IS THIS a sad time to be Christian, as Catholic leader Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor says? Or is there reason to be cheerful, as Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, insists? Certainly Christianity no longer influences people as it did. Certainly we live in an age in which money and possessions count for more. Certainly there is more violence and crime, and less community spirit. But Dr Carey is right to point up the positive side of life at the start of the 21st century. Most people still care for others. Millions give money to charity and thousands give their time. We hear about cases of child abuse, but most children are better treated than their parents and grandparents were. This is as compassionate a nation as it ever was. We don't go to church like pre- vious generations, but there is still a moral sense at the heart of Britain.
CHURCHES, FOR all their many faults (and the Cardinal had the grace to acknowledge the most recent, child abuse) have played a crucial and often unsung role in the development of many aspects of civilised society - from universities, hospitals and social justice to human rights. Some would argue that they have played their evolutionary role and must now bow out. But such briskness belies the dilemma that remains: we cannot reverse the decline of Christianity and socialism, but, equally clearly, there is a growing difficulty in sustaining the moral underpinning they have provided for our understanding of the common good and how to mobilise the social solidarity needed to achieve it. Sometimes the good of the whole comes before that of one its parts - this crucial inspiration lies behind much of what we most value.
CHRISTIANITY HAS been almost totally vanquished, Cardinal Cormac Murphy- O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, has told his clergy - at least as a background to people's lives and to the Government of Britain. That much has been clear for some time. God does not figure largely in the structure of society. We have grown used to the virtual extinction of religious observance as a thing done naturally because everyone does it. Many British people feel that freedom allows them to pursue material goods to bring happiness. …