The English cardinal continued: “If modern Britain faces a challenge today, it is to recover the language and the spirit of the age of democracy, to forge a meeting place for all citizens. The public sphere is the forum of collective reasoning, and it cannot be a space empty of tradition and particular belief.
“A tolerant society is not one without constitutive beliefs, since its tolerance flows from a very constitutive belief. There is an ethical hunger in our society and it would be tragic if religious convictions did not have a voice in meeting that hunger.”
The archbishop of Westminster pointed out that the Catholic Church “claims only its legitimate part in the political process — to assist the very reasoning which is fundamental to the pursuit of justice.”
“The Church’s task,” he said, “is not to propose technical solutions to questions of governance or economic activity, but to help to form a social culture based on justice, solidarity and truth, for the common good. That is a culture that can form the kind of people who can develop those solutions against a transcendent moral horizon.
“The Church’s task is of nurturing, to assist a public debate that is tolerant, reasoned and inclusive, but within a moral framework which seeks to defend and promote justice and human flourishing.”
“We Catholics,” concluded Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, “and here I am sure I speak, too, for other Christians and all people of faith — do not demand special privileges, but we do claim our rights. We come not to impose, but to serve, according to our beliefs; and to be given the freedom and support to do so, as long as these do not undermine the rights and freedoms of others.
“I appeal to the good sense and fairness of the British people, and to the traditions which have shaped this great nation. I appeal to the need to keep faith with those traditions, lest we pass into a new intolerance which will over time shake the tree of our democracy free of its spiritual fruit.”