A Scottish bishop has defended a university’s choice to invite Nicola Sturgeon to give this year’s Cardinal Winning Lecture, despite protests from pro-lifers.
The Bishop of Paisley, John Keenan, posted news on Facebook that the First Minister would give the annual lecture, which honours the late Scottish cardinal, on Saturday 3rd March, to mark the Centenary of the Catholic Education Scotland Act 1918, as well as the partnership between the Catholic Church and the State in Scotland in the provision of education to youngsters.
The bishop noted that the University of Glasgow had made the announcement and described it as a ‘huge milestone in this year’s celebrations’.
However, his post attracted criticism with some pointing out Ms Sturgeon’s agreement to offer free abortions to women from Northern Ireland.
One poster said she didn’t see the announcement as a ‘milestone’ and instead warned: ‘We can’t dance with the devil to enhance a point.’
Another poster described it as ‘a scandal’.
However, responding to the criticism, Bishop Keenan pointed out that the Catholic Church was not behind the invite but the University of Glasgow. He went on to explain that, per the merger agreement, the university now has the prerogatives over the Cardinal Winning Lecture.
The bishop also said this explanation was meant as a ‘precision, not as a cop out’ before expressing his own view.
Bishop Keenan said he understood the ‘pro-life anxiety’ surrounding the announcement, pointing out that he had challenged Ms Sturgeon’s agreement to follow the UK Government’s decision to facilitate Scottish abortions for Northern Irish women.
‘I challenged this at the time, as you know, considering it to be both immoral in itself and an awful and unwarranted political meddling of the Scottish and UK governments in the legitimate autonomy of a devolved region of the UK,’ he wrote.
However, he went on to express his support regarding the invitation, saying he thinks it is ‘quite appropriate’ as this year marks the ‘centenary of the Education Scotland Act and the long, fruitful partnership between the Church and the State in the provision of Catholic education for our citizens’.
‘It is an invitation to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon in office, more than to Nicola Sturgeon as a politician,’ he continued, adding that it could also be an opportunity for ‘honest dialogue as to how much just freedom our Catholic schools are presently afforded by the State simply to be Catholic’.
He also suggested it could be the occasion to propose and promote the ‘Christian vision of the human person, without undue political pressure to conform to an aggressively secular anthropology currently in vogue, that often threatens to undermine our own Gospel truths’.
Bishop Keenan concluded with a plea, urging Catholics involved in ‘frank and honest’ debates to always carry them out in ‘civility, good faith and charity’. He said in doing so the Catholic approach may be ‘better understood, respected and appreciated’ by civic society.
Picture: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. (John Linton/PA).