Bishop Philip Egan has urged Catholics to “lead the new evangelisation of our land” in a hard-hitting Easter sermon at Portsmouth cathedral.
Bishop Egan said “two dangerous ideologies” were battling for power in our time, just as communism and fascism had fought each other in the 20th century.
The first ideology is “fundamentalism, religion without reason”, Bishop Egan said. This fundamentalism, which “breeds fanaticism, violence, terrorism”, is affecting not only “the volatile nations of the Middle East”, but also the West, he said.
The second ideology, the bishop argued, is secularism, which equates to “reason without religion” and which is trying to drive religion out of public life.
He said: “Egged on by Stonewall and others, secularists are on the rise in local government, in education, in the media, in the social services.” He said that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the European Court of Justice had helped to push this secularist agenda.
In a possible reference to a European court ruling allowing employers to ban religious symbols, Bishop Egan said: “Hell-bent on burying the Christian patrimony of this land, they propose Orwellian changes to our language and place ever more draconian restrictions on religious expression, even on what we wear.”
Bishop Egan said that, though apparently in opposition, fundamentalism and secularism are both “totalitarian; they’re destructive of the human person; they pose a grave threat to human happiness and to a healthy society”.
In 2014, the bishop said secularism cannot provide a foundation for British society. In the Easter sermon, he went further, saying: “If we let secularism prevail, British culture will become increasingly unhinged, adrift, prey to emotionalism and to the latest pressure group.
“As we know, this has lethal consequences for the weakest, the unborn child, the handicapped, the elderly, the dying. This is why this Easter as Christians, it’s time we said: enough is enough! We need to rise up to the challenge. We need to roll back the agenda.”
Bishop Egan also renewed a call he has made before, urging Catholics to “retrieve and promote Britain’s Christian patrimony, its history, art and architecture, its music and literature, its liturgy, theology and ethics”.
In particular, he said, schools should teach knowledge of the Bible, basic prayers and the Christian history of Britain and its saints. “In this mission,” he said, “we Catholics are crucial. For much of what has made this country great has been nurtured by our Tradition.”
Last year, Bishop Egan asked Catholic schools in his diocese to “create an authentic Christian ethos”. Having visited all 76 Catholic schools in the diocese, he proposed that they focus the curriculum on Christ, emphasise daily prayer and seek to foster vocations to the teaching profession.
Bishop Egan said that discipleship begins with the Resurrection.
“By dying on the Cross and by rising from the dead, Jesus Christ not only confirmed his teaching and who he claimed to be, he overcame for us sin and its damage, suffering in its various forms, and death, making it the gateway to heaven,” he said.
“This is why Easter changes everything. Jesus now makes his victory available to everyone who wants it through his Church. He invites us by Word and Sacrament to receive his salvation, to unite ourselves to him.”