Sectarian divide is bridged
God's Scotland by Anne Pagan and Andrew Monaghan (Mainstream, Edinburgh £5.95)
WITH a nice sense of timing, in the week of this year's General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the publishers have released the book of the Radio Forth serial telling the story in 200-odd pages of the impact of religion (including pre-Christian) on Scotland's history.
The joint authorship represents the fruitful teamwork of radio presenter, Anne Pagan, and producer, Andrew Monaghan, both members of the award-winning team of the Edinburgh and District Churches' Council for Local Broadcasting.
Impressionistic and necessarily episodic to accomodate the popular format for 100 radio transmissions, it is, nevertheless, a faithful reflection of current historical scholarship, illustrating the great strides that have been made in demythologising much that passed for history even half a century ago across the sectarian divide.
In its revision and reevaluation it reflects the pioneer work of Fr Anthony Ross, OP, and Dr John Durkan on the Scottish Reformation period, and the researches, at Columba House, Edinburgh, of Fr William Anderson and Mgr David McRoberts, researches so ably continued by a whole generation of historians from Scotland's five universities and local and national archives.
The list brings out the increased recognition of work of Catholic scholars, and their full acceptance into academic fellowship, largely through the influence of the periodical Innes Review and the resources of Columba House.
The result is a more balanced judgement about the social, political and religious forces at work to form the Scottish nation and determine the nature of the Scottish Church. Protestants who, less than a century ago, thought they had found in lona the roots of a primitive Scottish Church independent of Rome have had to accept that the Church of Columba and his Celtic missionaries, like that of Ninian the Briton of Whithorn was "integrated in faith, worship and institutions with Rome, the centre of the Church even when the power of the (Roman) empire was broken".
Catholics have had to accept the unpalatable truth that the pre-reformation Church in Scotland was sadly in need of reformation, and that Protestantism, equally with their own church, could produce martyrs like George Wishart, whose Christ-like conduct merited canonisation.
The reviewer is a former staff member of the Scottish Catholic Observer