British Catholics' prophetic role: US Jesuits

Though relatively small in number, Catholics in Britain can still contribute to important debates
Though relatively small in number, Catholics in Britain can still contribute to important debates

The Jesuits in America have been looking at the state of the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom and have concluded that, while Catholicism is a smaller 'minority faith' compared with the Church of England, it is increasingly mindful of the prophetic role it can play on difficult challenges facing society, although it sometimes operates 'under the radar'.

Writing in this week's edition of the Jesuit journal America, correspondent Michael O'Loughlin says the Catholic Church in Britain is increasingly vocal on many fronts and cites the case of business ethics as an example. He recalls that, in 2011, a former Goldman Sachs banker approached Cardinal Vincent Nichols because he felt that the Church could contribute to the conversation that followed the global financial crisis. "They created a framework for ethical business principles, the basic premise of which is that when businesses are clear about their mission and see themselves as part of their communities, both workers and employers can be successful," he writes.

Mr O'Loughlin, who is America’s international correspondent, was in Britain recently to serve on a panel at the University of Cambridge about disagreement in the media; and, while on a visit to London, he interviewed Cardinal Nichols at his residence near Westminster Cathedral. "The underlying argument is that if you’re clear about your purposes, if your purpose is broad-based and ethical, in fact you’ll be profitable," Cardinal Nichols explained to him during the interview.International correspondent Michael O'Loughlin with Pope Francis, 2015

A prophetic role in society

Today, this framework for ethical business principles stands on its own, called A Blueprint for Better Business, explains O'Loughlin. "When asked why, the cardinal told me it was, in part, because there is still some suspicion of the Church in the United Kingdom. But in order for the endeavour to be successful, and to get buy-in from the business community, organisers decided early on to incorporate it separately from the Church."

In analysing the involvement of the Catholic Church in British society, the article in America also highlights other issues over which the hierarchy have spoken out, including the rights of other religious minorities in the country and the government’s policy on the child refugee crisis facing Europe.

Michael O'Loughlin concludes: "Folks I talked to all seemed to agree that the relatively small size of the Church affects how Catholics operate in the public square, cautious not to rock the boat but increasingly mindful of the prophetic role it can play on difficult challenges facing society."

You can read the full article in the 14 March issue of America, the Jesuit review.