Bishop Philip Egan of the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth – pictured above with a glum young novitiate – warned at the weekend that a ‘frightening new Dark Age’ brought on by the end of faith in society is imminent for Britain.
According to this report, he said in an April 15 pastoral letter:
The demise of faith and religion, the demise even of people praying, is rapidly undermining in Britain the foundations of ethics. This dilution of our Christian patrimony threatens to usher in a frightening new Dark Age.
No wonder a death-wish is arising for assisted suicide and euthanasia. As Catholics, as people of life, we cannot ignore these challenges. We must act. We must ask Jesus to help us reach out in love to those around, to assist people develop a personal relationship with God.
In his letter, the Portsmouth bishop touched on sexuality, love, and human dignity. He also discussed a half-century of legalised abortion in England and current government efforts to ban pro-life advocates from helping women outside abortion facilities.
Consider this. It’s over fifty years since the 1967 Abortion Act, one of the most liberal in the world, came into effect. Since then, ten million babies in the UK have been aborted, one in five pregnancies.
As a people of life, our efforts to defend the unborn child, to care for pregnant mothers and to reverse or blunt this Act have had mixed results and it now looks as if, unjustly, our secularist government will no longer allow us even to pray outside hospitals and clinics.
He then explained he was in discussions with pro-life groups and diocesan staff about new ways to witness, and announced a diocesan Day of Prayer and Reparation for Life each year on the Abortion Act’s October 23 anniversary. Priests are asked to offer a Mass for the Progress of Peoples, while wearing the purple vestments of penitence.
The Portsmouth city council voted last fall to ban pro-life vigils outside a local abortion facility. Other British municipalities have also moved to enact buffer zones.
Bishop Egan also mentioned the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, “Blessed” Pope Paul VI’s landmark encyclical reaffirming Catholic teaching on married love and artificial contraception. He called the encyclical “prophetic.”
It restates the Church’s doctrine on the integrity of sexual intercourse, reserved to a husband and wife in marriage, as an act of love open to life and that these two aspects, openness to life and love, must not be split or artificially separated.
Otherwise, the Pope warned, there would be catastrophic consequences for persons, families and societ. Years on, we can now see exactly what he meant in broken family relationships, the reduction of sex to a casual activity, the trafficking of people for prostitution and pornography, the sexualisation of the young and the explosion of addictive behaviours leading to despair, shame and guilt.
There is now in society great confusion and conflict about what it means to be human, about relationships, sexuality and love. but also, most seriously, about the actual value and dignity of human life itself from conception to natural death.
Bishop Egan also released a statement on Wednesday that was critical of proposed “no-prayer zones” surrounding abortion facilities.
In it he said such bubble zones were “disrespectful to vulnerable women” and:
Unhelpful, unjust and unnecessary. Abortion is not a morally neutral topic, nor a taboo. It can cause mother grave psychological damage.
So how can those who speak of a woman’s ‘right to choose’ not also acknowledge a woman’s ‘right to change her mind’?. Or her right to hear other options to choose from?
To remove from the environment of the abortion clinics alternative voices is to limit freedom of choice. Indeed, research shows that many women have been grateful for the last-minute support they have thereby received.