Please find below a copy of the letter co-chairs of the EPPSP, Virginie Rozière and Sophie in ‘t Veld sent to President Schulz on the occassion of the Pope’s visit and speech in the Plenary session of the European Parliament today.
Dear President Schulz,
With the development of the European Union as a fully-fledged political union and parliamentary democracy, making policies in a wide range of policy areas, the ethical dimension of EU policies is rapidly becoming more important. More and more often EU policies present us with ethical choices and dilemmas. Therefore we wholeheartedly welcome an open, inclusive and transparent public debate on ethical issues and questions of fundamental rights. Our shared values have been laid down in the EU Treaties and the Charter on Fundamental Rights, but they will only truly materialize, if they are shaped in public debate, by the confrontation of ideas and convictions.
However, such a debate must represent the views of all European citizens, regardless of religion or belief. It should also be an open dialogue, not a monologue. The European Union was designed as a strictly secular project. EU institutions were never connected to a particular religion, but they serve all citizens equally. Secular public institutions do not restrict freedom of religion and belief, but on the contrary, it is a precondition for freedom. The Treaty of Lisbon included Article 17 on the open, transparent and regular dialogue of the EU institutions with churches, religious associations or communities as well as philosophical and non-confessional organizations. A balanced dialogue, no exceptions, no privileges.
We do not consider that a monologue by a religious leader in the EP hemicycle, the chamber where all citizens are represented, is the appropriate format for a dialogue on values. In the Hemicycle all 500 million European citizens should be represented equally – in all their diversity, regardless of religion or belief. All citizens must be equally able to make their voice heard in the debate. No law passed in favor of a confession can be tolerated. No personal choice can impede the pursuit of general interest.
Quoting the speech of Pope John Paul II addressing the European Parliament on 11 October 1988: “Dire qu’il revient à la communauté religieuse, et non à l’État, de gérer «ce qui est à Dieu», revient à poser une limite salutaire au pouvoir des hommes, et cette limite est celle du domaine de la conscience, des fins dernières, du sens ultime de l’existence, de l’ouverture sur l’absolu, de la tension vers un achèvement jamais atteint, qui stimule les efforts et inspire les choix justes. Toutes les familles de pensée de notre vieux continent devraient réfléchir à quelles sombres perspectives pourrait conduire l’exclusion de Dieu de la vie publique, de Dieu comme ultime instance de l’éthique et garantie suprême contre tous les abus du pouvoir de l’homme sur l’homme.”
This statement shows clearly the refusal to accept separation of church and state. The Catholic Church feels it has a right to interfere in civil matters and to impose its own moral views on others, rather than accepting and respecting diversity and freedom of conscience.
Instead of triggering a truly open and inclusive debate, this event will be divisive. We urge you to come forward on the shortest possible notice with proposals for a debate on values and ethical questions that truly represents all views, and allows for all voices to be heard equally.
Sophie in ‘t Veld (ALDE – D66)
and Virginie Rozière (S&D – Parti radical de Gauche),
Co-chairs of the European Parliament Platform for Secularism in Politics