In a way the challenge facing England’s bishops mirrors that facing the US: integrating thousands of new Catholics who speak a different language into our own culture and language. While we have millions of Hispanics streaming into our country and into our churches, replacing the Irish and Italians and French and the rest who have abandoned our pews, so too does England have tens of thousands of Eastern European Catholics, most of them Poles, now streaming into their country.
Damien Thompson, writing in London’s The Telegraph says that this could be a major revitalization for the Catholic Church in England which had grown increasingly moribund in recent years, except for one problems: England’s bishops.
No wonder the Poles are not impressed by their new spiritual home. They have petitioned the bishops to provide them with more Masses in their own language. The answer, as often as not, has been no: you must “integrate”. Nothing illustrates more clearly the bishops’ ignorance of the secrets of church growth. London’s mushrooming Pentecostal congregations are falling over themselves to provide immigrants with tailored services.
Meanwhile, in a sadly muddle-headed decision, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor has announced that three of the most evocative weekday feasts of the calendar – Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi – will be absorbed into ordinary Sunday worship “in order to foster the celebration of the rhythm of the liturgical year”, whatever that means.
What can be done? What only Pope Benedict can do: appoint new bishops who have a different vision. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster reaches retirement age next year. Pope Benedict could start there.