promote peace on a continent that had seen many wars. “Peace trumps economics” he said, adding that shared sovereignty is not a loss but enriches all parties. Fr Frank said he was disappointed at the negative attitudes expressed on both sides of the debate. As a Christian, he said: “I don’t want ‘spacial status’ I want an equal status.”
Jimmy Burns began by saying he did not have the theological or political knowledge of the other two panel members, but as someone half Spanish he felt very strongly that he is a European, and he viewed Brexit as a “leap into the abyss.” “Look at the 100 regulations that we will be dropping if we leave” he said. As Christians, we are called to “set aside our national interests in favour of the Common Good.” He pointed out that the call for Brexit initially came from UKIP. Quoting from Laudato Si he said: “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world.”
MP Jacob Reese Moggs, parishioner at Farm Street, was given a longer time to speak as he was the only person arguing in favour of leaving the EU. He began by saying that he supported Brexit, because as a Christian, he believes in the defence of individual rights – which he feels are being lost in ‘an unaccountable superstate.” He said that the EU Commission was imposing decisions on other countries which they were powerless to reject. He listed a series of rulings which he said had failed. ‘The EU is a failed superstate” he said. While the EU may have started out with high Christian ideals, those have collapsed now and he said the UK would do much better on its own.
In the discussion afterward Jimmy Burns pointed out that 100 top economists have warned of the dire consequences of leaving the EU. Mr Rees Moggs dismissed this, saying economists “often get things wrong.”
Fr Frank Turner said economic policy should be a means to a further end and the purpose of economics was not just growth. ‘The deeper debate is about identity,” he said. Fr Frank went on to describe how he had recently returned from the US “where 90% of the wealth is owned by the top 2 per cent” – the result of unbridled growth.
Fr Frank also said there were some inaccuracies in Rees Mogg’s description of the EU. The EU Commission is similar to our civil service he explained – it researches and draws up document but decides nothing. “So the notion that the EU Commission is imposing legislation on us is bogus”.. No decision is made without the consent of all member states. “The biggest cause of war is separatism not unity,” Fr Frank said.
In his presentation, Mr Rees Mogg had objected to the fact that the EU does not mention God in its constitution. Fr Frank said this was true. Pope John Paul II had pushed for the mention of God in the constitution but this did not get through. “The EU is not a Christian state. It respects all faiths, he said. “I would hate it if God was mentioned in the constitution. Its for theologians, not politicians to define God.”
Ress Mogg concluded: “The EU has failed on its policies on agriculture, fisheries, migration and the Euro.” He said he hopes that when he wakes up on the feast of St John the Baptist on 24 June, the UK will have left the EU.
Jimmy Burns said: “The thought of waking up to find Nigel Farage as the victor fills me with horror.” The Referendum takes place on June 23rd 2016.
Superior of the Jesuit Community, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, concluded the evening by thanking participants and then inviting everyone present to pray the Our Father.
This debate was part of Farm Street Church’s Faith Matters Series. For more information see: http://www.msjc.org.uk/
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