Time for Reflection

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 9th November 2005.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 2:30 pm, 9th November 2005

Good afternoon. The first item of business this afternoon is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader today is Father James Doherty, of St Joachim's church, Carmyle.

Father James Doherty (St Joachim's Church, Carmyle):

I thought that I would begin with a bit of my own ecclesiastical DNA. It contains a bit of everything under the banner "Smile, you're in Carmyle"—I am the parish priest there. Contemporary Catholic doctrine tells me that I am a minister of the gospel of Christ to all people. Vatican II tells priests to spend ourselves in pastoral work. Well, I am not spent yet, having worked in parishes for 26 years, in hospitals, homes, schools and a drug rehab. I have survived leukaemia and I am now dealing with heart failure and sharing the joys and sorrows of people who have been hurt by the insults of experience. The words of the song "Both Sides Now" come to mind.

In this magnificent building, at this moment of energy for Scotland in our lifetime, it seems absolutely timely—the way forward—for all of us to see the priority of it all. It seems to me that this place is not about maximising the national product or state power, but about transforming attitudes and making our common humanity prevail over all other considerations.

The work of the Parliament in promoting equal opportunities and inclusion and in ending discrimination in all its ugly forms rings well with, for example, the New Zealand Catholic bishops, who say also that it is a matter of justice for someone in any relationship to leave what they want to their partner. Having a morality and moralising are two different things. My church has been trying to get its own house in order since it began. John Paul II used the image of a glasshouse for its accountability.

Both politics and religion get a bad press, even if they seem to be a standard fitting in human societies. Falling numbers in the pews or at the ballot box may indicate disillusion. However, everyone can make a difference, like Rosa Parks or the people in Carmyle who, in the course of an evening and morning last weekend, raised £1,200 for a children's project in the forgotten Congo.

Benedict XVI has coined the phrase "positive secularism" to try to end the feuding between religious and secular extremes. Dissenting voices at a recent synod show that we are a broad church with new elements and movements and not, as you might think, reduced simply to the touch of purple, red or white.

All metaphors take you so far, but I have been attracted to Christ's image of the plough opening up and drawing a furrow, never looking back, just believing that the soil will open to the seed and that in God's own time there will be a harvest and granaries. A friend of mine at a lecture in Edinburgh wanted to ask the question, "Where is the optimism today?" You and all of us are part of the answer. This is both the pride and poetry of Scotland symbolised by this and all other resources trying to make our country truly diverse and multicultural.

I end with this lovely line from the Apocalypse:

"Behold, I make all things new."