“Christianity has almost been vanquished in Britain” the surprising view of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the recently appointed Archbishop of Westminster, given in a speech on Wednesday to the National Conference of Roman Catholic Priests.

Last year the Archbishop of Canterbury expressed a similar sentiment: “A tacit athiesm prevails. Death is assumed to be the end of life. Our concentration of the here-and-now renders a thought of eternity irrelevant.” Reports of what the Cardinal said are incomplete, because his remarks did not appear in the advance copy of his speech, but journalists were present and took notes.

He also said, “There is indifference to Christian values and to the Church among many people. You see a demoralised society. One where the only good is what I want, the only rights are my own, and the only life with any meaning or value is the life I want for myself.” While one must respect Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor for the realism and frankness with which he spoke (he also acknowledged the damage done to the Church by the scandal of paedophile priests) it is surely wrong of him to assume that it is not possible to be concerned about others without being a practising Christian.

Are there no good, caring, selfless, moral people who are of other non-Christian religions, or no religion at all? By the same token, is the Archbishop of Canterbury right to think that one is necessarily an athiest because one does not believe absolutely in life after death? The Christian churches face growing and widespread scepticism about some of the fundamentals of their belief; this is the issue they have to face before blaming society at large.

Ray Fleming

Hardly top secret

Open Secret is the not very original title of Dame Stella Rimington's memoirs which are due to be published next week; Dame Stella was the first female head of MI5, Britain's secret service, until her retirement in 1996 when she was invited to join the board of Marks & Spencer.

Of one thing we can be quite sure there will be no secrets in the book, either open or closed. Even though efforts to dissuade Dame Stella from publishing her memoirs failed, the manuscript has been subjected to the usual vetting process for books by senior civil servants and military personnel. Nonetheless, it will be the first book of its kind written by a top official of a highly sensitive security department. It is difficult to see what useful purpose will be served by the publication of these memoirs. Since they will contain nothing of substance touching on national security, what is left will inevitably be the usual self-justification for a job well done and the usual claims that it could have been done even better if others had not been obstructive, inefficient and blockheaded. There have already been hints that Dame Stella's boss, Sir Richard Wilson, who is now Cabinet Secretary, will seek exceptional authority to refute some of the accusations of meddling that she has made against him.

He would be better advised to ignore the book; Dame Stella's judgement is sufficiently put in question by the very fact of this book's appearance.