An interesting article by Matthew Taylor of Radio 4's analysis on the current impact that the Roman Catholic Church is having on the political landscape in Britain today.
A new zeitgeist is capturing business people, academics and political players from both the Left and Right, looking for an ethical alternative for our time. Their inspiration? Catholic teaching. In many ways these are difficult times for the Catholic Church. Congregations in England are still in decline, child abuse scandals around the world have cast a long shadow and in many areas of policy - from euthanasia to gay marriage - the church's fixed positions make it sound outdated and out of touch.
Yet in the last couple of months I have received some intriguing invitations from Catholic friends: one to an event on business ethics organised by Catholic bishops and featuring some of our most high-profile corporate leaders. Another to a discussion of the progressive values after the credit crunch with prominent Labour advisors and Catholic theologians. The common thread running through these events is a set of ideas going under the name "Catholic Social Teaching". I set out to understand more about these ideas, to find out why they are engaging so many different groups of people right now, and whether their current influence is likely to make any substantive difference to policy or politics.
Although its roots can be traced back not just to the Bible, but to the ideas of Aristotle, rediscovered in the 13th Century by St Thomas Aquinas, the modern expression of Catholic Social Teaching came in an encyclical - the highest form of papal teaching - titled Rerum Novarum and issued in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII. The Pope offered the "gift" of Catholic social thought to a troubled world. He called on the one hand for compassion for the poor and respect for the dignity of labour and, on the other hand, for respect for property and the family - all held together by the core idea of the common good.