PORTSMOUTH, January 4, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Philip Egan, the recently appointed Catholic bishop of Portsmouth in England has made history in English Catholicism by becoming perhaps the first member of the episcopate in decades to publicly endorse the Church’s teaching on contraception, calling it a “prophetic” papal doctrine.

In a pastoral letter dated December 30, the Church’s feast of the Holy Family, Egan brought up a “very challenging and controversial” subject: that “that sexual intercourse is an integral act for love and for life, and that these two aspects of sexuality – love and life - cannot be divorced.”

Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical letter reiterating the Catholic Church’s longstanding prohibition against artificial contraception was widely vilified in the secular world, and virtually denied even by the Catholic bishops of the time. For years in the lead-up to its release, priests had assumed that the teaching would be changed in the advent of the hormonal birth control pill and the sexual revolution. The encyclical came as a shock to many Catholics who had been expecting a reversal.

Humanae Vitae was a prophetic document,” Egan wrote. In it, Paul VI warned of “catastrophic consequences” if the dual purposes of sex in marriage were to be separated: the procreation of children and the unity of the spouses.

Now, “45 years on,” Egan wrote, “we can see what he meant in such things as the reduction of sex to a leisure activity, the trafficking of people for prostitution and pornography, broken family relationships, and the explosion of addictive behaviors leading to despair, shame, and guilt.”

Egan wrote that the way to “lasting happiness and fulfillment” lies in developing a “mature and fully integrated sexuality,” as a single person or a married couple - involves a life-long struggle and “apprenticeship in self-mastery.”

For Catholics, reserving sex for marriage is part of a “natural way of life” that is meant to “express the love between a man and a woman, a love which, within the permanent commitment of marriage, is open to being fruitful to life.”

Egan’s letter breaks many years of silence from the Catholic hierarchy of England and Wales on the subject of Humanae Vitae, a topic widely avoided by bishops and clergy across the Western world. Egan noted, “the teaching of Humanae Vitae about sexual morality and family values has become something of an ‘elephant in the room’ that no-one seems to mention.”

The bishop went to his appointment in Portsmouth, replacing the ultra-liberal Crispian Hollis, already enjoying a reputation of upholding orthodox Catholic teaching on sexuality, including on the nearly anathematized Humanae Vitae. His appointment is being taken by many as a sign of an attempt by the new papal nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, to start the long task of re-directing the Catholic Church of England and Wales away from its deeply entrenched left-liberal position.

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In December, Egan wrote a strongly worded letter to Prime Minister David Cameron in response to the government’s plan to create “gay marriage” legislation. He told Cameron that there has been a basic misunderstanding, not only of the nature of marriage, but of the nature of “equality.”

Equality, he wrote, is not an “absolute value” but a “derivative and relative” one. Thus, Egan said, “a man cannot be a mother nor a woman a father, and so men and women can never be absolutely equal, only relatively equal, since they are biologically different.”

Similarly, same-sex partners are not being “excluded” from marriage, the “union for life and love between a man and a woman” but “simply cannot enter marriage” since their relationships are of their nature entirely different in kind.

“By enabling gays to ‘marry’ and by equating the union of gay people with marriage, however well-intentioned, you are not only redefining what we mean by marriage but actually undermining the very nature, meaning and purpose of marriage.”

“Marriage and the home,” the bishop continued, is the “foundation and basic building block” of our society. “If you proceed with your plans, you will gravely damage the value of the family, with catastrophic consequences for the well-being and behavior of future generations.”

Egan said Cameron, is “luring the people of England away from their common Christian values and Christian patrimony” in his insistence on creating a new understanding of marriage.

“What you are proposing will smother the traditional Christian ethos of our society and in time strangle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church in Britain to conduct its mission.”

Read the full text of Bishop Egan’s letters here.