Bishop Egan on Abuse Crisis
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth has been interviewed in the National Catholic Register (read the full interview here). The 8th Bishop of Portsmouth is a virtually lone voice amongst the English episcopate addressing this issue which is of primary importance and concern for the laity, who entrust their families to clergy & the structures of the Church.
Bishop Egan's words are extremely welcome to concerned Catholics and he clearly understands what is going on, comparing the state of the Church in the early 21st century to that of the late 15th century. Bishop Egan reminds us in his interview of the words of the philosopher Bernard Lonergan, who once spoke of the “shabby shell of Catholicism.”
He puts his finger right on the heart of the problem here:
The structures of the Church are there, but have some of the home fires gone out? Many Catholics, including members of the clergy, no longer believe the Church’s teaching, especially on matters of personal morality. There is confusion over conscience, sin, grace and the mechanism of confession. Many seem to have lost a sense of heaven, the angels and saints and the transcendent, and are thus not strongly evangelised, catechised and converted to Christ. Secular attitudes and affluent lifestyles seem to have infiltrated.
Most baptised Catholics do not practice: Here in the U.K., it’s around 10% to 15%. There is a real need for a pastoral overhaul of the Church, not changing structures, etc., but what the Second Vatican Council called for: the universal call to holiness.It is often said that the best way to evangelise is not through clever words and debate, but simply by living a life with Christ, in other words by example. I feel a great sense of guilt and unworthiness even typing those words to be honest because I know I fall down all the time on that front, and also I bet the impression you probably glean here on my blog is wildly askew from the person you would meet in face-to-face (as a wise person would perhaps anticipate). However it seems pretty basically obvious to me that if Catholics aren't living their faith, or at least trying to live their faith; if priests aren't holy or trying to be holy, if they don't care, or don't preach Christ crucified, or preach some other Gospel, we are lost.
Bishop Egan identifies a three-level crisis: first, the alleged catalogue of sins and crimes against the young by members of the clergy; secondly, the homosexual circles centred around Archbishop McCarrick, but present in other areas across the Church, too; and then, thirdly, the mishandling and cover-up of all this by the hierarchy up to the highest circles. Of vital importance to me personally as someone who is involved with preaching & teaching the Gospel message is that the bishop articulates the way in which scandal impacts the very sacramentality of the Church and damages our evangelising mission:
In the midst of scandal, it’s not easy to give witness. Yet what we can all do is turn in prayer to the Holy Spirit, asking, too, the help of Mary, Mother of the Church, that we might grow in holiness, deepen our faith, redouble our prayer, our Bible study, our love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, our attempts to live out in practice what we profess.This is my lived experience of this crisis so far. Even though I don't want to, even though I am cross and angry, the only way through it, the only place of solace is with Jesus in prayer.
In closing, Bishop Egan is asked "If you could say one thing to the Holy Father today, what would that be?" His answer:
Holy Father, accept our prayers, and please, please, “strengthen the brethren” (Luke 22:32).