Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, on Monday said that “Judeo-Christian values” were the only thing holding British society together, the Guardian reports.
Speaking to the Guardian on the eve of a lecture series about the place of faith in British public life, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor criticized the “aggressive secularism” that he believes is advancing in the United Kingdom. He also defended the Catholic Church’s stance in the debate over human-animal “hybrid” embryos, and argued that Christian leaders should hold a privileged position over representatives of other faiths in debates about public policy.
The Guardian contrasted the cardinal’s remarks with the controversial statements of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who in February suggested that the introduction of some aspect of Sharia law in Britain was “unavoidable.” Archbishop Williams will also speak at the lecture series.
"People are looking for a common good in this country. A very large number of people are saying, 'What is it that binds British people together?'" Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said. “There is no other heritage than the Judaeo-Christian heritage in this country." Replacing that heritage with a “totally secular view of life,” the cardinal said, would lead the nation down “a very dangerous path.”
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor also defended the Church’s involvement in public debate. "I'm not in favour of an intemperate battle, but I understand there are very different views, and I think the Catholic church has a part to play with other Christians to make sure this debate is held in public, with respect and with great force."
The Church recently led a successful campaign to persuade Prime Minister Gordon Brown to allow his MPs a free vote on a bill that would explicitly permit human-animal hybrid embryos. Several scientists accused church leaders of “misrepresenting” or even “lying” about the research.
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor told the Guardian that faith groups should not be considered together "as if [there were one] faith lobby - faith people are in that lobby, and non-faith people in that lobby ... I think that's too simplistic."
When asked if that meant Christian leaders should have a privileged position in making interventions in foreign policy, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said, "Yes. I don't see why not."
Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who recently converted to Catholicism, will also speak at the lecture series, which is titled “Faith and Life in Britain.” He is reportedly expected to use his lecture to launch an inter-faith foundation. The lecture will be Blair’s first public statement of faith since his conversion.