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Archbishop calls Big Society vision ‘an opportunity’

By on Friday, 10 June 2011

Archbishop Nichols talks to another speaker at the conference (Mazur/

Archbishop Nichols talks to another speaker at the conference (Mazur/

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster has praised the Government’s Big Society vision as an “opportunity” to build a stronger society.

His remarks contrast dramatically with those of Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, who said this week that the Big Society was a “painfully stale slogan”.

Archbishop Nichols told a conference of Catholic charities yesterday that the Government’s approach could lead to “greater solidarity” and release “energy for local initiative and enterprise”.

But he said this could not be achieved by simply the withdrawal of the state.

The archbishop said: “The risk is that [the Government’s agenda] is conceived in too mechanistic a way, and argued about solely in terms of what the state should or should not do, when in fact it is all the intermediate institutions which give society so much of its shape and identity, and which draw individuals into a deeper sense of connectedness with others.”

Archbishop Nichols praised David Cameron for referring to marriage as an institution that deserves support. He stressed that family stability and care of the elderly were crucial areas in which Catholics and Catholic charities could contribute.

The archbishop made his comments at a conference for Caritas Social Action Network, an umbrella group for Catholic charities in Britain.

He was speaking after the bishops’ conference announced plans to reform the network, giving it a stronger national voice and more powers to co-ordinate Catholic social action.

Last month the bishops asked the Caritas network “to consult widely in coming months, with dioceses, Cafod, and with others, to formulate practical recommendations for our next meeting in November 2011”. 

At their meeting the bishops said they would agree on a charter of recommendations for developing Caritas Social Action Network.

Yesterday Archbishop Nichols said that while the network had “undoubted” strengths, “voices from the ‘grassroots’ were largely unheard”, and its support for social action responding to local needs was “patchy”.

He said: “It seems to be the right time to time to consider developing a coherent Caritas network, at parish, diocesan and national levels, focused on social action to promote mutual support and relationships, and to strengthen national advocacy and a single voice.”

  • Michelle Eves

    I must say his hypocritical stance just confirms what many anglicans already understand about the roman catholics doctrines of division.

    Lol, It wasn’t long ago on this website, the romans were openly berating David Camercons big society.

  • EditorCT

    Should “Archbishop” not be in inverted commas, since  ” Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury” is no such thing?  The Catholic Herald cannot mention the bishops of the SSPX without putting “excommunicated” or “formerly excommunicated” in front of their names, yet a true schismatic like Rowan Williams (and other Protestant “bishops”) is treated with the utmost respect. All part of the “diabolical disorientation” of which Our Lady of Fatima warned.

    As for Archbishop Nichols – who cares what he thinks or says about anything?  His promotion of “gay” Masses has cost him his credibility … and then some.  So he thinks it’s the right time to focus (even more) on “social action” – who cares?

  • Graham

    It would appear that the media is trying to create an Anglican Vs. Roman Catholic fight (there are so many actual differences I don’t know why they felt the need to create a new one but whatever!).  As far as I am aware the Archbishop of Westminster has always said that the Big Society can be a force for good but we need to be careful of the risks.  This doesn’t contrast drastically with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s views if you are prepared to read beyond the headlines (headlines by their very nature always oversell the story).  William’s doesn’t just want the Big Society to mean government spending cuts and neither does Archbishop Nichols.  This should be something for the 2 churches to unite around.  If they work together they can help define the Big Society so lets ditch silly bickering for bickering’s sake.

  • Blessed unity

    Thank you Graham, I agree with your reasoned response. It is possible to agree with Dr Williams and Archbishop Nichols. As people working in “the big society” and trying to bring social justice particualry to the most vulnerable in our society, that this is very complex. I guess the vision would be that all members of our society can have some sense of belonging to it and for each person to be able to make a contribution. This cannot be done completely by government nor should government relinquish it’s role under the umbrella of “cuts.” It has been said in dialogue between these two churches that what unites us is far more important than what divides us. As Graham said, what a fantastic opportunity for the 2 churches to work together for the good of society.

  • RC

    Archbishop Nichols praised David Cameron for referring to marriage as an institution that deserves support.

    As David Cameron has made clear again and again, his support for “marriage” has little to do with a Christian understanding of that institution. As early as 2006 he was saying,

    “There’s something special about marriage. It’s not about religion. It’s not about morality. It’s about commitment. When
    you stand up there, in front of your friends and your family, in front
    of the world, whether it’s in a church or anywhere else, what you’re
    doing really means something. Pledging yourself to another means doing something brave and important. You are making a commitment. You are publicly saying: it’s not just about “me, me, me” anymore. It is about we: together, the two of us, through thick and thin. That really matters. And by the way, it means something whether you’re a man and a woman, a woman and a woman or a man and another man. That’s why we were right to support civil partnerships, and I’m proud of that.”

  • Anonymous

    There can never BE more than one Church, so it is a pity to see Catholics slipping into the error of speaking and writing about “two (or more) churches”.

  • Anonymous

    There can never BE more than one Church, so it is a pity to see
    Catholics slipping into the error of speaking and writing about “two
    (or more) churches”.

  • Graham

    With all due respect and in a spirit of peace, I think the argument you present is unhelpful or at least missing the point.  There is most certainly a group called the Church of England and there is a group called the Roman Catholic Church.  Therefore there is a plurality of organisations under the name of churches.  Yes, there is only one capitalised Church (a term I didn’t refer to as it was not relevant to the point I was trying to make) but if you expect me to pretend Anglicans don’t exist as some of my fellow traditionalists would have me do, or if you expect me to pretend we all believe exactly the same, as many liberals would seem to desire me to do, you will be waiting a very long time indeed.

  • Anonymous

     With all due respect, and in a spirit of obedience to the truths of the Faith, even the liberal Cardinal Ratzinger made it clear that we are to refer to these  schismatic groups as “ecclesial groups” (i.e. ‘church-like groups”) – they are NOT “Churches” and they are not “sister Churches” – spelt out in Dominus Jesus for all the world – and every Protestant – to read.

  • Graham

    Just for future reference, so that I can be as holy and obedient to the Holy Catholic Church as yourself (considering that you are someone clearly well educated about the Catholic faith), how should I refer to the Church of England in future?  The “Ecclesial Group of England” or “Church-like Group of England”?

  • Anonymous


    Obviously, for practical reasons, we tend to describe these ecclesial groups as “the Church of England” or “the Church of Scotland” or whatever they’ve called themselves, just as we would describe Obama as the “President of America” even though there are substantial allegations about his lack of right to that office. It would be cumbersome to have to keep explaining that when, e.g. simply reporting a news item about him or, in the case of the C of E, a news item about that ecclesial group. In writing and in conversation, when reporting news items or other matters to do with Anglicans, if I can’t use the term “Anglicans” or “Anglicanism” I use the term “The Church of England” since, by habit and repute, Anglicans have come to be known by that title.  Not, note, by any divine authority, however, but simply by (human) habit and repute.

    However, I NEVER refer to “the two churches” as if the self-styled Protestant ecclesial groups are equal to the one Church founded by Christ.

    I hope this clarifies what I meant.  

  • Anonymous

    Well if we’re going to split hairs then the Chinese equivalent of the Church of England is known as ‘The State Run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association’ i.e. those Catholic in China who are not allowed to practice Catholicism due to state control.

    So let’s take this concept back 400 years and re-christen the Church of England – ‘THE STATE RUN ENGLISH PATRIOTIC CATHOLIC ASSOCIATION’.

    There we go. Simple solution.

  • Alan

    As others note this is a rather poor attempt to put clear water between two men who are agreed most of the way:

  • Anonymous

    Mr Cameron how does cutting funding to charities help the big society? Please answer below:

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    “President of America”

    No. “America” is not a political entity; it is a geographic term that encompasses most of the Western Hemisphere. “America” can refers to all or part of North, Central, and South America. North America includes Canada, The United States, Mexico, and several island nations such as Cuba and Jamaica. Central America includes Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, etc. And South America is made up of Brazil, Colombia, Argentiana, Uruguay, and others.

    Unless and until the entire Western Hemisphere comes under a single government, there can be no “President of America.”

    George Washington was the first President of the United States of America, or more succinctly, the first U.S. President. Mr. Obama is the forty-fourth and current U.S. President. 

    We who live in the United States of America say that we live in “the U.S.”, and that we are “U.S. citizens” or “U.S. residents.” Our elected and political office-holders are representatives of the United States of America (or “the U.S.”)

    In short, all references to the U.S. as a political entity should use U.S. or the United States, never “America”. It is true that as a people and a nationality, we are called and call ourselves “Americans,” but that is only because to say “United Statesian” would be a monstrosity of the highest order.

  • EditorCT

    For goodness sake – we all know it’s the United States of America.  Are you for real?   The point I was making still stands – I was merely pointing out that there are question marks over Obama’s right to be PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA but we still call him “President” or “Mr President.”  Unbelievable.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Don’t “unbelievable” me, pal.

    Get your facts straight before you spout off. And if you don’t want to be bothered with that, then realize you will be spouting solecisms from time to time, then have the good taste to accept corrections with grace.

    And ‘ call yourself an “editor”.

    *That’s” what I call unbelievable.

  • EditorCT

    If I’d realised it bothered you  so much II would certainly have apologised with bucket loads of “grace” for having said “President of America” instead of “President of the United States of America.”  Forgive me, I DO apologise, I’m SO sorry, hope I’ve not started an international dispute. Not my intention. In any event, whether President of America or President of the USA, Obama’s a disaster.

    I’m only an amateur editor in a voluntary capacity, having been asked to do the necessary to publish a newsletter for concerned Catholics to report on the crisis in the Church as it worsens before our very eyes this past twelve or so years.  There’s no big deal about it. If you don’t want to call me “editor” call me whatever you want – you won’t find me quibbling about it.  What, after all, as they say, is in a name? 

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Not interested in apologies.

    Am interested only to see that the U.S.A., its citizens, and its elected officials are referred to by their correct name.

    If one is a mature and classy individual, when someone does correct one, one will reply with something along the lines of, “Thanks. Duly noted for future reference,” or something of that nature, and then move on.

    Beyond that, absolutely nothing more is needed.

    I’ve been corrected for referring to the present Queen as “the Queen of England.”

    “She’s not ‘the Queen of England,” my British interlocutors chime in, “she’s the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”

    Best response, “Right you are. Will remember for the future.”

  • R Wenner

    Archbishop Nichols’ endorsement of anything political is tainted by his attempted “equalitarian” Left-wing social engineering to destroy the principles of Catholic education at Cardinal Vaughn Memorial school.  Not to mention his “Gay Masses” — a tacit endorsement of sinful lifestyle.   

  • EditorCT

    I’m afraid there’s nothing “tacit” about his support for “gay” Masses any more – he’s hosting a conference for LGBT Catholics in his pastoral centre next week and he’s clearly not convinced that Catholic teaching on homosexuality in written in any tablet of  stone.  See the video  posted at  Oh and make sure you  clidk on his photo  to read a little commentary from the very naughty editor of Catholic Truth…  She really is a  bad girl.

  • Anonymous

    Nothing tacit about his support for the Soho Masses – he has given his EXPLICIT support and told critics of the Masses to ‘hold their tongues’ – see here for evidence of that and more dissent.  The latest outrage was the ‘Gay Pride’ Mass at Soho on July 3rd.  Further evidence of that here:- and here:-