A letter from the Catholic bishops of Scotland about the forthcoming general election.
Printed copies available in the porch, or you can visit https://rcpolitics.org/elections-uk-parliament/.
General Election 2019
A letter from the Catholic Bishops of Scotland
This General Election presents us with an opportunity to elect an individual representative who reflects as closely as possible our beliefs. It allows us to revisit Catholic Social Teaching and to connect our voting to our Catholic faith. It can be a chance to proclaim the inherent dignity and value of every human being, made in the image and likeness of God, and to promote the common good.
In recent times, politics has become divisive, principally, though not exclusively, as a result of the EU referendum. Vigorous debate has sometimes spilled over into personal attacks and even acts of violence which are never acceptable.
Uncertain times ought to make us stop and reflect on the One who is Truth Himself. Turning to God in these difficult times is our only hope for true peace. During elections, a range of issues compete for our attention; we highlight some of them here so that we may reflect on them and raise them with parliamentary candidates.
It is the duty of all of us to uphold the most basic and fundamental human right – the right to life. We should urge candidates to recognise human life from the moment of conception until natural death and to legislate for its protection at every stage, including protecting the unborn child, ensuring that both mother and child are accepted and loved.
We should remind our politicians that abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia are, as the Church has consistently taught, always morally unacceptable. Decriminalisation of abortion unhappily paves the way towards a legal basis for abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth and politicians should be urged to resist it.
Our Governments should also promote a culture of life overseas, reversing the current practice of the UK Government to support anti-life initiatives, which might be described as ideological colonisation.
Marriage and the Family
Society relies on the building block of the family to exist. The love of man and woman in marriage and their openness to new life is the basic, fundamental cell upon which society is built. The wellbeing of society depends on the flourishing and health of family life and MPs and other legislators should respond to this with policies that create economic and fiscal support for married couples and families with children.
Sadly, poverty continues to be a scourge for many at home and abroad. Too many people still struggle to make ends meet, homelessness is on the rise, and the two-child limit on tax credits is disproportionately affecting families of faith. This reality cannot and should not endure in our country in the twenty-first century. Reliance on food banks, particularly for families, is a telling criticism of a society that has forgotten its poor people in its midst.
Our concerns should also extend to maintaining and improving the UK’s commitment to international development, which helps some of the poorest people in the world. Aid should not be used to support immoral practices such as those which compromise the basic right to life. Legislation in our country should also welcome refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, remove the inhumane policy of indefinite immigration detention, and provide for those people living in and around conflict zones while committing to working towards the peaceful resolution of conflict. MPs should also commit the nation to responsible stewardship of the earth and all of its resources, and act on Pope Francis’ call to be ‘protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.’
Freedom of Religion and Conscience
We believe that a creeping intolerance towards religious belief, including but not confined to Christianity, has become part of life in modern Britain. Certain politicians and citizens are finding it increasingly difficult to be true to their faith in an environment that tries to restrict religion to the private sphere. Our MPs should be urged to legislate for a liberal and tolerant society that is truly welcoming to all faiths and none.
Millions of people worldwide are persecuted for their beliefs. People of faith, including Christians, should be able to practise their faith freely and to bear witness to it in their lives without fear of prejudice, intolerance, abuse or violence. Candidates for Parliament should be committed to the right of people not to be forced to act against their conscience, and the next UK Government should campaign against religious persecution and intolerance around the world.
Nuclear Weapons and the Arms Trade
The use of any weapon that causes more than individual and proportionate harm to civilians is immoral and is rejected by the Church. The use of weapons of mass destruction is a serious offence against God and against humanity. While states are entitled to possess the means required for legitimate defence, this must not become an excuse for an excessive accumulation of weaponry which becomes a considerable threat to stability and freedom as well as a misuse of public funds that could serve to address the needs of the disadvantaged. The next UK Government ought to work actively and seriously towards elimination of the UK’s nuclear arsenal, and the promotion of a more peace-oriented manufacturing industry, one that doesn’t manufacture arms which fuel wars and instability across the world.
Finally, as we engage in this General Election, please pray for those who will be charged with representing the nation’s interests in Parliament. May they be guided towards what is good and true; to the One who can bring true peace and freedom for all.
Yours devotedly in Christ,
+ Hugh Gilbert, President, Bishop of Aberdeen
+ John Keenan, Vice President, Bishop of Paisley
+ Brian McGee, Episcopal Secretary, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles
+ Philip Tartaglia, Archbishop of Glasgow
+ Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh
+ Joseph Toal, Bishop of Motherwell
+ Stephen Robson, Bishop of Dunkeld
+ William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway
As we enter the second year of the Archdiocesan Parish Clustering Initiative, it is timely to give all parishioners an update of developments and activities so far and take a forward look to what may be achieved over the coming year.
Why Parish Clusters?
It is probably appropriate to remind ourselves about why the Clustering Initiative is being undertaken. In setting up the process, the Archbishop identified the need for a raised consciousness on issues that we are facing, namely the changing pattern of religious practice in our communities and a shortage of priest being generated in our communities for the number of parishes that currently exist.
The Clustering Initiative is intended to encourage parishes to share our experience and expertise to raise attention to the issues that the Church is facing. Hopefully in time this will lead to solutions that the parishes themselves have identified and can take ownership of. It is seen as the first three years of a 10 year Archdiocesan planning and development process.
Initially, there was much concern that Clustering was simply a precursor to parish closures and amalgamations. While this cannot be ruled out in the medium to long term for some parishes, this is not the primary motivation for the initiative. The issues facing us are much deeper. To quote the Archbishop:
“If it is a crisis, it is a spiritual crisis. It is a crisis of the reality of the faith and of the Church in people’s lives, of the handing on of faith, and of the depth of faith needed to generate vocations to the priesthood.” (Archbishop’s Address to the Deans, 28th June 2016).
What’s happened so far?
Initially four parishes were clustered: St Andrew’s, St Benedict’s, St Joseph’s and St Laurence’s. We organised an inaugural Spiritual Event, a Mass in St Benedict’s on 3rd March. This was well attended (full!) and an uplifting experience for all participants. Following the Mass, St Benedict’s hospitality of sandwiches, cakes and tea provided an opportunity for parishioners to meet and chat about their shared experiences, and mutual friends and acquaintances.
In the Spring, there was a reappraisal of the Cluster Groups and St Laurence’s felt that they could be more successfully accommodated in an alternative Cluster. So our next Cluster event , a Family Barbeque involved the three remaining parishes. This was held in St Andrew’s Church Halls and Garden on Sunday 12th June. We had a large attendance from the three parishes. The food was fantastic, particularly the homemade all-beef beefburgers! We had music and a variety games for children of all ages. And despite a poor forecast, even the weather was mostly kind to us.
As we begin the second year of the initiative, we are seeking to identify areas where the sharing of experiences and expertise may enhance the development of faith and pastoral provision within and across our three parishes. Possible areas for collaborations are RCIA, Catechists, Adult Faith Formation, Youth Initiatives, Liturgy , Social Activities and probably many more – we are open to suggestions!
In addition, as envisaged in the Archdiocesan programme for Clustering, we will be planning another joint spiritual event and another social event. If you have any suggestions/preferences for what we should organise then please pass on your ideas to your Parish Priest or members of your Parish Pastoral Council. We are keen to have - indeed we need - comments or feedback on the Clustering initiative to date or on plans for the future from a wide range of parishioners across all three parishes. Comments/feedback may be sent by e-mail to our Cluster Secretary at:
For ease of sorting, please put “Clustering” in the subject line.
The Clustering Committee:
Parish Clergy plus the following Lay Members:
St Andrew’s: John Heath, Veronica McLaughlin, Chris Donnelly
St Benedict’s: Michael Doherty, Kathleen O’Neil
St Joseph’s: Peter Rossi, Margaret Maxwell, Des McGhee
Pray as you go on link below.
Letter from the Scottish Bishops
re. Scottish Parliamentary elections.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
1. It is the duty of every Catholic to try to influence society for the better. The bishops urge you,
therefore, to exercise your democratic right and responsibility to vote in the forthcoming Scottish
2. Keep in mind that the Scottish Parliament now has more powers than before and has a greater
say, therefore, in determining the welfare of society. As well as existing powers over education
and health, the parliament has been given more control of the economy, with greater ability to
raise and lower taxes. It will also have responsibility for legislation regarding abortion in Scotland.
3. Please make your views known to the candidates and the parties. You have two votes in the
election. One is for a constituency MSP, where your vote allows you to have a direct say in who
is elected. So scrutinise the candidates so as to vote for the person most compatible with your
views. The second vote is for a political party. The party controls who is on their list and who is
at the top of that list. You have, therefore, less control over determining which individual is
elected. This is a concern when it comes to matters of conscience, where parliament may give a
free vote to MSPs. It is important, therefore, that you seek to influence political parties by
making your views known to them.
4. Please bring to this election the benefits of the insight that your Christian faith gives: insight
into the dignity of each person, particularly the weakest and most vulnerable; insight into the
value of all human life from conception to natural death; insight into the family as the fundamental unit of our society; insight into social and economic justice for all; insight into the care of the common home we inhabit.
5. To further these values, you might well consider it worthwhile to join a political party. Do not
leave it to others to determine the future of Scotland. Only if you use your vote can you make a
difference and influence our political leaders. Catholics in Scotland should not simply be passive
spectators but should be active participants in shaping a better society and in ensuring that we
have a parliament that appreciates, understands and respects a Christian vision for Scotland.
Yours devotedly in Christ
+ Philip Tartaglia, President, Archbishop of Glasgow
+ Joseph Toal, Vice-President, Bishop of Motherwell
+ Hugh Gilbert, Episcopal Secretary, Bishop of Aberdeen
+ Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh
+ Stephen Robson, Bishop of Dunkeld
+ John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley
+ William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway
+ Brian McGee, Bishop of Argyll and The Isles
Recent notices etc