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Westminster’s new archbishop speaks out Archbishop Nichols criticises rash of laws in the past decade MPs ‘very foolish’ to make unwarranted expense claims Tony Blair’s challenge to Magisterium ‘extraordinary’
THE new Archbishop of Westminster has signalled that the Church will play an active role in public life under his leadership.
In an interview published days after his installation Archbishop Vincent Nichols criticised the proliferation of new laws under the Labour Government. He said democracy did not “itself generate moral principle” and that at its worst “that moral space is filled by those who are the most successful lobbyists”.
“I think that could be illustrated by the burgeoning of regulation over the past 10 years,” he said. “Regulation can never replace virtue.”
The archbishop also voiced his unhappiness over the Government’s equality measures, which have forced Catholic adoption agencies to sever their ties with the Church or close. The Church was given until January to adapt to the measures before the Sexual Orientation Regulations came into effect. Eight of the 13 Catholic adoption agencies in England, Scotland and Wales have since cut links with the Church to comply with the laws compelling them to assess same-sex couples as prospective adopters and foster parents, and one has closed.
Archbishop Nichols told the Sunday Times : “We have been pushed out unnecessarily. There are 400 adoption agencies in this country and all but 11 [in England and Wales] –the Catholic ones – would accept same-sex couples. I don’t think it was appropriate to push out those 11, which had a record of placing the most difficult children successfully. It was a disproportionate response and the victims were the children, not the Church.”
His recent public appearances and his forceful installation homily will be read as a sign that Archbishop Nichols is preparing to resist efforts to push the Church out of the public square. In 2006 he led the opposition to the Government’s attempts to impose a quota on places at faith schools.
But while he was critical of aggressive secularism he said that repealing the Act of Settlement, which prevents British monarchs from either marrying or becoming Catholics, was not a priority. This year the Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris proposed changes.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols is pictured during his installation as the 11th Archbishop of Westminster at Westminster Cathedral last week
But Archbishop Nichols said: “I wouldn’t rush to support such a change in the law. I think the position of the Queen and the monarchy is to be handled with great sensitivity.”
In the same interview Archbishop Nichols criticised former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s suggestion that the Pope should “rethink” the Church’s position on homosexuality.
He said he thought Mr Blair’s comments were “extraordinary”.
He said: “I also think his political instincts, which are very
strong, are not a good guide to the teachings of the Catholic Church and a bit more reflection is needed as to the relationship between political instincts in general –and certainly this –and the nature of the truth that the Church tries to put forward. Maybe he lacks a bit of experience in Catholic life.”
Commenting on the political scandals over MPs’ expenses, Archbishop Nichols said the episode showed on “a grand and public scale that human nature is flawed”.
But he also voiced surprise at the scale of the scandal. He said: “The idea that there could be a perpetual deceit is very foolish. But it’s also the story of the Fall.”
The 11th Archbishop of Westminster had earlier emphasised the role religion plays in society in his installation homily.
He said: “Faith builds itself in community and it expresses itself in action. As a society, if we are to build on this gift of faith, we must respect its outward expression not only in honouring individual conscience but also in respecting the
institutional integrity of the communities of faith in what they bring to public service and to the common good.
“Only in this way will individuals, families and faith communities become whole-hearted contributors to building the societies we rightly seek.”
More than 2,000 people attended the Mass at Westminster Cathedral at which the former Archbishop of Birmingham was installed. They watched as Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor handed the crozier to Archbishop
Nichols. At the end of the Mass Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said that sustaining a Christian presence in the midst of secular society would be among the great challenges facing the Archbishop.
He said: “There are two things I want to say. The first is that there are a great number of challenges which face the Catholic Church and indeed our fellow Christians as well in our society in England and Wales. I do not need to mention them all. Battles will be won, battles will be lost in the effort to sustain the Christian presence in
the midst of our secular society. But what is most crucial is the prayer that we express every day in the Our Father, when we say, ‘deliver us from evil’. The evil we ask to be delivered from is not essentially the evil of sin, though that is clear, but in the mind of Jesus it is more importantly the loss of faith.
“For Jesus, the inability to believe in God and to live by faith is the greatest of evils. You see the things that result from this are an affront to human dignity, destruction of trust between peoples, the rule of egoism and the loss of peace. One can never have true justice, true peace if God becomes meaningless to people. So the task of the Church is essentially to be alive, to nourish Christian communities, men and women, filled with the presence of God and in communion with Him through faith, through prayer, through the witness of their lives.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, spoke on behalf of the Church of England saying that closer relations between the two communions was “a sign that we all recognise common challenges and a need to pray and act together”.
He said: “The Roman Catholic and Anglican communities in England and Wales have the Godgiven task, along with all our other brothers and sisters in the faith, of making the Good News of Jesus compelling and attractive to a generation deeply in need of hope and meaning, in need of something they can trust with all their hearts.”
Lord Alton of Liverpool, a Catholic peer, also praised the Archbishop.
He said: “His gift of speaking to people directly and humanely, and his appreciation of the stress and pressures of modern life, will enable him to speak with clarity and compassion.
“At a time when Britain is facing a crisis of confidence in its parliamentary and financial institutions, and is doing some real soul-searching, Vincent Nichols may be able to help us rediscover the importance of Judaeo-Christian values.
“No one should underestimate the hostility and brickbats he will face and, as the public face of Catholicism in England, he deserves our unfailing practical support and prayers.”
Irish bishops apologise for years of abuse in Church-run schools
THE ABUSE of children in Catholic schools was all the worse because the perpetrators had been “called to care in the name of Jesus Christ”, the Irish bishops have said. In contrast to the past the Church must now “promote a civilisation of love for children”.
The bishops were responding to the publication last week of the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. The 2,600-page report
detailed shocking abuse of children since the 1930s, including physical beatings, sexual molestation and rape.
The standing committee of the Irish bishops’ conference, meeting in Maynooth, County Kildare, welcomed the publication of the report as a significant step in establishing the truth and enabling the voices of survivors of abuse to be heard.
“We apologise to those so cruelly abused during their childhood while in Catholic
run industrial and reformatory schools. This abuse is all the greater because it was perpetrated by those called to care in the name of Jesus Christ,” said the bishops.
In addition to examining what went wrong, they said, the Church must also give support to those who had been abused, and offer love, care and protection to today’s children.
“No response to this farreaching report can be confined to a single statement,”
said the 12 bishops. “To properly address past failures, and to safeguard children today, the whole Church needs to analyse how and why such an abusive environment was allowed to develop and become endemic. Our ongoing response must support survivors of abuse and promote a civilisation of love for children so that they can receive the best possible care and protection.”
Reports: Page 4 Editorial comment: Page 13
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Pope John Paul II’s Cause ‘hits snag’
Baroness Thatcher meets Benedict XVI
POPEJOHNPAULII ’SCause may have hit a snag, according to reports coming out of Rome.
Theological consultors meeting at the Vatican were generally positive about the progress of the late pontiff’s Cause, but there were some dissenting voices.
The beatification of John Paul II “still remains a possibility” for next year, but it
could be delayed, said Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli.
More positively, “none of the consultors doubts the personal sanctity of the great pontiff”, he said, and there are “no insurmountable obstacles”. But some “objections and difficulties” have been raised.
There is insufficient documentation in the positio, the compilation of documents to be examined by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Also, contradictions have emerged from some of the testimonies, Mr Tornielli said.
BARONESSTHATCHER was in Rome this week for a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI.
The Pope would be the third pontiff the 83year-old former Prime Minister has met. She travelled with her daughter Carol and veteran Catholic journalist Paul Johnson.
The meeting was arranged by Carla Powell, wife of
Lady Thatcher’s former foreign policy adviser.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the Pope in February and Tony Blair saw him in June 2007, soon be
fore leaving office.
Lady Thatcher’s first
papal meeting was in 1977 when, as leader of the opposition Conservative Party, she met Paul
VI a year before his death.
She also met John Paul II in November 1980.
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