So, its 'Non'. Which wasn't a surprise. It is somewhat incongruous that in the UK, the treaty (not constitution) is presented as a Gaullist plot for the French to take over the world whereas opposition in France has come largely from the Left, who view it as a threat to French social consensus. The French Right appears to be somewhat more to the left than our own 'Labour' government, on economic and welfare matters at least.
I do have some sympathy with the French view, and I was never a major fan of expansion of the EU, which I always thought was something which happened too quickly and with no thought as to the eventual consequences. It would have made more sense for an associate membership to be developed for the East which could have transformed into full membership over time.
What is mildly amusing is that, of course, the Nice treaty remains intact, which is far more centralising than the provisions voted down in France.
I have always been a strong pro-EU advocate, but I can't say that I find the Blair vision for Europe appetising. The EU needs to be an alternative power bloc to the US, not slobbering at its coat-tails Blair-fashion. So, future development will be interesting
2. The Church.
Talking of failed, irrelevant institutions...have you heard the latest? The pathetic hand-wringers who are the 'liberal' face of the Church and are skilled only in vascillation and fence-sitting, have realised that they have got to abide by the Governments new regulations about gay and lesbian partnerships, and so have said that priests can have civil partnerships - but they must assure their bishops that they are not having any of that naughty sex stuff.
Now. lets have a bit of honest truth here ( yes, I know 'truth' and the 'church' are inherently incompatible, but try and suspend incredulity for just a moment......)
First, that gay priests in partnerships sleep together and have sex. That includes those who lie and say they are celibate. On one level I can understand their lies, but they are lies none theless and the reactionary wing of the Church knows it
Two, that there is absolutely no way that the Church would be able to police this other than CCTV in the bedroom.
Three, that one should perhaps serioulsy question whether any well-adjusted gay man would choose to become a functionary in an intrinsically homophobic institution in any case.
The outcome , I think, should be that gay priests should simply lie, and have no problem with doing so. The Church is a despicable institution, and I see no moral problem with lying given their homophobia. They can then wriggle and writhe as they decide what to do, given that there is nothing they actually can do!
But there is a wider issue - that whilst the rest of life continues, the Church remains locked into the values and views of another age, defending the indefensible, failing to face up to the reality that many of its traditional dogmas are simply not credible in the contemporary world - yet people cling to them, as security.
There is so much that Christianity, a forward looking, brave Christianity, shorn of its premodern shortcomings, could still have to say. But I don't believe that the Church as it stands has any possibility of being able to say it whilst it cannot break free from the dogmas and prejudices of the past. Indeed, it remains the major force of reaction in contemporary British society, opposing nearly all worthwhile reform, whilst propping up the Third World industry and failing to be honest about who is really to blame for African poverty (Africa!)
Since I stopped attending these things become all the more clear. I have to think seriously about whether I actually want to be part of this institution any longer. There are some good things going on - read Giles Fraser's columns in Church Times - www.churchtimes.co.uk - and the Guardian, or look at the Inclusive Church website - www.inclusivechurch.net - or John Spong's work. But whilst the CofE is led by a weak, other-worldly hypocrite like Rowan Williams, don't expect a great deal of change. Hand-wringing, guilt, warm words, yes, but not the resisitance to the voices of reaction which are needed if the Church is going to be worth being part of.
I addressed a meeting in recent months where someone said that the Church is going to have to effectively die before something new can arise and fill the gap left in terms of spirituality Perhaps they are right.