A senior Roman Catholic bishop has criticised educated Catholics for spreading scepticism and sowing dissent instead of following the church’s teaching. The bishop complained that influential Catholics in politics and the media were undermining the church and pursuing ‘hedonistic’, ‘selfish’ and ‘egocentric’ lifestyles.
While not naming names, the Rt Rev. Patrick O’Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster, suggested that such people had been compromised by their education, which he said had a ‘dark side, due to original sin’.
The bishop has previously argued that mass education has led to ‘sickness in the church and wider society’ and that mass education, while enriching lives, also distorted and fragmented society by spreading radical scepticism, marginalising God and fostering the mistaken idea that people can live happy and productive lives without him.
The bishop believes church teaching has been misinterpreted most by Catholics ‘who have had a university education … by those most exposed to the intellectual and moral spirit of the age’.
Bishop O’Donoghue’s remarks reflect the frustration of Catholic church leaders who see attendances slipping year on year. Although the influx of immigrants from Catholic countries in Eastern Europe has buoyed Mass attendance in recent years, there has been a significant decline in the number of indigenous worshippers.
Attendance at Mass in 1991 was recorded as 1.3 million, representing a drop of 40% since 1963; it fell further to 960,000 in 2004. The number of priests in England and Wales has slumped by nearly a quarter in 20 years; from 4,545 in 1985 to 3,643 in 2005.