BY SCO Admin | October 7 2011 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Signs of first frost between Church and parliament

Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley warns the First Minister of ‘serious chill’ in relations

Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley has cast doubt on the direction in which Alex Salmond is taking Scotland and warns the First Minister that he is losing ‘the confidence of the Catholic community.’

In a personal letter to Mr Salmond this week, Bishop Tartaglia writes that the SNP Government’s support for same-sex ‘marriage’ and confused handling of the sectarianism issue threaten to ‘bring about a serious chill to relations between the Scottish Government and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.’

The letter prompted a swift reaction from the First Minister’s office and Bishop Tartaglia and Mr Salmond are due to meet today to discuss matters.

Sanctity of marriage

The bishop writes that the SNP Government’s decision to launch a public consultation on same-sex ‘marriage,’ after declaring it was likely to support such a radical reinterpretation of marriage, had dismayed Scotland’s bishops.

“I sense that there is a growing apprehension and disappointment on the part of many in the Catholic community at the direction your government is taking,” he tells the First Minister. “Like others, I had begun to entertain the hope that yours would be a government of national unity which had the sagacity to move forward towards an independent Scotland by respecting and developing the historic foundational values of faith and reason which have contributed to making Scotland a nation.”

The bishop did praise Mr Salmond’s government’s support for Catholic schools and last year’s Papal visit, and said he still believes Mr Salmond desires the common good. However, Bishop Tartaglia said he was certain ‘the common good will not be served by the re-definition of marriage.’

The bishop has also written a letter to all the parishes in his diocese, which will be read out this Sunday, calling on every Catholic to ‘respond individually to the government consultation and say that you are against the introduction of same-sex ‘marriage.’’

“It is very important to realise that opposition to the introduction of same-sex marriage is not, as some so stridently assert, ‘homophobic bigotry,’ but is the assertion and defence of the nature and meaning of marriage which has been universally recognised by all cultures and all the great religions, and which has sustained humanity since time immemorial,” the bishop writes. “It is therefore wrong and foolish to undermine this understanding of marriage.”

Bishop Tartaglia adds that same-sex ‘marriage’ ‘is wrong in principle, it is unnecessary in practice and will have damaging consequences for the common good.’

Sectarian problems

In his letter to the First Minister, Bishop Tartaglia also expresses a great deal of concern about the SNP Government’s handling of the sectarianism issue.

“Kenny MacAskill, the justice minister, made some seriously ill-judged remarks after the behaviour of fans at the League Cup Final,” the bishop writes. “Later Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, spoke loosely and unhelpfully about the use of the Sign of the Cross in public. This was just a few days after the hasty introduction of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Bill.”

The bishop adds that he had initially been minded to support that legislation but that he has become concerned that ‘the bill’s introduction has served as a distraction from the real nature of sectarianism in Scotland.’ The bishop has also renewed requests for the release of Crown Office data on sectarian offences.

“Official figures made available some years ago show conclusively that sectarian criminality is made up predominantly of acts of intolerance and hostility towards Catholics,” he writes.

Without that information the bishop says ‘to pass this bill into law without first revealing the true picture of sectarianism in Scotland is ill-advised’ and would be ‘indecently hasty.’

Government response

A spokesman for the First Minister’s Office said Alex Salmond would be ‘delighted’ to meet Bishop Tartaglia and discuss his concerns.

“We are confident that we can allay concerns about the bill and make clear that there is no intention to restrict freedom of speech,” he said. “The bill is about eradicating the scourge of bigotry and sectarianism associated with football.”

The spokesman also stressed that ‘no decisions’ had been made on same-sex ‘marriage’ and the government respected that there was ‘honest disagreement’ on the issue.

The spokesman also said that ‘the work to publish the analysis of religious aggravation charges for the most recent year, 2010/11’ was underway and would be published next month.

— Read the bishop’s pastoral

letter in full at


Leave a Reply

previous lead stories

Catholic Church in Scotland draws up plans for potential reopening of parishes

May 2nd, 2020 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

Bishop John Keenan, of Paisley Diocese, said the Church has...

‘We beat Ebola, you can beat this,’ Congolese archbishop assures Scotland

March 20th, 2020 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

Visiting Congolese archbishop says Scotland can overcome coronavirus on trip...

MSP welcomes Scottish Government’s response to Equality Act 2010 fears

March 13th, 2020 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

Two MSPs quizzed the Scottish Government on its response to...

Coronavirus forces Scots College seminary to close

March 12th, 2020 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

Scottish seminarians studying at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome...

Social media

Latest edition


exclusively in the paper

  • Unite in prayer against the virus, Paisley bishop pleads
  • Papal award recognises 60 years of Faithful service
  • Catholic high school leads trend with positive outcomes for pupils
  • New memorials celebrate Croy’s proud mining heritage
  • Top Catholic university rolls out programme in Scotland

Previous editions

Previous editions of the Scottish Catholic Observer newspaper are only available to subscribed Members. To download previous editions of the paper, please subscribe.

note: registered members only.

Read the SCO