Catholics cannot claim to be true to their faith if they do not support Church teaching on abortion, a bishop has said.

Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster said abortion was a “foundational issue”, quoting Pope Francis who said: “We are called to defend and safeguard human life, especially in the mother’s womb, in infancy, old age and physical or mental disability.”

“Sadly,” Bishop Campbell added, “The price of admission into mainstream British life has meant that we somehow keep the Catholic brand name and tribal loyalty, but are content to live a mix of nostalgia and generic good will and ‘keep our heads down’ in the public sphere.”

True Catholics, on the other hand, have a duty to “sanctify and humanize” the country, and lead to towards Church teaching.

As Britain approaches the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act, he added, Catholics must remember opposition to abortion is integral to the faith. “There’s no way around it. It’s the cornerstone issue for any society because it deals with the most basic human right of all – the right to life.”

The bishop also criticised Catholic publications that fail to defend Church teaching on the issue.

“Some Catholics – including some periodicals and newspapers who claim to use that name – seem simply embarrassed by the abortion issue,” he said.

“The abortion struggle gets in the way of their natural political alliances. Others don’t really agree with the Church’s teaching, or don’t accept the personhood of the unborn child. Others just want a respectable way to explain away this issue and get on with what they regard as the ‘real’ work of the Church!”

Bishop Campbell concluded by saying overturning the Abortion Act is achievable, although it could take decades as it “challenges the moral premises of a society”.

“Let us work and pray under God for this intention – especially with the Rosary this October – always with the compassion of Christ,” he said.