Bishop of Portsmouth gives lecture at King's College in London

Secularism is too flimsy a basis for British culture and society, the Bishop of Portsmouth has said in a lecture.

Addressing an audience at King’s College London last week, Bishop Philip Egan said that secularism “cannot guarantee human flourishing nor sustain the advances the British people have achieved”.

It was, he said, too “fragile a basis for a free society”, whereas only the Gospel can offer an “authentic humanism able to transform human living.”

Bishop Egan studied classics at King’s College in the 1970s, and returned there for the first time at the behest of Fr Joe Evans, the Catholic Chaplain. The lecture, entitled “Irrelevant? Should Christianity still have a voice in the public square?” was attended by members of the Catholic Society, as well the Anglican Chaplain and Assistants, and students and staff.

Bishop Egan warned that Christianity had been in decline since the 1970s, and that “secularism is producing a society without foundations, one that develops randomly on the hoof through pressure-groups, legal precedent and political expediency.”

In an interview with the Catholic Herald last year Bishop Egan said that combating secularism required more “creativity” to meet the challenges of a post-modern secularised culture.

And he told the audience in London that secularism “ring-fences religion to the private domain, thus dissolving the ground of public ethics and the basis of law in right reason. This is turn allows harmful ideologies to come in that victimise the weak, especially the unborn child, the elderly and the dying. Secularism is clearly unable to support ‘stable marriages and family life’.”

He said secularists are now beginning to place restrictions on religious freedom because it has a natural “tendency towards greater surveillance and state-control”.

In response the Church must offer Britain its message, of “an authentic humanism able to ground a free, democratic and pluralist society.”

This required, he said, “Catholic apologetics, able to rebut popular myths about science, so that schoolchildren can appreciate the interaction of faith and reason, the complementarity of religion and science, and the redemptive role of religion within human living.”

We need to “retrieve and promote Britain’s Christian patrimony, its history, art and architecture, its music and literature, its liturgy, theology and ethics.”

This includes promoting “a greater knowledge of the Bible, which underpins so much of English literature” and “a greater knowledge of the history of the Church in Britain,” especially of the saints who helped develop the Christian character of these islands.