Fr. Burnham on the Catholic Church and the secular gospel

Fr. Andrew Burnham of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham will has Lenten Reflections in the print edition of the Catholic Herald, the UK’s best Catholic weekly.

His column this week is entitled “The secular gospel is our true enemy”.

Here are a couple passages. He takes an interesting cue from texts of motets by great composers of the difficult 15th-16th centuries, Byrd, Tallis:

“The battle between the old religion and the new one is one that constantly reinvents itself.  Its modern version is not Catholic versus Protestant.  Christians – Catholic and Protestant – are mowadays on the same side of the battlefield.  Our common enemy is the secular gospel that puts man at the centre of the universe, wealth as our main objective, and fulfilment as the central aim of our lives.”

“We may take the view – Blessed John Henry Newman certainly did – that Christian life lived outside the Catholic Church will always be overwhelmed by the priorities and values of liberal society.  According to this view, the churches will eventually go along with whatever the world wants.

“The Catholic Church, thought Newman, was the only force powerful enough to take on and confront emerging secular society. But Christians of all sorts remain allies in the struggle nonetheless.”

I made this same argument when Pope Benedict was in England.

You can still get the digital edition of the Catholic Herald for a “tenner” (about US$16.00).

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, Pope of Christian Unity. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Oleksander says:

    One blog I read the author was making the case that modern secularism is (emphasis on is) protestantism, I couldnt disagree more – whenever Im with a protestant at work (or with the shiite muslim we have) they are welcome allies (considering im the only believing, not to mention (self) catechized Catholic there), espiecially when we debate religion or politics

  2. dhgyapong says:

    Fr. Burnham writes: “Our common enemy is the secular gospel that puts man at the centre of the universe, wealth as our main objective, and fulfilment as the central aim of our lives.”

    But the secular gospel has cloaked itself in Christian terms—and has become in many churches, — what New Testament scholar Edith Humphrey described as a “Gospel of welcome,” of inclusiveness, of compassion that has displaced the Gospel of redemption through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. This is a different from secularism—which, as Fr. Burnham rightly says, poses a huge threat, though it is related. This Gospel of Welcome—which sounds so close but isn’t the real Gospel—displaces sin and salvation with modern concepts of therapy and forms of self-fulfillment rather than Christ-centeredness. It preaches another Jesus, a Jesus without the cross.

    Deborah Gyapong

  3. anilwang says:

    Oleksander, a fundamental assumption in Protestantism is the assumption is that the individual decides what is right and wrong and what he wants to believe the Bible says. But everyone has a different opinion about what the Bible says, so there are so many denominations with so many views, and there is no authority to decide which is right and wrong except the individual and a collection of individuals deciding what is right and wrong. Mainline Protestants believe it doesn’t matter which denomination you belong to as long as you believe in the essentials, but no-one can agree on what those essentials are, except through voting. Ultimately, most people choose Protestant Churches based on amenities like daycare, good speakers, and good music rather than doctrine. This mindset about authority inevitably leads to secularism.

    It is true that many conservative Protestants are against secularism and some like Francis Schaeffer fought strongly for the culture of life. But it doesn’t change the above assertion. To the extent that they are against secularism and the secular gospel, is the extend that they are denying Protestantism.

  4. Neal says:

    The battle for the hearts and minds of those in the west is characterized as a battle between faith and reason. As the major players in this battle, the Christians are losing and the atheists are winning. If Catholicism wants to turn the tide, it needs to present itself as the rational Christian faith, which benefits from scientific advance, while at the same time correcting science when it overreaches, which it frequently does. If the Church ever gets around to doing this in a systematic, public manner (and it’s curious that it hasn’t yet, given its assets), then it might start gaining ground. If, on the other hand, it decides that safety lies in uniting with those who clearly prefer the irrational and ignorant, it had better get used to losing.

  5. Childermass says:

    The Church cannot face down this secularist/modernist tide until her witness is restored. Right now, with millions of “Catholics” and other “Christians” who are working for the enemy within our own ranks, the Church will continue to founder. The Church will be purged and purified and will find herself a small embattled minority in the midst of a New Barbarism; only then will her witness have its integrity.

Comments are closed.