Archbishop Nichols on being a Catholic in a secular world


Catholics in a secular society must bear witness to Jesus by their right relationship to wealth, by respecting life from conception to natural death, by maintaining the dignity of the family, and by urging parents to be their children’s first educators of the faith.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham issued a pastoral letter outlining these four important ways of witness. The letter was read Sunday in churches throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

"These truths about human life, about the family, about education and about wealth are the foundation not only of our own happiness but also of the health of our society,” he wrote.

In the current secular society, “individuals are urged to fashion values of their own, deciding for themselves what is right and what is wrong, and pursuing their own desires even when doing so may hurt others,” the archbishop wrote. “As a result we live in a fragmented world, one in which divisions are deep and frightening for many.”

The archbishop said that Christians must first understand and live in a right relationship with wealth and prosperity.

“In God's plan, possessions and wealth are rightly ours only so that we can fulfil our responsibility towards others,” he explained. “We work and create wealth so that we can enhance our world in justice and charity. To long for wealth for its own sake is to lack inner freedom and to be enslaved.”

Christians must also uphold the “key truth that human life is not our own possession but always and everywhere a gift of God, from conception until natural death.”

Practically, he said, this takes the form of “nurturing and supporting children as well as young and expectant mothers and fathers; by caring with patience for those who have difficult special needs and for the sick, the elderly and the dying.”

Christians must uphold the family as the basis of stable life both for its members and for society and defend the structure of the family as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage, he wrote.

Christians must also promote the right of parents to be the first and most important educators of their children, and the first and best teachers of the faith.

Concretely, this includes teaching children how to pray, understanding family life as a place of God's blessing, and guiding young people in their decisions and friendships.

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