In the weeks immediately prior to the Referendum, the wisdom of the pundits was that the result was too close to call. The majority of churchmen of status and influence, however – both Anglican and Catholic – came out in favour of remaining. Some have even implied that such a view is, in some largely unexplained sense, ‘more Christian’. Why?
After Pope Benedict’s eloquent response to the omission of any reference to the Christian origins of European civilisation in the draft European Constitution they cannot be oblivious to the glaring faith deficit in the thinking of the leading Eurocrats. As anyone can see, the European project is the last desperate gasp of the radical Enlightenment. But they voted for it anyway.
Of course the reason may simply be one of class loyalty. Not, I mean, to any traditional social class, but to the anonymous club of the bien-pensants to which ‘church leaders’ today all inevitably belong. Nationalism (in any form, like the very slightest hint of homophobia) is a sure fire way of being blackballed. And we all like to be admired by our friends. ‘Thought- for-the-Day-Christianity’, after all, has become the Established Religion of a large and governing class.
But, if truth were told, I think there is something more fundamental and atavistic at play here. Christian leaders – catholics included – are profoundly risk averse. So long have they lived in fear of the apparently inexorable diminution of the role of religion in the affairs of nations that they cling to the status quo – almost whatever it may be – as drowning men to a passing plank. They have sensed in Brexit a possible tectonic shift in the political consensus which has generally prevailed since the Second World War. And they live in fear of a brave new world and of their place in it.
Now that the dust has settled, the question still cries out for an answer: why, in a nation so divided, were two cardinals and two archbishops of one mind?