By Hilary White

ROME, November 19, 2008 ( ) – In a lengthy interview, Bishop Patrick O’Donohue of Lancaster, UK, said that English Catholic bishops have “been inhibited about openly admitting the sickness” and “widespread dissent” from authentic Catholic moral teaching in the Church.

Speaking to Dominic Baster of Zenit, a Rome-based Catholic news agency, Bishop O’Donohue said, “If we fail in our duty of presenting the truths of the faith, it is not only the Church that suffers, but also wider society.”

Earlier this year, Bishop O’Donohue issued a pair of documents calling for radical reforms to the Catholic schools in his diocese and to the Catholic Church in England in general. The publication of “Fit for Mission? Church,” and “Fit for Mission? Schools,” brought both high praise from the Vatican and condemnation from secularists in Parliament. More significant, perhaps, has been the silence of the rest of the Catholic hierarchy of England and Wales on both documents.

The bishop said the problem of widespread dissent and secularisation has stemmed from a misapplication of mass education since the Second World War. While the wider availability of higher education has provided many benefits, it has had its “dark side,” he said. These have included the growth of anti-human and anti-religious philosophies such as radical skepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism.

“Taken together,” he said, “these intellectual trends have resulted in a fragmented society that marginalizes God, with many people mistakenly thinking they can live happy and productive lives without him.”

Education in these philosophical trends, he said, has led to the corruption in the Church. Educated Catholics who were “most exposed to the intellectual and moral spirit of the age,” have gone on to hold positions of influence and authority in the Church and have spread their “so-called loyal dissent, causing confusion and discord.” In addition, he said that the “relentless diatribe” against Christianity in the popular media “has undermined the confidence of the ordinary faithful in the Church.”

Bishop O’Donohue’s analysis was borne out in the reaction to his two documents on schools and the Church. He told Zenit that he was “surprised” both by the level of support and of “hostility” he received in and out of the Church.

“All I have done is reiterate and explain the teachings of the Church as expressed in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“Many read the documents as my attempt to turn the clock back. This is not my intention at all. What this dismissive response reveals is my critic’s rejection of a fundamental component of Catholicism,” he said. “We must challenge this poverty of imagination regarding the communication of the fullness of the faith,” he added.

So outraged were secularist MPs by the bishop’s requirement of Catholic orthodoxy in his schools, that they demanded his presence at a Commons Committee hearing where he was accused of trying to establish religious “fundamentalism.” His insistence on crucifixes in every classroom, “sex-education” based on the principles of chastity and the sanctity of marriage, no school fundraising for anti-life groups, and religious education based firmly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, infuriated authorities who had grown accustomed to a less forthrightly orthodox Catholic school system.

In the second document, “Fit for Mission? Church,” Bishop O’Donohue called for the restoration of the full adherence to Catholic teaching on faith and morals in the Catholic institution of England and Wales, long known as one of the most “liberal” of the world’s national hierarchies. In the second document, he asked, “Have we forgotten what it means to be Catholic?”

“We have all witnessed with alarm many who profess to be Catholics disavowing the Church’s teaching authority … dismissing apostolic traditions and the doctrines of the Fathers and giving the place of honour to the fashionable opinions of society.”

Concluding his remarks to Zenit, Bishop O’Donohue said, “It is easy sometimes to become despondent about the state of the Church in England and Wales,” but added that the hope of the Church lies in the Resurrection of Christ.

“The principle challenge,” he said, “is the rejection of obedience in the Church, due to the modern emergence of a secularist-minded people.”

“The idea of obedience and humility toward God’s truth are totally alien to many in this age of assertive individualism.

“To avail ourselves of the riches of God’s doctrine we must not approach it with the attitude of consumers, who pick and choose according to taste and personal comfort. We must allow the word of God to judge and challenge us, and sometimes this is hard and uncomfortable.”

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