Critics say the decision to invite her is 'shameful', given her support for abortion

The Bishop of Paisley has defended the University of Glasgow’s decision to invite Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to give the annual Cardinal Winning Lecture.

Bishop John Keenan, who was not himself involved in the decision, called the invitation a “huge milestone” in the year the Scottish Church celebrates the centenary of the Education (Scotland) Act that formalised the relationship between Church and state in providing Catholic education.

However, the decision to invite Ms Sturgeon has angered some Catholics, who say her support for abortion is an insult to the memory of the staunchly pro-life Cardinal Thomas Winning.

Last year, Nicola Sturgeon’s government agreed to fund abortions for pregnant women from Northern Ireland.

In comments under a post on Bishop Keenan’s Facebook page, people described the invitation as “shameful”, “inappropriate” and “hypocrisy”.

In response, Bishop Keenan agreed that the Scottish government’s policy was “both immoral in itself and an awful and unwarranted political meddling of the Scottish and UK governments in the legitimate autonomy of a devolved region of the UK.”

However, he said the decision to invite her to speak was “quite appropriate” as this year marks “the long, fruitful partnership between the Church and the State in the provision of Catholic education for our citizens”.

“It is an invitation to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon in office, more than to Nicola Sturgeon as a politician,” he added.

“Perhaps it can also be the occasion of honest dialogue as to how much just freedom our Catholic schools are presently afforded by the State simply to be Catholic and to propose and promote our particular Christian vision of the human person, without undue political pressure to conform to an aggressively secular anthropology currently in vogue, that often threatens to undermine our own Gospel truths.”

The Cardinal Winning Lecture was established to honour the late Scottish cardinal, and is now run by the University of Glasgow, rather than the Scottish Church. Nicola Sturgeon is scheduled to speak on 3 March 2018.