WATCH: Pro-Life Reflection from Sr Roseann Reddy

Sr Roseann Reddy, of the Sisters of the Gospel of Life (Glasgow) reflects on walking the Way of the Cross with the Lord and reaching out and helping those who are suffering from the effects of abortion.

This reflection was part of our weekly Lent Stations of the Cross. Join us online each week at 7:45pm. Register at bit.ly/lentstations

Buffer Zone Bill will take ‘sledgehammer to civil liberties’

Earlier this week the Daily Record covered the debate set to take place among MSPs on whether to have 'Buffer Zones' around abortion clinics, writes Peter Kearney, of the Scottish Catholic Media Office.

A Bill proposed by Green MSP Gillian MacKay would criminalise any action aimed at persuading someone not to access abortion or to consider an alternative, within 200 metres of premises carrying out abortions.

It would become illegal, to:

The Bill takes a sledgehammer to free speech and demolishes many other civil liberties, including freedom of expression, assembly, thought, conscience and religion.

It could create for the first time in Scottish legal history, a thought crime. You would just need to think negatively about the actions of others to fall foul of the law.

With so much at stake, it’s probably worth asking: what exactly is the problem this terrible Bill is trying to solve?

Well, you might be surprised to learn that no one has ever been arrested outside an abortion facility in Scotland, for breach of the peace, harassment or intimidation.

Police Scotland have stated explicitly that “existing powers and offences are sufficient to address any unlawful behaviour which may arise in the vicinity of a health care premises as a result of such protest.”

They add: “Our engagement with participants...has not resulted in any criminality being identified.”

As the Record’s powerful pictures showed this week, a group of pensioners saying prayers on the pavement isn’t exactly threatening.

Sledgehammer

Since the cops are clear; no crimes are being committed and no new laws are needed, the Bill looks a lot like a sledgehammer being wielded against an invisible nut.

Peaceful protest used to be a cornerstone of our democracy.

Silent vigils have always been seen as harmless and unthreatening.

If we crush that concept now, where will it end?

Silent Peace vigils outside the Trident nuclear base at Faslane have been a fixture for decades, they explicitly attempt to influence those who witness them, but no Scots politician has ever said we should ban them.

That’s because for generations we’ve respected freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of thought conscience and religion as the hard-won human rights they are and wouldn’t dream of erasing them.

Threat to freedoms

The proposed “Buffer Zone” law would at a stroke undo almost a century of settled international human rights law, leaving our courts to determine whether an individual’s thoughts were permissible or not.

Such a threat to universal and fundamental rights is genuinely frightening.

A growing number of people in Scotland are waking up to this real threat to our freedoms and are calling on the Scottish Government to disassociate itself from this damaging and unnecessary proposal.

Our MSPs should steer well clear of unravelling our Human Rights by allowing the Police to protect the peace, the prayerful to pray and the concept of freedom of expression to survive.

Peter Kearney is Director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office. The Daily Record, having commissioned the above article, refused to publish it.

Threat to silent prayer vigils near abortion centres

Catholics are being urged to respond to a proposed bill that would criminalise silent prayer vigils and offers of help near abortion centres.

Gillian Mackay MSP has published the Bill to introduce ‘safe access zones’, or buffer zones, around abortion centres in Scotland.

The offences under the proposed Bill would make it illegal to offer women help and will criminalise prayer, including audible prayer and silent vigils. In England, Catholics have already been arrested for praying silently under similar laws to those being proposed in Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament has asked for evidence and it is important that as many people as possible respond to the Consultation.

Anthony Horan, director of the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office said: "We need people to do two things in response to this proposed Bill: These are:

"To make things as easy as possible for you we have put together an online resource, which provides guidance on engaging with the call for evidence and writing to your MSPs." 

You can access the online resource here. For a PDF version of the briefing on the Bill click here.

Do your bit to help protect the freedom to pray in Scotland.

Free2Pray webinar

A Green Party MSP, supported by the Scottish Government, is proposing a Bill to ban peaceful prayers and offers of help near abortion clinics in Scotland.
It proposes a jail sentence of up to two years for anyone who even silently prays near an abortion clinic. Catholics in England have already been arrested under similar laws there.
It is vital that as many Catholics, and all concerned for freedom of speech and assembly, make a response to this dangerous Bill.
Find out more and how to respond at this webinar which takes place on Tuesday 3 October at 7:45pm. Register here.
If the Government is allowed to decide when and where people can pray this is a serious threat to religious freedom.
If the principle is established in this Bill, it could easily be applied to Corpus Christi processions or other forms of Catholic social justice work if politicians decide they don't agree with what is happening.
It is vital that as many Catholics, and all concerned for freedom of speech and assembly, make a response to this dangerous Bill.
Find out more and how to respond at this webinar.
Free2Pray is organised by the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office. Register here.

Free2Pray

A Green Party MSP, supported by the Scottish Government, is proposing a Bill to ban peaceful prayers and offers of help near abortion clinics in Scotland.

The Bill proposes a jail sentence of up to two years for anyone who even silently prays near an abortion clinic. Catholics in England have already been arrested under similar laws there.

If the Government is allowed to decide when and where people can pray this is a serious threat to religious freedom.

If the principle is established in this Bill, it could easily be applied to Corpus Christi processions or other forms of Catholic social justice work if politicians decide they don't agree with what is happening.

It is vital that as many Catholics, and all concerned for freedom of speech and assembly, make a response to this dangerous Bill.

Register here for this session to find out how to respond.

Event organised by the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office.

 

Bill to ban prayer vigils near abortion clinics lodged in Parliament

A Bill which threatens basic civil liberties has been lodged in the Scottish Parliament.

Gillian Mackay’s proposal to ban prayer and offers of help around abortion facilities will now be considered by the Parliament and has already drawn support from First Minister Humza Yousaf.

The proposals could see people criminalised for simply simply occupying a so-called “buffer zone” near an abortion clinic. Chillingly, it could establish zones in Scotland where prayer is illegal.

Fr Jeremy Milne, Archdiocesan Vicar Episcopal for Marriage and Families said the bill “poses a significant threat to civil liberties by curtailing the freedom of a person to pray in public.  The State will be designating public areas in which it is prohibited, indeed criminal, to pray.”

He added that the bill “denies the opportunity for women who reluctantly seek abortion due to coercion by persons or circumstance to receive last moment offers of help".

"Many women have testified to the value of this in their own lives.  Given that both the mental and emotional wellbeing of the mother and the life of an unborn human being are at stake, the denial of this opportunity is totally unacceptable.”

Peaceful and prayerful

Paul Atkin, Pro-Life Officer at the Archdiocese said: "For years, Police Scotland and NHS Boards have confirmed they have no records of any harassment and that vigils are peaceful and prayerful. In fact, the Police chose not to respond to the Bill’s consultation.

"If there was really a problem at Scottish abortion centres the Police and NHS Boards would be expected to have something to say, but they have presented no evidence.”

He added: “The Bill harms women from poorest parts of Scotland who suffer abortion rates twice as high as those in wealthy areas.

"Banning practical support and offers of help will, ironically, leave women feeling that abortion is their only 'choice.'  This is wrong.

"We call on Gillian Mackay to be pro-all-choices and give real and practical support to women in unexpected pregnancy situations rather than criminalising peaceful people who are providing much needed help and kindness.”

He added: "In reality, Gillian Mackay's Bill supports a campaign by multi-million pound abortion providers with concerning safety records.

"BPAS, which carried out over 90,000 abortions last year, was found to have supplied abortion drugs to a woman who aborted her baby at 32 - 34 weeks.  They have no mandate to speak about women's health or safety."

Atkin noted that Mackay had removed 3,367 pro-life responses from some of the consultation results.

He said “It is disappointing that Gillian Mackay wants to ignore the views of thousands of individuals who opposed her bill online.

“It is not surprising - the aim of this extreme measure appears to be to stop Christians peacefully taking part in public life.

“Gillian Mackay’s complaint that members of the public submitted their responses using the same website show that she is out of touch with modern digital communications methods used by many lobby organisations.”

To learn more about the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Office click here. Part of this article comes from the Catholic Parliamentary Office article here.

Day for Life highlights trauma caused by abortion

This year the Day for Life (Sunday 18 June) seeks to highlight the trauma caused by abortion.

Many in our society, but especially women, are affected by abortion and the Bishops want people to know they can find a welcome in the heart of the Church and the promise of hope and healing found in Christ Jesus.

Bishop John Keenan (Paisley Diocese), Bishop President for Marriage, Families & Life, has issued a pastoral letter for the day.

He writes: "The Day for Life is a day in our Church’s year which is dedicated to raising awareness about the meaning and value of human life at every stage and in every condition from the womb to the tomb.

" This year’s theme is  Listen to Her. It tells Jane’s Story (see below) of the healing a woman found through the Church and the Sacraments and a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat following the tragic circumstances of her abortion, and of her long journey back to peace and light.

"The theme focuses on the all too often silent voices of women like Jane, on their regret, their lifelong struggle with post-abortion trauma and their hope of eventual healing and new life."

A collection will be taken for the Apostolate for Life in parishes in the Archdiocese around this time.

Jane’s Story

I went to Catholic schools, I knew about God and morality on some level, but for me, the culture spoke louder when it came to making decisions around sexuality.

When I was 15, I discovered I was pregnant and the fear clouded everything.

I had one aim, and that was to solve the problem I had found myself in.

A quick search for confidential help landed me at a clinic connected to an abortion provider.

They seemed to genuinely believe that abortion was the solution to my problem and I don’t remember discussing any other options.

I was relieved when they determined that I was capable enough to make this decision alone, without the involvement of an adult, which is still legal to this day.

By hearing other people share their stories and being gently encouraged by the team, I was able to speak the truth of what had happened to me on that day. My feelings were acknowledged, including my sense of loss.

That Saturday I travelled alone to the clinic. My parents were unaware, due to other difficulties in the family home that I didn’t want to contribute to.

I went through the degrading experience of a surgical abortion, and I thought that if I could just get through that day, I would never have to think about it again.

I remember feeling conflicted as a tear rolled down my cheek, that I quickly wiped away.

I believed I couldn’t be sad because this was something I had chosen to do.

So after the initial feeling of relief, I pushed down the experience and avoided anything to do with the topic of abortion.

Looking for direction

It was difficult to be around pregnant women and I found the anniversary difficult each year.

Over the next few years, I became more curious about faith through the invitation of a friend.

I was looking for direction and truth, but my spiritual life was always tainted by the thought that I could never be forgiven for what I had done – somehow, God’s mercy didn’t apply to me.

In the fleeting moments of honesty with myself and God, I knew that my choice didn’t make me lose something, but someone.

At times, this realisation was unbearable. This led to periods of deep depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as more promiscuous behaviour and numbing the pain with alcohol, food, or isolation.

This all changed when I was encouraged to go to confession. Even when I tried to justify my choice, the priest met me with the love and mercy of Jesus.

The tears he shed melted my heart of stone. I began to give up my old ways of life and follow His way.

Healing

On this journey I was introduced to Rachel’s Vineyard: a healing ministry that provides support for those who are suffering after abortion.

I remember the kindness of the woman that I spoke to, and I knew I wouldn’t be judged there.

It took so much courage to go on a retreat, but I can genuinely say it changed my life.

I truly believe that if I’d have known the impact abortion would have had on my life, even as a teenager, I would have made a different choice.

By hearing other people share their stories and being gently encouraged by the team, I was able to speak the truth of what had happened to me on that day.

My feelings were acknowledged, including my sense of loss.

I was finally given permission to grieve for the baby that had died through my choice. I acknowledged my motherhood and named my son Joseph.

This was the start of God turning the guilt, shame and unforgiveness into a deep love for my son, as any good mother would have.

The healing has continued alongside my faith journey. I’ve taken responsibility for the role I played in my abortion, but with perspective and time, I can see that my ‘choice’ wasn’t really a choice at all.

There were other people’s failures, and an inability to truly give informed consent as a teenager that also contributed.

The option that was presented as a quick fix solution has eternal consequences, and I truly believe that if I’d have known the impact abortion would have had on my life, even as a teenager, I would have made a different choice.

Find Day for Life Resources here. Find out more about the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Office here.

Witnessing to the sanctity of life in Edinburgh

People gathered in Edinburgh on Saturday in a peaceful public act of witness for the unborn.

Each year, The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) holds its pro-life chain to commemorate the millions of unborn babies killed by abortion since the implementation of the 1967 Abortion Act.

This peaceful act of witness spreads the message that abortion kills unborn children and hurts women and families.

Prior to the event Archbishop Cushley led the Rosary at Sacred Heart Church in nearby Lauriston Street to pray for unborn children, their mothers and all pro-life intentions.

To find out more about SPUC and its work, visit its website here. Find out more about the work of the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Office here.

Archbishop Cushley led a Rosary at Sacred Heart Church prior to the event.

Bishops: Supreme Court has failed to protect basic freedoms.

Scotland's Catholic Bishops have hit out at a decision that will ban peaceful prayer vigils and offers of help for women outside abortion clinics in Northern Ireland.

The UK Supreme Court last week cleared the way for Northern Ireland to introduce 'buffer zones'  outside clinics.

Responding to the decision the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland (BCOS) urged members of the Scottish Parliament to support “the expression of longstanding rights and the principle of reciprocal toleration”.

They point out that, were the Scottish Parliament to pass such a law, it would have “a chilling effect on freedom of speech and assembly in a country which has long valued both”.

BCOS - Statement on Supreme Court Decision

The recent decision of the UK Supreme Court on the Northern Ireland buffer zone case is very concerning. It is a decision which fails to protect basic freedoms of expression and freedom of assembly.

It will no doubt embolden efforts to criminalise peaceful vigils in Scotland.

A proposal has already been put forward by an MSP which would prohibit ‘occupying’ space around abortion facilities and introduces areas of Scotland where prayer would become illegal.

Were the Scottish Parliament to endorse such a law, it would erode hard won freedoms and fundamental rights.

Criminalising citiziens for no more than occupying a specific location with the threat of imprisonment of up to six months for a first offence and up to two years for subsequent offences, would have a chilling effect on freedom of speech and assembly in a country which has long valued both.

Silent Peace vigils outside the Trident nuclear submarine base at Faslane have been a regular occurrence for decades and have enjoyed wide support, universally considered to be benign expressions of deeply held convictions.

Vigils outside abortion facilities should be afforded the same protection.

Evidence of their peaceful nature is seen in the fact that they have not led to any arrests or convictions.

As Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh points out, “Many mothers in crisis have felt supported at the last minute by a sensitive offer of practical help to find a way out of their crisis other than by ending the life of their unborn baby, it is perfectly reasonable to want to reach out in compassion to help vulnerable women and to be free to protect the life and well-being of both a mother and her unborn child.”

We would urge members of the Scottish Parliament to support the expression of longstanding rights and the principle of reciprocal toleration.

Free2Pray

A Green Party MSP, supported by the Scottish Government, is proposing a Bill to ban peaceful prayers and offers of help near abortion clinics in Scotland.

The Bill proposes a jail sentence of up to two years for anyone who even silently prays near an abortion clinic.

If the Government is allowed to decide when and where people can pray this is a serious threat to religious freedom. If the principle is established in this Bill, it could easily be applied to Corpus Christi processions or the annual St Margaret's Pilgrimage if politicians decide they don't agree with what is happening.

It is vital that as many Catholics, and all concerned for freedom of speech and assembly, make a response to this dangerous Bill.

Register

Register for one of our two sessions to find out how to respond.

Event organised by the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Office. Find out more about its work at https://archedinburgh.org/prolife/