Archbishop pleads for return to Christian public morality

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The Independent Online
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, has made his strongest plea yet for public morality to be based on Christian values. In a speech in Rochdale, Dr Carey said that "a better society will emphasise the goodness of faithful, stable, family relationships.

"Families are by far the most important seedbed of strong moral values which nourish us in our wider lives ... Family love is not about stifling growth. It is not about stamping our stereotypes on our children or being negative or repressive", said Dr Carey, two of whose four children have divorced.

"There are few deprivations as severe as the absence of a loving family," he said.

"There is no source of pain and psychological damage more disastrous than a family which goes sour and ends in abuse, rejection and hatred." He argued that Britain is a far more Christian society than statistics would suggest. "There are some six-and-a half-million church members in the UK. I believe New Labour is pleased to have reached 350,00. If, by analogy with church attendance, we looked at the number of people who regularly go to political party meetings, what a tiny group we should find!

"I do not believe it is anomalous that Christianity is built into our key national symbols and institutions, nor that so many people mind deeply about what the churches say and do," Dr Carey said.

Strengthened by this contemplation of the churches as the largest voluntary organisations in the country, Dr Carey argued for three changes to improve society. The first was to make explicit the shared moral values which ought to underlie legislation: "One of the conventional assumptions which weakens our society is the view that what is good and right is just a matter of individual opinion ... Since morality becomes a matter of individual opinion, the views of traditional sources of authority become irrelevant and people no longer recognise objective or absolute standards of right and wrong.

"The danger comes when ... people become indifferent to the very idea of shared values at all. We are not at that point. But we have seen enough of the precipice to start moving determinedly in the other direction."

Dr Carey warned against the "false gods" of "realism" or "social competitiveness" that might lead to an abandonment of the underclass: "None of us, whatever our political affiliation, can be sanguine about the widening gap between rich and poor. The Church is as committed as ever to its prophetic witness on behalf of the most disadvantaged and hopeless people in our cities".

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