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CATHOLIC VOICES/ How to mend “broken Britain”?

Catholic Voices Academy was formed to discuss how to mend Britain, broken by riots, the welfare state, unemployment, the education system, an excess of bureaucracy and other problems.

Rioting in London   (photo ANSA) Rioting in London (photo ANSA)

It’s time for Catholic journalists and advocates to show that faith is not just a private matter, but rather an engaging vision that can help heal a complex and sometimes troubled society.

So the first Catholic Voices Academy was organised to gather Catholics so they could discuss how to mend the “broken Britain” we constantly hear about. The panel reflected the variety of positions and approaches in the Catholic world, with well known speakers: Prof. Philip Booth, ( Editorial and Programme Editor, IEA), Cathy Corcoran, (Cardinal Hume Centre) Fr Gardner (Catholic Education Sevice), Mgr Armitage (Vicar General, Diocese of Brentwood, and London Citizens).

Prof. Booth argued in favour of a welfare society that should replace the welfare state, guilty of undermining the family, and nurturing individualism rather than socialisation. Today we are experiencing a perverted form of solidarity based only on the receiver-payer mechanism, while getting married implies paying more taxes and, unbelievably, 20% of young people in the UK grow up in households where no one is in work. Catholic social teaching, Booth reminded the audience, doesn’t say the state is allowed to take 50% of somebody’s income: we rather need a “Catholic social action” healing the British society from an excess of bureaucracy.

Fr Gardner stressed the importance of education in addressing a deficit of love and truth. Like all Christians, Catholics are taught to love: therefore, love must become an action.  Virtues on the other hand are settled dispositions to be learnt by practice.

Cathy Corcoran on the other hand questioned the existence of a “broken” Britain. What she saw in her work experience with the poor was quite the opposite. But she attacked inequality, in her view neither inevitable, nor acceptable. She argued that individual transformation, including giving and receiving respect, eventually leads to social transformation, and that the Church is already doing a remarkable job with thousands of people; an “untold story”.

Mgr Armitage, who served in a parish in East London pointed out the necessity of a “teaching Church” able to reconstruct a solid set of values and tackle a deep sense of unease and the excesses of individualism.

What the speakers agreed on at the end is that helping people to take courage doesn’t come from policy or from an act of Parliament, but rather from personal testimony.

(Arianna Capuani)

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