Archive for February, 2010

Scotland and the Vatican

February 26, 2010

THERE has been a deal of speculation over Scotland’s relationship with the Vatican of late. Today we give over the SCO blog to the observant Hugh McLoughlin and his insight into the situation (see this week’s SCO for full article).

BEFORE they went to Rome, one of our ‘quality’ national newspapers accused the bishops of being unenthusiastic to the point of apathy about the forthcoming Papal visit. While they were in Rome, the other ‘quality’ national newspaper ran a front page story with the headline ‘Sectarian Scotland’ attacked by Pope: Sectarianism ‘has continued to rear its head in recent times and Reformation was a tragedy, [Pope] Benedict tells bishops.’

In that same issue, in the opinion pages a leader writer informed their readership that for Pope Benedict, Scotland was ‘a place of which he disapproves.’ Needless to say, my flabber was totally gasted and my conster utterly nated. Twice over. At least that would have been the case had any of it actually been true. The phrase ‘distortions, half-truths and outright lies’ springs readily to mind.

As to the former accusation, how can you expect the bishops to ‘dance in the streets’ when the music has not started playing? Jim Murphy MP, Scottish Secretary of State, and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, haven’t as yet turned on the Juke Box. When they do so, by providing Cardinal Keith O’Brien with an outline schedule of the coming Papal itinerary which the Scottish hierarchy can then set about filling out with engagements both sacred and profane, then the bishops will likely jive.

As to the Pope disapproving of Scotland, where do you start?

So that is why shortly after his election when his former colleague, Mgr Henry Docherty, the first ever British priest to have served in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith— discounting the Anglo-Spaniard Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val—was celebrating the golden jubilee as a priest Pope Benedict took the time and went to the trouble of making sure that Cardinal Levada phoned monsignor with his best wishes and then later got him to phone again to check that he had received his Papal Blessing parchment. A Papal Blessing which was signed not as is the custom by the Papal Almoner, but by the Holy Father himself, in his own hand. (This is such a rarity that it wouldn’t surprise me if at some time in the future that parchment were to turn up on the Antiques Roadshow.)

The Holy Father later appointed Mgr Docherty as a protonotary apostolic, the highest ranking prelate beneath a bishop. Indeed, a protonotary apostolic enjoys some of the privileges normally associated with a bishop and it is a strange, strange honour to bestow upon someone from a country of which you papally disapprove.

The Pope disapproves of Scotland. So that would have been why when he was prefect of the congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he befriended a then young priest, Fr Pat Burke, of the St Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocese who was resident in the Teutonic College whilst researching his thesis on Karl Rahner for his PhD at the Gregorian University.

And presumably it was this self same disapproval of all things Caledonian that later led Cardinal Ratzinger to ask Cardinal Keith O’Brien to release Fr Burke for service in the Doctrine Section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But ah, they will say, that was before he became Pope and acquired his antipathy to all things Scottish. So why then did Pope Benedict last year name Fr Burke a chaplain of His Holiness, a monsignor?

(See page 11 of this week’s SCO for full article)


Life is under attack

February 25, 2010

THOSE who aid in the assisted suicide of a loved are less likely to face criminal proceedings under new guidelines published by England’s chief prosecutor today.

Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions (DPP), this morning outlined the circumstances in which those involved with assisted suicide will avoid facing legal action. Under his recommendations state prosecution will be less likely now if someone accused of assisting in a suicide is found to have been ‘wholly motivated by compassion’.

The news comes just the day after Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned against the legalisation of assisted suicide.

The Prime Minister took the stance in a column in a national newspaper.

“Let us be clear: death as an option and an entitlement, via whatever bureucratic processes a change in the law on assisted suicide might devise, would fundamentally change the way we think about death,” he said.

“The risk of pressures—however subtle—on the frail and vulnerable, who may for example feel their existences burdensome to others, cannot ever be entirely excluded.”

He added that: “I believe that because of the clarification of the public interest factors now being discussed, and because of some important developments in care over recent decades, the case for a change in the law is now weaker.”

The Care Not Killing Alliance praised the Prime Minister’s appeal urging people to ‘resist the call to legalise assisted suicide’.

“This is a brave step and it is vital that we take this opportunity to demonstrate that Gordon Brown is not in the minority with this view,” the alliance said in a statement.

However this morning’s developments clearly show that danger remains and that the legal and moral debate over the right of people to help their friends or relatives to die may be gaining ground.

Here is in Scotland we are even closer to formally legalising assisted suicide than the rest of the Britain. Margo MacDonald’s End of Life Assistance Bill it at the committee stage in the Scottish Parliament.

Opinion leader from this week’s SCO

February 24, 2010
Here is part of the opinion leader from this week’s SCO
NO DOUBT Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s challenge to the Labour Government will already have hit the headlines. After Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy admitted this week that Labour will need the support of faith groups if it is to win the pending general election, Cardinal O’Brien called for action and not words from Gordon Brown’s Government. The cardinal highlighted the fact that a raft of recent Labour bills have amounted to a ‘systematic and unrelenting attack on family values.’ He cited laws on civil partnership, same sex adoption and the recent Equality Bill as examples. Prior to the Scottish Secretary’s comments the cardinal also challenged Gordon Brown to show leadership and Britain’s commitment to nuclear disarmament by scrapping Trident during the Papal visit year.
Unfortunately likely secular headlines such as ‘Labour loses Catholic support’ are not only inaccurate, they are also misleading. The Church does not support ANY political party. The fact that members of the hierarchy are duty bound to challenge the political party that is in power, thus able to turn policy into law, is often grossly misrepresented in media. Nonetheless, policy must be examined to ensure that promises are delivered, actions and words must be scrutinised and matched.
In Scotland the Nationalists are in power and the Church has challenged the Scottish Parliament on a number of issues, including the current member’s bill on assisted suicide. At Westminster Labour have had close to 13 years of uninterrupted power. And in that time laws  have been passed that are so far removed from our values that our bishops would have been derelict in their duty had they allowed matters to proceed unchecked.
A General Election is imminent and all political parties will have to make sure that they deliver on promises made now if and when they then take office.

Missio plays vital role in Haiti response

February 23, 2010

IT HAS emerged that Missio, the Pontifical Mission Societies, played a vital role in responding to the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake last month.

Missio-England and Wales, Missio-Ireland and Missio-Scotland joined its 120 national offices across the world to launching an appeal for prayers and help for the islanders. Missio is the Catholic Church’s official agency for the support of 1,069 dioceses across the developing world and one of its responsibilities is to assist every seminary and seminarian.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Papal Nuncio in Haiti, has sent a report to Missio on the situation on the island.

“Both the national major seminaries (theology and philosophy) collapsed, killing 15 seminarians, one professor and some members of the personnel, as well as leaving a number of seminarians wounded, two or three of whom have had amputations. Many who were trapped under the rubble were saved after days, whiles some others were able to get out by themselves. There were 159 seminarians and eight resident formators and professors at the theology department, and 97 seminarians and two Formators at the philosophy department,” the nuncio said.

“The seminaries and the seminarians lost everything. Nothing except some of the books in the library on the third floor was saved. So, the greatest needs of the seminarians are clothing, toiletries, tents to sleep in. Many of the seminarians have been sent back to their dioceses, but the dioceses are also extremely poor and in great need of assistance.”

For a full report, visit:

To read Sr Janet Fearns FMDM’s first hand account of living in Haiti after the earthquake

To donate to Missio-Scotland,  telephone 01236 449774 or write to Missio Scotland, St. Andrew’s, 4 Laird Street, Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, ML5 3LJ, e-mail

No quick fix for Church in Ireland

February 22, 2010

Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh speaking after the Irish bishops' meeting with Pope Benedict XVI (CNS/Paul Haring)

AS CRITICISM of the Vatican summit with Irish Bishops continues, and calls for structural changes within the Catholic Church in Ireland come to light (see BBC link below), the Catholic News Service offers an insight into why tackling the root of the clerical abuse problem methodically is far more important and effectual than simply being seen to take sweeping action.

“One outcome of the Vatican-Irish meeting was perhaps too subtle to measure on the media applause metre, but significant nonetheless. By all accounts, there’s been a shift in attitude inside the Roman Curia since 2002. At that time, the sex abuse crisis in the United States still found many Vatican officials in denial or very defensive; today, according to the Irish bishops, virtually all of the 10 Vatican department heads in attendance offered genuine support and help.”

For article in full, visit:

For more on diocese reduction in Ireland, visit:

Celebrations over Mary MacKillop’s canonisation date

February 19, 2010

A portrait of the Blessed Mary MacKillop

AUSTRALIA and Scotland both have something to celebrate today as the Holy Father has announced that Blessed Mother Mary MacKillop (1842 – 1909) is be canonised during a ceremony at the Vatican on October 17 (see video footage links below).

The Melbourne born founder of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, who will become Australia’s first saint, also has strong connections to Scotland. Her parents Alexander and Flora (nee MacDonald), were both Scottish Catholics who migrated to Australia. Her father was born in Lochaber and her mother in Glen Roy. Bishop Joseph Toal of Argyll and the Isles shares common ancestry with the MacKillop family.

So there is no doubt that there will be celebrations tonight in Australia and Scotland at the good news, in particular in Roybridge and with the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart in Scotland.

Early signs of Anglican support for Vatican call

February 19, 2010

WHILE controversy and criticism plagued the initial announcement of the Vatican’s provision for Anglicans to join the Catholic Church, there are signs of hope budding through like an early spring.

An Australian Anglican group has become the first to accept Pope Benedict XVI’s offer to disaffected Anglicans to convert en masse while retaining parts of their spiritual heritage.

And retired Anglican assistant bishop of Newcastle Paul Richardson has converted to Catholicism—only weeks after stepping down from his Newcastle post.

It isn’t the thought that counts

February 18, 2010

REPORTS that the BBC’s director general Mark Thompson was in Rome on February 3 to plan the network’s coverage of the Papal visit in September to Britain, potentially beginning in Edinburgh on September 16, seem to have been greatly exaggerated.

The BBC has come under fire recently for marginalising its religious content and a perceived anti-Catholic bias ( and see page 3 of this week’s Scottish Catholic Observer for allegations from MPs). Now it has emerged that Mr Thompson was in fact in Rome to discuss the Pope’s participation in on Radio 4’s long-running religious slot, Thought For The Day.


Forgive me for stating the obvious here, and I in no way mean to undermine the good work done on Radio Four and by those who contribute to Thought For The Day, but doesn’t this just go to prove the point that the BBC are creating a ghetto for religious programming? Surely the Papal visit will be leading the Beeb’s television news headlines in September, not relegated to a specialist three-minute slot.

In this case it really isn’t the thought that counts.

The big news this Ash Wednesday

February 17, 2010

The big news this Ash Wednesday is that Catholics in Scotland have the opportunity to get off to a cracking start in preparing for Easter.

James MacMillan

Lentfest in Glasgow Archdiocese begins with a world premiere tonight. Strathclyde University Mass for Ash Wednesday is being held at 7pm at St Columba’s Church in the West End of the city. During the Mass, to be celebrated by Fr Brendan Slevin, James MacMillan’s Qui Meditabitur motet will have its world premiere. Other highlights in the Lentfest programme include festival director Stephen Callaghan’s play The Curé d’Ars: A Priest Forever.

Those observing Lent may also take note of the launch today of SCIAF’s 40 day challenge, an innovative spin on how what we give up for Lent can directly translate into a gain for those living in poverty. The celebrity supported drive is part of the Wee Box, Big Change 2010 campaign and everyone can get involved.

Miss Scotland Katharine Brown

Pope urges honesty and courage over Irish abuse crisis

February 16, 2010

IN THE hope that the Church in Ireland can enter a period of healing and ‘renewal of Faith’, here is a link to the statement from the Vatican in full at the end of the two days of summit talks today, and a link to the Rome Reports video.

Vatican statement on Irish abuse in full