Aberdeen bishop rejects criticism of university chaplaincy
By Amanda Connelly
Hundreds of Aberdeen University students have signed a letter calling on the Catholic chaplaincy to take down posters advertising a 40 Days for Life event. A spokesman for Bishop Gilbert of Aberdeen said the chaplaincy’s right to Free Speech had to be repsected.
Members of the student community wrote and signed an open letter addressed to the chaplaincy after it displayed window posters promoting 40 Days for Life. The letter says the posters ‘isolate, stigmatise and intimidate people,’ and asked the chaplaincy to remove them.
“We feel these are harmful and make our campus a distressing place, particularly for those who have personal experiences with abortion,” the letter reads. “While we understand the Church’s stance on reproductive issues, we feel that it is deeply inappropriate to display posters encouraging people to take action outside maternity clinics.”
“Maternity clinics are accessed for many reasons and having a crowd outside is disruptive, intimidating and feels judgemental.
“Deciding to have an abortion is not a fun or easy decision and it is incredibly personal. We have the right to access healthcare confidentially… our campus is a place for discussion but displaying material that appears to condemn those who have had abortions is actively harmful.”
The open letter has been signed by more than 200 members of the student community, which includes various on-campus societies and members of the students’ association.
A spokesperson for the Bishop of Aberdeen, Hugh Gilbert, said: “Freedom of speech and expression should be at the heart of academic life. The decision by the Catholic chaplaincy to display a poster advertising a peaceful pro-life vigil cannot in any way be deemed harmful or distressing.
“The 40 Days for Life vigils are peaceful, yet poignant reminders of the tragic reality of abortion. Almost half a million unborn lives have been lost in Scotland since the 1967 Abortion Act was passed and it continues to carve a deep scar on our society.
“It is a matter for individual groups to decide how best to draw attention to the fact that we live in a society which does not always protect the sanctity of human life in a civil, legal and peaceful way.”
The row comes after students at Strathclyde University were met with backlash over the official establishment of a pro-life society, with for the society being refused.