.- Englandâs top Catholic and Anglican clergy have gone head-to-head in a public war of words over the U.K. governmentâs policies on welfare, education and health.
In the June 8 edition of the English left-wing political journal New Statesman, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams accused the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government of causing âanxiety and angerâ in implementing health, welfare and education reforms for which âno one voted.â
The Anglican archbishop also accused ministers of encouraging a âquiet resurgence of the seductive language of âdeservingâ and âundeservingâ poorâ in pursuing âpunitiveâ action against âalleged abusesâ in the welfare system.
And he reserved particular scorn for the London governmentâs plans to move power away from the state to lower level institutions - a policy the U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron calls his âBig Societyâ - labeling it nothing more than a âpainfully stale slogan.â
The Anglican leaderâs public comments contrasted sharply, though, with those of Catholic Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster.
He used a speech to Catholic charities in London on June 9 â only a day after Archbishop Williamâs attack - to suggest that the Big Society could actually lead to âgreater solidarityâ and release âenergy for local initiative and enterprise.â He referred to a poll recently taken at a recent conference organized by the Catholic Church to discuss the issue.
When conference attendees were asked whether or not they thought the âBig Societyâ was âa cover for cuts,â Archbishop Nichols reported that the "overwhelming majority said no. They felt there was a genuine moral agenda here.â
He warned, however, that âthe growth of subsidiarity cannot be achieved simply by the withdrawal of the stateâ but ârequires intelligent capacity building to reduce dependency, and the creation of conditions for the sustained flourishing of local initiative.â
Archbishop Nichols also praised David Cameron for his recent comments in praise of marriage and the family.
âThe overwhelming evidence of the correlation between family instability and the outcomes for children in education, health and employment speaks for itself,â the Catholic archbishop said.
âIt was good to see in his latest remarks a specific reference to marriage as a social institution which deserves and needs support.â
Meanwhile, the Catholic politician behind the U.K. governmentâs plans for welfare reform, Iain Duncan MP, also joined in the attack upon Archbishop Rowan Williams. He dubbed Williamsâ remarks âunbalanced and unfair.â
âIf a churchman can't endorse the idea of community and the voluntary sector, doing what is necessary to help people out of their difficulties, then I wonder who will?â