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February 202009£1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.80)
Cardinal: Britain needs moral renewal
Archbishop of Westminster urges the Prime Minister to establish a national ethics council
CARDINAL Cormac MurphyO’Connor has urged Gordon Brown to create a national moral council to “rediscover the things that make for a healthy society”. He was speaking only a few days before the Prime Minister was due to meet Pope Benedict XVI to talk about the global economic crisis. The aim of the council, the Cardinal said, would be to counter the damaging effects of rampant materialism. The idea is modelled on Mr Brown’s National Economic Council, set up in October to tackle the recession. The Cardinal did not specify exactly who should sit on the council but said it would further a crucial debate about Britain’s common good. He said society’s obsession with money and shopping had diminished its moral values and made Britain a difficult place to bring up children. He suggested the downturn could help people to question their priorities and remind them of the importance of friends and family. But he also said the Church “should have said more” about Britain’s runaway consumerism. “Maybe the Church lost a bit of confidence,” he said. The Cardinal, who is expected to step down soon as Archbishop of Westminster, made the comments in a frank and wide-ranging interview with the Times . His arguments were supported by the Abbot of Worth, Fr Christopher Jamison, who said consumer culture had “taken over our spiritual world”. It came as the CBI, Britain’s leading employers’ organisation, predicted that unemployment would rise above three million by early next year. The Cardinal said: “This particular recession is a moment –a kairos [an opportune occasion] – when we have to reflect as a country on what are the things that nourish the values, the virtues, we want to have.
CARDINAL MURPHY-O’CONNOR: ‘Rediscover the things that make for a healthy society’ GORDON BROWN: Due to meet the Pontiff to discuss the financial crisis
POPE BENEDICT: Preparing to address the economic downturn in a new encyclical
“One feels very sorry for those losing their jobs but in times of recession people have to rely on friends and neighbours and families and things that really matter to them. That may be a good thing. “I think people did lose their way a bit. It has been difficult to bring up children with the kind of values we want. Let’s face it, we now have a ‘me, me’ society, a more consumerist society, a utilitarian society, and our values and virtues have become diminished. “Some of it has got to do with having too much. If your worth just depends on your wealth, that is not healthy. Your worth should depend on who you are.” The Cardinal said it had been disheartening to see people so obsessed with shopping. “Everyone was cashing in. People kept borrowing as well as
bankers lending. People kept shopping. I think shopping fills a void. If you have one car, you need two. Everyone wants the latest trainers and clothes. It is awful to go to a house and see in a corner hundreds of unused toys. It’s so profligate. What children need is security and love, not huge amounts of money.” The Cardinal argued that capitalism –and the banking system in particular – had to be more strongly regulated and underpinned by a moral purpose. In particular he condemned the bonus culture of the City. “I hope people have come to their senses. I don’t know why they got such big bonuses. I would cut them out altogether,” he said. Bankers, he added, “were just wanting to make profits but in ways that were rash, and they thought they could continue on this
bonanza without querying their excesses. The industry is so focused on money. Unless that is underpinned with a moral sense and regulation that makes it clear money is only a tool for living, then it is wrong. I think sometimes there weren’t enough controls on the City.” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor also lamented the secularisation of politics. “Fifty years ago there was an underlying Christian ethic that was held by most MPs. That is not true any more,” he said. “There’s a tendency to utilitarianism, a rationalism that is not underpinned by anything,” he said. “Churchill didn’t really believe in God but he called on God quite regularly to help the British Empire. Macmillan was very much a Christian, so was Margaret Thatcher.”
The Cardinal bluntly criticised attempts to impose a strict multiculturalism on schoolchildren. “There’s not enough weight given to Christianity in schools,” he said. “Children should learn about Christmas before Diwali and Ramadan. People should not be afraid to say we are a Christian country.” The Cardinal also said he felt “angry” at the way that sex education was taught in schools. “They all seem keen to teach everything about sex. When I go into schools and talk to girls and boys, they say: ‘When I grow up I want to settle down, marry and have a family.’ It is good to encourage that, not to say you must have sex right, left and centre and it will all be fine. It won’t.” The Cardinal said that for him celibacy had been a sacrifice. “I would have liked to have been a
father,” he said. “I think good priests would also make good fathers. The sacrifice is very big but it is compensated by having a special relationship with the parish.” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, who has been Archbishop of Westminster for nine years, will step down after his successor has been chosen by Rome. He reached the retirement age of 75 in 2007 but he was asked by the Pope to stay on. The Cardinal’s words reflected those aired last week by Anglican Bishop Richard Chartres of London. The bishop said some people were “relieved to get off the treadmill and be given an opportunity to reconsider what they really want out of life”. Their comments were supported by the Abbot of Worth, Fr Jamison, who agreed the recession offered
an opportunity for people to question basic values. The abbot said that although consumer culture had brought many benefits to the global poor, these benefits had come “at the price of taking over our spiritual world”. He said: “The challenge during the recession is to reclaim our spirituality while reclaiming the material benefits.” Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe said she agreed absolutely with the Cardinal that society had “lost sight of what matters”. But she argued that consumer culture “kept people in jobs”. She said: “There are two main reasons that companies are going out of business. One is that banks won’t renew the borrowing. The other is that people are tightening their belts because of the economy, and are no longer buying. We have to appreciate that consumerism keeps people’s jobs going. What they [the Cardinal and the Bishop of London] are saying is right, but you have to find a balance.” However Philip Booth, editorial and programme director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, criticised the Cardinal’s proposal for a national moral council. He said: “It surely can be said that the Church has lost confidence if it is suggesting that it’s the Government’s job to set up a council for moral renewal. Clearly, it’s the role of the Church, not secular authorities, to try to create a less materialistic moral climate.” Prof Booth, who will be delivering a lecture on capitalism and Catholicism at Westminster Cathedral next month, opposed the idea that bonuses should be scrapped and more regulation be introduced into the City. “Pope John Paul II made very sensible points about how the economy must work with the grain of self-interest,” he said. “And there is as much evidence that the financial crisis is caused by poor regulation and over-regulation as by lack of regulation.”
Editorial comment: Page 13
Delia Smith urges supporters of Cafod to spend Lent in silence
THE CELEBRITY cook and writer Delia Smith will help Cafod supporters spend time in silence and reflection this Lent. Giving her support to a project for Lenten reflection and recollection, Mrs Smith, whose cookery books have sold in the millions, will encourage Cafod supporters to spend 20 minutes in silence per day. People who pledge to take
the time to take part in Cafod’s “daily commitment to stillness and silence” online will receive a daily email with a Scripture reading chosen by Miss Smith. The project starts on Ash Wednesday. Mrs Smith, a devout Catholic, has also written books on spirituality including a book of Lenten reflections entitled A Feast for Lent which was published in 1983. She hopes that the daily silence will bring people closer to God. She also
hopes that the time devoted to silence will provide “an increased trust and a knowledge that God does keep His promise: ‘Come to me and I will give you rest.’ It is His work not ours and if we trust in that, God can reach us even though we don’t know how.” Mrs Smith explained her motivation for initiating the project. She said: “As I’ve got older I have become more aware of the simplicity of our faith. If Jesus has said
‘there’s only one thing needed’ we cannot grow as Christians without incorporating that ‘one thing’ into our daily lives and take his words utterly seriously.” Individuals who sign up and pledge to spend the time in silence receive an opening reflection upon signing up on the Cafod website, www.cafod.org.uk. In the first reflection Miss Smith emphasises the notion that Lent is a period Continued on Page 3
Pope to visit mosque in Jordanian capital
US Speaker Pelosi meets Benedict XVI
POPE BENEDICT XVI will visit Jordan’s largest mosque during the papal tour of the Holy Land in May. The Holy Father will visit the Hussein bin Talal Mosque in Amman, his second visit to a mosque since he became Pontiff, Fr Rifat Bader, a spokesman for the papal Middle Eastern tour, told Associated Press.
“He will also meet there with Muslim leaders and religious scholars at the mosque, underlining the coexistence between religions,” he said. In 2006 Pope Benedict prayed at Turkey’s Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The Hussein mosque, built on the outskirts of the Jordanian capital in 2005, is named after King Hussein, who died in 1999. Jordan will be the Pope’s first stop on the Holy Land tour from May 8-15, after which he will travel to Israel and the West Bank. He will visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem, although it is unlikely he will visit Gaza. Pope Benedict will also tour biblical sites such as Mount Nebo.
NANCYPELOSI , Speaker of the US House of Representatives, was scheduled to meet the Pope this week during a trip to Italy. She was also due to meet Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and other political leaders. Mrs Pelosi, who says she is an “ardent Catholic”, was strongly criticised by American bishops and
cardinals last year for trying to defend abortion by quoting St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas. As Speaker of the House she is third in the line of succession behind Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden. Mrs Pelosi, an ItalianAmerican, was due to meet the Pope on Wednesday, their second meeting in less than a year.
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