Britain is becoming a divided country where people no longer trust those governing them, a British bishop with a long track record of working to further the Church’s social and charitable efforts has said.
Bishop William Kenney, a former Chairman of Caritas Europe now serving in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, believes last week’s General Election results underline the need for a renewed politics based on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and the dignity of the human person.
“I think the result shows, yet again, that the country is seriously divided, whether it is over our future relationship with the European Union or other things, and that’s why it ended in a hung parliament,” the Birmingham auxiliary told The Tablet.
“Like other bishops I go around parishes and I meet people who want their lives back. So many people are struggling financially and in virtually every parish I go to there’s a Foodbank. Many people are struggling, and there’s a sense that nobody cares. While the Church cares and does what it can, many are very disappointed with all politicians."
He added: “We have a dangerous situation in our society where people no longer trust those who are governing them.”
One of the problems of the British electoral system, according to Bishop Kenney, is that it makes people feel their vote doesn't matter. Critics of the current set-up say that in certain constituencies dominated by Labour or Conservative, voting against the status quo makes no difference. The 71-year-old bishop suggests this can lead to a disconnect between people and government.
“The situation [in the UK] is not helped by the the first past the post system,” he said. “This is supposed to give us stability, but it is giving us anything but. We need to go onto a system of proportional representation where literally every vote counts.”
Along with leading the Church’s charitable arm in Europe, Kenney was also vice-chairman of Caritas Internationalis and spent large parts of his ministry in Sweden, becoming an auxiliary bishop in Stockholm. Since moving to Birmingham in 2006, he has worked to build up the local church’s charity work and is a member of the advisory board of the Oxford-based Las Casas institute which promotes Catholic social doctrine. This body of teaching balances the need for governments to show solidarity with the poor, while allowing for subsidiarity, the idea that decisions to be taken at their appropriate level. This seeks to avoid the two temptations of a government of either excessive centralisation which stifles freedoms or a 'laissez-faire' approach that ignores peoples’ suffering.