Cardinal O'Brien warns against "undermining the morality of a generation".
In a hard hitting sermon to be delivered this Sunday (7 November), Cardinal Keith O'Brien, President of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland will accuse Scotland's mass media and politicians of not reflecting the values held by most Scots.
Returning to the theme of Scotland's sexual health strategy, the Cardinal who will attend a meeting of European and African bishops in Rome next week will say;
" However well intentioned the actions of our medical professionals may be, despite the fact that we all support the ends being sought “ if not the means being used “ the fact remains that our current approaches in this area risk undermining the morality of a generation"
He also voices support for the objections being raised this week by Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow to the decision by the Greater Glasgow Health Board to pilot the free distribution of the Morning After Pill to schoolchildren.
Cardinal O'Brien will charge policymakers with " denying our young people the guidance and the tools they need to be able to make sound moral judgements about how they behave. We are casting them adrift on a sea of moral relativism, where an anything goes philosophy prevails"
Referring to the recent US elections he will claim that moral values have reached the top of the political agenda in the USA and may do so here.
Cardinal O'Brien concludes with a call for a return to Christian moral values in Scotland and a plea to parents to demand that the Scottish Executive pilot abstinence based approaches to sexual health in Scotland, claiming such approaches have the support of two thirds of the population.
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The full text of Cardinal O'Brien's homily is shown below:
CELEBRATION OF 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF AFRICAN/SCOTTISH LINKS IN PORTOBELLO
ST JOHN S CATHOLIC CHURCH, PORTOBELLO
ADDRESS BY CARDINAL KEITH PATRICK O BRIEN
SUNDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2004
It is indeed a pleasure being here with you this Sunday morning, along with Monsignor Paul from Legho in Tanzania.
We are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the close links which have bound Portobello and Legho “ to the mutual benefit of the people of both parishes, of schools in those parishes, and indeed to the benefit of the whole communities.
I am here with you just before my departure for Rome to take part in a Symposium organised by CCEE and SECAM, the organisations linking together Bishops of Europe and Bishops of Africa and bringing 50 Bishops from Europe and 50 Bishops from Africa to Rome for this special occasion.
What will I say?
As it is a joy for me to be here with you today, it will also be a joy for me to be in Rome with so many of my brother Bishops from Europe and strengthen friendships in collaboration with Bishops from Africa.
As Legho and Portobello have benefited from close links over 20 years, so on a wider level, our own Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh and indeed the peoples of Scotland as a whole, have benefited from links with Africa and other countries in the Third World.
These links have been links of evangelisation “ links through spreading the Christian Gospel; and they have been links also through the giving and receiving of material aid. One might say at national level the apostolates of our two great agencies, Missio and SCIAF, go hand in hand.
But I travel to Rome and speak to African leaders with increased worry.
I go as a Catholic leader aware I am preaching a Gospel message, which is ignored by many in Scotland. I mention two matters that cause me special concern.
The first concern is whether or not we are really concerned about poverty in Africa and other Third World countries?
I go realising that the message of love for others, taught by Jesus Christ, is not being practised to any great extent at international level or at home. Just last week I took part in a lobby outside our new Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood “ along with the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and a very enthusiastic group of some 400 people asking for increased trade justice throughout the world, following on our lobby some few years before with regard to world debt. While the lobby at the Scottish Parliament drew a considerable amount of attention at the time, there was scarcely a word or a photograph recording the event in any of our national papers or on the national media. It was as if the poverty of the peoples of Africa did not really worry us all too much!
The second worry concerns the moral values promoted in our society:
Further, I speak to you this morning and will be speaking in Rome, realising that all too often, the moral values promoted here by our political and media elites are rarely the values handed on in missionary lands by the Scots Christians who left our shores in centuries past to hand on the Christian faith. I have no reason to suspect that the moral values of most Scots do not remain close to those self same forbears, sadly however, they are values rarely reflected in our mass media or by our politicians.
Uppermost in my mind is the ongoing debate on our country s sexual health policy; I mention three points in particular:
1. I travel to Rome, as a Scottish Christian leader, realising that my country has one of the worst records in Western Europe in this area of sexual health of our young people. The problems we face are well known; some of the highest teenage conception rates in Europe, increasing abortion rates and what can only be described as an explosion in sexually transmitted infections. Earlier this year, shocking new statistics revealed that Chlamydia infections rose 16% in just three months at the start of 2004. Most of those infected are under 25 with the largest numbers in Greater Glasgow and the Lothians.
2. I travel to Rome realising that in my own Archdiocese, we have been a test ground for a project called Healthy Respect, which was launched some 3 years ago with £3 million backing from the Scottish Executive. We realise now that, following on that project, teenage pregnancy rates have soared above the national average since the project started. We are told that girls in their early teens are 14% more likely to get pregnant than girls of a similar age in other parts of Scotland “ whereas, before the scheme was introduced, pregnancy rates were only 3% above the national average.
3. I travel to Rome from a country where in our other great city of Glasgow, the Health Board is piloting a scheme in 20 chemists to provide the morning after pill to girls as young as 13, without their parents consent. This is happening despite the findings of a recent National Poll conducted by System 3 which showed a majority of Scots opposes such moves. I share the concerns of my colleague Archbishop Mario Conti and endorse his objections to this scheme. I had appealed to the Health Minister for clarification that such pills would not be handed out to schoolgirls “ whether in school or outside school “ without their parents consent “ an appeal that remains unanswered!
Value of abstinence-based approaches:
However well intentioned the actions of our medical professionals may be, despite the fact that we all support the ends being sought “ if not the means being used “ the fact remains that our current approaches in this area risk undermining the morality of a generation.
We are in danger of denying our young people the guidance and the tools they need to be able to make sound moral judgements about how they behave. We are casting them adrift on a sea of moral relativism, where an anything goes philosophy prevails. This is a dismal prospect “ not just for them “ but for all of us, since they are OUR future. Without the morality and stability that belief in marriage, the family and fidelity bring, there can be no society. Without the stable building block of marriage and the family we face a perilous and uncertain future.
What I say might sound frightening and pessimistic “ indeed it is “ and here in Scotland I know I will have my critics, but the same poll that showed opposition to the Morning After Pill also found that two thirds of the population would back abstinence-based approaches being piloted in our schools. Accordingly, I feel confident that my concerns are widely held. Clearly, I am far from alone in expressing serious doubts about the direction of sexual health policy in this country. When a majority of Scots disapprove of or disagree with current approaches in this field and two thirds of the population suggest it is time to change direction on sexual health, I think it is incumbent on our politicians, to listen and to respond.
The recent elections in the United States of America show how willing people can be to vote on issues such as moral values . In exit polls last week 22% of Americans cited this as their main reason for voting, likewise in 11 states voters chose to reject proposals to allow same-sex marriage. Our own politicians would do well to cast their eyes across the Atlantic.
Between 1990 and 2000 teenage conception rates in the UK fell by 7.6%, in the USA the fall was 28.8%. Abortion rates for the same group in the UK over the same period have remained unchanged while in the USA they have fallen by over 40%. Recent research attributes most of the decline in the American data to increased rates of abstinence.
One might ask just what we can do in the face of frightening statistics and the questionable lifestyles of some of our young people here in Scotland “ when we are holding ourselves up as an example to Africa and other countries in the Third World and especially when a return to moral values including chastity and abstinence in countries like Uganda have proved so successful recently.
I would maintain that there must be a return to the basic Christian moral values here, values that have been staunchly maintained in our country throughout many decades. I have campaigned before for further study, investigation and funding for abstinence-based approaches. I repeat that call today “ and call once again on parents, to those involved in positions of responsibility in all of the schools in our country to repeat that call to the Scottish Executive prior to their production of the Sexual Health Strategy.
The lifestyle of our young people and indeed of those not so young is vitally important to the health of our country. The ways in which we live out our lives has an effect on each one of us. The standards which we impart to our young people will have an effect on all in our country and, of course, on those countries to which we have outstanding outreach.
As we endeavour to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to what are described as Third World countries, may we practice what we preach so that in Scotland we also live that same Gospel of Jesus Christ.