Soon to retire Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has caused a stir by telling a gathering of businessmen that "capitalism is dead" as a result of the current world economic crisis.
The UK Telegraph reports Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, 76, made the claim at a lavish fundraising dinner at Claridges which secured pledges of hundreds of thousands of pounds for the restoration of Westminster Cathedral.
The Cardinal, dressed in his full clerical regalia, said in a speech at the black tie dinner that he had worried whether the dinner should go ahead because of the troubled economic times.
But he went on to say that in 1989, with the collapse of the Berlin wall, that "communism had died". In 2008, he said, "capitalism had died".
The paper says that Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's remarks will cause dismay in Downing Street as the Cardinal's remarks will be interpreted as a signal that the entire economic order has collapsed.
The Government has clashed with the Cardinal before over homosexual adoption, abortion and the Embryology Bill. One Whitehall source said: "We would like the Church to work with us, not against us."
The remark caused astonishment in the ballroom, where the dinner was held, to launch an £8 million "Faith in the Future" appeal for money for the work of the bishops in England and Wales.
One guest who was present, who declined to be named, said: "I could hardly believe my ears. The Cardinal announced that, in his view, that Communism had died in 1989 and capitalism had died in 2008 because of the credit crisis.
"His remarks were part of a carefully considered thesis that it was capitalism that had got us into this mess and had died because of it. It was not just remarkable that he thinks that but it was remarkable that he said it in a room packed with some of the richest and most influential Catholics in the land. Those same capitalists pledged a six figure sum to the Church appeal."
The four course dinner, with a champagne reception, had been provided free of charge by Derek Quinlan, the property developer, who owns Claridges who is worth an estimated £60 million.
Last month the Cardinal issued a statement on the economic crisis which said: "Religious leaders are not normally economists, however, they cannot ignore the damaging human consequences of the rise and fall of economic indicators. Behind the gloomy headlines are cities, neighbourhoods, families, individuals deeply affected by the economic breakdown; and the hardest hit will be the poor: those already struggling to survive. Christians have a paramount concern for the poor. This "preferential option for the poor" is a constant theme in Catholic social teaching."
A spokesman for the Cardinal said: "They were private remarks at a private dinner."
Cardinal says credit crisis has killed capitalism (UK Telegraph, 6/1/09)
UK''s Roman Catholic Cardinal says credit crisis has killed capitalism (ThaiIndian, 6/1/09)