Christianity Almost Defeated in Britain, Cardinal Says

Music, New Age and Consumerism Seen Filling the Gap

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LEEDS, England, SEPT. 6, 2001 ( Christianity is almost beaten in Britain, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor told a gathering of priests, according to The Times of London.

Instead of turning to Christ, people are turning to music, New Age, the environmental movement, the occult and consumerism, the archbishop of Westminster said in candid remarks to the National Conference of Priests meeting Wednesday.

He also spoke of the damage and shame brought to the Catholic Church by the scandal of pedophile priests.

His analysis of Britain’s spiritual decay echoed the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, who last year said: «A tacit atheism prevails. Death is assumed to be the end of life. Our concentration on the here-and-now renders a thought of eternity irrelevant.»

In November a survey by the National Center for Social Research showed that 44% of all adults in the United Kingdom say they have no religious affiliation. That figure rose to two-thirds among 18- to 24-year-olds.

Earlier in 2000, Peter Brierley, the leading expert on church attendance in Britain, suggested that Christian life will be all but dead in 40 years with less than 0.5% of the population attending a church service. Some observers speculate that practicing Muslims now outnumber practicing Anglicans in Britain.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, the primate of England and Wales, went further than Carey´s assessment. The extent to which Christianity informed modern culture and intellectual life in Britain today had been hugely diminished, the cardinal said.

«It does seem in our countries in Britain today, especially in England and Wales, that Christianity, as a sort of backdrop to people’s lives and moral decisions — and to the government, the social life of the country — has now almost been vanquished,» he said.

Increasing numbers of people now gained their «glimpses of the transcendant» from involvement in music, New Age movements and green issues, he added. People are seeking transient happiness in alcohol, drugs, pornography and recreational sex, the cardinal said.

«There is indifference to Christian values and to the Church among many young people and, indeed, not only the young,» he said. «You see quite a demoralized society, one where the only good is what I want, the only rights are my own, and the only life with any meaning or value is the life I want for myself.»

The cardinal also warned of the excesses of the free-market economy and consumerism.

«When we live in a culture which says, ´What I have got is what I am,´ we are in big trouble,» he noted. «Whilst I understand that — to some degree — we are all consumers, this is something we all enjoy a bit, it´s quite clear that a sole reliance on the market place does in the end actually prevent people from taking their destiny into their own hands.»

«There are many today who think that to believe in God is to limit one´s freedom,» the cardinal added.

Confronting the problem of priests who have sex with children, the cardinal warned the Church against «apathy» and «negligence.»

«I do not try to make excuses for the past,» he said. «Yes, we must recognize the depth and the extent of the damage done to the Church and its mission in these cases.»

He said priests, and especially bishops, had not been sufficiently aware of the «insidious» and «pathological» nature of child abuse and had not treated all allegations with the seriousness they merited.

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