CARDINAL Keith O’Brien, the Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh, has joined an earlier call by the Archbishop of Canterbury and others for a “Robin Hood” tax on financial transactions (News, 25 March 2011).
Cardinal O’Brien wrote to the Prime Minister last week: “From the perspective of the Church, and in the eyes of the public, I’m sure, it is not acceptable for your Government to protect the very wealthiest people in our country at the expense of the poor, as appears the case with your current opposition to the Robin Hood Tax.”
In a statement issued alongside the letter by the Scottish RC aid agency SCIAF, the Cardinal added that it was “shameful” that Mr Cameron was “protecting his wealthy friends in the City by his opposition to this simple, fair and sustainable financial-transactions tax”.
In an interview with BBC Scotland on Sunday about the letter, Cardinal O’Brien described the Prime Minister’s opposition to the Robin Hood tax as “not moral”. He said that the Government had “lost touch really with the reality”.
He said: “The poor have suffered so much in recent years; and when I say poor . . . I mean people who would have thought themselves reasonably well off; people who have saved for their pensions, and now realise their pension funds are no more. . . It is immoral . . . just to ignore them, and to say ‘Just struggle along,’ and the rich can go on sailing on their own sweet way.”
Writing in Prospect magazine this month, the Archbishop of Canterbury criticised treating “monetary accumulation as an absolute goal”, which obscured “the whole of our discourse about shared well-being, or the ‘common good’. . . Politics is trapped in discussion about efficiency and the maximising of choice; the West, at least, is dominated by the assumption that the state exists to protect choice and to do so by protecting financial competitiveness in every sphere.”
Dr Williams said that it was “important that even the non-believer grasp that arguments based on the right to do what I like with what I ‘own’ need some hard scrutiny in a world where commodification has become so much the prevailing trend.”
On Monday, at a meeting hosted by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, and the development agency the Anglican Alliance, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Justin Welby, said: “The question that faces the Church, both domestically and internationally, is that of what is human flourishing — good news — amidst the deep poverty that still grips many parts of the world, and the utter spiritual bankruptcy and increasing material poverty in slump-hit Britain?”
He continued: “The Church has stood well for issues of justice in the House of Lords, and that sense of bias to the poor must be held. It is too easy to lose. . . Justice comes from not being compromised by our own self-protection; it calls for the institution, as well as the individual, to be ready to lose all.”
Question of the Week: Is David Cameron out of touch?