Christians “have both a right, and an obligation, to bring their faith to bear in their engagement in politics,” former Taoiseach John Bruton (pictured) has told the International Eucharistic Congress.
Speaking last night in the RDS on the topic of Christianity in politics, Mr Bruton said that he believed that a “separationist “ view aimed at keeping religion out of politics was artificial.
Such a stance “misunderstands human nature” he said.
Voters, he said, “do not divide their minds up into compartments, one marked ‘religious’, another marked ‘political,’ another ‘personal’, and yet another marked ‘family’ and so forth”.
“Faith is not just one compartment of life,” Mr Bruton said.
“What goes on in one part of their mind influences what goes on in the other.”
He added that everyone agreed that ethical beliefs “should influence the actions of political institutions”.
“But, for many people it is impossible for them to separate their ethical beliefs from the religious source from which they spring,” he said.
Mr Bruton said: “Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said that, in modern society, we need to be bilingual, we need to be able to speak the language of faith in our religious community, and the language of the common good in the wider world. And learning another language usually enriches our use of the one we already speak!”
He said that people “live in overlapping communities of families, of neighbourhoods, of workplaces, political parties, nations, sports clubs, and for many....in the community of a church”.
All of these communities, Mr Bruton said “help form a society’s ethos”.
Defending faith-based schools he said: “Religious education has shaped the ethos of Irish society in so many positive ways. One’s heritage of religious belief shapes one’s ethos, even in ways one does not acknowledge. A shared ethos is part of the social capital of any state,” he said.
He added that religion was key in providing and sustaining the trust that society and the market needed to function properly.
Trust, he said, comes “from a shared ethos or belief system in a society, on the basis of which one can anticipate how people one has never met will behave”.
Mr Bruton said: “To a significant degree, it comes from their shared religious beliefs, from their religious heritage, from their religious education.
“It is simple. Markets need ethics, and, for many people, ethics derive from religious belief.”
Mr Bruton also said that the concept of universal human rights ultimately emerged from a Christian outlook.
He said: “I think the whole concept of Human Rights really has a Christian root. Every person counts. If one believes God created each one of us as individuals, that makes it easy to understand why we should respecting the human rights of all other people, who, as Christians, we believe were also individually created by God. That is why every person counts.”
Mr Bruton was warmly applauded when he referred to religious education, the Irish Times reports.
“Anybody that would put that social capital at risk or diminish its value or diminish our ability to pass it on undiminished to the next generation would not be doing a favour to this country,” he said.
During a short question-and- answer session afterwards, a woman who described herself as a Fine Gael voter expressed concern because she thought the party was in government with a party “who profess to approve of abortion”.
What could committed Catholics do “to get Fine Gael on our side”, she asked. Mr Bruton said the argument against abortion should be presented in “completely secular terms” and “the language of human rights” should be used.
He went on to say he had made the speech because he felt a lot of Catholics had become discouraged in recent times by the secularisation of society. “You have many secularists who are saying keep religion separate from politics and keep the Catholics silent and if the Catholics speak up its intimidation,” he said.