Sean Walsh discusses Donald Tusk’s recent comments regarding a ‘special place in hell’ reserved for Brexiteers without a plan, explaining that not only are they gratuitously insulting but that they are theologically inept.

Donald Tusk’s remarks last week were clearly and tediously intended to be provocative. Presumably the EU nomenklatura has bought the lease on Donald Trump’s locker room. From this centre of operations, it seems, they compose ever-more histrionic and self-regarding attacks on those of us who refuse to buy into their project. But offence freely offered should be politely declined: what is irksome about Tusk’s comments is not that they are gratuitously insulting but that they are theologically inept.

The Catholic Church has an ambivalent attitude to Hell. We are sure that Hell exists, but we cannot say if it’s full or empty. How could we? It is not for human beings, as mere creatures, to set limits on the scope of God’s redemptive project. That’s the point.

Donald Tusk, on the other hand, seems to have shaken off the tiresome burdens of humility. Jesus might have gone to the limits of God-abandonment in order to rescue the soul of sinners in general, but Brexiteers, according to Tusk, were not part of his rescue plan.

A brief word on Hell.

Hell is not a “somewhere” but a “somehow”. God is Love and he made us free to reject him. To be “in Hell”, therefore, is to have chosen to place oneself outside the scope of Love. CS Lewis once wrote that the doors of Hell are locked from the inside. If anyone is “there” it is at least in part because they have consciously turned away from Him. To say that Brexiteers -plan or no plan- merit a special place in Hell is to say that to turn away from the EU is to turn away from God.

Such is the idolatrous mindset of the High Priests of the European Project.

There is a plausible Christian case for Brexit, based in part on what the European project has become. The EU Constitution and its subservient legal structures announce a conception of the human person that emphasizes an Enlightenment rationalism and therefore makes no room for the soul. But we are not, on the Christian view, merely autonomous bearers of rights and responsibilities. We are also created with a capacity for a personal relationship with someone who transcends the petty contingencies of worldly stuff. Happiness consists in the realization of that capacity. The rights-centred language of secular liberalism, which finds a natural distillation in the structures of the EU, announces an impoverished conception of what we are.

And take, as another example, the principle of subsidiarity – a now well-established player in the EU legal lexicon. This term was originally formulated as part of Catholic social teaching, and it means roughly this: that human spiritual capital is best cultivated at the level of community and that the introduction of political structures will always inhibit rather than facilitate that cultivation. Wealth creation (for example) is a form of spiritual activity and when the institutions of government are intrusive then the possibilities of personal charity recede. But is there anything more intrusive than EU standards on small business? And anything more remote from the people affected than the bodies that decide them? The EU has brazenly appropriated the term and corrupted the concept. It has hidden behind the teaching in order to advance its opposite: a compression of the possibilities of the human soul as properly understood.

The EU project has an internal logic which sees the end of history as a political singularity in which all national identities are dissolved. This, it is suggested, is the best version of a relationship between the member states. But such a relationship is not one of real friendship. As St Paul suggested, friendships are best established in a context of heterogeneity rather than sameness. Friendship involves love and love involves the joyful acceptance of irritating differences. Despite what Oprah would have you believe, you cannot really be in friendship with yourself.

The language of faith has a richness and depth that secularism cannot match. It’s not surprising that the likes of Tusk reach for it from time to time. But in applying it frivolously they subvert it. Is Mr Tusk really interested in which politicians occupy which “part” of Hell? If he is looking for guidance, then he could do worse than reach for his copy of the Divine Comedy. Dante wrote this in about 1300 against a backdrop of Florentine unrest. The poet himself was an actor on that scene. Subsequently he was quite happy to name contemporary political figures whom he placed with the fraudsters in the 8th ring of the Inferno. Just above Judas. Not a happy place to be. No paparazzi there. Given the EU’s current depredations of that member state is it possible he was unwilling to consult an Italian on the matter?

The European Union won’t last. It’s internal contradictions will see to that. It will go off the cliff. And when someone goes off a cliff it is suicide to insist that you remain with them for the descent. We know that suicide is a mortal sin. The person who commits it might or might not be doing irreparable harm to her soul. Pace Donald Tusk it’s hardly a sin to refuse to take the risk.

God himself is, of course, a fan of the idea of the nation state. He chose one as a beloved maid and became heartbroken when the love was repeatedly spurned. But at least, if he is a Brexiteer, God has a plan – and is therefore immune to the anger of Tusk et al. I’m happy to admit that I neither know nor care what that plan is.

4.75 avg. rating (94% score) - 24 votes