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11 January, 2013

The following letter appeared as the lead letter in the Christmas and New Year double issue of The Tablet, the leading Roman Catholic weekly magazine in the UK, datelined 22/29 December:

Structures of virtue

Clifford Longley in his column on the Crisis of Capitalism symposium (8 December) asks if we can talk about a structure of virtue that will help firms or newspapers cultivate the moral character of decision-makers. There is one that originated in Britain, which called us to live a life by the absolute moral standards of honesty, purity, unselfishness and love. The institution promoting this was called Moral Re-Armament (MRA), and had among its Catholic supporters Sir Arnold Lunn and Cardinal Koenig, who greatly admired the national conciliation and personal change work they encountered. The men and women who introduced me to MRA 30 years ago were among the finest people I have ever met.

But the British temperament is suspicious of "moral" people and organisations, and much of the media has consistently tried to bring them down despite the huge contribution that MRA made to French/German reconciliation and to struggling Japan after the war. Nevertheless, I have worked alongside MRA in the UK, Eastern Europe and India, and I have never seen such a successful application of virtue ethics. In India, the civil service sends thousands of managers to the MRA centre on ethical courses, as do Siemens, and business schools. In July, the centre in Switzerland (the movement is now known as Initiatives of Change) held a major conference on resource corruption in Africa. In the UK, the centre has worked with top bankers on the ethical leadership issues raised in the last five years, and in 2000 the late Bill Porter spearheaded the Sarajevo Commitment to integrity and public service in the media.

There is a successful structure of virtue, but it demands the courage to change, and belief that then God will get things to happen.

(Dr) John Carlisle
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

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