Number of Catholic weddings in Scotland falls to 75-year low

A senior clergy leader in Scotland has called for urgent action after Catholic marriages in Scotland fell to their lowest level since 1941.

Newlyweds are increasingly choosing alternative ways to tie the knot. Picture: Jane Barlow
Newlyweds are increasingly choosing alternative ways to tie the knot. Picture: Jane Barlow

Monsignor Peter Magee, the head of the Scottish Catholic Interdiocesan Tribunal has suggested that one day in the calendar year be dedicated to the promotion of marriage, as a way of arresting the slide.

The National Registrar for Scotland’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends revealed that last year just 1,346 marriages in Scotland were conducted by clergy from the Roman Catholic Church.

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This is down from a high of just over 7,000 in 1970, and is the lowest number for 75 years.

Half of all marriages carried out in Scotland in 2016 were civil ceremonies, those carried out by a registrar, a trend that has also resulted in declines of marriages carried out by religious celebrants, with the number of religious marriages falling by 44 per cent since 1975.

Monsignor Magee said to the Scottish Catholic Observer of his planned day celebrating marriage: “It would be a day to issue a message on marriage to the nation in the exercise of our right of free speech and in our sense of duty to present the Christian vision courageously and positively to our sceptical and secularist culture.”

He also mooted a Catholic Marriage Association, which he said would “demythologise the lies which are thrown at us concerning love, sex, relationships, happiness and fulfilment and which proceed solely from the self centred needs of the hedonism which has infected and corrupted our culture and our laws.”

Previously, the Catholic Church has blamed an overall fall in marriage rates (with 2009 the lowest rate since 1858) on what they characterised as “aggressive secularisation”.

While the overall number of marriages in Scotland was 1.6 per cent lower in 2016 than it was in the previous year, the rate has been given a boost over the past two years since the introduction of same-sex marriages, which the Church vociferously opposed.

There were 998 same-sex marriages in Scotland in the last year, a fall from 2015 when many couples with civil partnerships opted to change to a marriage.

More Scots than ever are choosing to have a marriage conducted by the Humanist Society of Scotland, who carried out over 3,000 marriage ceremonies in the last year.

Gordon MacRae, Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland said, “We are proud that more couples are choosing a Humanist marriage in Scotland so they can be married in a way that respects their own beliefs and outlook on life.

“It is no surprise that Humanist marriage is increasing in popularity, and the most popular form of belief marriage, given that Scotland still remains the only part of the UK where it is legally recognised. Of course one of the reasons there are more Humanist marriages is that we also conduct weddings for same-sex couples.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Church said. “The fall in the number of catholic couples opting to marry in church mirrors falls in church based weddings elsewhere. Catholic couples may be using the services of other celebrants while still deciding to marry.

“It is to be hoped that future generations of Catholics will see the value of a wedding in church. “