BY Ian Dunn | October 29 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor warns against ‘privatising’ religion

The Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster tells literary festival that the Church should be measured and sensible in its approach to preventing religion being pushed to the periphery of public life

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has said that Western governments’ rush to protect ‘freedom and tolerance’ in law can have a negative impact on the Church.

Speaking at a literary festival in Gibraltar, the Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster (above) said that the Church must should remain a part of public life despite attempts by some to ‘privatise religion and put it on the periphery,’ but that is should be measured and sensible in its approach.

He added that while the majority of Britons were happy for organised religion to have a role in public debate, ‘there are some who would say they don’t need the Church’s voice at all.’

“I don’t agree,” he said. “I think that governments have to be very careful how they legislate, so that freedom and tolerance does not become intolerance for some sections.”

However, he added that he believed Christians in Britain should not consider themselves under excessive attack.

“I don’t think Christians are persecuted in Britain,” he said. “But I think there are some sections who would like to privatise religion and put it on the periphery.

“The Church has a part to play within public life and increasingly should play it, speaking about church affairs and affairs of the nation—making a contribution not from a position of power, but an interest and concern in light of what they believe.”

Earlier this year Cardinal Murphy O’Connor’s successor, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, urged MPs to ‘think again’ about the consequences of the same-sex ‘marriage’ bill being considered in parliament next week.

He said the change in the law is ‘far more profound than first appears,’ and will change the meaning of marriage so that openness to children ‘is no longer central.’

The archbishop also said the bill as currently drafted poses ‘grave risks to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.’

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor also added there were 139 countries where Christians were persecuted to a greater or lesser extent but many in the UK wished to ignore that fact.

“Not enough is done in the West to speak out against this,” he said. “In certain areas there is a lot of discrimination and I don’t think its getting better.”

The cardinal’s assertion is backed up by a recent report by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which found the persecution of Christians around the world has intensified over the last two-and-a-half years.

Not only are Christians in the Middle East and Africa suffering increasingly from Islamist terror attacks, but they continue to endure severe persecution and hardship in Communist, Marxist or post-Communist states.

He spoke in the wake of a row over legislation that forced Catholic adoption agencies to close because they would have had to offer their services to same-sex couples, in breach of the Church’s teachings.

Speaking at the Gibraltar Literary Festival on Popes I have known, and praised Pope Francis for his ‘deep, strong and gentle’ call for change ‘not just in the Church but in the world.’

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