Tag Archives: Roman Catholic Church

Debate about Charlie Hebdo Paris massacres raise free speech issues in Scotland as well

The Charlie Hebdo massacres raise major issues about the possible limits to free speech in a democratic society. Many of these issues are very close to home here in Scotland. In some of its communications the Edinburgh Secular Society (ESS) has referred to the ‘Church of Rome’ because it argues that the latter is an international organisation based in Rome which appoints bishops who govern the Church in Scotland according to doctrines and rituals decided in the Vatican. In contrast the Church of Scotland is a national self-governing organisation.

At a Scottish Parliamentary hearing into a petition by ESS to end the appointment of religious representatives, including some from the Roman Catholic Church, to otherwise elected Scottish council education committees, the latter Church accused ESS of using ‘hate speech’ because the term ‘Church of Rome’, which was used in supporting material and argument, was, in other contexts (Northern Ireland?), used in a critical and hostile manner to the Church. Cowed by this intervention MSPs and parliamentary officers made clear that the use of the term would not assist the case of the petitioners.

For good reasons of objective discussion, as stated above, and for vigorous political argument, there is a case for using the term ‘Church of Rome’. ESS is not engaging in ‘hate’ when it offers valid criticisms of the Church and the privileges that it enjoys. Indeed the secular principles of ESS have led it to argue that it is inappropriate for any religious group, like Catholics, to be excluded from succession to the throne.

It is not just extremist Muslims who seek to limit free expression. The Church of Rome attempts to control the very forms of speech that are used in parliamentary and public debate in Scotland.

Scottish churches worried by the resurgence of secularism

    

The rise of articulate and influential secularism in Scotland in the last few years clearly has the religious establishment rattled. The Pope Emeritus railed against ‘aggressive’ secularism. The Roman Catholic Cardinal for Edinburgh and St Andrews criticises ‘ill-tempered’ secularism. The newly appointed minister at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, the flagship kirk of Scotland, has been imported from Chicago and, according to the Times, says that one of his priorities will be to confront ‘raucous’ secularism. ESS looks forward to hearing the views of Rev Calum MacLeod, formerly of the Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, on the separation of church and state.

Could it be that the religious authorities are so rattled because secularists have increasingly exposed and challenged the unjustified privileges granted to some religious denominations such as having financial subsidies of various types from the Scottish Government, a separate system of schooling, the right to impose prayers in schools, and to nominate voting members to otherwise elected local authority education committees?

Secularists simply use the mechanisms of democracy to challenge such religious privileges and promote the separation of church and state. ESS looks forward to more democratic debate and decision making on these issues.

New visitors to this site are encouraged to read the reasoned case for secularism put out in these posts and join the ESS.

Scottish Government religious subsidy of the week–10. Multi-million pound state funding of Roman Catholic schools

Religion around the world is part of the vast tapestry of human diversity and creativity. Secularism seeks the separation of church and state because it argues that freedom and diversity is compromised if the state seeks to impose one or more sets of religious doctrines on its citizens.

One of the biggest affronts to secularism in contemporary Scotland is the existence of a substantial sector of the state funded education system in which the Roman Catholic Church, an international organisation headquartered in Rome, is able to dictate the religious curriculum, forms of religious observance and the overall religious character of these schools.

Central to the doctrines of this church are the belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, the cult surrounding the alleged virginity of his mother and the belief that bread and wine turn into the body of Christ in the communion service.

If people want to hold and propagate such views they should be free to do so but the state should not finance such activities. Churches should compete in the adult free market for adherents. The state (taxpayers with all types of religious belief and none) should not subsidise some churches in trying to shape the minds, loyalties and identities of the young.

14 per cent of Scottish schools are Roman Catholic. In 2007/8 Scottish Government expenditure on schools, directed through local authorities, was £4.7bn. This figure will have grown since then. ESS estimates that current annual public spending on Roman Catholic schools in Scotland will be in the region of £750 million – three quarters of a billion pounds. More precise figures are currently being researched.

The Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office –monitoring and influencing the Scottish Parliament

The head of a foreign state arrives in Edinburgh with the Duke

The power and influence of organised religion in the Scottish Parliament and with the Scottish Government is evident in the handling of recent issues raised by secularist groups.

One of the strongest lobbying groups focussed on the Scottish Parliament is the Catholic Parliamentary Office. It employs a staff of four. Its only major defeat in the 15 years of the Scottish Parliament is the same sex marriage legislation. Its website is http://www.rcpolitics.org/index.html

Secularist groups in Scotland are staffed entirely by volunteers. They have made a great impact and they will continue to do so.

Read ‘Parliamentary Focus’ on the front page of its website for the Catholic Parliamentary Office’s view of recent secularist initiatives in the Parliament.

Comment on the feature. The UK state, for historical reasons, does regard the Church of Rome as a potentially hostile foreign power since the monarch cannot is not allowed to be of that faith. No political parties propose to change the relevant laws either in a continuing UK or an independent Scotland.

The hierarchy of priests, bishops and archbishops in the Church are answerable to the head of a foreign state. The Church is an international organisation headquartered in Rome with local paid priestly staff following the decrees of headquarters and with their careers dependent on their superiors as the experiences of exiled former Archbishop of Edinburgh, Keith O’Brien, demonstrate. It has no democratic annual conclave like that more democratic deliberative Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Like all multinationals the organisation may have interests that conflict with local ones.