Two senior figures in the Roman Catholic church in England have warned followers not to privatise their faith in the face of growing secularism.
In a letter to his diocese the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, urged his flock to remain “brave and courageous” in today’s “very secular” society.
And, in what is believed to be a reference to recent cases of discrimination against Christians, he sympathised with those who face opposition to their faith in wider society.
He said: “The message of Good News for the poor, a message of hope and meaning for everyone, is so important that we should understand that each one of us has to be brave, courageous, in the profession of our faith.”
In addition to the Cardinal’s comments, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham has warned that Britain lacks social cohesion because value and morality have been relegated to the private sphere.
The Archbishop, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, made the claims in an essay for a new book charting the rise of secularism in the UK.
Co-edited by Conservative MP Edward Leigh, the book is entitled The Nation That Forgot God.
Revd Nichols said that in Britain today only empirically provable facts are considered valuable, so arguments based on morality and spirituality are ignored.
He warned that without common moral values society lacks cohesion.
The Archbishop also argued that virtues such as compassion, respect and tolerance cannot survive once they have been severed from their roots in Christian teaching, and that schools must be allowed to teach children what is good and bad.
He is chiefly concerned that faith has been relegated to become a purely private individual pursuit and instead Britain has sought to define itself by secular and material standards.
“We have lost our nerve because, as a society, we have taken the road of relegating all these matters to the sphere of the private and of seeking to build our society, our cohesiveness, on the secular/material instead”, he wrote.
“Yet there will never be a truly cohesive society that does not take seriously the spiritual quest of its people…
“The rigorously secular, liberal project of community cohesion is mistaken in its fundamental view of the human person and simply will not work.
He added: “Our politicians seem to live in a different world, a world that is purely secular and material, a world that does not permit a mature consideration of the key role of religious belief.”
The book’s co-editor, Edward Leigh MP, says that Britain is the “most extreme” national example of secularisation in the west.
He attributes this trend to a decline in church attendance, a consequent rise in family breakdown and crime, and the dominant individualistic worldview that people can do whatever they want because “the individual is his own master”.