The Conversion of England?
The article refers to a report referring to this growth as ‘the Catholic community’s greatest opportunity’. Greatest opportunity for what? Why is The Times presenting this story as the triumphal culmination of the centuries-old objective of the conversion of England?
The reality of the situation is not quite as The Times portrays. There are 4.2 million Roman Catholics in England and Wales, 25 million baptised Anglicans, and around 2 million Muslims. While it may be true that attendance at Mass has increased, this is due more to a Polish perception of the Catholic Church being an institute for welfare than it is a sudden new-found faith. Anglican worship is stable, not diminishing, and a truer picture of the status of Protestantism in the UK is only achieved when one adds to the Anglican figures those of the Free Churches. There are no firm statistics for these, but the Evangelical churches have been experiencing considerable growth over the past two decades, and such growth is far more to do with Sola Scriptura than it is the Catechism.
In a media age, however, perception is everything. While the Church of England is perceived to compromise on just about everything, it is Rome which is counter-cultural, and perceived to make a stand for the apostolic traditions of the Church. The Times asked a few years ago: ‘As the new papacy reaffirms Catholic dogma, why is the Anglican Church so lily-livered?’ It is simply the lack of effective leadership, which can only be a direct result of decades of third-rate prime ministerial appointments of bishops and archbishops. Just as politicians appear to be obsessed with apologising for the sins of yesteryear (most recently for slavery, and the potato famine), Cranmer awaits the prime minister who will apologise for the Reformation.
Yet all of this is of secondary concern to the spiritual health of the nation. While Anglicans and Roman Catholics are obsessed with counting the faithful on Sundays, Muslims are filling their mosques on Fridays, and growing exponentially. In terms of regular attendance and loyal devotion, this is the group that the media should really be focusing on, for they challenge not merely the achievements of the Reformation, but they herald the end of Christendom.