Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols also expressed concern about the
rise of individualism in society.
He described footballers who break their contracts to move to other clubs for
bigger salaries as “mercenaries” and said moves to loosen laws on assisted
suicide were particularly worrying.
His comments in The Sunday Telegraph follow the inquest into the death of
15-year-old Megan Gillan, a student at Macclesfield High School in Cheshire
who took a fatal overdose of painkillers after being bullied on social
networking site Bebo.
Archbishop Nichols said the sites encouraged young people to put too much
emphasis on the number of friends they have rather than on the quality of
“Among young people often a key factor in them committing suicide is the
trauma of transient relationships,” he said.
“They throw themselves into a friendship or network of friendships, then it
collapses and they’re desolate.”
He continued: “It’s an all or nothing syndrome that you have to have in an
attempt to shore up an identity; a collection of friends about whom you can
talk and even boast.
“But friendship is not a commodity, friendship is something that is hard work
and enduring when it’s right.”
Archbishop Nichols said the internet and mobile phones were “dehumanising”
community life and that relationships had been weakened by the decline in
“I think there’s a worry that an excessive use or an almost exclusive use of
text and emails means that as a society we’re losing some of the ability to
build interpersonal communication that’s necessary for living together and
building a community.
“We’re losing social skills, the human interaction skills, how to read a
person’s mood, to read their body language, how to be patient until the
moment is right to make or press a point.
“Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanises what is a very,
very important part of community life and living together.”
The Archbishop, who is a supporter of Liverpool FC, said there was a loss of
loyalty in society that was typified by the attitude of some footballers.
“What football spectators appreciate is a bit of loyalty and we’re seeing that
less and less.
“There are echelons of football, as in society, where some players are clearly
“I regret in a way that somehow the local identification, the local bonding
between the community and its football team has been commercialised to such
He added that assisted suicide “seriously weakens the fabric of mutual
responsibility within society”.
“It leads to the idea that people who require a lot of care ought to be moved
even further off of the scene.
“Once the principle that a human life is disposable by age or illness, then it
won’t be the sick person who is making the decision it will be somebody else
who makes it for them.”
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