Edmund Adamus, director of Pastoral Affairs for the archdiocese of Westminster, recently “did not reflect the archbishop’s opinions.”Zenit on the importance of Christian marriage, Adamus lamented the breakdown of societal morality, particularly in his own country:
Whether we like it or not as British citizens and residents of this country-and whether we are even prepared as Catholics to accept this reality and all it implies-the fact is that historically, and continuing right now, Britain, and in particular London, has been and is the geopolitical epicenter of the culture of death.
“Our laws and lawmakers for over 50 years or more have been the most permissively anti-life and progressively anti-family and marriage, in essence one of the most anti-Catholic landscapes culturally speaking than even those places where Catholics suffer open persecution.” He went on to criticize “permissive laws advancing the ‘gay’ agenda,” pornography, “the objectification of women for sexual gratification,” and described modern Britain as a “selfish, hedonistic wasteland.”
This was simply too much for some to digest. Adamus was roundly denounced in the secular media, and even hung out to dry by his own fellow Catholics. A Catholic in the Independent, for example, told Adamus to “get out more,” calling his views “extreme” and “spectacularly unhelpful,” while noting with approval that his beliefs are “significantly at odds with those of his boss, Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster..” The trendy London Tablet also chimed in, ridiculing “the Edmund Adamus section of the church,” and celebrating that he was duly “slapped down.”
After reporting on the controversy, and that Adamus did not receive the support of Archbishop Nichols, the Catholic Herald-usually very respectful of the archbishop, commented: “Yet most people would agree that Britain is a fairly selfish, consumerist and sexualized society. All Catholics lament the high rate of abortion. And the calls for legal euthanasia are persistent and growing stronger.”
In speaking out, Mr. Adamus was simply expressing the same concerns of the former Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor; and it is odd that his successor, Archbishop Nichols, would see much to disagree with here, especially since Nichols-to his considerable credit-recently criticized an intolerant secularism himself.
That so many in Britain, including Catholics, were scandalized by Adamus’s remarks simply underscores how far the country has drifted away from Christianity.
There is nothing “extreme” or irresponsible about stating the truth, and what Adamus said about Britain’s promotion of abortion, sexual immorality and pornography is undeniably, demonstrably true (and in fairness, could be applied to many other countries, including our own). As William Oddie noted on his blog, perhaps it is complacent liberals who should “get out more” if they do not believe a cultural war is raging. Secularists who sanction these practices are the first to acknowledge they have become part of contemporary life, and in fact are constantly trying to make them permanent fixtures.
Adamus did not just censure the culture; he offered a positive, alternative vision based upon a renewed Culture of Life, and John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, but all that was lost on his critics.
They said it was excessive to compare the United Kingdom to tyrannies in Iran, Saudi Arabia and North Korea. There is truth to that, but it also depends on what stage of life you are at. If you’re fortunate enough to avoid abortion, you are naturally better off in Britain (at least for a while); but if you are in the womb and “unwanted” -or elderly or ill and considered a “burden” to society-then you are indeed in danger of being quietly dispatched by what one critic of Adamus ironically called “modern, tolerant, secular Britain.”
“I feel sorry,” wrote one British supporter defending Adamus,
that the Director of Pastoral Affairs for Westminster archdiocese should be so attacked in the secular press for making, granted with a certain amount of hyperbole, points which are not only valid but raise serious questions about British society. Of course Catholics are not persecuted here as they are in Saudi Arabia, India or in Iraq and it would be absurd to believe it; but there is a relentless, aggressive and prevalent anti-Catholicism in this country which is evident even in the outrage Mr. Adamus’s comments have provoked..Take for example the other day, the Newsnight interview with Lord Patten [who] was asked about the Pope’s stance on ‘abortion and gay marriage’ as if these were such acceptable cornerstones of society that anyone who could question them must by definition be an unenlightened monster. Now, whatever your beliefs about homosexuality and the validity of ‘gay marriage,’ to accept, without question the morality of killing innocent life is simply monstrous. And in that sense, yes, Britain is a moral wasteland.
Peter Hitchens, the devout Anglican, added in the Spectator: “Mr. Adamus is not actually saying– as he has been caricatured as doing– that Christians are persecuted here. He is making the important point that the sticky, slow, bureaucratic strangulation of Christianity by the secular state is harder to fight than a direct attack by a frank and open enemy.”
Adamus is not the first, and will hardly be the last, to call attention to Britain’s slide into moral decay. Over seventy years ago, Christopher Dawson predicted it all in his searing book, Judgment of the Nations. Among the greatest historians of the twentieth century, Dawson (a British Catholic convert) went into a period of neglect after the Second Vatican Council, when so many “progressives” tried to expunge the Catholic past. Fortunately, Dawson is now being rediscovered, and those wanting to understand how we came to the situation Adamus accurately describes, would do well to study Dawson’s works, beginning with Judgment. It reads as if it was written just yesterday: “The old landmarks of good and evil and truth and falsehood have been swept away and civilization is driving before the storm of destruction like a dismasted and helmless ship.” Evils of the past, thought to have been banished forever, have returned with a vengeance; and “we have discovered that evil too is a progressive force and that the modern world provides unlimited prospects for its development.”
Dawson would not have been surprised by Adamus’s judgments. But he doubtless would have been saddened by the lack of support given him by fellow Christians, and the lack of Christian unity fighting the powers of this world. For Dawson, Christian unity, in the face of evil, was all important in overcoming it. “Wherever Christianity exists there survives a seed of unity, a principle of spiritual order, which cannot be destroyed..Thus the hope of the world rests in the last resort on the existence of a spiritual nucleus of believers who are the bearers of the seed of unity.”
The only thing that it demands is faith; and lack of faith is the one thing which can impede Christianity’s mission.
Christianity calls us to a bold, even daring vision, one which challenges the modern world. Instead of running away from it, Catholics should be championing it, and applauding those, like Mr. Adamus, who have the courage to proclaim it in the public square.