Time to Rediscover Vital Core Principles; in the Second of Our Week of Special Essays Written by Wales' Faith Leaders, the Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff Peter Smith Urges Society to Rediscover the Ancient Values of Prudence, Justice, Courage and Temperance to Prevent Political and Economic Collapse

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 30, 2009 | Go to article overview

Time to Rediscover Vital Core Principles; in the Second of Our Week of Special Essays Written by Wales' Faith Leaders, the Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff Peter Smith Urges Society to Rediscover the Ancient Values of Prudence, Justice, Courage and Temperance to Prevent Political and Economic Collapse


THIS past year has been truly an "annus horribilis". The warning signs began to appear with the news last year that personal indebtedness in the UK had risen to unprecedented proportions and had become, reportedly, the highest of any nation in the world.

But that news was quickly overshadowed by the subsequent financial crisis, the credit crisis and a full-scale world economic recession, the worst since the 1930s. It gave rise to fear, and widespread anger, especially at those in the banking sector who were roundly blamed for irresponsible and profligate lending rooted in a desire for personal profit.

In the middle of all this came the political crisis following the revelations of scandalous behaviour by some MPs and members of the House of Lords who had been misusing the expenses system, again allegedly for personal gain, and public anger and disillusionment then turned on all MPs as a class, and the whole Parliamentary system was judged to be rotten to the core.

The long-term crisis of global warming and climate change added to public anxiety and despondency, as more recently has the tragic loss of life of 107 of our soldiers in the war in Afghanistan this year, which has raised serious questions as to what we are trying to do in that benighted country and whether we should be there.

Those who stood accused, whether in the financial sector or in Parliament, were extraordinarily reluctant to accept any personal responsibility for what had happened, claiming that they had not broken any rules - as if that settled the matter. There seems to have been a complete blindness to, or even a total denial of the ethical and moral dimensions of all three crises, but it seems to me it is precisely the lack of an agreed ethics and morality that is at the root of these crises.

With the prospect of an election next year, we live at a time of decision. We face profound decisions as to how we are going to shape the future of our society and world.

But to do so, we need to be clear about our values and principles. In the end, no society can avoid the moral dimension because the decisions which shape our society - decisions about the distribution of resources, justice, equality, fairness, human and civic rights - all entail a decision for one set of values over others.

How we live, how we defeat threats to democracy, economic, social or international - especially in the form of terrorism - requires of us a moral maturity and practical wisdom that can only be nourished if we reflect together and come to a consensus on what values we believe should shape our culture, our politics and our economic activity.

Otherwise, scepticism, cynicism and despondency will continue to erode our sense of trust in institutions, and lead to an increasing democratic deficit - and that is as much a moral as a political deficit.

We need to rediscover our moral purpose and rediscover our core values, as individuals and as a society, if we are to respond wisely and prudently to the various crises we face and if we are to reinvigorate our commitment to human flourishing and true and lasting human fulfilment. …

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Time to Rediscover Vital Core Principles; in the Second of Our Week of Special Essays Written by Wales' Faith Leaders, the Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff Peter Smith Urges Society to Rediscover the Ancient Values of Prudence, Justice, Courage and Temperance to Prevent Political and Economic Collapse
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