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“May they be guided towards what is good and true; to the One who came to bring peace and freedom for all.”

In a Pastoral letter, due to be read at all 500 Catholic churches in Scotland this weekend, the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland will warn of a ‘creeping intolerance towards religious belief’ that has become a ‘part of life.’

The letter, signed by all six Scottish bishops and both archbishops, reflects on the key issues Catholics should consider when voting for a political candidate in the December 12 election.

Human life

The bishops’ letter begins by addressing the issue of human life, abortion and assisted suicide.

NHS statistics revealed earlier this year that 13,286 abortions took place in Scotland in 2018, marking a ten-year high.

In their letter, the bishops’ urged political 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.’

They added that Catholics should remind political officials that abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia are ‘always morally unacceptable.’

Marriage

Issues such as marriage and the family were included in the letter which states that society ‘relies on the building block of the family to exist.’

The number of marriages in Scotland in 2018 was 27,525, a three per cent decline compared with 2017.

The letter added: “The well-being 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.”

The bishops then criticised the rise of homelessness and stated that the two-child tax credit limit is ‘disproportionately affecting families of Faith.’

Homelessness

In 2018, nearly 30,000 people were assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness in Scotland, a two per cent rise from 2017’s figures.

“This reality cannot and should not endure in our country in the 21st century,” the bishops wrote.

“Reliance on foodbanks, particularly for families, is a telling criticism of a society that has forgotten the 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.”

Migrant detention

The letter states the UK should abolish indefinite immigration detention, should welcome refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, and should help those living in conflict zones. In 2018, 24,510 people were either deported or left the UK via voluntary return.

The letter discusses religious persecution, including elected officials who are silenced in parliament for their religious beliefs. In July, SNP MP Dr Lisa Cameron endured a barrage of abuse and was threatened with deselection after voting against legalising abortion in Northern Ireland.

The letter reads: “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.”

Arms trade

Finally, the letter raises concerns regarding arms trade and nuclear weapons, stating that any weapon that causes more than individual and proportionate harm to civilians is ‘immoral and is rejected by the Church.’ The UK is estimated to have 215 nuclear warheads.

The bishops of Scotland call upon the next UK government to remove the country’s nuclear arsenal and promote a ‘more peace-oriented manufacturing industry, one that doesn’t manufacture arms which fuel wars and instability across the world.’

The bishops concluded by asking Catholics to pray for the politicians who will represent the UK in parliament.

The letter states: “May they be guided towards what is good and true; to the One who came to bring peace and freedom for all.”

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