By Hilary White

LONDON, September 1, 2010 ( – In the last 50 years, Britain has become a “selfish, hedonistic wasteland” and the “geopolitical epicenter of the culture of death,” a member of the staff of the Westminster Catholic Archdiocese told Zenit news this weekend.

Edmund Adamus, director of Pastoral Affairs for the Archdiocese of Westminster, said, “whether we like it or not as British citizens and residents of this country – and whether we are even prepared as Catholics to accept this reality and all it implies – the fact is that historically, and continuing right now, Britain, and in particular London, has been and is the geopolitical epicenter of the culture of death.”

In the lead-up to Pope Benedict’s September 16th state visit, Adamus warned that Britain is in “a time of shadows especially threatening to the fundamental cell of society – the family – and the rights of parents.”

The reference is likely to the former Labour government’s sex education programs that would have required schools, including religious schools, to teach children that homosexual acts are “normal and harmless,” and how to obtain abortions and contraception without parents’ knowledge or consent. The Catholic Education Service, a body of the Catholic bishops’ conference of England and Wales, has been heavily criticized for its approval of and cooperation with the plans.

Britain leads Europe in abortion and unplanned pregnancy among young women and has recently weakened its legal protections against euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. Under the Tony Blair Labour government, Britain became the world leader in the use of living human embryos in experimentation. Recently, Britain’s abortion statistics, nearly 200,000 per year, earned the country the nickname “abortion capital of Europe” from MP Anne Widdecombe.

A poll taken in anticipation of the pope’s visit found that a larger number of British people than expected are Catholic, about 800,000 in Scotland and 5.2 million in England and Wales – a total of about 8 percent of the British population. But the same poll found that only one in five attends Mass regularly.

Adamus continued, “Our laws and lawmakers for over 50 years or more have been the most permissively anti-life and progressively anti-family and marriage, in essence one of the most anti-Catholic landscapes culturally speaking than even those places where Catholics suffer open persecution.”

He said that his hopes for the papal visit include “a fresh sense of purpose and clarity about what we as Catholics understand in terms of mission, for the authentic dignity of the person.”

He pointed to the medieval past when England was known as one of the most devout nations of Christendom, nicknamed the “Dowry of Mary.” But those days are long gone, he said, and today’s Britain is in the clutches of a national debauch, indulging in the “objectification of women for sexual gratification” and an “ever-increasing commercialization of sex, not to mention its permissive laws advancing the gay agenda.”

But the members of the Catholic hierarchy have a rosier view of British life. A spokesman for Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Adamus’s boss, released a terse message saying that the comments “did not reflect the archbishop’s opinions.”

Archbishop Nichols, regarded as the “conservative” choice among the English episcopate to replace Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, has come under heavy fire from some Catholics and pro-family groups for his enthusiastic endorsement of the former Labour government’s sex education programs and for his continuation of the infamous Soho Masses at a London Catholic parish, organized by and for active homosexuals.

In a recent BBC interview, when asked if the Catholic Church was likely to change its mind on homosexuality, Nichols replied, “I don’t know. Who knows what’s down the road?”

But even more glowing comments came from the bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Kieran Conry, who told the Guardian recently that there is really nothing for the pope to worry about in Britain.

“I am often told by those Catholics who dislike the way our church operates in this country that they are the ‘silent majority,’ denied a voice by people like me in the hierarchy,” he said. “The reality is that they are a very small minority. Pope Benedict is coming to a country where Catholicism is unusually stable, cohesive and vibrant enough in the current overall context of decline of interest in the church in western Europe.”

Pope Benedict, he said, “may well be relieved to be coming to a place where, unlike some of his other recent trips, there are no big problems for him to sort out.”