Right of Reply: Keith Porteous Wood

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The Independent Culture
The general secretary of the National Secular Society responds to an article by Andreas Whittam Smith

ANDREAS WHITTAM Smith is wrong to say that the Church of England is "declining much faster" than the "more successful" Roman Catholic Church. According to Religious Trends, published by Christian Research, C of E attendance declined by 12 per cent between 1980 and 1995 whereas the Roman Catholic's dropped 31 per cent, more than any other major church.

Mr Whittam Smith claims that the Catholic Church's purported smaller decline in attendances results from its "discipline and unpopular teaching on sex and marriage". In fact, these are the very teachings and discipline that have caused the RC church to haemorrhage.

Many RC adherents have "lapsed", repelled by inhumane RC doctrines, the worst of which is its policy on "artificial" contraception. Many openly flout the teachings on birth control. World-wide, the policy results in over-population and increased poverty. The proscription of condoms also frustrates the fight against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Mr Whittam Smith takes particular exception to Dr Carey's claim that the C of E "is a generation away from extinction". Carey's remarks, probably intended to rally the troops after a failed decade of evangelism, may be even more prophetic than he realised. The pressure to create women bishops will become irresistible, despite the Archbishop of York's resignation threat. The Lambeth conference exposed another potential split, over the issue of gay priests. Could the C of E survive multiple schisms?

If the next Pope is as reactionary as the present one, the National Secular Society expects the Catholic Church, too, will soon be predicting its own demise in this country.