WALSINGHAM, UK, October 13, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – For 41 years, Britain has lived with “a state-sponsored culture of death that has killed 5 million children” said Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue, emeritus bishop of Lancaster, in a homily at a pilgrimage for the unborn in Norfolk last week. 

“We’re now surprised that some of the surviving children have turned out violent with no regard for the sanctity of life?”

“Yes, abortion, contraception, euthanasia, and assisted suicide destroy life, and they also destroy the sanctity of home,” Bishop O’Donoghue continued. “This is why there are so many broken homes in our country.”

“The shocking outbreak of rioting that occurred in England during the summer was a symptom of the broken homes that so many of these children and young people are growing up in.”

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Bishop O’Donoghue was speaking at a pro-life pilgrimage “of reparation and prayer for the sanctity of life” organized by the group the Helpers of God’s precious infants in Walsingham.

He is perhaps best known as the bishop who published a pair of scorching critiques of the Catholic establishment in England and Wales which he titled, “Fit for mission: Church?” and “Fit for mission: Schools?” The answer to the question posed in the two documents was a negative, and the bishop called for a robust return, especially in Catholic schools, to orthodoxy.

At Walsingham, Bishop O’Donoghue referred back to these documents, saying, “I am convinced that there must be profoundly damaging consequences for the family in a country were contraception and abortion are so widespread. No wonder so many children are suffering depression and mental illness in a country that is such a hostile environment for human life.”

“How many children know that their mothers have had a abortion? What effect will it have on them knowing that they have been deprived of a brother or sister through abortion?”

Bishop O’Donoghue’s Fit for Mission documents, while strongly praised in Rome, were publicly ignored by his fellow English bishops and privately scorned. Since his retirement in 2009, no member of the English Catholic episcopate, including his successor in Lancaster, has adopted his recommendations for reform.

Nevertheless, O’Donoghue is popular among young devout pro-life Catholics and
continues to be an example to the English bishops on life issues, at least two of whom make regular visits to local abortion facilities to pray.

Bishop Alan Hopes, an auxiliary of Westminster has announced that he plans to attend the 40 Days for Life vigil on November 4th and regularly prays outside local abortion facilities, and Bishop Thomas McMahon attends a prayer vigil every year outside the Marie Stopes facility in Woodford Green, London.

One of the best-kept secrets in Europe is the growing appeal of the pro-life and pro-family message among younger people, products largely of the sexual and social revolutions of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Across Europe, pro-life marches have sprung up in recent years, drawing thousands, organized and attended by young people who often have no prior political involvement.

Twenty-three-year-old Paul Smeaton, who works for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and regularly attends and helps organize public pro-life events in London and around Britain, told LifeSiteNews.com that the great majority of people organizing such events as the Walsingham pilgrimage are under 35.

Smeaton was especially enthusiastic about Bishop O’Donoghue’s homily and told LSN that the new young leaders of the pro-life movement still look to such bishops for inspiration. “It’s great to see Catholic bishops in this country boldly defending life,” he said.

“With more than five hundred and seventy abortions everyday in the UK the pro-life movement in this country is in urgent need of fearless and absolute opposition to the culture of death. Young Catholics look to our leaders for guidance and inspiration and when bishops lead the way the whole movement swells with confidence.”

The shrine centre at Walsingham in Norfolk, founded in the 11th century just a few years before the Norman conquest of England, is becoming a favorite destination for pro-life pilgrimages, and is becoming a symbol, like the Latin American Guadalupe, for the English pro-life movement.

Frances Roxburgh, an intern at SPUC who attended the Walsingham pilgrimage, said, “The church was packed. In fact the Mass was outside and the outside area plus the Church was full. I think I remember someone saying there were about 1,000 people.” 

Walsingham was one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in all of Medieval Europe. Destroyed by Henry VIII the shrine’s site was restored to its religious use in the 19th century.  It is now one of the most important centres of ecumenical activity in Britain, popular with Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Orthodox Christians.