As the debate on the Scottish independence referendum enters its final stretch before the poll on 18 September, the country’s two leading archbishops have urged voters to engage with the issues and make their views heard, while making clear that the Catholic Church has no position on the issue.
In pastoral messages to be read at Masses this weekend, Archbishops Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow and Leo Cushley of Edinburgh & St Andrews have stressed both the freedom of conscience of those voting, the need for prayerful discernment in the light of Catholic social teaching of what is right for Scotland, as well as the civic duty to engage in the referendum.
Archbishop Tartaglia writes:
The Scottish Independence Referendum is now just a short time away. Along with the Bishops of Scotland, who are deeply conscious of the importance of this referendum, I encourage and urge all those eligible to vote to do so with complete freedom of choice and in accordance with their prayerful judgment of what is best for the future. May God guide us and bless us in whatever choice we make in good conscience.
Archbishop Cushley writes:
On the occasion of the referendum on Scottish independence, I have been approached several times now by some who would like to know where Scots Catholics, or where I personally, may stand on the matter. To those of you who wish a word from me in this regard, I would say the following.
Like everyone else, Catholics are a part of the world. Urged by the love of Christ, we are called, to be citizens who contribute positively to the common good and who strive always to consider others and their good before our own. We are called to promote peace, integral human development and authentic human rights, and to have a special care for the poorest and the weakest in society.
We are also concerned for the rights of all people, to freedom of conscience and to the right to believe and to practise their faith. These freedoms are as important as they are fragile, as has been proven all too often, to the dismay and death of many millions. These freedoms are absolutely essential to a modern democratic society and we should always be vigilant of those who would seek to limit them.
Since all of us are made in the image and likeness of God, no matter our race, our beliefs or the way we live, we also have a concern for moral values based upon our common humanity.
The promotion, therefore, of laws which allow us to believe, teach and live our faith and morals is and will always be of concern to us, whether at the Scottish, UK or European levels. So I encourage you, in the light of Catholic social teaching, carefully to consider the issues and to do your civic duty on the day itself.
No matter the result of the Referendum, I would hope that all Catholics will continue to engage positively in public discourse, and ensure that the Christian message and its values are better expressed and understood, to the benefit of the whole community. By doing so, our beloved land will be a more just, peaceful and prosperous place for all its citizens.