I read with interest about the appointment of the new Bishop of Portsmouth, His Excellency Most Rev. Bp.-Elect Philip Egan, vicar general of the Diocese of Shrewsbury, Vicar General of the Diocese of Shrewsbury.
I noted with additional interest that my friend the great P.P. of Blackfen, His Hermeneuticalness Fr. Tim Fingan liked the appointment, which says a great deal. Fr. Finigan wrote, inter alia,
“Mgr Egan and I were in the same year at the English College back in the day. He is a thoroughly sound chap and I am delighted that he has been given this responsibility by the Holy Father.”
I noted with even more interest that The Bitter Pill (aka The Tablet) that they seem nervous about this new bishop:
Mgr Egan has written a book “Philosophy and Catholic Theology: A Primer” and has publicly defended Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, the document that banned artificial contraception, describing it as infallible teaching.
Ooooo! Imagine such a thing as upholding the Church’s teaching! A bishop! Perhaps we should go back to calling that weekly RU-486?
By contrast, the best Catholic weekly in the UK, The Catholic Herald, had this from the pen of William Oddie:
The choice of Mgr Philip Egan to succeed Bishop Crispian Hollis at Portsmouth is [The Nuncio] Archbishop Mennini’s first real appointment (it is generally thought that the appointment of Mgr Peter Brignall as the new Bishop of Wrexham was probably already in the pipeline), and it is a cracker. If you want an idea of Mgr Egan’s theology, you might like to look HERE at a talk he gave in 2009, on the authority of Humanae Vitae (in which he argued that its teaching was proclaimed infallibly from the ordinary Magisterium).
From his appointment, we can deduce a number of things. First, that Archbishop Mennini has considerable respect for Bishop Davies, who he clearly sees as the kind of bishop we need more of in this country: he almost certainly found out about Mgr Egan, who has so far maintained a fairly low profile, from Bishop Davies: the fact that he has followed his advice shows what kind of bishop he is now looking to appoint.
He goes on to say:
The Congregation for Bishops (which in Cardinal Marc Ouellet now has a firmly Ratzingerian prefect, who may well with this appointment be confirming that England’s problems have at last been noticed in Rome) will soon be making a good number of other episcopal appointments in England, and they will be relying on Archbishop Mennini’s advice. East Anglia is vacant; Plymouth, Brentwood and quite a few other dioceses will soon likewise be sede vacante; a good third of the dioceses of England will over the next year or so have new bishops.
And it looks as if Bp. Davies in Shrewsbury has played a role. Also, since the Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, is still pretty young he is not likely to “go native”. He surely doesn’t want this to be his last job. Moreover, Card. Ouellet is still the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and men such as Card. Burke. Card. Murphy-O’Connor, however, turns 80 on 24 August and will no longer have a voice in the Congregation as a member.
What this appointment suggests to me is that the tide has shifted over there. A the pieces are in place for a revolution of the English Church along the lines Pope Benedict invoked when he made his state visit and beatified John Henry Newman.