Interview: Carey's new crusade

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Britain needs to recover a sense of shame and sin or risk the collapse of our kind of civilisation, Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, warns this morning.

In an interview with the Independent, conducted just before the Archbishop flew to South Africa for yesterday's ceremony, Dr Carey calls - in some of the strongest language to come out of Lambeth Palace for several years - for a crusade to remoralise the country.

He will launch his crusade in a House of Lord's debate later this month. Dr Carey speaks of his fears that Britain has become a society "in which unbelief has become the norm and practising Christianity a minority pursuit ... I am going to be warning against that, and actually questioning whether that is going to lead to the collapse of the kind of civilisation as we have known it". He demands a new moral agenda in schools, and an end to what he calls the privatisation of morality.

Speaking with remarkable frankness, the Archbishop confesses to doubts about his ability to influence the country: "When I am at my most pessimistic I seriously doubt whether we can actually do any more than blow trumpets from castle tops and warn." But he believes there is a new openness to religion, after the anti- religious ride of the Sixties.

Dr Carey says he hopes the millennium - which he described as "a Christian party to which everyone is welcome" - will encourage a revival of spirituality. He believes politicians have given the impression that "economic order and prosperity and consumerism" is what matters most. By contrast, he argues that "the real fabric of society is the spiritual and moral fabric, and this is the kind of currency that makes civilisations function".

He adds: "We've lost a language of blame and sin. The word sin is now a word dying, leaving our vocabulary. Was it Oscar Wilde who said the distinction between man and animals is that man knows how to blush? I wonder if we've lost a sense of shame. And I think that's something we need to work on."

Full interview, page 14