Catholic leader attacks post-modern, post-Christian culture of disintegration and disengagement which, he says, is creating a violent and unhappy country
BY ANABEL INGE
THE ARCHBISHOP of Glasgow has hit out at the growing pmblem of yobbishness.
Archbishop Mario Conti appealed for people to recognise the ever-greater fragmentation of society and the disengagement "manifest in almost any area of life you care to mention".
Speaking at the Nexus Exhibition at Glasgow's Scottish Exhibition Conference Centre, he said "While we need to be generous in recognising the many achievements of our society in the fields of medicine, education, commerce, we need to point out the growing lawlessness, the loss of respect for human life and the family, the dependency of so many on addictive substances , the damage done to the human and natural environment and the ill-effect of globatisation on the poorest of the poor.
"It is time for all of us to realise that in order to build a civilised society we have to accept our responsibilities in biblical terms we have to acknowledge that 'we are our brother's keeper'."
The prelate was speaking after a string of murders and violent incidents took place across the county, notably the shooting of 11-year-old schoolboy Rhys Jones, who was killed as he walked home in Croxteth, Liverpool, just over a week ago. His murder shocked the nation and stimulated a fresh debate about the growing problem of gun crime.
Senior police officers have said that the number of teenagers involved in gun crime in big cities is on the rise. In London alone, at least 17 teenagers have been shot dead this year.
The Croxteth shooting prompted Anglican Bishop James Jones of Liverpool to question the sort of society Britain was becoming.
In Archbishop Conti's city of Glasgow, a woman was raped recently after passing motorists ignored her pleas for hdp as her attacker chased her through the city centre.
Although the woman desperately tried to flag down cars along a busy stretch of mad, nobody stopped and she was forced into some bushes and raped.The next day an 18year-old was seriously assaulted in a Glasgow street. He died later in hospital.
Archbishop Conti said that the Church needed to make it a priority to convey its message to all who are "immersed in a culture that is both post-modem and post-Christian". To this "prevailing culture", Archbishop Conti attributed two characteristics: disengagement and fragmentation.
"Take for example membership of Trades Unions," he said. "Thirty years ago more than 12 million Britons were union members. Today, membership is about half that number.
"Of course, social and employment conditions have changed, but something more subtle is also at work as Richard Hyman, professor of industrial relations at the London School of Economics points out: 'Being a union member has ceased to be the social norm, and a new gener ation has grown up who not only are not trade unionists, but whose parents have never been in unions either.'
"Does that not have a familiar ring to it? Change just a couple of words `a new generation has grown up who not only are not churchgoers, but whose parents have never been in church either' . And that extends to work also: a whole generation has grown up of which many are not at work but whose parents were not working either. "Whether as a result of circumstance or choice we could map a similar decline in membership of the political parties, cultural societies, clubs, community councils, youth groups whatever.
"All of this involves a loss of the sense of community of togetherness, of belonging.
The archbishop decried the "fragmentation" of family, local communities and of different social classes. He said that "there are perhaps everincreasing differences in the social classes in respect of their lifestyle and expectations across the city.
"Life expectancy and health patterns differ greatly, district by district, as statistics illustrate. Drug and alcohol dependency mask a poverty of spirit which is truly disturbing."
The prelate said that the Church must rise to these challenges in its midst. "While we must not exaggerate these cultural phenomena we cannot at the same time ignore them," he said. "They describe the social context within which the Churchand other institutions must operate: therein arise our challenges."
Archbishop Conti has spoken out against political apathy before. In April he called on Scottish Catholics to vote in the May elections. Concerned that increasing numbers of voters were neglecting their rights as citizens, he said that "whether this [trend] be out of a conviction that one cannot change the political spectrum or whether out of apathy, it is not right. We should exercise our citizen's right and duty to vote to have a share in the election of those who offer themselves and their parties for government". Last month the prelate rallied to the defence of the family in response to the draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, which threatened to remove the legal guarantee that children need fathers.