12 October 2018
Ad limina

Scotland: a Church united in the face of challenges

On the occasion of their ad limina visit to our Dicastery, the Scottish bishops shared the experience of their particular churches, albeit a minority in their territory, yet without fear of making their voices heard

With 700,000 faithful out of a population of over 5 million, the Catholic Church in Scotland is present nationwide in public debate and on sensitive issues such as the end of life, research on embryos, the comparison made between egalitarian civil marriage and marriage as it is intended by God between one man and one woman, abortion, etc. As evidence of the fact that the Catholic Church in Scotland has uniquely and steadfastly defended the values of human life from conception to natural death, the good of the family founded upon marriage between a man and a woman, the promotion of authentic palliative care and of a dignified accompaniment of the dying as against euthanasia and assisted suicide, such ethical issues are known at large by Scottish public opinion as "Catholic issues".

Aware of being a voice in the desert of a strongly secularized and relativistic society, the bishops renew their firm determination not to fail in their mission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, despite human weaknesses. In fact, with great humility, they shared with our Dicastery how the Catholic Church has been shaken by the scandals of child abuse, which have seen the involvement of some of the Church leaders, and of how they strive hard to restore the Church’s reputation and moral authority, especially by rebuilding trust at grass-root level with local families.

As a means to reembark in the challenge of a new evangelization of Scotland, the Bishops propose a united Church in which the laity and clergy assume this mission with a deep sense of shared responsibility, and each according to their proper status and task. This will not be possible without personal and individual conversion. Clerics are required to overcome the cultural and social model that has always seen in the priest the only man in command of his local Church. Instead, the ecclesiology of communion must become a concrete reality which forms fundamental part of the life and structure of parishes and dioceses, above all when the Catholic Church in Scotland is challenged by a shortage of vocations and priests.

Furthermore, faced with today’s challenges (high suicide rate among young people, addictions of all kinds, unemployment ...), the laity must engage evermore in their communities and also enter the public domain each with their specific Christian identity. The laity, our families and the young are all called to feel part of this mission in the world and, with the joy of the Gospel at heart, make use of modern means of communication and new technologies, benefitting too from ongoing formation, and thus being able to evangelize society with courage and creativity.

The laity can already count on the solid catechetical preparation that the Church offers through a large network of Catholic schools. If the Catholic faith survived in Scotland beyond the Reformation, it owes this to parents and grandparents who knew how to transmit a simple but firm faith to their younger generations. Today, however, many parents have abdicated their role as primary Christian educators of their children. We no longer pray at home as a family, and increasingly so fewer families go together as one to mass on Sundays. For this reason the bishops are aware of the need to strengthen the pastoral care of the family and to provide for the formation of pastoral care agents. In this way, the Christian family may regain its role as the primary custodian of our Christian faith and become again the first place from where the Gospel will shine anew.

Cardinal Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery, underscored the fact that in order to train and help prepare family pastoral care agents, it is imperative that we strike a balance between formation and mission, between catechesis and the work of evangelization. Lay people need not only intellectual preparation; they must rediscover the missionary spirit and sense of discipleship as essential to their baptismal Christian vocation.