Jacob Rees-Mogg has urged Catholics not to allow their faith to dissuade them from entering political life.
He was addressing a group of young adults at a Catholic social teaching retreat last weekend at Downside Abbey, one of England’s leading Benedictine schools.
Mr Rees-Mogg spoke of the public’s reaction following his interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain last September, when he said he was opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion, including in extreme circumstances such as rape and incest.
“The letters I had from people I had no connection with at all was overwhelmingly we disagree with you but we’re so pleased you said what you thought,” he said.
“If any of you Catholics are thinking about going into the public service be reassured that society is willing to accept your fundamental beliefs and allow you to advance your arguments.”
Mr Rees-Mogg, who has been touted as possible replacement for Theresa May, also encouraged the audience to consider a religious vocation, which he believes is a “much higher form of service” than politics.
“The sacrifice made by monks and nun is terrific and not just in our service but most importantly the service to God.
“If any of you have that call, that you’re objecting as the prophet Samuel so famously did when he was called, you are being called to do the most wonderful thing, for which the laity can only have the greatest gratitude and respect and admiration,” he said.
The retreat focused on Catholic social teaching, including a study on the universal destination of goods, which professes that each person must have access to the level of well-being necessary for his full development.
When asked by a member of the audience how this concept ought to manifest in political life, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I don’t think Catholic social teaching can get away from the fact that Capitalism is the best way to construct a secular society… and it ought to operate within the bounds of revealed truth – not really within the bounds of political theory.
“I accept and believe in the doctrine and papal infallibility…I also think that the Holy Ghost picks our Pope for us as leader of the Church. But if our leader starts waving in on political matters where he is not infallible that undermines the Holy Father where he is infallible because if you are wrong about one thing he can be wrong about another thing.”
Elsewhere in his address, Mr Rees-Mogg raised concerns regarding the use of genetic experimentation and modification.
“It has been sold as creating a cure for disease but it doesn’t, it creates a different person,” he said.
“Had you known from DNA that Beethoven was going to go deaf and you created a Beethoven that wasn’t going to go deaf, would you have had a Beethoven?
“Take Margaret Thatcher: Imagine that she was going to get dementia and you had done some genetic engineering to make sure she wouldn’t, what would happen to this country if we never had Margaret Thatcher? What happens when you interfere in the very course of human nature – the very individuals that would otherwise not have been born?”
He added: “And is not the teaching of the Church a great protection for us of saving us from a society where everyone is so perfect that there is no real individuality.”