A Pastoral Letter from the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland on the General Election

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

On the Seventh of May the people of Scotland will vote in what may be the most

unpredictable General Election in generations. While each of us alone will

decide whom to vote for, the teachings of the Church can offer us a guide as we

attempt to reach an informed judgement that advances the common good.

Casting a vote is both a civic duty and a Christian moral obligation. The huge turnout

at last year’s referendum was an exemplary exercise in peaceful and

participatory democracy and showed how much the Scottish people care about the

future of our country and its wellbeing.  It was also a reminder of the power

that every citizen has and the obligation upon us to use our vote.

For

centuries Christian values underpinned our laws and customs but for Christians

today the political complexion of Parliament is secondary to the values and

beliefs of those who sit in it. The candidates we send to Parliament go there as

our representatives. The values they hold will shape their understanding of what

is good for our country.

Our Parliamentarians must discern priorities in many

ethical and moral matters from Welfare to Defence, not to mention our

relationship with Europe. Before casting our vote, we have a duty to inform

ourselves of the moral values of our candidates.  We should think and pray

before we choose, considering especially the following points:

  1. Life:
  2. The dignity and value of every human being should be at the heart of politics.  The

sanctity of human life, protected from its beginning to its natural end, is not

a single issue.  It is the fundamental issue. It demands that we proclaim the

Gospel of Life in all places and at all times, for if human life is not

sacrosanct then no other human right makes any sense at all. Laws which permit

abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are profoundly unjust.  We do not want

to accept the continued existence in our society of such fundamental violations

of human rights and we commit ourselves to work peacefully and tirelessly to

oppose and to change them.

  1. The Family: Common sense and much research

tell us that children do best when they are raised by a mum and dad who are

married to each other.  This ideal is not always possible in reality and we

applaud and support families who achieve remarkable things in the most difficult

of circumstances. In recent years, both the UK and Scottish Parliaments have

enacted legislation re-defining marriage. Together with others we argued that

marriage is a union uniquely of a man and a woman and feared that legislation

allowing for same sex marriage represented an unprecedented threat to the public

understanding of marriage and the family. Once again we should encourage our

politicians to defend the institution of marriage and the family as the basic

unit of society on which so much depends. Pope Francis has also reminded

governments not to require poor countries to introduce laws redefining marriage

before they can get financial aid, because this is unjust and unfair.

  1. The

Economy:  The first consideration for any economic policy should be the dignity

of the person, not the pursuit of profit. We urge candidates to endorse the

living wage campaign, giving people the opportunity to provide for themselves

and their families. In these turbulent financial times Pope Francis has been a

prophetic voice, warning that economies stripped of ethics trample human

dignity. “Unbridled capitalism,” he says, “has given us the logic of profit at

any cost, (and) of exploitation without looking at the person.” The existence of

so many food banks in our country offers a depressing vindication of the Pope’s

warning.

  1. Human Freedom: Across the globe, the right to religious freedom

and freedom of worship are under threat.  In some countries, Christians are put

to death simply for professing faith in Jesus Christ. In this country, an

intolerant form of secularism wants to remove religion from the public square,

despite recognition in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. True human

dignity involves the freedom to assemble, to worship and to manifest our beliefs

openly.  Religious liberty must be non-negotiable in a free society and we

should make sure our candidates support it.

  1. Peace.

Successive UK Governments have made plans to replace and upgrade our nuclear weapons

capacity. This is despite the considerable costs involved and in the face of persistent

moral objections, to say nothing of international agreements we have entered

into which commit us to work against the proliferation of such weapons.  While

recognising each country’s right to defend itself, the existence of nuclear

weapons, and their possible proliferation, continue to represent a grave threat

to the human family. Pope Francis reminds us that peace is better fostered by

greater equality – not least by fairness towards the poor, refugees and migrants

– rather than by increased spending on arms.

  1. Evangelisation: The Gospel

compels us as a Church and as individual Catholics to engage actively in the

world and convert human affairs. Voting in the election is the least a committed

Christian can do.  Our politicians enter public service with good hearts and

give of their best to build up our lives and our country.  Sadly, however, on

serious issues, some politicians who profess a Catholic faith remain silent – or

even surrender – in the face of grave ethical injustice.  As Catholics, we can

never separate how we act from what we believe without undermining what webelieve and damaging who we are. The time has come for a new generation of

Catholics to join political parties and to dedicate ourselves to political

service in a way that remains faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, laying the

foundations for a new Civilization of Love that serves the common good of all,

especially the most vulnerable in our society.

Conclusion:

As we prepare to cast our votes, the Bishops invite all of us to pray for our country, our

Parliamentary candidates and our fellow citizens.  With our votes we help set

the direction of our society for years to come and it is right that we ask for

divine assistance that we may be guided in our choices and that our nation may

flourish.

The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland,

The Second Sunday of Easter,

2015.

+ 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

V.Rev.Mgr James MacNeil, Diocesan Administrator,

Argyll and the Isles

Ad clerum

This letter should be read at all

Masses for the Second Sunday of Easter, 11th/12th April

The above is produced courtesy of the SCMO

2015.

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