Archbishop Nichols challenges government to look beyond financial values

 The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, has issued a challenge to the Gordon Brown Government to look beyond financial measures to help Britain out of severe recession, writes Peter Jennings.

"The Christian faith is a guardian of the true human virtues we need as we begin to live in a time of austerity and hardship", stressed Archbishop Nichols in a hard-hitting sermon on the eve of the Government's Pre-Budget Report in the House of Commons today.

"The root causes of the financial crisis are ethical. Indeed the very term 'credit' comes from 'credere' and indicates that trust and belief are central.

"A market controlled only by regulation, sooner or later, will succumb to its inherent drive for profit at all costs. Of course the profit motive is crucial and responsibility to investors is a significant balancing factor in risk taking," said the Archbishop.

"But what we have seen is that, left to itself, the financial market has no robust external frame of reference, not even a wider economic framework.

"The financial market has behaved as if it exists for itself and within itself and to the benefit of those who are part of it.

"What the market lacked was the perspective and practice of true virtue, which builds trust, and without which every human endeavour is unstable", declared Archbishop Nichols during the annual Civic Mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad Birmingham, yesterday.

The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Chauhdry Abdul Rashid, the Deputy Lieutenant of the West Midlands, Colonel Geoffrey Jones, High Sheriff for the County of West Midlands, Mr Byron Head, Her Majesty's Judges, local councillors and representatives of public services and other faiths, were present in the packed Cathedral, situated in the heart of Birmingham, for the 90 minute service.

"During recent weeks we have often heard the phrase: 'We are living in exceptional times.' Indeed it has become one of the Prime Minister's most quoted remarks," said Archbishop Nichols.

"These are the circumstances in which we come to celebrate this Feast of Christ the King and this Civic Mass in which we ask God's blessing on our endeavours, especially public service.

"We will not find financial or commercial solutions here. But we should gain some insight into our situation, in the light of the truth about our human nature which this Feast expresses, and which faith in God makes clear," emphasised the Archbishop of Birmingham.

"As a society we have neglected the development of shared ethical values and principles to guide and shape our behaviour, believing that to be an unattainable goal, and we have substituted raft after raft of regulation. Society needs the perspective and practice of true virtue.

"Whereas the notion of 'values' is a flexible and friendly one - because a person can establish or negotiate their own values, and accommodate them to their own behaviour - virtues are more demanding.

"A virtue is a personal capacity for action and a power for progress and perfection. The rules of the game alone have never produced a masterful performance. Only dedication, sacrifice and true skill do that. This is the arena of virtue.

"The human virtues guarded by the Church are those of prudence, courage, justice and temperance. These human virtues have their true foundation in the greater, theological virtues: faith hope and love, which bind us to God and to each other", explained the Archbishop, who also spoke about the virtue of mercy.
"Mercy is the virtue by which the application of expected rules is suspended, out of love and compassion," he said.

"A family or society that is incapable of showing mercy to its weak and vulnerable is dead from within. The wooden application of regulation squeezes the life out of us, and can only be rescued or redeemed, by lives of true virtue and above all by mercy, the most precious quality of God," concluded Archbishop Vincent Nichols.

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