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Scots Catholic

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Handing on the Faith Newsletter (July 2016)

Posted on July 24, 2016 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)
Dermot Grenham completes his consideration of Pope Francis' exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, by bringing to life Chapter 7 (Towards a better education of children).

It is an excellent read and is especially relevant for young families. 

Please click the document...

Bishops call for ‘decisive and courageous steps’ towards nuclear disarmament

Posted on July 12, 2016 at 8:57 AM Comments comments (0)
The eight Catholic Bishops of Scotland

Statement of the Catholic Bishops of Scotland on nuclear weapons:

The Bishops of Scotland have for a long time pointed out the immorality of the use of strategic nuclear weapons due to the indiscriminate destruction of innocent human life that their use would cause.


The renewal of Trident is questioned not just by those concerned with the morality of nuclear weapons themselves but also by those concerned about the use of scarce financial resources.


Lives are being lost now because money that could be spent on the needy and the poor is tied up in nuclear arsenals. We endorse the words of Pope Francis: “Spending on nuclear weapons squanders the wealth of nations”.


The United Kingdom, permanent member of the UN Security Council and declared nuclear power, signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. That treaty binds signatories who do not have nuclear weapons not to acquire them, but it also binds those who do have nuclear weapons to work towards the disposing and elimination of all nuclear weapons. Britain should take more decisive and courageous steps to revive that aspect of the treaty and not seek to prolong the status quo.


Signed

+ Philip Tartaglia, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, 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+ Brian McGee, Bishop of Argyll and The Isles

Ronaldo and Santos keen to recognise God's place in Portugal success

Posted on July 11, 2016 at 9:14 AM Comments comments (0)
Cristiano Ronaldo


First it was Ronaldo encouraging team-mate Joao Moutinho to take a penalty and telling him that the outcome is “in God’s hands”.  Now we have Ronaldo and the Portugal head coach Fernando Santos thanking the Creator.


Ronaldo, who was stretchered off injured after just 25 minutes of the Euro 2016 final against France, told journalists after the game that he “asked God for another chance”, a reference to previous failed attempts to win a major title with Portugal. 



Fernando Santos
His boss Santos was no less enthusiastic about God’s part in Portugal’s success, stating that “I’m very happy, of course.  First of all I would like to thank God for being with us, my wife, my mother, my grandson, my father - wherever he is, he is probably having a few beers.”


This type of witness should never be underestimated.  God should always be on our minds, day in, day out, no matter what we are doing.  Whether we are in Church, sitting at our work desk, or even on a football pitch, He must always be first.  While I wouldn’t pretend to know the depth of faith of these two men, one thing is clear: they both have God at the forefront of their minds and they aren’t ashamed to admit it.

Building a Peaceful World….on Social Media

Posted on July 11, 2016 at 5:43 AM Comments comments (0)
Do we define ourselves by 'likes' and 'follows'?


It’s been quite a journey for social media over the last several years.  From meagre beginnings it has become the mainstay of human contact, the go-to means of communication.  It has, in many respects, been a revolution of seismic proportions and there are very few individuals who can say that they don’t have a Facebook account or haven’t at least been touched by its power.


And it’s not only on a personal level that social media has heralded meteoric change in communications.  It is perhaps now one of the biggest means of advertising for commerce and it has allowed countless charities and other organisations to promote their work and encourage people to donate or to simply take an interest in their activities.  And then there is the media.  Perhaps this sector has benefited most from the social media revolution, having access to millions of eyes with a few simple taps of a touchscreen.


But is it all sweetness and roses in this cyberland of 24/7, round-the-clock communication?  Is it a joyful and peaceful place where stories are shared and people find genuine happiness?  Is it making the world a better place? 


Whilst the social media experience of many people will have been a positive one, there are many more who have felt the full force of its darker, vitriolic side.  Take the recent case of Britney Mazzoncini from Glasgow.  At sixteen years of age she should have been in the throes of some of the happiest days of her life; finding her way in the world, making lots of solid friendships and enjoying life to the full.  Instead, her lifeless body lies awaiting burial; a victim of senseless online bullying via Facebook. 


Britney isn’t the only victim of social media’s darker side.  There have been many more.  And while it doesn’t always end fatally, there are still serious consequences for people and, indeed, society as a whole.  For example, social media is a hotbed of narcissism; encouraging self-centredness and an increasingly desperate craving for peer admiration. 


Consider this: have you noticed how social media has become a means for many people to assess their own lives?  They use it to gauge their own popularity depending on how many Facebook ‘likes’ they can amass and how many ‘retweets’ or ‘favourites' they can get on Twitter.  It seems to have become the go-to tool for many young people, particularly teenagers, to define the worth and meaning of their own lives.  One bad or distasteful comment and the chips can come crashing down.  One positive comment and the ego builds.  It is, in many respects, a rollercoaster ride of emotion; a potentially dangerous rollercoaster ride at that. 


Society has benefitted greatly from social media and many people use it sensibly and safely.  But social media has also created a significant amount of unrest in our world.  Why?  Because it is a very quick and reliable means of spreading hate.  In just a few short seconds I can tell a politician, a political party, a celebrity, a footballer or even the pope how much I hate them and I can even throw in a few expletives and some explicit content for good measure.  Now I am not going to do any of the above.  But sadly a growing number of people do, and do so on a regular basis.  Just this week I witnessed some horrifically vile abuse being levelled at the Conservative leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom.  All because she expressed an opinion.  She has now withdrawn from the leadership race because of the abuse. 


Ms Leadsom is just one of many people who have to endure vile abuse from the willing fingers of hate of a growing number on social media.  Is there a link between the recent break-up of British politics and the persistent hate levelled at politicians on social media?  Are people increasingly reluctant to get involved in politics and other high profile public roles for fear of abuse?  Sadly it is just too easy to spread hate, especially when you don’t even have to face the person you are abusing, hiding behind the veil of miles of fibre optic cable and 4G strength telephone signals.


When we use social media we should always consider the person on the other side of our comment or opinion as being, first and foremost, a human being.  They are just like us in the sense that they too experience sadness and upset at being abused or ridiculed.   They too feel hurt and pain when they are called a fool and it is revealed to them that they are hated.  There is not one individual who is exempt from experiencing that deep, hurtful, hollow feeling when another fellow human being puts them down.  We must remember that our comments and our opinions have the potential to destroy a person's life.  And that is no exaggeration. 


We, as a society, need to take much greater care when we use social media.  We are one family and no family member should ever experience the systematic hate and abuse from a brother or sister that is now part of everyday life on Facebook and Twitter.  If our difference is political then we need to engage with those whom we disagree with to try to advance the common good of society together.  If our difference is religious we need to engage with our detractors in order to reach the ultimate goal of objective truth.  If our difference is to do with a sensitively personal matter such as our sexuality, we need to appreciate individual differences of opinion and accept one another as a brother or a sister whilst acknowledging one another’s right to disagree with our own view.


Social media is in desperate need of a lesson in polite, tolerant engagement.  If we really do want a society of peace where love rules and hate is crushed then we need to begin by building a culture of peace on social media.  Starting today.

Jesus' Call to Keep the Ten Commandments

Posted on July 8, 2016 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (50)
The Ten Commandments were written on two tablets of stone


Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 10:25-37):

‘There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus ‘do this and life is yours.’

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’’

 

Eternal life in Heaven is where we all want to be.  And even for those who do not believe, the idea of living in comfortable and joyful surroundings forever is a fantastic thought! 


But how do we get there?  Well, Jesus gives us two very straightforward commands.  He tells us that we must love God with everything we’ve got and we must also love our neighbour.  Looks simple on paper doesn’t it?  And in a way it is.  It is, however, important to avoid oversimplifying these commandments in order to suit our own busy lifestyles and agendas.  For example, we can’t simply state that we love God and we love all other people and never follow this up with words and actions to support our claim.  If we are going to follow Jesus’ commands we need to act upon them, and act with conviction; a conviction that tells the world: 'this guy really does love God and he really does love other people!'


Jesus’ commandments are a perfect summing up of the Ten Commandments (or Decalogue) given to Moses by God.  They are not a watering down of the Ten Commandments and they are certainly not an attempt to abolish and replace the Ten Commandments.  What Jesus does is present to us the Ten Commandments in a new way in order to aid our understanding of them.  He invites us to rediscover the beauty and truth of God’s perfect law.  It is worth remembering that the first three Commandments concern love of God and the other seven concern love of neighbour, hence Christ’s summing up of them by referring to love of God and love of neighbour.  This is also why God presented the Commandments to Moses using two tablets of stone rather than one; so as to distinguish between the call to love God and the call to love our neighbour.


In order to obtain eternal life our words and actions must be in keeping with the Ten Commandments.  We must respect God’s clear instructions and, in a spirit of humility and love, encourage others to do the same.


The Ten Commandments:

  1. I am the LORD your God:
    you shall not have
    strange Gods before me.
  2. You shall not take
    the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  3. Remember to keep holy the LORD'S Day.
  4. Honour your father and your mother.
  5. You shall not kill.
  6. You shall not commit adultery.
  7. You shall not steal.
  8. You shall not bear false witness
    against your neighbour.
  9. You shall not covet
    your neighbour's wife.
  10. You shall not covet
    your neighbour's goods. 

Dr Halliday Sutherland and the fight against eugenics

Posted on June 30, 2016 at 9:42 AM Comments comments (49)
If only there were more Dr Halliday Sutherlands today.  Perhaps he would have the courage to stand up for the rights of those who are under threat from the increasing prevalence of assisted suicide in our world.  Perhaps he would have the courage to stand up for the rights of the preborn child under threat of death by abortion.


Dr Halliday Sutherland, born in Glasgow in 1882, was a man who stood up for the people society felt unworthy of life.  He lived in a time when the middle and upper classes of Britain fought for the legal right to sterilise the poor and the seemingly unworthy.  The rich felt more and more threatened by the higher birth rate among the poorer classes compared to their deteriorating birth rate.  They also felt threatened by the seeming prevalence of tuberculosis among the poor.  There was even talk of using a lethal chamber at one stage.


According to this article, Sutherland was “appalled by the popularity of eugenics among Britain’s middle and upper classes” and set about fighting for the rights of the vulnerable.  He argued with the Professor of Eugenics at London University who claimed that tuberculosis was primarily caused by heredity and argued that the disease be cured by breeding out those considered to be at risk (the poor).  In a speech made in 1917, Sutherland called Britain’s eugenists “race breeders with the souls of cattle breeders” and argued that “in preventing disease you are not preserving the weak but conserving the strong.” 


Sutherland also decried the actions of a eugenist who, in 1921, began dispensing ‘pro-race’ contraceptives to women in poorer parts of London.  Sutherland described this as a social “experiment” that would lead to a “servile state”.  He also argued that ‘if ordinary Britons were legally prevented from having children, they would have no societal role other than to work.’


Marie Stopes was also criticised by Sutherland after she revealed her eugenic vision for society in 1921.  She revealed details of her “ardent dream” of “human stock represented only by well-formed, desired and well-endowed beautiful men and women.”  The dangers of this frightening and callous point of view are obvious.


Halliday Sutherland would be appalled at the direction of travel of western society today.  Not only have we cow-towed to the contraceptive mentality, completely ignoring any notion of the true meaning of our sexuality, but we now routinely kill our own preborn children through abortion and threaten the vulnerable with a premature death by way of assisted suicide.


We need more Halliday Sutherlands in our world today.  We need more people to stand up for the poor, the marginalised, and the vulnerable.  Dr Sutherland was a Catholic and it is important that we as a Church follow his example and be absolutely clear on the wrongs of abortion and assisted suicide.  Not only that, but we must also resist the assumption that contraception is a simple and harmless solution that allows people to have sexual relations without the ‘threat’ of new life.  As a Catholic people we value life from the very moment it starts right up until its natural conclusion on death.  Contraception interrupts the natural process by killing off new life.  It also encourages people to use others as objects of desire, their sole purpose being to satisfy their own selfish cravings devoid of the threat of responsibility for a new life.   


We have lost the true meaning of the sexual encounter and we have lost the meaning of the value of life.  Our world needs to hear that there is an alternative to the throwaway culture of death; an alternative that values all life and that gives the sexual act the respect it truly deserves.  Dr Halliday Sutherland would be willing to speak up for these values.

Jo Cox death should herald a turning point in public/political relations

Posted on June 20, 2016 at 11:43 AM Comments comments (50)
Jo Cox in the House of Commons


The death of Labour MP Jo Cox has shocked not only the world of politics in which she worked, but also the British nation as a whole.  The horror of what happened in the town of Birstall last Thursday will be a permanent scar for the MP’s family and is something they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.


But what does it mean for the relationship between MPs and the general public?  Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who has himself received death threats, lamented the influence of social media in relations between the public and MPs, criticising the “vitriol” that is often expressed towards politicians.  I for one agree with him.  Whilst our elected representatives’ role in public life is such that they are very much open to criticism, that criticism should be constructive and measured, and it should be expressed with politeness.  It should not be unjust or whimsical, and it should not be expressed with any degree of hatred or be threatening in any way.  Politicians have the right to do their job in safety and without abuse.  Isn’t that the legal right of every worker?  Why should politicians be any different? 


Very few politicians are actually in the job to make people worse off or to act selfishly.  They are in politics because they genuinely want to make a difference.  Yes, there will be bad apples in there; just like there is in any walk of life.  But as with any bad apple, we need to pray for them and we need to trust that our peaceful system of democracy will ultimately win the day.


The hate directed at poor Jo Cox as she walked through her constituency last week was of the worst kind.   It took her life and has thus caused immeasurable pain to her family, friends and colleagues.  But underneath all of that is an unhealthy undercurrent of hate and cynicism which exists throughout our country and is often directed at many in officialdom, including politicians.  This is especially the case on social media, where the abuse and hatred spewed forth has the potential to fuel the anger in certain individuals predisposed to dangerous actions. 


Jesus Christ called us to love all people; even those that we perceive to be our enemies.  Our politicians need our support and prayers.  They work in an incredibly testing environment in which they are under increasing fear for their own safety and wellbeing. 


May the sad and unnecessary passing of Jo Cox herald a change in attitude across our nation so that we come together as one, and in a spirit of brotherly love may we work with and support our politicians in striving for peace, equality, tolerance and prosperity for all people.

Unity in Christ

Posted on June 17, 2016 at 11:11 AM Comments comments (0)

Sunday’s Second Reading (Galatians 3:26-29):

‘You are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.’

 
This Sunday’s second reading reveals a teaching that is fundamental to the Christian life, that of unity.  Jesus Christ unites.  He doesn’t desire to separate or divide.  Rather, his intention is to bring all people together in his name so that he can one day bring them to share in the glory of the Kingdom of God.


Do we unify people?  Do we seek to be at one with others as we go about our daily lives?  Or do we create divisions through pride, selfishness and cynicism? 


Christ’s love demands unity, not division.  If we love as Christ loves, we will unite. 

Peace must reign as yet more precious lives are lost

Posted on June 14, 2016 at 7:03 AM Comments comments (0)
People gather to mourn the dead


The tragic events in Orlando provide yet another glaring example of man’s inhumanity to man.  Very few of us can even begin to imagine what was going through the minds of the hundreds of young partygoers in Pulse nightclub as the horrid truth about what was unfolding became clear.  It wasn’t a case of exuberant pyrotechnics or sophisticated indoor fireworks.  It was the crackling of gunfire and the flash of bullets as one hate-filled individual felt compelled to walk into the club and shoot dead 49 innocent people and injure many others.


Islamic State militants have claimed that Omar Mateen acted on their instruction.  Whether he did or not is perhaps not important because, at the end of the day, both Islamic State and Omar Mateen are callous murderers, with no consideration for their fellow man and woman, and little thought to the pain and hurt that their actions cause.


The cries of parents, siblings, and friends have rung out from the devastated city of Orlando ever since Mateen decided to walk into the Pulse nightclub early on Sunday morning and shoot unashamedly at his unsuspecting victims.  The world has joined them in mourning their precious loved ones who have been taken so suddenly and without warning.  Little did they know that when they waved the young revellers off on Saturday night, it would be the last time they would see them alive.  It is truly horrific.


At this time of great uncertainty with no little hate flowing through our world it is important that we Christians stand firm with all people of goodwill to continue to promote peace.  There is no life that isn’t precious in God’s eye.  This is our fundamental belief and we must fight hard to promote the sanctity of human life, be it the unborn child, the frail old woman, or the young lad enjoying quality time with his friends in a nightclub.  All life is precious and worthy of protection.


We pray for the peaceful repose of the souls of the dead, and we pray for their families that they will find some comfort in knowing that their loved ones are at the mercy of a loving Father. 


We also pray for those who are inclined to such violence, that their hearts be changed to see the inherent value of all people, even if some of them do not conform to their own beliefs.

Archbishop offers Scotland a path to the common good

Posted on June 9, 2016 at 6:23 AM Comments comments (0)


Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh Leo Cushley celebrates the 125 anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s landmark encyclical ‘Rerum Novarum’


Archbishop Leo Cushley has marked the 125 anniversary of the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum by re-proposing its social teaching for the common good of Scottish society.  The encyclical by Pope Leo XIII is arguably the Church’s most important when it comes to social justice and the Archbishop can clearly see positives in once again bringing it to the forefront of our minds.


Writing in today's Scotsman Archbishop Cushley said: “At the foundation of Pope Leo’s vision is an unshakeable belief in the intrinsic value of every man, woman and child.  The degree to which it threatened or enhanced the life and dignity of the human person”, he says, “is the measure of any political, moral or economic order”.  It is clear, therefore, that the encyclical has at its very core the belief that human life must be at the centre of all decisions made by authority.  It is about standing shoulder to shoulder with the most vulnerable in society, including the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the unborn.


Pope Leo, who rejected unbridled capitalism as well as state socialism, argued that neither central government nor larger society should substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and intermediary bodies within civil society.  Archbishop Cushley cited the example of Fife, which has gone from having 82 councils in 1930 to just one today, to illustrate the renewed appetite to revisit the issue of local empowerment.


The Archbishop also referred to the importance of the family in society.  He said: “The twofold purpose of this [the family] micro-community is traditionally defined as the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.  For this reason, nearly all societies – not just those informed by Christianity – have founded family life upon marriage.  Even now, the best sociological evidence tends to suggest that children generally do best in life when they grow up with a mum and a dad who are married to each other.  The married family, if you like, is the first, best and cheapest department of health, welfare and education.”  He then quoted Pope John Paul II as he tried to encapsulate the effect of the erosion of a marriage-based culture: “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”


However, the Archbishop also referred to Pope Francis’ call to appreciate those people for whom the ideal family is not possible, saying that these people “achieve remarkable things in the most difficult of circumstances”.  He then reiterated Pope Francis’ call to sympathise with and support those in difficult circumstances.


In a world fraught with significant challenges to the family as we know it, the Archbishop’s consideration of one of the great social encyclicals is timely.  As he said: “The Church does not seek to impose its social teaching upon Scottish society.  We can only propose it as our vision to anybody seeking new paths towards the common good.”


Archbishop Cushley has proposed what he feels is the fundamental consideration for the common good of society and offered it to the people of Scotland.  It is now up to us lay Catholics to do the same.






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