Two Catholic Bishops

Since I have started paying attention to such things, it has become very obvious that the Catholic Church, like pretty much every organisation in the world, has good leaders and bad leaders. bishops who do what they are supposed to do and some other bishops who do not.

I think many, many (the majority?) of faithful Catholics today would bemoan the dearth of solid teaching from Bishops of England and Wales, to the extent that, when one of these bishops does actually say something Catholic, there tends to be much publicity. Of course there is, we aren't used to hearing them say anything much, let alone something as scandalous and revolutionary as the teaching of the Church!

It is my own opinion that this lack of connection with the important and challenging truth taught by the Church—let's say on Contraception in the context of the goods of Marriage and the importance of children and family—leads to a tacit condoning of sin which stands in direct contravention to fundamental principles of Church teaching. Everyone knows that the majority of "practising" Catholics (even) contracept, so it has become the norm. Widely accepted, never challenged and never spoken about.

The shocking depth of this reality is often brought home to me when teaching young people for Confirmation, and especially in regard to controversial issues for Catholics, like for example, abortion. Abortion is a norm in secular society and despite their being born and raised Catholic, I am always amazed at how many young people think it is a permissible option. They may not have considered it much, but in any group of 30-40 young people of Confirmation age, I would say an average of 95% would think abortion is a morally acceptable option.

How can priests and bishops think this is an acceptable situation? Especially when we invest so much in so-called Catholic education? It is education of sorts, but, after five children attending Catholic schools, I am baffled by what specific part of it is "Catholic", unless you count box-ticking pseudo-religious indifferentism.

Sometimes I feel like my role as a Parish Catechist is pointless, because the majority of kids go home and their parents tell them what I just said is nonsense. One parent has got to have a difficult conversation with the priest because the Confirmation Sponsor doesn't go to Mass (and is in fact vehemently opposed to the Church)—why on earth would you want a Confirmation sponsor who doesn't believe in what they are sponsoring? Why would you be a sponsor for something you have no intention of supporting? Is it just me??????

The problem for people like me then, is that we invest our own time and energy deepening our faith, because we have a real relationship with Christ, or because we recognise some glimmer of the real power of truth held in Catholic teaching, and emerge excited to a Church whose greatest fear is formed and knowledgeable Catholics who might undermine the status quo. It is incredible to me that the reality I have discovered is that no one hates orthodox faithful Catholics as much as some priests and bishops in the Church. This makes no sense whatsoever to me, but it is an undeniable fact that everyone in the Church is aware of. Thankfully there are many good priests and a few bishops who encourage and support faithful Catholics, who even find great strength and encouragement from faithful lay people, and indeed, this is precisely how it should be: all of the different parts of the Body of Christ working together for the Kingdom.

The tragedy is that there are many clergy, often ambitious men, who pour disdain on sincere expressions of the faith. Say you practice NFP. These clergy look at you like you're some kind of weirdo. Acknowledge the Catechism or stand by some principle of Catholic theology, you'll be told that "it's more complicated than that" or surreptitious emails will be circulated suggesting you are unfit to engage in Catechesis.

Now, despite all this, when loyal, faithful Catholics get together and discuss the leadership crisis, two names are always prominent. There are, at least, two Bishops in this country who consistently display the trademarks of Catholic leadership. But many have been whispering that even these two faithful men have been worryingly quiet of late. Some have speculated on why this might be, and part of that speculation, as ever, is that Cardinal Nichols has told them to pipe down. I have no reason to believe that might or might not be the case, but I do welcome pastoral letters from Bishop Philip Egan and Bishop Mark Davis.

In a pastoral letter to “Christian Dads” to mark the feast of St Joseph, Bishop Philip Egan recently said: “It’s not an exaggeration to say fatherhood is in crisis”. The bishop said that all men are “called become fatherly”, whether or not they have biological children. However he remarked that a “revolution” had brought an end to the traditional religious culture of the family – “a loving, monogamous, covenantal relationship of one man and one woman with the procreative purpose of raising children”.

Quoting Pope Francis, Bishop Egan said that the abandonment of this ideal had brought “spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable”. He added that society needs to hear “the Good News of Christ about the complementarity of being male and being female, about the vocation to marriage, and about the joy of Christian family life”.

He connected these questions to a wider confrontation between two philosophies of life:

“In today’s culture, a great battle is being fought between two radically different understandings of what it means to be a human being,”

“Are we merely higher animals, biological machines, objects to be manipulated for pleasure, gain, power? Or are we fundamentally different, persons to be respected, creatures with limits, people with a dignity and a vocation?”

“In this battle, St Joseph, Defender of Life and Patron of Marriage, is a bright light and a brilliant example.”

The bishop suggested that, as well as praying to St Joseph, families might keep a picture of the saint in their home, organise a “St Joseph’s Table”for “the poor or the housebound”, or invoke him – “St Joseph, protect us” – while travelling.

Thank you Bishop Egan for this important and sound teaching!

Today, The Catholic Herald tells us that 'the other' solid bishop, will use his Easter morning homily to urge the Government to re-consider its refusal to recognise the genocide of Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq at the hands of Islamic State. This is a bishop engaging with important and predominant issues, applying Catholic teaching and confronting the culture. This is essential if we are to maintain our role of moral consultants in society, if Christianity is to remain in some way relevant and important. We must vocally and intelligently engage with the culture: this constitutes preaching the Gospel. Instead it seems the majority of our leaders would prefer to hide away for fear they might offend. Do they recall they follow a man who is God and who so offended the prevailing culture they hung him on a cross for His trouble?

The Gospel message is always new and always challenging. Today there is a tendency to water it down, to be frightened of the scandal of Catholic teaching or a desire (usually led by personal sin I fear) to capitulate Catholic truth to the prevailing secular trend which is considered progress somehow. I think a classic example of this is the relativisation of homosexuality in the Church today, or the pronouncements of some Cardinals regarding the possibility of Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics.

In an environment where the basics are so obscured, such marginal issues can only serve (and do only serve) to sow further dischord and confusion among the faithful.

Thank you Lord for the leadership of Bishop Mark Davis and Bishop Phillip Egan. Please support and protect them, send your angels to watch over them and give them strength and courage in their difficult task.

Prayer for Holy Bishops by Saint John Fisher

Lord, according to Thy promise that the Gospel should be preached throughout the whole world, raise up men fit for such work. The Apostles were but soft and yielding clay till they were baked hard by the fire of the Holy Ghost. So, good Lord, do now in like manner with Thy Church militant, change and make the soft and slippery earth into hard stones. Set in the Thy Church strong and mighty pillars that may suffer and endure great labors–watching, poverty, thirst, hunger, cold and heat–which also shall not fear the threatenings of princes, persecution, neither death, but always persuade and think with themselves to suffer with a good will, slanders, shame, and all kinds of torments, for the glory and laud of Thy Holy Name. By this manner, good Lord, the truth of Thy Gospel shall be preached throughout the world. Therefore, merciful Lord, exercise Thy mercy, show it indeed upon Thy Church. Amen

St John Fisher, Pray for us


  1. Mark.You are so right in what you say about the Church and its abysmal lack of spreading the Faith!Most Catholic schools are no better than any other state school in so much as it adheres to political correctness and inclusiveness to the detriment of anything spiritual or Faith bound.The sins of abortion,contraception ,and all the other sins which mar the soul-some of which will send the person to Hell-should be thundered aloud from the pulpit every week!Lord imagine that!God Bless.

  2. I once applied for a chaplain's assistant job at a large catholic school - £5000/yr, and I would have taken it if you were actually allowed to form the pupils!

    The school seemed to think of the chaplaincy as a mix between social workers and social justice advocates - it was where they sent the girls who were crying and the children who wanted to set up Amnesty International groups. There was no overlap with the RS/RE department, no catechism classes, no church history, no inspiring stories of the saints, no discussions of morality/philosophy/ethics - just a weekly prayer sheet circulated to the form teachers and one mass per term.

    I told them that if they wanted to pay that little, then the jobholder had to be doing something worthwhile.

  3. "I told them that if they wanted to pay that little, then the jobholder had to be doing something worthwhile."

    Just so. God bless you. I am sorry to say that Catholic schools in Ontario, Canada are no better. My 17 year old on, who is the sacristan at our parish and who volunteers for the parish youth group, says his (lay) chaplain added a fifteenth station of the cross to their Easter service. It was all about social justice and saving mother earth. He was not impressed.

    He tells me the Jesuit who celebrates monthly mass at the school changes the words of consecration such that our pastor and associate pastor both agree the masses are likely invalid. My son absents himself, from the mass, with my permission.


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