Scottish independence: Pope Francis weighs in


Well, one thing we can be sure of: virtually nobody will listen to the Pope. They’ll listen to the headlines all right –  “Pope Says No to Scottish Independence!” – and so he’ll join the list of Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, J K Rowling and George Galloway who are being used to prop up Alistair Darling’s shaky Better Together outfit.

The details of the Pontiff’s speech are, predictably, more nuanced. “They [cases for independence] should be studied on a case-by-case basis. Scotland, Padania, Catalonia. There will be cases that are right and ones that are not.”

Like Barack, Hillary, J K and George, Francis has a right to a view on Scotland’s remaining within the UK or seceding and running its own affairs. “Yes, except the Pope’s supposed to be infallible!” I hear the squeaks of protest. Quite right, Papal infallibility is a doctrine of the Church, one devised in the nineteenth century. It states that when the Pope speaks ex cathedra  – that is, when he speaks officially as leader of the Catholic Church on a matter of faith and doctrine to be held by the whole Church, his words are infallible. Scottish independence, while important, is not a matter of Catholic faith or doctrine. So we can toss Francis’s views in there with Barack, Hillary, J K, George and the rest. No better, no worse. As someone said, it’ll be interesting for the Orange Order to find itself on the same side as the Pope.

But will Francis’s words affect the way people vote? A number, quite possibly, will be affected. However, in the 2001 census, just 16% of the Scottish population described themselves as Catholic, while 42% said they had affiliation with the Church of Scotland. Assuming that it’s Catholics who are most likely to be affected by the Pope’s views – and as the quotation shows, he’s pretty tentative about it – it’ll be a relatively small number. Even there, you might want to remember the late Pope John Paul II with his famous on-my-knees-i-implore-you speech, aimed at ending IRA violence. That was 1979. The history of the 1980s in Ireland shows the degree of attention his plea received.

My guess is that even fewer Scottish Catholics will use Francis’s words as a prompt to say No in September. In fact, its influence might well be counter-productive, as Alex Salmond’s comment regarding Scottish thrawness suggests. The headlines on the Pope’s comments could in fact have a Gerry-Adams-arrest effect on the Scottish populace: they may say “To hell with the lot of them – we decide our future!”. And they’d be right. Meanwhile, though, it’s a delicious thought, isn’t it? Ian Paisley Jr on one side of Francis and Nelson McCausland on the other, both getting itchy in their kilts at the thought that between them, apparently their brother-in-arms, stands the Anti-Christ.

32 Responses to Scottish independence: Pope Francis weighs in

  1. William Fay June 14, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    It’s the Brits again Jude, I would say they have some dodgy photos held back for the right occasion.

    • RJC June 14, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

      That’s quite an offensive thing to say, William. Have you no manners?

  2. Patricia Davidson June 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    And we have to remember it was a pope who blessed the Orangemen’s revered leader William of Orange as he battled the Catholic king at the Boyne..all of them are strange bedfellows..come on the Scots your destiny is in your hands, ditch the Brits, but do it with aplomb..

  3. madadh mór June 14, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

    In their heart of hearts the Scots know that they are not capable of governing themselves and will vote to stay under momma’s wing.

  4. Teri June 14, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    The Pope spoke in his native Spanish to the Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia. Here is what he actually said in Spanish:

    ‘Toda división me preocupa. Hay independencia por emancipación y hay independencia por secesión. Las independencias por emancipación, por ejemplo, son las americanas, que se emanciparon de los estados europeos. Las independencias de pueblos por secesión es un desmembramiento, a veces es muy obvio. Pensemos en la antigua Yugoslavia. Obviamente, hay pueblos con culturas tan diversas que ni con cola se podían pegar. El caso yugoslavo es muy claro, pero yo me pregunto si es tan claro en otros casos, en otros pueblos que hasta ahora han estado juntos. Hay que estudiar caso por caso. Escocia, la Padania, Catalunya Habrán casos que serán justos y casos que no serán justos, pero la secesión de una nación sin un antecedente de unidad forzosa hay que tomarla con muchas pinzas y analizarla caso por caso.

    Below is the translation by a linguist who lived in Spain for many years:

    “All division worries me. There is independence by emancipation, and there is independence by secession. Examples of independence by emancipation are the Americas, which emancipated themselves from European states. The independence of a people by secession is a break up, sometimes it’s very obvious. We think about the old Yugoslavia. Obviously, there are peoples and cultures which are so diverse that they cannot be stuck together even with glue. The Yugoslav case is very clear, but I ask myself if it is so clear in other cases, in other peoples which until now have been joined. They must be studied case by case. Scotland, Padania, Catalonia. There will be cases which will be just and cases which will not be just, but the secession of a nation without a prior history of forced union must be handled very carefully [the Spanish idiom is ‘taken with many clips/tweezers’] and analysed case by case.”

    The question asked to the Pope was ‘Does the conflict between Catalonia and Spain worry you?’ to which Pope Francis was meant to answer ‘Yes’.

    I don’t think we can see this as the Pope ruling in favour of Westminster. Anyway as far as Rome are concerned Scotland is a separate country.

    As stated by a friend who ‘knows about these things’

    The independence of the Catholic church in Scotland was assured in 1189, when a Papal Bull was issued recognising the Church in Scotland as a “special daughter of the See of Rome”, meaning that Catholic bishops in Scotland were directly answerable to the Pope alone, and not to the Archbishop of York as was asserted by the Norman monarchs of England. It was an affirmation that the Kingdom of Scotland was not subject to the Kingdom of England. The Catholic clergy were outlawed in Scotland during the Reformation, but in 1878 the Catholic hierarchy was re-established as a special daughter of the See of Rome. In the eyes of the Catholic church and Canon Law, Scotland is an independent nation already.

    It looks once again that the Unionist media were looking for a miracle and since none was found, created one of their own.

    This will create a dilemma now for the Orange Order in Scotland. Will they be comfortable thinking that they are on the same side as the Pope on Scottish Independence?

  5. paddykool June 14, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

    Popes have always messed about in politics so this interjection is nothing really new .

    Okay , here we go …. Pope Alexander VIII was an ally of William and an enemy to James; the Papal States were part of the Grand Alliance with a shared hostility to Louis XIV of France, who at the time was attempting to establish dominance in Europe and to whom James was an ally…..The Dutch Blue Guards, William’s elite forces, were Dutch Catholics. The best of King Billy’s troops were good catholic boys, doubtless worrying about their penances and counting faith, hope and charity on the Crown of Roses in their pockets.
    The Battle of the Boyne was fought in 1690 between two rival claimants of the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones – the Catholic James VII & II and the Protestant William III and II …..across the River Boyne near Drogheda in Ireland. The battle, won by William, was a turning point in James’s unsuccessful attempt to regain the crown and ultimately helped ensure the continuation of Protestant ascendancy in Ireland.

    In the way we can mess about with something as malleable and abstract as mere time, in one aspect the battle took place on 1 July 1690 in Caesar’s “old style” (Julian) calendar. For the pedants among us that was 11th July in the “new style” (Gregorian) calendar, where the Roman Catholic church wanted to nail the date of Easter for once and for all and so in the best Doctor Who tradition , manipulated time itself to suit their Christian agenda…. {got that?}..although today the Boyne Battle is celebrated annually on the 12 July…..keep up !!!!!
    The Catholic upper classes had lost almost all their lands after Cromwell’s conquest, as well as the right to hold public office, practice their religion, and sit in the Irish Parliament. They saw supporting the Catholic King James as a means of redressing these grievances.

    Now whether or not the current Pope would have such influence is very debatable . a lot of world leaders and high profile movers and shakers are weighing in with their tuppence worth but in my heart i really don’t see any great movement to abandoned the large ship for the uncertainty of the lifeboat. It’s not unlike our current situation in Ireland in that respect. There is a great pull to feel part of a nation but the fact is that Nationalists actually have a great deal already in that they can have dual-citizenship anyway. They can carry an Irish passport or a British one and are fundamentally Irish anyway .{Ask any Englishman!!}. They also get all the benefits [and more,maybe ] than their English or Southern Irish counterparts. That’s even more than is emotionally available to their fellow unionist Irishmen , who mostly cannot rise to believing in their “Irishness” so currently I’m sure most of them would be damned to hellfire if they considered getting an Irish document of any sort.

    Now if a majority voted to join with the Republic in a whole New Ireland where all creeds and races were equal, I’d be up for that but I’d still want to see the “deal” before I bought any shyster’s three-legged horse.

    I’m sure the Scots are of similar bent.

  6. michael c June 14, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

    Is there anybody left who really thinks the pope is infallible on any matter ,be it church or state.Virtually all catholics now are of the a la carte variety and those who pretend they are not are hypocrites. I have to laugh at one particular character who lectures us all on “moral” issues through the letters pages of “the Irish news” but has actually bent the rules somewhat himself with regard to “the sanctity of marriage”.

    • Jude Collins June 14, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

      I have a solution, Michael. Stop reading the VO…

      • Argenta June 14, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

        The Irish News has recently doubled its quotient of Sinn Fein columnists.As well as Jim Gibney, Jarlath Kearney will no doubt enlighten us with the Republican view of the world!

  7. michael c June 14, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

    Unfortunately Jude ,if you want to keep up with current affairs a daily newspaper is still required.Like it or not the VO as you call it is the only show in town.While many of its reporters clearly have an agenda,occasionly a story slips through which would not get an airing elsewhere.A case in point was the Gerry Fitt story this week which proved what an absolute disgrace the man was.Nevertheless as I have stated before it must be the only newspaper that is totally out of line with the majority of it’s readers.

    • giordanobruno June 15, 2014 at 9:08 am #

      Michael c
      Yes you did state that before. Then as now you never offered any data to back it up.

  8. michael c June 14, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    Argenta, Gibney and Kearney will actually write week about, so the quotient will not be doubled at all.Republicanism will still be very much a minority viewpoint.Of course “dissident” mouthpieces will still get coverage out of all proportion to their support in the nationalist community,using the old adage that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”.

    • Argenta June 14, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

      Why was Daily Ireland not a success ?It faithfully took the party line of Sinn Fein but apparently was not bought in sufficient numbers by Republicans.The Irish News must be doing something right !

      • Jude Collins June 15, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

        That’s a very good question, Argenta, and one I wish I knew the answer to. I think it was a combination of various things but at the heart of it two things: one, people are very very very slow to change their paper-buying habits. As you may or may not know, I used to write a column for that late lamented organ, and I used to have interesting conversations with people. Thusly: Person – ‘I really miss your column in the Irish News. I always read it – it’s not the same without you. Me (blushing modestly) – Why thank you ma’am. But I’m writing a very similar column in Daily Ireland – and it’s on Thursdays too, same as Irish News! Person – But but but I buy the Irish News on Thursdays…Exit self, chased by a bear.

      • Jude Collins June 15, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

        Oops – I did say ‘two’, didn’t I? The second reason was, it wasn’t a good enough read.

  9. Virginia June 14, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    Having grown up in Argentina, he has seen the outcome of breaking into small nations (Spanish South America) rather than remaining large (Portuguese South America). He has assuredly also read the Wealth of Nations.

  10. RJC June 14, 2014 at 10:40 pm #

    I find Liberation Theology to be very interesting

  11. Am Ghobsmacht June 15, 2014 at 5:03 am #

    Is it possible that over there they might indeed be ‘better together’?

    Judging by the large number of Scottish politicians that have had their hands on the levers of power at Westminster you could hardly say they’re being unfairly represented or indeed have no clout (unlike Northern Irish politicians, who could, as pointed out here could have a lot of clout in the Dail).

    If Scotland votes ‘no’ could we then just leave them alone?

    I mean, where does this fragmentation end?

    If smaller is better then why not just break up Germany and Italy too, I’m sure Bavarians resent Berliners (not the doughnuts) and Sicilians resent Lombardians as much as Aberdonians resent Londoners.

    Do people really want independence for pragmatic reasons or just to get one over on a group of people they might resent?

    If the UK is to gain by any country leaving the UK I’m afraid it is Northern Ireland.

    Despite all the loony theories regarding strategic importance I can’t see that Northern Ireland brings anything to London’s table.

    Other than headaches.

    And bills.

    • paddykool June 15, 2014 at 7:21 am #

      Am Ghob : As usual , you are walking in my shadow in my thoughts. Northern Ireland and the Northern Irish , may have some cack handed notion that they are a vital inclusion in the UK mix , but the greatest part of what is seen in the Uk is the right-wing lunacy.. I think if given an open choice they’d get rid of us damned quick….I’m sure many of the citizens have no idea how deeply we have our fingers in the till. There would be uproar if they really thought about it .

      As for strategic……well what does that mean in an age of cyber warfare and intercontinental missiles?

      What the English see are those crazy Paddies wrecking about on the streets over some obscure claptrap that they are constantly paying for. Like I said before , I’ve worked with lads in London in the past who haven’t a clue where ireland even is …or that it exists at all..
      The way we should be heading is in the direction of a totally connected humane world , where the best of us can share in all its bounty and its knowledge , but we appear to be drifting steadily away into our tight little mindsets of fuzzy, sentimental nationalisms{of both the country and the mind}. which in the end are greedy little bogus lies. to ourselves.

  12. michael c June 15, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    Gio,the Irish News is a nationalist newspaper. SF are the number one choice in electoral terms in the nationalist community by some considerable distance.The paper concentrates heavily on political stories concerning the nationalist community.Those members of the community who are apolitical tend not to buy it for that very reason.The only other reason it sells is for its GAA content and are you trying to tell me that the GAA and the majority of its followers are anti SF?

    • paddykool June 15, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

      Michael :
      I wouldn’t be a regular reader of the VO as Jude calls it , but I used to know a lot of guys who would buy it for “the horses”. As you say there is the football coverage too.. some people don’t really give a monkey’s about politics or football.With the internet newspaper sales are probably on the fall anyway.. There’s also the argument that some people will buy a paper whose ethos they do not support…just to get a balanced view of what’s going on across the community. You don’t have to agree with Stalin or Hitler to read a book about them .

      You might just want to learn what someone else is thinking. Newton Emerson writes for the Sunday Times and the Irish News. I suppose he’d qualify as one of the “Awkward Squad”, but it’s interesting to see different viewpoints by thoughtful writers. It’s a bit like us all discussing and wrangling over stuff on this blog…It’s a bit of mental {maybe I shouldn’t have used that word!} exercise!!!!

    • Argenta June 15, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

      I think its right to say that a lot of “Nationalist ” people buy the Irish News for its G A A coverage which is excellent.However it would be wrong to equate Sinn Fein and the G A A.One of the the strengths of that organisation is that it is a “broad church” with S F ,S D L P and even dare one say it a few Alliance members.Sinn Fein are doing their best to try and colonise the G A A but it is to be hoped that the organisation will maintain its independent non party political stance.

  13. michael c June 15, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    I live in an area that votes 80% SF (an incontrovertable fact from election tallies) The stack of Irish News in the local news agent’s dwarfs every other paper..I have catholic relatives who live in North Down.They have to rely on their “culchie” relatives west of the bann to update them on deaths of people they grew up with as the Irish news is unavailable where they live and even if it was they would’nt even buy it lest their neighbours got the wrong idea!

    • paddykool June 15, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

      Michael :
      I suppose all our viewpoints are based on what we are exposed to . When I was growing up my dad used to buy “the Irish Press” { which i loved for the great Jose Salinas “Cisco Kid” comic strip and Chic Young’s “Dagwood” strip …the news and politics were secondary.. He also started getting the Sunday Times every week from the mid 1960s when colour magazines were first introduced .

      Later on the Irish News started reporting the “Troubles” and it was necessary to keep up with the action on the streets. It was also studied , as you say, for local deaths…something of a jungle drum then.Years ago, I used to buy it out of habit at the weekend but not now really .The only papers I would regularly read would be The Times on Saturday , primarily for Caitlin Moran’s column, who I admire for her inventive, feminist imagination. …and the Observer and the Sunday Times on Sundays to catch up on the bullshit and gossip…

      .Other than that I would scan the Irish News , the Newsletter about once a month because my barber has them all along with the popular redtops every day in his shop. He just caters for anyone who might walk in . He also has old copies of Mojo and Uncut because he’s a mad music fan too… I don’t doubt that many people read in a tribal way , mind and in some areas it’s probably a matter of supply and demand or how broad-minded, or not ,your local newsagent or garage might be….

      • Jude Collins June 15, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

        Interesting, PK. If you’d asked me I’d have said the Cisco Kid and Dagwood/Blondie was in the Sunday Press. But my memory is a more and more fallible apparatus. Do you never think of reading the Observer online? I quit buying newspapers about four years ago. I used to get the Irish News/VO and the Guardian every day, and then I just decided I didn’t need to, they just cluttered up the house and I felt duty bound to go through them. Now I read the Guardian and sometimes the Indo online with my breakfast. It means it doesn’t cost and I spend less time poring over stuff I really amn’t that interested in. On the odd occasion I come on a copy of the VO, I’m confirmed in my decision to quit.

  14. paddykool June 15, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    Jude : Yes …It’s getting to that stage. It’s a bit like books versus Kindle or e-readers. Like i say , a lot of it is habit and I do browse the net more and more when i’m not scribbling away. I must admit i still like a “book” as an object even though my Kindle has about 600 books and is great for on the move.. I would buy the Guardian now and then .An old acquaintance, Sean O’Hagan sometimes writes for it and the Observer. I think the comic strips featured both daily and on Sunday but my memory is like your own…a sometimes liar!!!…I do wish I could remember things in greater detail…wish I’d kept a diary !!!!

  15. michael c June 15, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    I still maintain the majority of Irish News readers are SF voters but the content of the paper certainly does not reflect that fact.Conversely the “news letter” most certainly reflects the views of it’s readership.

    • giordanobruno June 15, 2014 at 9:17 pm #

      Once again you are ignoring the roughly 50% of people here who do not vote. We can I am sure assume that virtually none of them are SF supporters(otherwise they would vote).
      If for the sake of argument we say half of them are from the Catholic community,they may not deem themselves Nationalist though they may well vote for a UI in any future referendum.
      If half of them buy the Irish New, add them to the percentage voting SDLP and buying the IN (or the VO if you prefer) plus some greens some Unionists who might like to see what the enemy is thinking and you might well be over the percentage of SF voters.
      I rest my case m’lud.

  16. paddykool June 15, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

    Michael : do you reckon that many younger people buy the Irish News these days , what with everyone being online ? Are those readers mostly older folks?i don’t know too much about the Irish News these days but maybe it sees itself as more conservative than the majority of Sinn fein voters …maybe more SDLP conservative and stodgy, but still trying to sell to a broad nationalist readership who may be sports and horses fans with a politics- light approach.. I know many young guys are more interested in football than anything else….?

  17. michael c June 15, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    I honestly don’t know anybody who reads it online.People who work in office type environments often mistakenly believe that everyone else have similar lifestyles.They talk about accessing the news online ,”the water cooler”, “the office party”(etc)Hundreds of thousands of people actually WORK FOR A LIVING and buy their daily paper to be put in the biscuit tin till “first tae”!

  18. michael c June 15, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    The “biscuit tin” referred to above of course refers to the improvised lunchbox beloved by Irish construction workers. An ex blanket man once told me that when he and his fellow prisoners were discussing a future socialist republic,the subject of a new flag came up.They finally came up with an emblem incorporating a red biscuit tin (complete with rubber band) and a red flask!

    • paddykool June 15, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

      I like the biscuit tin idea, Michael. I’d say , though that you don’ t have to work in an office to access the net. There are a lot of very flash phones and pads out thre now and everyone….even my very busy barber are never offline or face booking all the time. All kinds of backgrounds and workers are connected these days……young and old. I’ve worked in all sorts of environments in the past myself and there are all sorts out there. There are plenty of construction workers and guys in factories who are very tech savvy.