Bishop of Lancaster calls for ‘passionate and courageous’ witness in face of secularism

Bishop of Lancaster calls for ‘passionate and courageous’ witness in face of secularism

Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O'Donohue
Bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O'Donohue


The Catholic Bishop of Lancaster Patrick O'Donohue has criticized his fellow bishops of England and Wales for their weak responses to modern crises, especially those produced by issues like secularism and homosexual adoption. Arguing that efforts to achieve consensus often results in the loss of the “scandal” and “folly” of the Gospel, he says consensus building can result in Christians no longer being the “salt” and “leaven” needed for the world. Instead, Bishop O’Donohue says, bishops’ conference statements must be “passionate and courageous” and must dare to “speak the full truth in love.”

“Confident, courageous and prophetic bishops [are] vital for the well-being of the Church during this time of increasingly aggressive secularism," Bishop O’Donohue writes in a 92-page document titled “Fit for Mission? Church.”
The bishop emphasizes his “disappointment” that the bishops’ conference could not agree on a collegial response to government legislation on same-sex adoption, reports, which says it has acquired an advance copy of the document.

He also charges some Catholic agencies with failing to uphold the “fullness of the Church's teaching” in their collaboration with secular agencies, adding that staffers at Catholic agencies dedicated to education or development are in a position to witness to the truth of the Church’s teaching.

A controversy last year over government requirements to adopt children to homosexual couples revealed that many agencies had a policy of allowing children to be adopted to single homosexuals, sometimes with the tacit blessing of the local bishop.

Bishop O'Donohue had suggested that the Catholic social service agency refuse to adopt children to anyone who is not in a legal marriage, saying “There must be no back peddling on these issues just because certain truths are unwelcome in the corridors of power.”

“We have talked too much and done too little. We have witnessed over the past forty years a growing crisis in the Catholic understanding or self-identity of the Church...Have we forgotten what it is to be Catholic?” he asks in the document.

Noting what he calls a “lack of confidence and knowledge of the Catholic faith” during his preparatory consultations for the document, he also calls for a revival of apologetics.

Turning his attention towards his fellow bishops, Bishop O’Donohue calls for bishops to “re-exercise their individual teaching charism.”

“The passion to serve the Lord is noticeably absent in many cases,” he claims. “There seems to be at times a tiredness and reticence to preach the gospel.”

The bishop argues that episcopal conference statements, trying to achieve a consensus among “bishops with sometimes divergent views,” have a tendency to be “flat and ‘safe’.” This consensus-building results “often in the loss of the 'scandal' and the 'folly' of the Gospel, so that we are no longer the 'salt' and 'leaven' so urgently needed.”

He suggests that episcopal conference’s division of responsibility among the bishops in areas such as education, healthcare, and liturgy has resulted in a “reluctance among the rest of the bishops to speak out on these issues.”

Bishop O’Donohue’s document is reportedly set for publication next week. It is being produced as he prepares to retire.

Daphne McLeod, a Catholic lay activist who heads the organization Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, welcomed the document, reports.

“What he's saying is what we've all been saying for years, but now it's a bishop saying it. We can use it and quote it and build on it. So yes, it's a very good thing," she said.