Letters: Morality? Look back to the Sixties

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The Independent Online
Sir: During the 1980s, the sometimes ugly battles between the Conservative government and the churches were based on a false understanding of social architecture. Church leaders, out of touch with their lay members, joined Labour in seeing the state as offering a solution to every social problem. Too often, Conservatives replied by laying exclusive stress on individual rights and responsibilities.

The new agenda, tentatively signalled by the 1988 stress on "active citizenship" by Kenneth Baker and Douglas Hurd, has blossomed into a great national debate about the importance of the social values and institutions which lie between the individual and the state.

Paul Vallely's overview of Catholic teaching ("What gives bishops the right to tell us how to vote?", 21 October) mentioned the importance of Professor Michael Novak's work to the Pope's writing - notably Centesimus annus. Novak, a recent Templeton Prize winner, suggested that popular discourse had exaggerated either the importance of the market economy or the democratically accountable state. This exaggeration was at the expense of the need to nurture family, voluntarism, manners and morality. All parties - and church leaders - are now becoming interested in the moral cultural sphere, and the mediating institutions that transmit its mores.

Tony Blair, to his credit, has led much of this debate, but I am afraid that his Party's liberal voting record on questions of sexuality, marriage and the sanctity of life (abortion and euthanasia - key issues of concern to Roman Catholics and other traditional believers) betray an affinity to the destructive values that Frances Lawrence's "call to moral arms" must address.

TIM MONTGOMERIE

Director, the Conservative Christian Fellowship

London N2

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