scmo_banner_news.jpg


Would the moral consensus be any different in an independent Scotland?

Archbishop Leo Cushley

(Opinion Column, Sunday Times 22 June 2014)

Today I am back living in Scotland after a twenty-year absence from it, and I find it has changed dramatically.  

I came back last September to a country I had only visited in the meantime as a tourist, and found myself living in city not my own - Edinburgh - and among people neither my kin nor my friends, although I already feel happily at home again.

Edinburgh is a great city.   It welcomes people from all over the world.   It is much more cosmopolitan than its prim façade suggests.   Just after I moved there I walked up The Bridges, a road at the east end of Princes Street, and in a minute I passed by conversations in five different languages.   The locals are polite.   The buses are excellent.   The restaurants are busy.   The parks are numerous.   There is a large student population that keeps the place feeling young and vibrant.   And it is undoubtedly a good city to live and work in.   I willingly tell my Italian pals to come and visit me, because I know they re going to be enchanted by all of it, not just the whisky and the cashmere.

Other things have happened since I last lived in Scotland.   There is now a parliament.   I have tried and failed to like it from the outside, but we know that it s the inside that counts.   Having got past all the layers of security, and having been marked out with a humbling Visitor" lanyard, I saw the parliament s interior and it is, in contrast to its exterior, an impressive space.   Now that it s up and running, it feels like a seat of power.   It hasn t the grandeur of Westminster, but it suggests that Scotland may be growing.   But into what?   Standing there, as you look at its chambers in action, the parliament dares you to ask, Will this, Ought this to be the seat of a sovereign state?

What Scottish Catholics have to say about this comes from a mixture of places and concerns.   Today, they are from various ethnic and linguistic backgrounds - Scots, Gaelic, Irish, Italian, Polish, and all sorts of smaller groups - and they are perhaps about 14% of the population.   The end of the medieval Catholic Church in Scotland is a defining moment in the nation s history.   Its consequences are still felt, and even at this distance they can influence the way Catholics feel about Scotland.   The Church is also a hierarchy, very top-down, and so the attitude of the Pope and the Holy See always matter in a particular way.   In the nineteenth century, at a time when Great Britain was a world power and the Scots a willing part of it, the Holy See founded two distinct hierarchies in Britain, one in Scotland, and one in England and Wales.   On the other hand, the Holy See has full diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom, established in preparation for John Paul II s visit to the UK in 1982.   So, by a certain measure, the Holy See manages to recognise both what is distinctive and what is common among the Catholics of Great Britain.    

Now Pope Francis appears to have entered the debate on Scottish independence.   He did so by drawing an analogy for  La Vanguardia, a Spanish magazine, between the positions of Catalonia, Scotland and Padania (a part of northern Italy) to the countries to which they presently belong.   I thought his comments were careful and balanced.   They reflected a concern for the legitimate autonomy of peoples while at the same time cautioning against conflict in its pursuit.   Given the newspaper in question, I would say that his remarks were to be read above all in an Iberian context.   In view of the Pope s remarks, I would make two other points.

First, there is a slowly growing concern that any division created by the referendum in Scotland may be ineradicable..   The argument goes that, the closer the vote, the more likely there is to be a disturbing social reaction, especially among those who are on the losing side.   I believe this fear is unfounded, and that we will make it worse by drawing undue attention to it; nothing so untoward happened in 1977, and I hope the country remains calm and serene in the aftermath of the vote.   This is one of the points that Pope Francis was making.

My second reaction is a pastor.   The Catholic Church is not a national institution in Scotland in the way it was in the middle ages.   Nor does it have the place - politically, religiously, numerically - of, say, the Church of Scotland.   We do not have the unique, long-standing relationship with the state s institutions that the Kirk as a national institution with a privelleged constitutional statushas to consider.  

My concerns, are of a slightly different order, and they would be the same no matter where I lived.   They are to uphold the freedom to believe and to worship, and freedom of conscience, things that, in spite of the terrible lessons to be drawn from extremist regimes of the twentieth century, are still often corralled by states for citizens of all faiths and none.   Put in more religious terms, I have a concern for faith and morals, watching to see if my freedom in these areas is being maintained or eroded.   There are many other things that Catholics care about - the alleviation of poverty, the equitable distribution of the world s resources, sustainable growth, the integral development of the human person, the stewardship of creation, justice, peace, authentic human rights.   But if we take as given our peace, our prosperity and the rule of law, then the most important considerations for a person of faith are freedom of belief and worship, and freedom of conscience.  

This being the case, on these specific issues I would suggest that, for now, there is little to choose between the Westminster consensus and the Holyrood consensus - to say nothing of the European consensus.   This is not complacency or approval.   I may or may not like the consensus in question.   But, until there is a truly profound difference in the areas I ve outlined between what we have now and what we may have in an independent Scotland, I believe that the rest is open for fair debate.  

In the meantime, all of us ought to inform ourselves diligently, judge prudently what is at stake against what may be on offer, and do our civic duty on 18 September.  

As for me, I have a meeting in Rome on the day itself, but I already have my postal vote ¦

Subscribe to Updates

Subscribe to:
Like   Back to Top   Seen 159 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates ?

Subscribe to News updates

Enter your email address to be notified of new posts:

Subscribe to:

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS

‹ Return to News

We never share or sell your email address to anyone.

I've already subscribed / don't show me this again

Recent Posts

Pax Christi Scotland launches with inaugural conference in Glasgow

| 3 days ago | Blogging

Wednesday 14 November     Pax Christi Scotland, a newly-formed peace project, will officially launch later this month (23-25 November) with its inaugural conference at the Conforti Centre in Coatbridge, hosted and funded by the Xaverian Missionaries.       Its mission is to promote peace in the family, the school, the parish, and the wider community. The project will fall under the guiding principles of Pax Christi International (the Peace of Christ) a global, Gospel-based faith movement, whose mission is to create a world where people can live in peace, without fear of violence in any form.      Key speakers at the event include Liz Dornan of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, who will address the issue of promoting an environment of peace in our schools.     Marian Pallister, member of the Pax Christi Scotland steering group said:      “Pope Francis has encouraged us to create a society in which nonviolence pervades all aspects of our lives. It is no longer enough to demonstrate against nuclear weapons and campaign against arms sales. We must start at grass roots level to instil an ethos of nonviolence in the home, the playground, and the parish. If we can be at peace with our physical neighbour, it becomes easier to reach out in peace and love to the ‘neighbours’ Christ suggests - the migrant, the refugee, the stranger.     “Pax Christi Scotland aims to nurture nonviolence at every level.”     ENDS     Peter Kearney Director Catholic Media Office 5 St. Vincent Place Glasgow G1 2DH 0141 221 1168 07968 122291 pk@scmo.org www.scmo.org     Note to Editors:   For further information about Pax Christi Scotland contact Marian Pallister, marian.pallister@zen.co.uk, or 07768 731145     If you would like to attend the conference please contact Anna at Conforti, anna@confortiinstitute.org. Registration will be from 5pm on the Friday and all meals from Friday supper to Sunday lunch are included.  ...

Scottish Bishops celebrate centenary of Catholic Education at Edinburgh Castle

| 4 days ago | Blogging

Tuesday 13 November 2018     Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, John Swinney will celebrate the centenary of the 1918 Education Act together with the Catholic bishops of Scotland tomorrow evening (Wednesday 14thof November) at a reception in Edinburgh Castle.     The event marks the beginning of the week that leads up to the date the Act was signed, bringing Catholic schools into the state sector, 21stNovember 1918, and is the culmination of a year of special celebration and reflection.     Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, President of the Scottish Catholic Education Commission said:     “The Scottish Government’s support for Catholic schools is greatly appreciated, I welcome the fact that events like this recognise the contribution which Catholic schools make to education in Scotland and to wider Scottish society.”     Barbara Coupar, Director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, said:     “We are delighted that members of the Scottish Catholic Education Community have been invited, along with representatives of the other Denominational bodies that have schools within Scotland (Episcopalian and Jewish communities), to celebrate this historic occasion.      “It is fitting that the Deputy First Minister should mark the centenary of the 1918 Act, an Act which saw Scotland move ahead of other countries in supporting the right of parents to educate their children according to their faith, as denominational schools are yet another area within education where Scotland remains sector leading.       “This event shows the ongoing partnership between the Government and the Church and highlights the support that denominational education has from our elected members.  In particular, we are honoured that the Papal Nuncio will be attending as Mr Swinney’s guest.”     Deputy First Minister John Swinney added:     “I am delighted to celebrate that, for 100 years now, Catholic schools have been part of the fabric of the Scottish education system.     “The 1918 Education Act recognised the significant contribution that faith-based schools make to Scotland and the Scottish Government maintains that outlook today.     “Every child in Scotland should have an equal chance to fulfil their potential. We welcome the continued contribution of Catholic schools in helping to achieve that ambition by fostering an environment where children can follow their faith, learn successfully and become confident individuals.”     ENDS     Peter Kearney Director Catholic Media Office 5 St. Vincent Place Glasgow G1 2DH 0141 221 1168 07968 122291 pk@scmo.org www.scmo.org     Notes to Editors:     Images will be available from the Scottish Catholic Media Office: mail@scmo.org   Two Catholic secondary schools will provide musical entertainment; Notre Dame High School, Greenock and St Ambrose, Coatbridge. A pupil from St Benedict’s High School, Linwood – Evonne Jeffrey will pipe guests in to the great hall.   The guests from the Catholic Church include: the eight bishops of Scotland, the nominated Church Representatives on Local Authority Education Committees, Head Teachers and pupils from each of the eight Scottish Catholic dioceses. ...

Scottish bishops elect new office bearers

| 07th November 2018 | Blogging

Wednesday 7 November     At their meeting on Wednesday 7 November 2018, the members of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland elected the following office bearers, who will serve a term of three years:     President: Bishop Hugh GilbertVice President: Bishop John KeenanEpiscopal Secretary: Bishop Brian McGee     Commenting on his election, Bishop Gilbert said;      “I am honoured to have been chosen as President of the Bishops’ Conference and thank the bishops for the trust they have placed in me. I accept the mandate given to me aware of the challenges the church faces, while conscious of the great treasures she holds and continues to offer as a point of reference in an often disorientated world. I would be grateful for prayers for all the Bishops of Scotland.”     ENDS     Peter KearneyDirectorCatholic Media Office5 St. Vincent PlaceGlasgowG1 2DH0141 221 116807968 122291pk@scmo.orgwww.scmo.org     Note to editors:   1. Images of the new office bearers are available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632090@N07/albums/72157666531058155     2. Biography: Bishop Hugh Gilbert     Born in Emsworth, Hampshire, 15thMarch 1952; baptised ‘Edward’ in the Church of England; received into the Roman Catholic Church, 1970; educated at St Paul’s School, London, and King’s College, University of London (B.A. Hons, 1974); entered Pluscarden Abbey 1974, receiving the name Hugh; final profession, 10thMarch 1979; theological studies, Fort Augustus, 1977-82; ordained priest, 29thJune 1982; Novice Master 1985-2004; Prior 1990-92; Abbot 1992-2011. Nominated bishop of Aberdeen, 4thJune 2011, and ordained by Cardinal Keith O’Brien, at Aberdeen, 15thAugust 2011....

Scots Bishops thank Pope for his support

| 27th September 2018 | Blogging

27 September 2018     Scotland’s eight Catholic Bishops met Pope Francis in the Vatican this morning ( 27 September 2018) at the beginning of their Ad Limina (five-yearly) visit to Rome and thanked him for his support and prayers. After saying Mass at the tomb of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Bishops met Pope Francis for a 1 hour 40 minute private audience. Speaking after the audience, the President of the Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia said;     “Our meeting with the Pope lasted almost two hours and left all the Bishops grateful to him for his fraternal and fatherly support. He encouraged us to share our experiences as pastors and leaders and took a close interest in all that we had to say.”     “The Bishops introduced a wide range of topics which we were able to discuss at length. We updated the Pope on the ecumenical work being done in Scotland to ensure that friendship, prayer and common witness among Christians will grow and flourish and he encouraged us in that work.”     “We also discussed Nuclear Disarmament and explained that the issue of Nuclear weapons had a special relevance in Scotland and was of particular concern to the church. I was able to present Pope Francis with a copy of “In God’s Image” the Church’s new Safeguarding document and the culmination of two years’ work designed to create a robust set of safeguarding procedures and protocols. The Pope thanked us for this work and urged us to continue with it.”     “Pope Francis encouraged us all in our vocations and reminded us that as bishops, we must be; close to God, close to our priests and close to our people. All of the bishops found his words uplifting and affirming and in thanking him we assured him of our prayers that he may bear the heavy responsibility which rests on his shoulders.”     After the private audience, the Bishop of Paisley, Bishop John Keenan presented Pope Francis with “Mungo” the Prayer Bear of St. Charles’ Primary School in Paisley - see photo - https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632090@N07/44035549845/       The Bishops and the Scottish students studying for the priesthood in Rome are being followed by a film crew from Solus Productions who are making a documentary on the Scots College in Rome for the BBC. Solus Producer Jim Webster said;     “Filming the Scots Bishops and students has given a fascinating insight into the inner workings of the Catholic church at the highest level. We’ve been honoured to have such privileged access to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican and we are acutely conscious that this is the first time an ‘Ad Limina’ visit has ever been filmed.”     Jim Webster added;     “Apart from the sense of scale and occasion, we’ve been struck by the human stories of the students themselves. We were able to film one student as he took a bottle of whisky in to the Papal audience as a gift for the Pope, after the Pope told the students who’d served Mass for him last year, that he loved Scotch whisky.”     ENDS     Peter Kearney Director Catholic Media Office 5 St. Vincent Place Glasgow G1 2DH 0141 221 1168 07968 122291 pk@scmo.org www.scmo.org Note to Editors: The Ad Limina visit required by church law, obliges the Bishops of each country to travel to Rome, meet the Pope and in acknowledging his universal jurisdiction, make a report to him of the state of each diocese in Scotland. The following members of the Bishops' Conference will travel to Rome from 26 September until 4 October: Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland and Archbishop of Glasgow, Archbishop Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Bishop John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley, Bishop Joseph Toal, Bishop of Motherwell, Bishop Stephen Robson, Bishop of Dunkeld, Bishop Brian McGee, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, Bishop Hugh Gilbert, Bishop of Aberd...