.- Bishop Joseph Devine of the Diocese of Motherwell harshly criticized British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for failing to pledge the reform of Britain's anti-Catholic laws, The Times reports.
In a letter to Downing Street, Bishop Devine accused the Prime Minister of compromising his beliefs in justice, virtue, and respect, saying he had "broken faith" with Britain's five million Catholics.
The bishop demanded that "a firm timetable" be set to reform the 1701 Act of Settlement and that the government pledge that Catholics would no longer be victims of state-sponsored sectarianism.
The Act of Settlement was originally introduced to secure Protestant succession to the British throne by enshrining anti-Catholic measures into law. It forbids the heir to the throne from marrying a Roman Catholic.
In Scotland the law is seen as legitimizing anti-Catholic prejudice.
Bishop Devine said that the Labor government's sanction of continued discrimination against Catholics “is an affront to civilized society and serves only to encourage the suspicion that the demons of our past remain at large where we might least expect to find them.”
“I have the depressing feeling that if this legislation had discriminated against other sections of society and religious groups there would be justifiable outrage no doubt with government quite properly in the vanguard of the campaign to overturn such a prejudiced Act,” he continued.
The Act of Settlement's repeal would be a complicated affair because each country in the British Commonwealth would have to repeal the law individually. If some countries did not repeal the bill, the British throne could be split. Were the present heir Prince William to marry a Catholic, he could only become King over countries that had repealed the act.
Bishop Devine claims that all the leaders of the Scottish Parliament's political parties have agreed to the repeal campaign, with the exception of the Labor Party leader Wendy Alexander.