John Bruton, the former Taoiseach of Ireland, gave the Michael Fogarty Memorial Lecture at the Centre for Christian Democracy on November 23. He said: “Christian democracy is as relevant today as it was when Michael Fogarty studied Catholic social teaching in the 1930s. Getting involved in politics is one of the best ways to promote Christian values. The secularist view that faith should not influence politics is naïve and betrays a lack of understanding of human nature.”
This was the starting point for John Bruton’s lecture. Quoting Pope Benedict, he contrasted universal Christian democrat values with various forms of individualism and nationalism. “We share a passion for universal truth,” he said, “with others, including Muslims, which helps us recognise with fundamental seriousness the things that are really important.”
He saw the credit boom as having masked fundamental problems such as “young people who drop out, qualified only to do jobs Chinese or Vietnamese can do more cheaply”.
“Globalisation,” he said, “brought great rewards to those who had the skill to position themselves at the busy crossroads of the information society, but it has left many people behind, and great unfairness.”
On the present economic crisis, he came back to Pope Benedict: “Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfil its proper economic function. And today it is this trust that has ceased to exist, and the loss of trust is a great loss. And where does trust come from? To a significant degree it comes from religious beliefs.”
Questioned on the Irish crisis, he defended the European Union and the euro: “Of course we didn’t get it quite right when we created the euro, but it’s better than before. We’re learning by experience. The critics should see it as a tribute to the British pragmatic way of muddling through. There were things we can blame on Europe, but a lot of the fault is Ireland’s. We should have banned 100 per cent mortgages. The euro is good for Europe. It has helped us avoid ‘beggar-my-neighbour’ devaluations. We have to realise that the economic situation throughout Europe is the same as in 1930 but the terrible consequences have not been the same: the euro has brought a degree of stability.”