The best Catholic weekly in the UK, The Catholic Herald, has an interview with the Bishop of Portsmouth, Most Rev. Philip Egan.
Bp. Egan has been, rightly I think, identified with a new wave of bishops who were being appointed during the last part of the pontificate of Benedict XVI through the intermediary of the current Apostolic Nuncio, Archbp. Antonio Mennini. It is an open secret that the band of liberal bishops in England and Wales sometimes called “The Magic Circle” have their crosshairs on Mennini. Now that Francis is Pope, they sense they have an opportunity to rid themselves of this troublesome Nuncio.
Back to The Catholic Herald. Read the whole thing, but I found this of particular interest:
CH: In your episcopal ordination address you spoke of the need for Catholics to make converts.
EGAN: I spoke about the need for evangelisation. Making converts? Yes, in the total sense. I suppose traditionally the term “converts” makes one think of people coming from other Christian communities. I spoke about evangelisation. I think that’s the central theme of what the Holy Spirit is calling us to do.
Why do you think that, according to figures compiled recently by the Latin Mass Society, the number of conversions to Catholicism in England and Wales peaked in 1959 and is now just a third of that level?
I think the fact that 5,000 people convert, or are received in the Church, each year is a wonderful thing, because the whole culture has been radically altered since 1959. OK, we can look at internal weaknesses within the Church, but the critical and crucial thing has been the emergence of a post-modern, secularised society. I’d say that the reason there are less converts today is not because the “product” is defective. The key thing is that people can’t hear that call in a comfortable, affluent, consumerist, totally secularised culture.
The great thing of the Latin Mass Society is the tradition of the Church, but I actually believe that we don’t need more tradition. We need more creativity to respond to the challenges of the secular culture.
So you are saying that the sole answer to this problem wouldn’t be to have a Latin Mass in every parish?
That would be wonderful, but it’s not enough. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] Making available the Catholic tradition is a wonderful thing, but I think the time has come to put all the Church’s resources – its spiritual tradition, the 2,000 years of ascetical theology, the lives and example of the saints – at the service of helping people to pray and discover God at work in their lives. Because I think that from there will come the basis for the new ardour, the new passion for the Lord. It will catch on like wildfire.
You can see why The Magic Circle and libs in England would be worried.
He is open to the traditional expression of the Roman Rite in every parish. At the same time he pushes an ascetical theology and service.
I will part company just a tad with His Lordship. I think we do need more “tradition”, in the sense that we need a revitalization of our Catholic identity which necessarily includes a reintegration of our Catholic tradition. At the same time, Bp. Egan is calling for – if I understand him correctly – for what I have been pushing to the screen for “traditionalist” reflection. Traditional forms of liturgical worship are helpful, necessary even, but also necessary are sincere and charitable works of mercy done for love of Christ and neighbor.
The combination of tradition and works of mercy in unbeatable. I suspect that Bp. Egan and I agree on this, though he placed the emphasis on “ascetical theology”.
Finally, Fr. Blake in Brighton is under attack right now. HERE and HERE Blake has been promoting both traditional worship and service of the poor in concrete ways. Priests and bishops who bring these two elements together are going to be attacked savagely both from within the Church and from without, in the press.