Patten turns money into morals

9th June 1995 at 01:00
Never mind about whipping the money-lenders from the House of God. Or rendering up the cash unto Caesar. Capitalism is an excellent thing, says former education secretary John Patten, and should be taught in religious education.

This is the voice of one crying in the wilderness; the political wilderness. After his disastrous rise and fall from high office, Mr Patten's bid for born-again credibility as a Conservative thinker yesterday took him back to old ground in a lecture at the Westminster Theatre in London: "Christian values in education".

Or more remarkably, commercial values in RE lessons. "Vigorous capitalism with its own strong moral component is something which is a positive good, if put to good uses," he told the clerics and notables gathered to celebrate the Catholic Westminster Cathedral's centenary.

"It should be thus recognised, taught and praised by Christians and others, both from the pulpit and in the classroom.

"We need the help of religious education," he continued, "in order to underpin a re-born theology of work which in its turn can be a foundation for the moral legitimacy of the free market."

Much of the sermon had a familiar ring. Schools should not be "value-free zones", he said - again. He attacked the recidivist teacher-training colleges where "relativism rules OK". Assemblies should be thoroughly Christian, children must respect authority, and capitalism should be moral.

But in a theological departure perhaps more reminiscent of Trump Tower than Westminster Cathedral, Mr Patten, a Roman Catholic, then said that morality should be capitalist. "Ownership supports family life, helps to make men and women free, and keeps the state in its box," he said.

Trade is all about promises being made and kept; contracts honoured, responsibilities acknowledged; duties undertaken; and individuality respected.

"It is vital for teachers to make their pupils aware of the moral challenges and necessities of capitalism, for this is the world that their charges will enter."

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