Saturday, 24 May 2008

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor in the Telegraph

ZENIT has carried a report of an article by Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, published in yesterday's Telegraph (a national newspaper normally associated with more conservative political trends). The full text can also be found on the website of the Westminster Archdiocese. I think it makes a very good contribution to the current discussion.

The following paragraph could be seen as a precise clarification of the concerns raised as a result of Archbishop Nichols' remarks on Radio 4, which were the subject of some severe comment elsewhere in the blogosphere:

"Second, the vote to maintain the current status quo on abortion is not the end of the question. The idea of 'viability', prominent in the debate, is a concept dependent on the availability of resources and technology; not one that is able to found a moral distinction between a life that is worth our respect and protection and one that is not."

There is also a section which gives a careful account of the relationship of faith and reason, and how this relationship can play out in public debate. I commented on Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's concluding lecture in the "Cardinal's Lectures" series that this was a theme that had not been fully developed.

"But science remains a human activity. It takes place in moral space not a moral vacuum. What we are dealing with are profound ethical judgments which are informed, but not determined, by the insights of science. Our views will be shaped not only by scientific facts but also by our basic understanding of what a human life is, and also our philosophy of life (which may or may not be informed by a religious belief). Science cannot replace ethics.

"I believe there is no conflict between faith and reason, and the positions articulated by people of faith about the ethical basis of law should, like those of anyone else, be tested at the bar of reasoned debate. They should not be excluded or marginalised simply because they come from a religious perspective, and nor should they be given special privilege in democratic debate.

"The Church puts forward its teaching, but does not seek to impose its views nor indeed to tell any individual how to vote. What matters is the appeal to reason and intellectual argument, and the coherence of the vision of human life that we present. Reason and faith go hand in hand, and, for me, faith brings an insight into the truth which helps reason."

Cardinal Murphy O'Connor calls in his article for the establishing of a statutory National Bioethics Committee. I am not sure that this would meet the need that he sees it meeting - it would all depend on who was appointed to the Committee ... Others who have a greater knowledge of the personalities who are likely to be involved in such a body might be able to make a more informed comment about it than I can.

1 comment:

Joe said...

As a PS to this post. If my memory serves me correctly, there is some consonance between Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's presentation of the contribution that religious faith can make to public debate and the content of Pope Benedict XVI's address prepared for delivery at La Sapienza in January.