Cardinal says religion is not “private eccentricity”

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has urged religious believers not to back away from public debate as faith is increasingly treated by society as a “private eccentricity”.

In a new book, Faith in the Nation, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor argues that “there is a current dislike of absolutes in any area of human activity, including morality”, which means that religious belief is often portrayed as intolerant.

Yet, he says, the ongoing debate over faith schools demonstrates the “intolerance of liberal sceptics”.

In the book, published by the Institute for Public Policy Research and reportedly endorsed by the Prime Minister, the Cardinal warns that we should beware of liberals who “can tolerate any belief whatsoever, only so long as it is not seriously held”.

The Cardinal, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic leader, says that different religious groups have been united to some extent by the “unfriendly climate” they share.

He says the Roman Catholic positions on the sanctity of life and the central importance of the married family, also shared by other religions, face particular attack.

But he urges religious believers not to “opt out of the debate”.

He points out that “as citizens of the United Kingdom, we are fortunate to live in a country where the Christian ethos is still, despite the best efforts of secularists, pervasive.

“The UK, said a House of Lords Select Committee in 2003, ‘is not a secular state … the constitution of the United Kingdom is rooted in faith, specifically the Christian faith, exemplified by the established status of the Church of England’.”

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