EDINBURGH, Scotland — After Scotland’s Catholic bishops stressed the right to life as fundamental, their parliamentary office has released a letter setting out the Church’s teaching on abortion and assisted suicide ahead of the U.K. general election next week.
“It is the duty of all of us to uphold the most basic and fundamental human right – the right to life,” the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland said in the letter, released Thursday ahead of the Dec. 12 vote.
“We should urge candidates to recognize human life from the moment of conception until natural death and to legislate for its protection at every stage, including protecting the unborn child, ensuring that both mother and child are accepted and loved.”
The bishops did not endorse any political party or candidate, but said abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia are “always morally unacceptable,” and that all politicians should be urged to resist the decriminalization of abortion, which leads towards abortion on demand for any reason.
The Catholic Parliamentary Office, an agency of the Scottish bishops’ conference, also reports on its website the votes of politicians on several bills, organized by parliamentary constituency.
These votes include the decriminalization of abortion, which the office said would clear the way for “abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth.” MPs’ votes on a bill to legalize assisted suicide are also recorded, as are how MPs voted on the parliamentary act which imposed permissive abortion laws and same-sex “marriage” on Northern Ireland.
The website also provides links to the major parties’ manifestos and information about voter registration and methods of voting.
Scotland’s bishops emphasized the need to vote in a way that reflects Catholic beliefs.
“This general election presents us with an opportunity to elect an individual representative who reflects as closely as possible our beliefs,” they said in their letter.
“It allows us to revisit Catholic social teaching and to connect our voting to our Catholic faith. It can be a chance to proclaim the inherent dignity and value of every human being, made in the image and likeness of God, and to promote the common good.”
The bishops said that politics has taken on a divisive tone, mainly as a result of the European Union “Brexit” referendum, and they lamented that vigorous debate has sometimes turned into personal attacks and acts of violence, “which are never acceptable.”
Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office for Scotland, sent a separate letter to priests, the Scottish Catholic Observer reports.
“While we tend to see politics through a party prism, this general election presents us with an opportunity to elect an individual representative who reflects as closely as possible our beliefs, including the inherent dignity and value of every human being and the promotion of the common good,” he said.
Horan urged the priests and their parishioners “to contact all candidates in your constituency and to challenge them on the issues raised in the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland Pastoral letter on the General Election 2019.”
Scottish constituencies make up 59 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. While unaffiliated candidates can stand as independents, the vast majority of elected candidates are members of one of the main political parties.
The letter from the Scotland bishops also criticized pro-abortion rights advocacy backed by the U.K. government and the Scottish parliament.
“Our Governments should also promote a culture of life overseas, reversing the current practice of the U.K. government to support anti-life initiatives, which might be described as ideological colonization,” the bishops said.
The bishops also highlighted rising homelessness and reliance on food banks. The government’s two-child limit on tax credits disproportionately affects religious families, they said.
“Society relies on the building block of the family to exist,” they said. “The love of man and woman in marriage and their openness to new life is the basic, fundamental cell upon which society is built.”
Religious tolerance and religious freedom were also a focus. The bishops called for legislation that welcomes “all faiths and none,” with respect for conscience rights and awareness of the need to work against religious persecution and intolerance around the world, including anti-Christian persecution.
“We believe that a creeping intolerance towards religious belief, including but not confined to Christianity, has become part of life in modern Britain,” the bishops said. “Certain politicians and citizens are finding it increasingly difficult to be true to their faith in an environment that tries to restrict religion to the private sphere.”
In line with recent comments by Pope Francis on his papal trip to Japan, the Scottish bishops also urged the next U.K. government to work to eliminate the U.K. nuclear arsenal and to move away from weapons industries which “fuel wars and instability across the world.”
About ten percent of Scotland’s 5.4 million people are Roman Catholic, while about 18% belong to the protestant Church of Scotland. Over half of Scottish people say they have no religion at all.