Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth has encouraged Catholics, as the “people of life”, to be positive and confident in sharing the good news of life.
“There is now in society great confusion and conflict about what it means to be human, about relationships, sexuality and love, but also, most seriously, about the actual value and dignity of human life itself from conception to natural death,” Bishop Egan wrote in an April 15 pastoral letter.
He noted that it has been more than 50 years since abortion was legalized in Great Britain, and that “As a people of life, our efforts to defend the unborn child, to care for pregnant mothers and to reverse or blunt this Act have had mixed results and it now looks as if, unjustly, our secularist government will no longer allow us even to pray outside hospitals and clinics.”
The British parliament and some localities are considering establishing “buffer zones” around abortion clinics to keep away pro-life protestors and those offering alternatives to abortion. One London borough has already established one of these “Public Space Protection Orders”.
“We need to change tack,” the bishop stated.
He is discussing “new forms of witness” with pro-life groups, and has decided that Oct. 23, the day the Abortion Act 1967 was passed, will be kept as a “Day of Prayer and Reparation for Life” in the Diocese of Portsmouth. Priests there are to say a Mass for the Progress of Peoples wearing purple vestments to show penitence.
Bishop Egan added that this year is the 50th anniversary of the “prophetic” encyclical Humanae vitae, in which Bl. Paul VI warned, “there would be catastrophic consequences for persons, families and society” if the procreative and unitive ends of sexual intercourse were severed.
“Years on,” the bishop wrote, “we can now see exactly what he meant in broken family relationships, the reduction of sex to a casual activity, the trafficking of people for prostitution and pornography, the sexualisation of the young.”
“I intive everyone to revisit this teaching and to reflect on the alternative 'spiritual ecology' that the Gospel proposes for family life, when natural methods of fertility and family planning are used. Our diocesan Marriage and Family Life Team are keen to help and to give advice.”
The Bishop of Portsmouth linked being a “people of life” to the need to respond to “evil, injustice, suffering and violence in our world, including the abuse of the Earth and its resources.”
He noted Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si', “in which he begs people to live an authentically human ecology, a more balanced, simple life-style.”
“It would be good to re-read Laudato Si alongside Humanae Vitae,” Bishop Egan recommended. “As Catholics, we should live an integrally 'green' and natural way of life. To do this, of course, given our fallen nature, we need the love of Christ and the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.”
While “ours is an era of amazing advances in knowledge and technology, from science and medicine to the arts and humanities … the demise of faith and religion, the demise even of people praying, is rapidly undermining in Britain the foundations of ethics,” he then warned.
“This dilution of our Christian patrimony threatens to usher in a frightening new Dark Age. No wonder a death-wish is arising for assisted suicide and euthanasia,” he said, referring in particular to the proposed legalization of assisted suicide in Guernsey, a Crown dependency which is part of the Portsmouth diocese.
Catholics, a people of life, must not ignore these challenges, but act, asking Christ “to help us reach out in love to those around, to assist people develop a personal relationship with God. This is fundamental to the mission of our schools and parishes.
“But more than this, we must enable the Catholic Tradition to engage positively and constructively with culture and society.”
To this end, he said, the diocese will hold a symposium on “Science — or — Religion?”
“It will tackle positively some of the issues that current advances raise: What does it mean to be human? How can we be happy? What does the Gospel say about life?” Egan said.
Ultimately, Egan urged Catholics to rediscover their love for life through their relationship with God, and asked for their prayers and action in order to promote a culture of life.
“So I ask you now: Be people of life! Love Jesus; keep close to Him and adore Him in the Eucharist. Read the Gospels; study the Church’s social teaching and be open to the questions people raise. This will help us to become positive, confident, ‘can-do’ Catholics.”
“May Mary Immaculate, St. Edmund of Abingdon, and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati inspire us and pray for us.”