Tag Archives: freedom of conscience

New Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh




The Catholic Union is pleased to add its voice to that of the wider Church in these isles upon the news of the appointment of Mgr Leo Cushley as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh by the Holy Father yesterday.

Commenting on the appointment, Catholic Union Chairman Robert Rigby said “This appointment of Mgr Cushley as the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh is extremely good news for the Church in Scotland.  The Catholic Union, whose role as the voice of Catholics in public life across this country, has a determined following north of the border. We have been involved in several important cases concerning the place of Catholics in daily life in Scotland recently, most notably with the case of the two Scottish midwives, who found themselves at odds with the health authorities, over their stance in assisting with abortions.  {Following an earlier ruling that they could not be classed as “conscientious objectors” to abortion because of their religious beliefs, in April of this year, the Court of Session in Edinburgh overturned the earlier ruling on the Midwives, and indeed anybody who objects to the whole process on grounds of conscience.}

This is testament to the hard work and diligence of the Catholic Union and others,” he added, “working alongside those involved, so that individual conscience and the common good of society can be upheld and maintained.  We look forward to a new springtime for the Catholic Church in Scotland with clarity of leadership, where the moral value of the Church and Christ’s teaching of caring and support for the individual are upheld”.


Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee, 18th June 2013

Chairman’s Announcements

The Chairman congratulated Sir Edward Leigh MP, upon his Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours earlier in the month. He also mentioned that he had been advised of the names of three Catholic MPs, Paul Maynard, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Sarah Teather whom it would be helpful to invite to PPAC meetings and/or receive the papers from these.

Liverpool Care Pathway

The Neuberger Report is expected in the third week of July. Baroness Neuberger had been taken aback by the volume of complaints from unhappy relatives. She is expected to be critical of the implementation and to recommend more monitoring, as well as the offer in every hospital to negotiate with the patient and/or relatives.

Commons and Lords Debate on Marriage (same sex couples) Bill

As this Bill has now been passed in the Lords, it is accepted that it will pass into law. The issue now is how best to put forward amendments that would best protect freedom of speech and belief for religious and other dissenters. Given the law’s poor drafting, some of these issues would only be settled in court.

Heterosexual Civil Partnerships

This had been put forward as an extension of equality. The Government has decided to consider it separately from the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill, possibly because in part because it could add billions to Government expenditure. The effect overall is to weaken the institution of marriage still further, and as such is not supported by the Committee.

Assisted Dying Bill (Lord Falconer)

This Bill is due to come up for First Reading in the autumn. The Royal College of Nursing is ambivalent towards the issue. An anonymous poll has reported that, in the Netherlands between 8 and 9% of doctors admitted to carrying out euthanasia on patients without their consent.

Homosexual bullying in Catholic Schools

It was agreed that the question of who should be invited to talk on this subject in schools is a matter for Governing bodies. Stonewall is in fact well-disposed towards Catholic schools who adopt zero tolerance towards bullying.

The case of the Scottish midwives

The Scottish Health Board has refused to accept the judgement in this matter and is going to take it to the Supreme Court. The final judgement will be of supreme importance to freedom of conscience.

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee, 12th February 2013

General point

The Chairman drew the Committee’s attention to a book recently published by Edward Leigh MP “Monastery of the Mind”, in which he describes a summer-long journey around sites connected with the life of St Ignatius Loyola, and his own later experience of undertaking the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.


The Chairman had received a letter from his local MP, Harriet Baldwin outlining her reasons for voting against the same sex marriage Bill, both at 2nd Reading and Committee stage. A large number of Catholic MPs voted for the same sex marriage bill but this number may well reduce during the later stages of the Bill’s progress. Some Labour and Liberal Democrat MPS who voted against the Bill are facing enormous pressure and challenges as a result.

Baroness Knight and the LCP – 23rd January

There were four speakers at this meeting, including the PPAC Chairman and Philip Howard, another member of that Committee. The other two speakers were Professors Glazer and Pullicino. A key observation is that it is scientifically impossible to predict accurately when a patient will die. Examples were given – one of a patient who went 18 days without fluids. A member of the audience, Lord Carlile, wrote an article in the following day’s Daily Telegraph. The LCP (soon to be renamed) is predicated on a prognosis of death. Part of its protocol is to stop observations, interventions or investigations. It was suggested that the Neuberger Review should be held under the terms of the Inquiries Act 2005, with the requisite medical expertise, proper funding and proper transparency.

Amendment to the Succession to the Crown Bill

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP had brought this amendment to remove religious belief as a bar to becoming monarch. The amendment was defeated, but the Committee applauded the effort.

Ethics in the City

This initiative by the Archbishop of Westminster was discussed, following a recent article in the Catholic Herald. It was noted that profit in the right context can be a force for good.

Presumed Consent – Welsh Assembly

Organs could be taken automatically from cadavers unless families specifically withhold consent. Westminster on the other hand had previously stated “presumed consent is no consent.” The Welsh Bishops have taken up the issue and SPUC are running a lively campaign in conjunction with the Moslem community.

ECHR on Christian freedom of religion and conscience

The Committee was informed about recent decisions. They are interesting because the legal position for religious rights is slightly better that it was previously. In particular the ECHR has changed its view and no longer considers that an employee, whose religious rights were infringed, should resign and get another job. Eweida and Chaplin involved the right to wear a Christian Cross at work and Ladele and McFarlane involved objection to the endorsement of same sex relationships. Eweida won her case; the others lost theirs. The claims alleged breaches of Articles 9 (Freedom of Religion) and Article 14 (Freedom from Discrimination) of the Convention. In the Eweida and Chaplin cases the ECHR rejected the idea that because the wearing of a Cross was not compulsory in Christianity its wearing was not a “manifestation” of religion for the purposes of Article 9.1. In the case of Eweida the ECHR held the ban on her wearing a cross was not justified in a democratic society (per Art 9.2). In the case of Chaplin, a nurse, the court decided that, because she wore the cross on a chain, a ban could be justified on health and safety grounds. Thus restriction of religious freedom was not, in principle, the issue in Chaplin. With Ladele and McFarlane there was a conflict between rights (religion versus discrimination) and the court held the balance was a matter for member states to decide. Thus any member state could lawfully provide for a conscientious objection on the issue, if it so wished. However, the dissenting opinions of Judges Vucinic and de Gaetano may provide ground for further appeals. They held that Lilian Ladele’s case is “not so much one of freedom of religious belief as one of freedom of conscience – that is, that no one should be forced to act against one’s conscience or be penalised for refusing to act against one’s conscience”. They added: “although freedom of religion and freedom of conscience are dealt with under the same Article of the Convention, there is a fundamental difference between the two which, in our view, has not been adequately made out in paras 79 to 88 of the judgement”. They concluded: “we are of the view that once a genuine and serious case of conscientious objection is established, the State is obliged to respect the individual’s freedom of conscience both positively (by taking reasonable and appropriate measures to protect the rights of the conscientious objector) and negatively (by refraining from actions which punish the objector or discriminate against him or her)…instead of practising the tolerance and the ‘dignity for all’  it preached, the Borough of Islington pursued the doctrinaire line, the road of obsessive political correctness. It effectively sought to force the applicant to act against her conscience or face the extreme penalty of dismissal”.

OSCR Decision

OSCR, the Scottish charity regulator, has ruled that an adoption agency, St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society, based in Glasgow, is in breach of the Equality Act 2010 because it expects those applying to be assessed as adoptive parents to have been married for at least two years. Even though the Act allows the charity so to act, nevertheless OSCR is claiming the right to re-interpret the Act, rather than letting a court decide, knowing that the charity cannot afford to go to law. This is of concern.

Same Sex Marriage Bill General Discussion 2nd Reading

135 Tories voted against the Bill or abstained. Messrs Leigh, Dobbin and Howarth MMPs spoke well. The composition of the Committee dealing with the Bill is weighted 14 to 4 in favour of the Bill’s supporters. The optimum time to make changes will be at the Report stage of the Bill. A Submission to the Commons will be crafted by the Vice Chairman of the Catholic Union. The President will craft a submission for the House of Lords. Unintended consequences of the legislation – eg unequal treatment of adultery (present in heterosexual but not homosexual marriages) being one such instance. An update will be given at the next meeting.