“Faith should be allowed to play a role in public life” writes newly-appointed Director of the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office.
Writing in today’s Scotsman (Thursday 4 August) Anthony Horan counters claims that society is becoming less religious simply because increasing numbers of people no longer tick a “church” box on census forms suggesting this doesn’t mean they are not interested in the spiritual dimension of life or religious belief. Rather, the national census still shows that most Scots consider themselves Christian, while an overwhelming majority describe themselves as “spiritual”.
Quoting Pope Francis, he says, “Our various religious traditions serve society primarily by the message they proclaim. They call individuals and communities to worship God, the source of all life, liberty and happiness”.
Whilst pointing to an increase in the number of Catholic in Scotland and across the world, Anthony sets out his mission to promote the Catholic faith and Social Teaching “in a way that positively engages secular society.”
The above extract is taken from the Scotsman article, reproduced in full below on the website of the Scottish Catholic Media Office…
Anthony Horan, Director, Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office
The political landscape in Scotland and the UK has rarely transfixed global media and international audiences as it has in recent weeks. The outcome of the Referendum on membership of the European Union has dominated the news cycle endlessly and engaged voters of all ages, creeds, nationalities and backgrounds.
Inevitably, given the nature and scale of the challenges at home and abroad facing our elected representatives, including economic security and trade, migration, education and medical ethics, it is unsurprising that their values, track records and proposals have been subject to intense scrutiny. Indeed, it seems society is in a state of flux. Faith and belief in a constant and ever-loving God can guide us in such times of deep uncertainty, and opportunity.
Yet whilst issues of belief and faith, in how human beings perceive the world have rarely been so important in society, they have perhaps never been so poorly understood. Indeed, increasing calls for the removal of religion and faith from public life continue to fill columns in our newspapers and social media. But faith in and of itself is not just important for human flourishing and the renewal of society, rather society can best flourish if faith is given freedom to make its unique contribution.
As Pope Francis has said, “Our various religious traditions serve society primarily by the message they proclaim. They call individuals and communities to worship God, the source of all life, liberty and happiness”.”Religious freedom” he said, “certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate. But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families.” Indeed, Pope Francis has warned against modern tyrannical societies which “seek to suppress religious freedom, or try to reduce it to a sub culture without right to a voice in the public square.”
Faith should be allowed to play a role in public life. The legacy of Christianity is to uphold the respective competencies of the spiritual and the temporal.
Unsurprisingly, however, some commentators have sought to exploit recent Scottish Social Attitudes survey figures which suggests that over half of respondents do not identify with a church or religion, as an indicator of society’s declining religiosity – a reason to remove God, once and for all, from public life. However, the fact that increasing numbers of people no longer tick a “church” box on census forms doesn’t mean they are not interested in the spiritual dimension of life or religious belief. Indeed the national census still shows that most Scots consider themselves Christian, while an overwhelming majority describe themselves as “spiritual”.
Globally the Catholic Church continues to see growth. In Scotland, there are currently more students studying for the priesthood than at any time in the last ten years, while the number of Catholics measured by the National Census increased between 2001 and 2011.
As newly appointed Director of the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office, my mission is to promote our faith and Catholic Social Teaching in a way that positively engages the secular society in which we live. We need to reach out to all people and an important part of this will be working with young people to tap into their energy and enthusiasm; they are the future of our Church and of our country.
I am looking forward to meeting politicians and other stakeholders and building positive, friendly relationships with a view to developing ways to promote Church teaching in the political environment. The Catholic Church in Scotland is devoted to the common good and has the wellbeing of all people at her heart.
Enshrined in our Catholic faith is a commitment to bear witness to Christ in our daily lives, at home and in public. In my role I will work for the Bishops of Scotland, the Catholic church and people of all faiths and none, striving to respect and uphold the dignity of each person, particularly the weakest and most vulnerable; upholding the value of all human life from conception to natural death; cherishing the family as the fundamental unit of our society; advocating social and economic justice for all; and caring for the common home we inhabit.
Scotland is a diverse, vibrant and politically engaged nation with a rich social, economic and political history. Faith and religious belief in the public square can play a role in shaping a resilient Scotland in the future. It should be welcomed and valued, without fear or favour. As Pope Francis said: “We are all Political animals, with a capital P. We are called to constructive political activity among our people.” Visit Scottish Catholic Media Office website to read more.
The following commentary on the recent appointment of Anthony Horan, Director of the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office, is published in the September edition of our newsletter, which will in the post early next week:
To date, the Scottish Government has not been challenged at all, either by the Bishops themselves when invited to offer a “reflection” in the Parliament, or by their spokesmen in the Parliament. Despite the evil legislation already passed, the Bishops have remained silent, with Pontius Pilate as their Patron Saint. It took, remember, families and a pro-active Protestant organisation (The Christian Institute) to mount a legal challenge to the intrusive Named Person Scheme.
It does not augur well, therefore, to hear the new official Parliamentary spokesman for the Bishops set himself the goal of developing positive and friendly relationships with parliamentarians. Let me assure him, from firsthand experience, that when there is a stark divide in religious beliefs and morals, there cannot be “positive and friendly relationships” between a fully believing Catholic and those who seek to overturn God’s law in the name of equality and diversity. Just as there is no “diversity” for drivers on any motorway you care to name, so there can be no alternative to God’s law. We keep it, or overturn it at our eternal peril. And any Bishop or lay spokesman who does not spell that out to the politicians with whom they interact, will make VIP friends, sure enough – but with the following blunt warning ringing in their ears: “For, what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? (Matt 16:26) To quote Archbishop Fulton Sheen: “A religion that doesn’t interfere with the secular order will soon discover that the secular order will not refrain from interfering with it.”
Additionally, having read the Scotsman article since penning the above commentary, I would add two points: firstly, the idea of “Faith” (The Church) seeking permission to “play a role in public life” is ludicrous: secondly, the quote attributed to Pope Francis is in stark contradiction to Christ’s command to “baptise all nations”. Pope Francis apparently thinks it’s better that “Our various religious traditions serve society primarily by the message they proclaim. They call individuals and communities to worship God, the source of all life, liberty and happiness.” The entire tone of Mr Horan’s article reflects this “inter-faith” mentality. Thus, there will be no grace in this new appointment. In summary, there is, in effect, no change at the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office. A new Director, no new direction. Same old “diplomacy” with the politicians laughing all the way to their next piece of evil legislation, aware that there will be no meaningful challenge from the Catholic Church. Perhaps you disagree? Let’s hear it…