WATCH: Prisoners and experts share experience of life inside

Life inside Scottish prisons was discussed by prisoners, experts and chaplains at The Gillis Centre in Edinburgh on Saturday.

A View from Within: Justice & the Prison Service was hosted by Canon Brian Gowans and the Archdiocesan Commission for Caritas Justice & Peace.

Prisoners from HMP Castle Huntly shared their experiences about life inside and stressed the importance of addressing challenges within the criminal justice system.

These include education, self-motivation, mental health, and breaking down stereotypes.

Professor Nancy Loucks from Families Outside underscored the significance of acknowledging obstacles faced by families of those in prison and advocated for collective efforts to challenge stereotypes and provide support.

Canon Gowans spoke of the global disparities in the treatment of prisoners which he discovered in his role as President of the International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care.

Deacon Kenny McGeachie, the National Chaplaincy Advisor to the Scottish Prison Service, discussed challenges within the Scottish prison system and advocated for an  inclusive, trauma-informed, and rights-based approach.

In alignment with the call of Christ to serve those in prison, attendees were urged to act practically by endorsing the Prisoners' Week Charter.

The Archdiocese has already pledged its support, affirming their commitment to advocating for a more empathetic and equitable prison system.

Thanks to everyone who attended. Find out more about the Commission for Caritas, Justice & Peace here. Find out more about Families Outside here.

Challenge Poverty Week event

Bishop John Keenan will join Rt Rev Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Moderator of the Church of Scotland, for a special Challenge Poverty Week event.

Faith, Compassion and Security is hosted this Thursday (5 October) at the Xaverian Missionaries Conforti Centre and Church of Scotland Priority Areas.

The theme of the event is to learn about a Minimum Income Guarantee as a way to combat poverty and discuss in a Christian context how this may be achieved.

Bishop John Keenan, of Paisley Diocese, said: “It is an opportunity for individuals to raise their voices against poverty and unite with others in calling for a just and equal Scotland.

"I am heartened to be able to participate in these conversations, to lead worship together with Catholics and Reformed Christians active in anti-poverty work across Scotland.”

Hugh Foy of the Xaverian Missionaries, said: "This campaign seeks to return human dignity to the heart of political decision making.

"These issues transcend party politics, they define who we are as a society.

"A minimum income guarantee secures a healthy standard of living for all, and allows it to be sustained as a fundamental requirement of all governments in the future"

Faith, Compassion and Security – A Challenge Poverty Week Event, Thursday 5 October 2023, 10:00am to 3:00pm at the Conforti Centre, Calder Avenue, Coatbridge ML5 4JS. No registration required.


Challenge Poverty Week runs from 2–8 October and is organised by The Poverty Alliance, an organisation which Justice and Peace Scotland are members of.  Justice and Peace advises the Bishops' Conference of Scotland in matters of social justice, peacebuilding, promoting care for creation and human rights, supporting the Catholic community to live the values of the Gospel in service to the poor and marginalised.


Lobby your MSP against assisted suicide

The Catholic Parliamentary Office has called on parishioners across Scotland to lobby MSPs against dangerous proposals to legalise assisted suicide. 

A briefing, which has been sent to every Catholic parish in the country, asks parishioners to contact local MSPs, either as individuals or as part of an organised parish group.

Anthony Horan, Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, said:  “The Catholic community in Scotland was key to stopping assisted suicide in 2010 and 2015.

"We need them to step up once again.

"Please help us to stop death by prescription in Scotland and to call for better palliative care instead. We should be caring for people, not killing them.”

Among the dangers outlined in the briefing:

The church also points out that assisted suicide is uncontrollable.

In every country where assisted suicide and/or euthanasia is legal, safeguards have been eroded and eligibility criteria expanded to now include people with arthritis, anorexia, autism and dementia. It has also been extended to include children. 

Liam McArthur MSP is expected to publish a Bill later this year proposing the legalisation of assisted suicide. 

Catholic parishioners and others are urged to visit the website Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office website for guidance on contacting MSPs.




My Faith and Scotland

Is Scotland a tolerant country for people of faith? What has been the experience of Christians and Muslims? Register here to join us for a fascinating insight into life as a person of faith in Scotland in 2022, as our speakers lay out the obstacles and opportunities and share the story of 'My Faith in Scotland'.

Share your own experience at this event in which people of all faiths and none are warmly invited.



Event organised by the Commission for Ecumenism & Interfaith Dialogue of the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh.

WATCH: Discover the MA Theology course

St Mary's University, Twickenham, invites YOU to study the MA in Applied Catholic Theology at the Gillis Centre Campus in Edinburgh this September.

To tell you all about it we teamed up with St Mary's University to host an online open evening. You can hear about what's involved, how it's taught and the support you'll receive. Watch it below or on YouTube (where video is divided into chapters)

What students say

The Course

The MA in Applied Catholic Theology provides a thorough grounding in key aspects of Catholic theology, whilst developing the key skills to apply Catholic theology to the challenges and opportunities of the contemporary world.

Teaching is flexible and adaptable and the course is suitable for graduates of most academic disciplines. Find out more at


Roe v Wade: why it matters

America could be on the brink of a major decision on abortion that could lead to the saving of millions of unborn children. What impact would it have on America and the rest of the world? Here we present some FAQs to help you understand what's happening.

What is Roe v Wade?
In 1973, Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe”) challenged Texas’ law which prohibited doctors from performing abortions.  “Wade” was Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas. In the Roe vs Wade decision the Supreme Court decided that abortion was a ‘right’ found in the 14th amendment of the US Constitution.

What then happened?
The Roe decision struck down many State laws and made abortion a Federal issue in the United States.  The plaintiff, Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe”)  eventually became a Catholic and campaigned against abortion.

What is the key legal point being argued?
The US Constitution does not refer to abortion, so the claim that there is a right to it, which was the foundation for the 1973 decision, has no basis in fact.

Why is it in the news?
This week media reports are suggesting the Court has decided that Roe will be overturned. This follows a leaked draft majority opinion that has been widely reported.

What does the Court say about Roe v Wade?
Justice Alito, in the leaked document, is reported to have written: “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion and no such right is implicitly protected”.

What else is he reported to have written?
He notes that “a right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions” and “Roe was on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided”.   He concludes: “the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.  Roe… must be overruled and the authority must be returned to the people and their elected representatives”.

Does it mean abortion will be banned in the US?
It does not mean abortion will banned in the US - pro-abortion media and commentators are exaggerating the effects of the draft decision.

So what will it mean?
If overturned, US abortion laws will be decided by individual states rather than at a Federal level.  This is consistent with Catholic social teaching and the principle of subsidiarity which holds that political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority.

So that’s good for unborn children and their mothers?
Yes. States in the US that want to democratically pass pro-life laws would be able to do so and lives will be saved as a result.

This is happening in America, why should I care?
Because potentially millions of human lives will be saved from the horror of abortion. The impact of a decision to overturn Roe v Wade will be felt around the world.

How many abortions have taken place in the UK?
9,898,425 lives have been lost as a result of 54 years of legal abortion in the UK.

What about Scotland?
In Scotland, women from the poorest areas have abortion rates twice as high as those from wealthy areas. Being genuinely ‘pro-choice’ means supporting women who want to keep their children so they are not forced into abortion for economic reasons.

Has the First Minister commented on Roe v Wade?

Nicola Sturgeon posted on Twitter: "The right of women to decide what happens to our own bodies is a human right. And experience tells us that removing the legal right to abortion doesn’t stop abortions happening - it just makes them unsafe and puts the lives of women at much greater risk."

Is she open to dialogue on the issue?
It doesn't appear so. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children posted a Tweet showing she had blocked them on Twitter.

What is the Catholic teaching on abortion?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception" (2270) and "Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion." (2271).

What does Pope Francis say about abortion?
Speaking to media in 2021, he said: "Abortion is murder.. Those who carry out abortions kill. At the third week after conception, often even before the mother is aware (of being pregnant), all the organs are already (starting to develop). It is a human life. Period. And this human life has to be respected.."

What pro-life work happens in our Archdiocese?
We have a pro-life office which helps provide real choices and support to women in unexpected pregnancy situations. Recently, Stanton Healthcare has been established in Edinburgh to give support to women facing a crisis pregnancy. Recently, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children hosted it annual pro-life chain in Edinburgh.

What can I do?
Catholic social teaching has always placed special emphasis on helping those in need. Caring for unborn children and their mothers follows Jesus’ instructions in St Matthew’s Gospel (see below). Please pray for an end to killing of the most vulnerable humans - the unborn.

Contact our Pro-Life Office
Could you help unborn children and their mothers in our Archdiocese? There are lots of different ways to help. Contact Paul Atkin at the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Office: 0131 623 8917 |

PDF version of above infographic here.

Bishop Bill Nolan appointed Archbishop of Glasgow

Pope Francis has named Bishop Bill Nolan as the new Archbishop of Glasgow and 41st successor of St Mungo.

The new Archbishop will succeed Archbishop Philip Tartaglia who died in January 2021.

Bishop Nolan, who is currently the Bishop of Galloway, said: "I feel overwhelmed by the trust Pope Francis is putting in me by appointing me as Archbishop of Glasgow.

"It will be wrench for me to leave Galloway Diocese where for seven years I have experienced the kindness and friendship of so many people, particularly the clergy. God truly blessed me by sending me to Galloway and I hope that my successor there will be similarly blessed."


He added: "As I overcome my initial shock at being appointed Archbishop, my thoughts now turn to the challenges that lies ahead. I look forward to working with everyone in the Archdiocese - laity and clergy - to carry out the mission that we share of proclaiming God’s good news and of bringing the joy of the gospel into the lives of the people of today.”

Archbishop Nolan, 68, has served as Bishop of Galloway Diocese from 2014. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Motherwell in 1977, served as vice-rector of the Scots College in Rome, 1983-1990, and was Vicar General of Motherwell Diocese, 2014-2015.

Bishop Nolan added: “I am well aware of my own inadequacies and of the difficulties the Church faces today. Thank God therefore that we can sure of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

As I leave the Diocese of Galloway behind, from now on I belong to Glasgow. And I assure the people of Glasgow of my commitment and dedication to them.

"Please remember me in your prayers."


Mgr Hugh Bradley, who has been Administrator of the Archdiocese of Glasgow since the death of Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, said: “I am delighted with the appointment of Bishop Nolan; I offer him a warm welcome to the Archdiocese of Glasgow and a promise of prayers on behalf of all the clergy, religious and laity.  May our good God bless him with health and strength to lead us in faith.”

Fr. William McFadden, Vicar General of the diocese of Galloway said:  “As Bishop of Galloway, Bishop Nolan presented a pastoral vision with a genuinely collaborative approach.

"He led with humility and determination, inspired by the initiatives of Pope Francis, and focussing on the needs of the Church for the 21st century. This appointment will allow him to serve both the people of Glasgow and the wider Church with the same abilities with which he served us in Galloway for seven valuable years.

"We will miss him, but appreciate greatly the contribution which he made, and the legacy which he leaves.”

Archbishop Cushley said: ““I’m delighted that my brother bishop, Bill Nolan, has accepted the Holy Father’s nomination as Archbishop of Glasgow. He has proven to be a dedicated leader and pastor of souls in the Diocese of Galloway.

"I have already offered him my warm congratulations and would ask everyone to remember him in their prayers. Glasgow has gained a worthy successor of the much-missed Archbishop Philip Tartaglia.”

The Archbishop elect will take possession of the Archdiocese on Saturday 26 February.


Scottish church leaders respond to foreign policy and defence review

Bishop William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway and President of the Commission for Justice and Peace Scotland, has joined seven other Scottish church leaders in signing a statement responding to the UK Government’s integrated review of foreign and defence policies.

The review, discussed in the UK Parliament on Tuesday, proposed removing the cap on the number of nuclear weapons stockpiled, allowing for an increase of up to 40%.

The statement

The UK Government’s decision to increase the number of Trident nuclear warheads the UK can stockpile by more than 40% is a deeply worrying development.

The move, part of the integrated review of defence, security and foreign policy, is a retrograde step which threatens the common good and reverses nearly 30 years of gradual disarmament.

The decision is a contravention of the UK’s obligations under the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty and undermines the international rules-based order. It ignores the growing global movement in support of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which calls for ‘the irreversible, verifiable and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons’.

For many years, Scottish churches have agreed that the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons is immoral and their very possession should be condemned in a world that needs peace.

The financial cost of a larger nuclear arsenal cannot be justified in the face of the UK’s high rates of poverty and deprivation, and the challenges of the climate emergency and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UK must take its responsibilities and Treaty obligations seriously, strive for global nuclear disarmament, and work towards peaceful and cooperative international relationships.


This article first appeared on the website of the Catholic Parliamentary Office.

Hate Crime Bill: contact your MSP ahead of debate

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) bill is about to reach its final stage of consideration in the Scottish Parliament, writes the Scottish Catholic Parliamentary Office.

On Wednesday next week (10 March) the Parliament will debate the Bill and consider amendments put forward by MSPs. The Parliament will then vote on whether the Bill should be passed into law.

We have outstanding concerns about the Bill, particularly the weak protections under the freedom of expression provisions for transgender identity and sexual orientation.

We have consistently argued for greater protection in these areas, including increased specificity on the face of the Bill to make the distinction between criminal and non-criminal behaviour as clear as possible.

The Scottish Government has amended the freedom of expression provisions to allow people to discuss and criticise religion or no belief and this is welcome. However, we are very concerned that disagreement with or criticism of transgender identity or marriage between persons of the same sex could fall foul of the new law, if passed in its current form.

These characteristics ought to be subject to a more robust standard, closer to the standard that is applied to religion and belief. The provision would also benefit from greater specificity, to avoid uncertainty and confusion.

Some of the amendments proposed by MSPs would improve the Bill by making the freedom of expression provision more robust in these areas (amendments 1, 2, 3, 11F and 11G). The principal amendment (no11), which is far from ideal, would be significantly improved by these amendments. Without these changes, amendment 11 is weak and a threat to free speech in the areas outlined.

Further, amendment 14 would remove important protections on debate around sexual orientation and we believe this should not be supported by MSPs.

With that in mind, we invite you to contact your MSP today, stressing the importance of a strong freedom of expression provision and encouraging them to support the following amendments:

And please ask your MSP to reject the following:

You can find your MSP details here (remember you have one constituency MSP and seven regional MSPs). Please be courteous and clear in your email and use your own words as much as possible.

This article first published at on Saturday 06 March

New Hate Crime Bill – freedom to disagree must be protected

Scotland's Bishops have highlighted concerns over the Scottish Government’s new Hate Crime and Public Order Bill.

In a submission to the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee the Conference has stated that any new law must be ‘carefully weighed against fundamental freedoms, such as the right to free speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.’

The bill proposes to modernise, consolidate and extend hate crime legislation in Scotland. It includes introducing a new offence of stirring up hatred, possession of inflammatory material, and new protection of freedom of expression provisions in relation to religion and sexual orientation.

Lack of clarity

Director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office, Anthony Horan said: “Whilst acknowledging that stirring up of hatred is morally wrong and supporting moves to discourage and condemn such behaviour the bishops have expressed concerns about the lack of clarity around definitions and a potentially low threshold for committing an offence, which they fear, could lead to a ‘deluge of vexatious claims’.

“A new offence of possessing inflammatory material could even render material such as the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church...inflammatory.

"The Catholic Church’s understanding of the human person, including the belief that sex and gender are not fluid and changeable, could fall foul of the new law. Allowing for respectful debate, means avoiding censorship and accepting the divergent views and multitude of arguments inhabiting society.”

Mr Horan added: “The Church believes that fundamental freedoms must be protected, as the right to exercise freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is ‘an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person’ and ‘a right that must be recognised and protected by civil authority, always within the limits of the common good and public order’.

The courts have noted that the freedom to shock, offend and disturb, as well as the contentious and unwelcome are protected by the right to freedom of expression, and the bishops have declared that freedom of expression provisions must be robust enough to protect the freedom to disagree.

'Cancel culture'

Mr Horan concluded:“The bishops decry so-called ‘cancel culture’ in their submission, expressing deep concern at the ‘hunting down of those who disagree with prominent orthodoxies with the intention to expunge the non-compliant from public discourse and with callous disregard for their livelihoods’.

"They say that ‘no single section of society has dominion over acceptable and unacceptable speech or expression’ and urged the law to be proportionate and fair and allow for respectful debate and tolerance lest we become an ‘intolerant, illiberal society’.

Read the BCOS comments on the bill here.