BY Ryan McDougall | January 11 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Politicians back bishop’s call for Catholics to join political parties – but pro-life struggles highlighted

Politicians have backed a call from the Bishop of Galloway for Catholics to become more involved in politics—but one councillor has spoken about the difficulties facing legislators who take stances based on their religious views.

Last week, Bishop William Nolan released a letter with Justice and Peace Scotland, of which he is the bishop president, calling for Catholics to join their preferred political party if they wish to see change, rather than just voting in elections.

Labour MP Paul Sweeney, who represents Glasgow North East, said the country is facing ‘unprecedented levels of poverty’ and it therefore ‘has never been more important for people of good will to speak up for those whose voices are ignored.’

“Bishop Nolan is right to encourage people to put their faith into action by getting more actively involved in politics,” he added.

“In the face of want or injustice I for one have never felt able to simply pass by on the other side.”

Conservative MSP Donald Cameron, who represents the Highlands and Islands, said he ‘wholeheartedly’ agrees with Bishop Nolan.

Mr Cameron said: “We are currently in a very challenging and ever-changing political climate, and the involvement of Scotland’s Christians in current political discourse is more important than ever.”


Secular critique

However, Christopher McEleny, the SNP council leader for Inverclyde, said that while Catholics should ‘absolutely’ get involved in politics, they are sometimes lambasted for their viewpoints.

Citing a recent example of where he was criticised and insulted online for sharing an article which advocated a pro-life stance, he said: “I just thought it was quite interesting off the back of Bishop Nolan’s letter, as it’s kind of the actual reality of the situation when Catholics do get involved in politics.”

When asked if he feels politics can be a tough place for Catholics, he answered: “Absolutely, I think if you try to stay true to your Faith there’s going to come a time where that’s politically not popular and that can be a real problem for Catholics.”

When referring to whether Catholics should still get involved in politics however, he said: “At the end of the day, if you want to influence public policy you need to get into a political position and the best way to do that is to stand for office and stay true to your Faith and value the views you’ve been brought up with.”

“If people demand that you turn your back on your Faith you just need to deal with not getting their votes,” he said.

Mr McEleny said that when discussing social issues such as poverty, Catholic politicians are often called left-wing, but when discussing topics such as abortion they are then referred to as right-wing.

“I think that’s something we need to mature on,” he said. “People shouldn’t pigeonhole you.”


Societal issues

Bishop Nolan’s letter, published on Justice and Peace Sunday, addressed various issues in society such as climate change, war, poverty, refugees and migration.

The bishop wrote that to create a good government, those with a ‘true Christian spirit’ need to actively engage in politics.

Joining a political party generally costs no more than a few pounds a month, with student, part-time, unwaged and retired member rates often being significantly lower.

The bishop wrote that people have ‘no say’ in who political parties choose as candidates unless they become members of the party themselves, and that Catholics who get involved are ‘putting their Faith into action.’


Pope Francis and politics

After citing a quote from Pope Francis on politics, Bishop Nolan concluded: “Christians are called to be a voice for the voiceless, a voice upholding the dignity of every human person, a voice proclaiming the values of Jesus Christ, a voice urging governments and politicians and those in power to act always for the common good of all humanity.

“We are that voice: sometimes we may shout, sometimes we may whisper, but we are a voice that should never be silent,” he said.

Patrick Grady, the SNP MP for Glasgow North, quoted Pope Francis in his maiden speech in parliament in 2015.

Reacting to Bishop Nolan’s letter, he said: “There is no contradiction between having an active faith and being active in politics.

“The Social Teaching of the Catholic Church calls on us all to use our skills and talents to work for justice and peace—it also proposes a vision of a just world but recognises that there are different political routes and debates about how that can be achieved.

“Bishop Nolan’s timely letter echoes the call of Pope Francis this year that good politics is at the service of peace, and that all faithful Christians have a role to play in shaping our society and democracy.”



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