ROME, July 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - If you were to ask the average, ordinary British person, whether Catholic or not, what the most pressing subject matter would be for the Catholic Church’s annual “Day for Life,” what do you think they might say? What do the words “life issues” and “Catholic” usually mean to people who are, well, sane? Apparently, to the English and Welsh Catholic Bishops, firmly ensconced as they would like to become in the country’s ruling liberal elite establishment, it means … wait for it …
You know, the sporting event. Oh, and the importance of living a “healthier, more balanced and environmentally sensitive lifestyle”. The official theme for this year’s Day for Life, July 29th, is “Use your body for the glory of God.” The front cover of the leaflet shows a woman swimming. Yes, the mind boggles.
Day for Life, “celebrates an extraordinary gift: the human body. It recognizes the marvelous achievements of the human body in events such as the Olympic and Paralympic games to be held in London this year, and the Commonwealth Games to be held in Scotland in 2014.”
In their Message the bishops hint darkly that sometimes, in our otherwise wonderfully enlightened times, people might sometimes have funny ideas about ending the life of bodies before the, ahem, duly appointed time: “Day for Life invites us therefore to show respect for the dignity of our body in every moment of its existence, from conception to natural death… From the first moment of conception, where the unique ‘genetic plan’ of my body is already present, to the moment of natural death, my body is part of God’s eternal plan for me.”
They briefly shave close to the actual issue with: “Where there is a lack of respect for the right to life from conception to natural death, where human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial and human embryos are sacrificed to research, then the conscience of society loses its sensitivity to the ecology of the human person and, with it, to the gift and treasure of Creation itself.” Then they head briskly back to the thicker ice of environmentalism.
The tasteless terms “abortion,” and “euthanasia,” however, do not appear. To find them, we have to rewind to the theme of 2007, “The sacredness of human life,” which offered a little catechism with helpful explanations :
“What does the Church mean by pro-life? To be pro-life means to promote human dignity and development in every sphere of life; to say ‘yes’ to life…
“The Church is opposed to all direct attacks against innocent human life e.g. abortion, abortifacient pills and devices, the abortion pill and the morning after pill, destructive embryo and embryonic stem cell research, genetic engineering, euthanasia, etc. because it believes that every life has purpose, meaning and inherent value.”
But even when the theme was was specifically about abortion, on the 40th anniversary of the nation’s Abortion Act, that was more or less the last we heard of the A-word, which was mentioned a grand total of three times in 2007. Euthanasia, once. After 2007, the themes have been, in order, “mental health,” “suicide,” “the Christian meaning of death” and “happiness”. Isn’t that nice?
Dr. William Oddie, author and columnist for the Catholic Herald doesn’t seem to think so. He called it “the most grotesque and cynical example” of the English bishops “persistent failure” to follow the example of the late Pope John Paul II, who appointed most of them, to “collectively to oppose abortion and euthanasia as they should have been opposed.”
“Year after year,” Oddie said, the Day for Life has “been about anything but what Pope John Paul … intended that it should be about.”
He decried the “breathtaking cynicism,”with which the bishops’ spokesmen have employed a lot of “windy drivel” in order to manipulate the pope’s intentions to actively exclude the “primary purpose” of the day.
Deacon Nick Donnelly, writing on his Protect the Pope blog, suggested that the Vatican take the Day for Life away from the jurisdiction of the bishops and give it over to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.
Donnelly said,“It is nothing short of scandalous that the Catholic Church of England and Wales wastes the annual opportunity of the Day for Life” by failing to urge the public to oppose abortion.
Fr. Tim Finigan, the leader of Britain’s independent clerical internet pack, sticks his tongue in his cheek and suggests that the next few year’s Days for Life be devoted to garden allotments, public transport, or the importance of flossing.
“I offer these suggestions since it seems that the theme for the Day for Life in England and Wales is to be about anything except what Blessed Pope John Paul called for when he proposed a Day for Life in his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae.”
“Last year,” Fr. Finigan notes, “the theme was ‘Happiness’. As you might have guessed, I’m not happy. Many priests and active pro-life lay people are not happy either. It is estimated that by the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act, nine million children will have been killed before birth in our country.
“We pioneered the legalisation of embryo research and we are giving the Dutch lessons in how to do euthanasia more politely by means of continuous sedation.”
Fr. Ray Blake, the pastor of St. Mary Magdalen parish in Brighton, and the number two Catholic clerical blogger in the realm, wryly quoted the great early 20th century clerical blogger and wit Ronald Knox, who rhymed, “When suave politeness, tempering bigot zeal, corrected ‘I believe’ to ‘one does feel’ “.
Fr. Blake said there is something “more than mealy mouthed” about the leaflet, saying it is “unfocussed, diffuse” and “lite”. “It is like so much material produced by Catholic Justice and Peace organisations that worry about curtains and flower arrangements rather than the crumbling foundations of the house.”
If it seems surprising that a Catholic bishops’ conference would be so keen to avoid a difficult but pressing topic, (the abortion rate in England and Wales hit 200,000 per year recently and is still climbing,) let us examine the record. We have for years been subjected to the spectacle in Britain of Catholic bishops desperate to please their zealously anti-Christian masters by scrambling away from any guilt-by-association with the pro-life movement; being the first to bravely lead the way in concern for all the warmest, cuddliest and most fashionable left-liberal topics.; in the forefront of the fight for the environment; boldly declaring the awfulness of bigotry and discrimination; taking care to be seen courageously wringing their hands over immigration control and cuts to state benefits.
Abortion and homosexuality, the demonic twins of the Culture of Death, seem to be the English bishops’ most vexed topics. Most scandalous to lay Catholics is the openness of their closeness to the homosexualist movement, dating back decades. The same political juggernaut that resulted in the secularisation or outright closure of all of the country’s Catholic adoption agencies.
Perhaps we need only look to the thunderous, glowering silence from his brother bishops when one of their own, Bishop Patrick O’Donohue, wrote a series of booklets saying, with unusual lack of politesse, that their Church institutions, both schools and parishes, are not “fit for mission,” having failed broadly to further, pursue or really to have anything whatever to do with the aims and intentions of the Catholic Church, one, holy and apostolic, founded by Jesus Christ.
Admittedly, there have recently been a few little glimmers in the England/Wales Catholic scene as the light of The Real World comes glittering through, piercing the liberal gloom.
A bishop attended a highly public demonstration against abortion in London a while back, despite a brief spate of rumours that his ecclesiastical superiors, fearful of upsetting their political superiors, would prevent him.
More recently, the newly appointed bishop of Shrewsbury declared to the astonishment of all that a study of the Holocaust should generate “profound reflection” on abortion and euthanasia.
This evening, I got a call from an English priest who lives in Germany and teaches at the seminary of the Fraternity of St. Peter, the organisation for priests who prefer the traditional liturgy, who pointed me to the Catholic Herald article on the new nuncio Archbishop Antonio Mennini and the appointment of Philip Egan to Portsmouth.
It has been said many times that the solution to the problems of a local Church is in the appointments of bishops. I hope that I was mistaken in my somewhat grim-faced in response to his hope that the new guys are a sign that the days of the greying “Magic Circle” leftists are at last numbered, and there are better things to come. always lies in improvements of the episcopal stock.
With the appointment of Egan by Pope Benedict’s ally and supporter Mennini, could we be looking at the start of an upswing in Britain? Egan surely annoyed the Magic Circlers earlier this month when he said Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae was infallible.
Certainly it is on record that Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, formerly of Westminster and still the leader of the Magic Circle, was said to have been furious at having missed a plane, and therefore his chance to veto Mark Davies appointment to Shrewsbury.
My friend in Germany expressed the hope that the new men are a sign that the days of the greying Magic Circle leftists are at last numbered, and there are better things to come. Though the cynic in me fears the cavalry has come over the hill thirty years and one papacy too late, and my acquaintance with the priorities of the Vatican have not filled me with confidence … I say, maybe. I think it will take a lot more than this, but stranger things have happened than the conversion of an entire nation.