BY SIMON CALDWELL
CATHOLICS can help to renew the moral health of wider society by living virtuous lives, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has said.
He said that if worshippers used Lent to try to identify their faults and seek forgiveness for them they would become capable of helping to regenerate a sinful society.
He urged worshippers to work in particular to cultivate the cardinal virtues of prudence, fortitude, justice and temperance. He said such a commitment would be more effective than any political programme for reform.
The Archbishop said that if Catholics first turned back to God in Confession then patiently built up the practice of the virtues they would not only “contribute to the good of our society but also stay faithful to the Lord and to the building of his Kingdom”.
“These virtues help us to build a good, healthy society in a way that no political programme can ever achieve,” said Archbishop Nichols in a pastoral letter read out at Masses last weekend. “No amount of new regulations will nurture these virtues, for they are found in the kind of person we are trying to be and in what we do when no one is looking. Effective politics, and effective economics, actually depend on there being a morally healthy society in which we all recognise the importance of the common good, the potential for flourishing within every single person and the encouragement of virtue.
“These are important considerations as we prepare for a general election. As well as examining the party manifestos with their wide-ranging policies, we would do well to ask how the different parties intend to help this kind of human flourishing.” Archbishop Nichols drew attention to Choosing the Common Good, the pre-election statement published by the bishops earlier this month.
The Archbishop said that while the document primarily concerns the election “it is substantially about matters that can never be decided by an election”.
“It is about the health of our society,” he said.
Catholic social teaching, on which the document is based, is a rich resource for us all, he said.
“Familiarity with this teaching will also help us to make the most of the wonderful prospect of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in September. As the details of the programme of this visit emerge, we will see how important our social teaching really is and the huge significance of the Holy Father’s presence in our society as a courageous witness to the truth of our humanity and to the truth of our Christian faith.”