The Bishop of Portsmouth has said the pro-life movement needs to “change tack” in the wake of government attempts to ban prayer vigils outside abortion clinics.
In a pastoral letter, due to be read out this weekend, Bishop Philip Egan calls on all priests in his diocese to wear penitential purple vestments on October 23, the day the UK Abortion Act was passed.
“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,” he said.
“Consequently, I’m discussing with pro-life groups and with our Justice, Peace and Social Responsibility Team some new forms of witness.
“We need to change tack. As a start, from this year on, I would like us to keep every 23rd October, the day the Act was passed, as a diocesan Day of Prayer and Reparation for Life. On that day, as we celebrate being people of life with various initiatives, I ask our priests to offer a Mass for the Progress of Peoples, but wearing the purple vestments of penitence.”
Bishop Egan also praised Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, which he called “prophetic”.
The document “restates the Church’s doctrine on the integrity of sexual intercourse, reserved to a husband and wife in marriage, as an act of love open to life and that these two aspects, openness to life and love, must not be split or artificially separated,” he said.
“Otherwise, the Pope warned, there would be catastrophic consequences for persons, families and society.”
Fifty years later, we can now see the wisdom of the encyclical, the bishop added, especially 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 and the explosion of addictive behaviours leading to despair, shame and guilt.”
He warned that British society was entering a “frightening new Dark Age” as people abandon faith. “No wonder a death-wish is arising for assisted suicide and euthanasia.”
“We must ask Jesus to help us reach out in love to those around, to assist people [to] develop a personal relationship with God.”
“This is fundamental to the mission of our schools and parishes,” he said.