Question 95



By Hilary White

LANCASTER, UK, August 19, 2008 ( - Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue of the northern English diocese of Lancaster, has blasted the contraceptive mentality that has resulted, he said, in the dissolution of marriage as an institution, endlessly rising abortion and divorce rates, depressed and even suicidal children, and ultimately the degradation of an entire society.

"I am convinced that there must be profoundly damaging consequences for the family in a country where contraception and abortion are so wide-spread," he writes in a soon-to-be released document.

Artificial contraception, abortion, in vitro fertilisation, sterilisation and sex outside marriage, are contradictions to the very core of what it means to be human, Bishop O’Donoghue argues.

The attempt to demote sexuality to a mere recreation activity, removed from marriage, has degraded what he has called "the Law of Self Gift" - the "total physical self-giving which is only possible for a man and a woman who have committed themselves to one another until death, as husband and wife."

This Law of Self Gift is, he writes, the "reason why the Church is so adamantly against sterilisation, contraception, abortion and sex outside marriage.

These acts, because they contradict and negate the God given meaning of the human person, attack the very foundations of the human world."

In his lengthy and comprehensive document that is due for publication next week, "Fit for Mission? Church", Bishop O’Donoghue writes that sexuality is "not purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of each person." He warns that the Church needs to return to the truth of its teaching on sexuality and traces the increase in abortion and divorce, as well as depression and mental illness among young people, to the denial of the truth about contraception.

"These statistics," he says, "reveal the shocking depth and extent of the suffering and impoverishment of so many families and children due to the separation of the unitive and procreative nature of sexual love, and the wide-spread practice of pre-marital sexual behaviour."

Citing official 2006 statistics, Bishop O’Donoghue deplores the 193,700 unborn children killed through abortion that year, including the 2000 children killed who "may" have suffered some kind of disability and the 3,990 abortions carried out on girls under age 16 - the age of consent.

Fewer marriages, fewer children, and children raised in families without the inherent stability afforded by true marriage have undermined the happiness of children and ultimately of the whole nation, the bishop says. He notes the spiritual and emotional malaise of a society without strong families. More than one quarter of all children under 16 in Britain, he writes, "regularly feel depressed" and between 2006-2007, 4,241 children under 14 attempted to commit suicide.

No wonder so many children are suffering depression and mental illness in a country that is such a hostile environment for human life. No wonder divorce is so prevalent when family life is so often characterised by a lack of generosity or self-giving love."

The bishop has called on both clergy and laity, especially at the parish level, to defend and promote the Church's teaching against artificial contraception and the meaning of sexuality. "We, the Catholic Church, must be more confident and proactive in presenting our rich and fulfilling understanding of marriage, sexual love and the family."

In the larger context of the 92 page document, Bishop O’Donoghue has asked Catholics for input on what they hope to see in the future of the Catholic Church in the Lancaster diocese and in England overall.

Bishop O’Donoghue received widespread plaudits from parents and other Catholics concerned by the erosion of Catholic teaching on diocesan schools earlier this year when he released his previous document "Fit for Mission? Schools." In that document he called for all the schools of his diocese to re-commit themselves to the teachings of the Catholic Church, especially on marriage, family and life issues.

He asked for crucifixes to be placed in every classroom, for "sex-education" to be based exclusively on the principles of chastity and the sanctity of marriage, that schools do no fundraising for anti-life groups and religious education be based firmly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

This document resulted in his being hauled before a Parliamentary committee, secularist members of which demanded to know if the Catholic Church were returning to a previous "doctrinaire" or "fundamentalist" attitude towards its education system. Bishop O’Donoghue responded that teaching Catholicism in a Catholic school, their "prime duty", constituted neither "fundamentalism" nor "proselytism."

Read related coverage:

UK Catholic Bishop Before Parliament for Insisting on Crucifixes in Every Classroom and Truly CatholicSexEd

To contact Bishop O’Donoghue,
Phone: (01524) 596050

Cathedral House,
Balmoral Road,
Lancaster, UK

Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB