Archbishop offers Scotland a path to the common good
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Archbishop offers Scotland a path to the common good



Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh Leo Cushley celebrates the 125 anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s landmark encyclical ‘Rerum Novarum’


Archbishop Leo Cushley has marked the 125 anniversary of the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum by re-proposing its social teaching for the common good of Scottish society.  The encyclical by Pope Leo XIII is arguably the Church’s most important when it comes to social justice and the Archbishop can clearly see positives in once again bringing it to the forefront of our minds.


Writing in today's Scotsman Archbishop Cushley said: “At the foundation of Pope Leo’s vision is an unshakeable belief in the intrinsic value of every man, woman and child.  The degree to which it threatened or enhanced the life and dignity of the human person”, he says, “is the measure of any political, moral or economic order”.  It is clear, therefore, that the encyclical has at its very core the belief that human life must be at the centre of all decisions made by authority.  It is about standing shoulder to shoulder with the most vulnerable in society, including the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the unborn.


Pope Leo, who rejected unbridled capitalism as well as state socialism, argued that neither central government nor larger society should substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and intermediary bodies within civil society.  Archbishop Cushley cited the example of Fife, which has gone from having 82 councils in 1930 to just one today, to illustrate the renewed appetite to revisit the issue of local empowerment.


The Archbishop also referred to the importance of the family in society.  He said: “The twofold purpose of this [the family] micro-community is traditionally defined as the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.  For this reason, nearly all societies – not just those informed by Christianity – have founded family life upon marriage.  Even now, the best sociological evidence tends to suggest that children generally do best in life when they grow up with a mum and a dad who are married to each other.  The married family, if you like, is the first, best and cheapest department of health, welfare and education.”  He then quoted Pope John Paul II as he tried to encapsulate the effect of the erosion of a marriage-based culture: “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”


However, the Archbishop also referred to Pope Francis’ call to appreciate those people for whom the ideal family is not possible, saying that these people “achieve remarkable things in the most difficult of circumstances”.  He then reiterated Pope Francis’ call to sympathise with and support those in difficult circumstances.


In a world fraught with significant challenges to the family as we know it, the Archbishop’s consideration of one of the great social encyclicals is timely.  As he said: “The Church does not seek to impose its social teaching upon Scottish society.  We can only propose it as our vision to anybody seeking new paths towards the common good.”


Archbishop Cushley has proposed what he feels is the fundamental consideration for the common good of society and offered it to the people of Scotland.  It is now up to us lay Catholics to do the same.






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