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English bishop criticises New Evangelisation council

By on Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Bishop Conry had a private meeting with the Pope in January (Photograph: Servizio Fotographico de l’OR)

Bishop Conry had a private meeting with the Pope in January (Photograph: Servizio Fotographico de l’OR)

The bishop responsible for evangelisation in England and Wales has questioned the Pope’s decision to create a New Evangelisation council.

Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton, in an interview with BBC Radio 4′s Sunday programme, appeared to say that the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation, which focuses on re-evangelising Europe, is superfluous.

He also said he was not convinced by the notion that secularisation lies at the heart of the Church’s decline in Europe.

He said: “I think the Church has a problem in its own proclamation of the Gospel and you wonder why you’d set up this office for evangelisation anyway, because the whole mission of the Church is evangelisation, the proclamation of the Gospel. I don’t think we’re doing that terribly well.”

Bishop Conry said that the Church had become “simply irrelevant” for many people.

He said: “My own personal opinion — I would stress that this is a personal opinion — is that I am not entirely convinced by this secularisation argument. It suggests that the Church’s problems are external, in other words society has gone wrong, but the Church is fine.”

The Church, he said, had “failed to put across its own message in a way that’s accessible enough”, because many people in Britain felt “spiritual”, but not “faithful”, and did not “have a belief in a personal God”.

Bishop Conry said: “It’s authoritative. It’s intolerant. It’s demanding. It’s exclusive. I think the Church has got to re-present itself rather than simply blame everything on the ills of society.”

He said he thought it needed “to become a little more tolerant, accessible, welcoming, compassionate. All the things that, for many people, it is not.”

When he was asked whether the new curial department had been created because of a fear that Islam might overtake Christianity as Europe’s religion, Bishop Conry said: “That’s interesting. When I met the Pope recently – I met the Pope in January – I was talking about the state of the nation, as it were, and I mentioned in this part of the country there were growing numbers of Muslims wanting to get into Catholic schools, for instance, and his only question was: ‘Is there fundamentalism?’

“And I said, ‘No, no. Muslims want the same as us: they want schools. They want housing. They want jobs.’ I don’t know what concern there is there. There may be, but I suspect it’s simply the fact that numbers in the west appear to be declining quite radically. Numbers of Catholics that is in church on a Sunday.”

  • Garysibio

    If the Catholic Church is so irrelevant, why doesn't Bishop Conroy find a more fulfilling job.

  • Daniel Hayes

    I wonder if his grace could explain why the fastest growing denominations are those with a more 'authoritative, intolerant and demmanding' outlook (hat-tip Greek Orthodox Church not to mention fundementalist Islam).
    The message has always been the right one, the trouble is that it is increasingly falling upon def-ears.

  • JB

    We have a Catholic Education service that “informs” on schools whose admissions policies are “too Catholic” and Bishops who tell us the church is irrelevant. Do we really need to wonder why our church appears to be troubled?

  • Justin

    I will agree with His Lordship that there is an internal problem in the Church. But his assessment of the nature of the problem is entirely different from mine I'm afraid, with all due respect to his office as Bishop and Pastor.
    The problems with the Church stem not from being authoritative and intolerant and demanding (after all Christ teaches with authority (All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me), to the modern-day Christ may seem intolerant (those who are not for me are against me), and he is certainly demanding (Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect). Do we too point fingers and say Christ has a fundamental problem? Rather the problem with certain parts of the Church is how at many times and in many places, it has bent over backwards to conform to the spirit of the age rather than the Holy Spirit. (And note this applies to certain children of the Church – the Church universal – militant, suffering and triumphant – is always perfect, washed clean by the blood of the Lamb – one, holy, catholic, and apostolic). We, loyal sons and daughters of the Church need to reclaim that vision of passing on the deposit of faith in its fulness, to make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

  • Chris

    This is an outageous statement. Archbishop, you are a leader of the same Church that you are castigating! Why are numbers declining in your diocese in terms of Mass attendnce and how are you addressing this issue? It is after all your responsibility. Perhaps you would be happier in the Anglican Church?

  • thedailygadfly

    With regard to Bishop Conry stating “I don’t think we’re doing that terribly well” with regard to evangelisation. I have to say that he is absolutely as accurate as he could possibly be.

    I spent time in Rome attending church before returning to Britain and joining the church as a convert. It has taken only three years to realise that evangelisation in the Catholic Church in the UK is effectively non-existent, before anybody comments I do realise that there are a few good people trying their best, with the emphasis being on 'the few'.

    The reality of what I experienced in Italy and the reality in the UK are poles apart and the Bishops in this country should be ashamed of themselves.

    I am pleased that Bishop Conry has the humility to admit the facts.

  • kenny

    His Lordship would be more at home in a Protestant Church I feel

  • Misnich

    Rome burns (with Apostolic zeal) while bishops and bishops' conferences fiddle. The Pontifical Council for New Evangelization is needed precisely because the status quo is largely a picture of timidity. If we're not evangelizing we're in retreat. The Church has suffered too long from a weak witness, a mission further sapped by dissenting individuals who hate the Church. The Holy Father has been consistently reminding us who we are as the People of God in order to help us reclaim our identity for the purpose again discerned by the Second Vatican Council – to confidently bring the message and Person of Christ to a world that desperately needs rescuing from sin.

  • jamesj1

    It seems like the Bishop wants the church to adopt every fashion of the modern age and fit into society. I remember the Bishop saying the church needed to connect to younger people by talking about environmental issues in another article. I got back into my faith in my late 20's by coming across great Catholic writers like GK Chesterton, Walker Percy and beginning to understand my faith. If the church start adopting fashionable themes like the tolerance and the environment it just sounds like every other public body. The fact that Church teaching upsets so many people tells me it must be doing something right. The word holy means set apart.

  • Gashwin

    There is no fundamentalism among Muslims in Britain? Where does this Bishop live?

  • thomaspj

    It is a matter of great joy to know there is a Bishop who can speak with authority and who is in touch with reality. Only such Bishops can promote the “Kingdom of God” by proclaiming God's WORD and thus prevent the Church (The Organised Church as opposed to the Church of Christ working under the Guidance of the Holy Spirit) from dying out. Others are only playing with words and keeping the people occupied with dead rituals. This is why the Young are moving away from the Church everywhere except where the Word of God is proclaimed in and through the Spirit of Jesus – like the Twlve Apostles.

    Thomas P.J. (poovamfuture@yahoo.com)

  • Henry Law

    The bishop is correct. With a few notable exceptions the Catholic church fails to put across its message. The most important tool for instruction is actually the liturgy, but thanks to the ideas promoted by the likes of this bishop, the liturgy is dire.

    He and his ilk are part of the problem.

  • Fidelioque

    The problem is not secularisation outside the Church that is true but it is the secularisation that Bishop Conry and his fellow bishops have brought into the Church. He stresses the Church must be more tolerant, more welcoming but to whom? What he means is those who live in the world and adopt the customs of the world. We must welcome adultery, we must welcome homosexuality, we must welcome divorce, we must welcome abortion, we must welcome the alternative view of family life. We must not talk about sin. Of c oourse this makes the Church very welcoming to a minority which is why in forwarding his anti-gospel yes, anti-gospel message with his fellow bishops he shows utter contempt for the Gospel. Of course Moslems will want their children in Catholic Schools there is no threat of fundamentalism or teaching children to live Gospel values there. It is all just tommy rot about feeding the poor and doing what you like. No wonder young people looking for values find none and abandon us. Bishop Conry and his misreperesentation of the Gospel message as secular will soon disappear, ordinary catholics have had enough.

  • GFFM

    Bishop Kieran Conry's comments illustrate the need for evangelization of all, even bishops like himself. He has a point about the Church's need to bring its message to the people. But he should also consider that bishops like himself have failed to teach the faith with any abiding fervor or sincerity. When he says that “It’s authoritative. It’s intolerant. It’s demanding. It’s exclusive. I think the Church has got to re-present itself rather than simply blame everything on the ills of society,” he is out of touch with all the work the Church does throughout the world and he betrays a concern with image as opposed to substance. He sounds more like an image consultant or a public relations strategist than a priest or bishop. Also, it's concerning that he isn't alarmed by the anti-Catholic and anti religious sentiment of his own culture and the intrusiveness of that culture into consciences and belief. I would strongly suggest that he read the Pope's work on Love and Charity–he may then understand how compelling and how countercultural Catholicism is in today's world.

  • Ce

    If the church is not growing, we ALL have a problem. Don't point fingers; individuals must take it upon themselves to evangelize. We must stay united even in our different roles and EVANGELIZE. We must not be afraid to confess our faith and share it with others.

    ce.mdbys.com

  • Robinleslie

    Yes I agree. The problem the Church now faces, and this is not simply a problem for bishops and priests it is a shared problem with the whole Chuch, is that after Vatican 2 the Church, in the UK at least became

    middle class in its orientation and composition, and it assimilated many middle class attitudes of liberality.

    This was no more pronounced in the Anglican Church which, during George Carey's Archbishopric, used 'management science' to engineer an organizational and pastoral restructuring of the Anglican Church, in church replanting, outreach, and women's ordination.

    The Catholic response was not so secular and restructuring was more sensitive to the internals of theological tradition (as with Avery Dulles: Models of the Church). Nevertheless the experimentations with liturgy were simply disastrous, and many middle class academics advocated pseudo-solutions for

    modernizing and 'opening-up' the Church. To his credit Cardinal Marty of Paris ( always remembered)

    said that the post-Vatican 2 Church had become 'self-effacing to the point of oblivion'.

    It is a maxim, if such can be the term, in the Sociology of Religion, that religious institutions with firm boundaries outlast those with porous boundaries.

    I hope Bishop Conry will not be too generous to our humanist friends, especially since Jesus said

    'Watch and pray'.

  • Ruth

    I am very distressed at the naivete of Bishop Conry. Part of their drive to establish a global Caliphate is to infiltrate western institutions in order to undermine and eventually destroy them. Christians, as well as Catholics, should pray for the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. Also, what exactly should the Catholic Church tolerate that God, in the Holy Bible, tells us not to? To tolerate sin is not loving your neighbor. And just what does it mean to tolerate? No one is suggesting violence or hatred of sinners except Muslims!