Any bets on 2014?
It is fascinating to see how much the pundits who engage in forecasting the political weather as the year draws to a close got it right or wrong.
From mid-November onwards, newsstands across the globe have been prominently displaying a stand-alone issue of The ECONOMIST, The World in 2014. Unlike Old Moore’s Almanac, still read by a surprisingly wide superstitious constituency, this annual exercise in political and economic clairvoyance is bedside reading for political leaders, EU mandarins and captains of business and industry who are keen not to be taken by surprise in the twelve months ahead.
Leafing through its glossy pages in the dark evenings running up to Christmas is certainly instructive, but turning to it again as the autumn light begins to fade ten months on is even more enlightening. It is fascinating to see how much the pundits who engage in forecasting the political weather as the year draws to a close got it right or wrong, and amusing to see how often they were taken completely by surprise.
The Catholic Church featured quite frequently in the pages of most newspapers of record during 2013 and so it is a little surprising that one searches in vain for any reference to Pope Francis in The World in 2014. Certainly, not even the most perspicacious or imaginative of Vatican insiders could have predicted how the morning of Monday 11 February, when Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, would have turned the Catholic world on its head. Nor indeed, even if there were those who gave Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio short odds in the conclave, few could have predicted the impact the first non-European pontiff in over a thousand five hundred years would have on the Church and the world, and in so short a time. So, maybe the secular press has wisely decided to kick for touch on the Holy See this year.
The newspapers are on safer ground with their economic and political predictions. My autumnal perusal of last year’s forecasts would justify a 9/10 score. Even with Silvesterabend still three weeks away at the moment of writing, the forecast for 2014 contains few surprises.
Of most interest to readers of Europe Infos is the slight apprehension concerning the outcome of the European elections in May. A low turnout (and the turnout at EP elections has gone down from 62% when the Europe of nine went to the polls in 1979 to 43% when the expanded EU of twenty seven last voted in 2009) favours the more extreme parties (in this case the Euro-sceptic or anti-EU candidates) in gaining seats. Many journalists and commentators writing on the cusp of the old/new year evoke the twin spectres of a low poll and Europhobes in the ascendency: the former produces the latter.
It is fair to say that Catholic bishops in Europe see it as their priority to encourage citizens to vote. Abstaining is not an option. Clearly, the privacy of the polling booth is almost as sacrosanct as that of the confessional, and the liberty of the citizen to choose according to his/her conscience is not called in question. The bishops are particularly concerned that the choice be an informed one and ought to reflect a vision of Europe and our common future. It is fun to gaze into the crystal ball, and we trust the chattering classes to do this. The mission of Europe Infos is a different one and more in keeping with what our bishops want us to do. It aims to brief its readership on the issues which are central to the European debate and reflect on them in the light of Catholic social doctrine, and at no time is such a service of informed analysis more valuable than in an election year.
Father Patrick H. Daly
General Secretary COMECE