.- Responding to comments made against Pope Benedict during his visit, a Scottish spokesman for the Catholic Church has decried âsectarianismâ and popular blindness towards anti-Catholic bigotry, saying it contributes to thuggish violence against Catholic clergy.
A senior Scottish Football Association (SFA) official, head of referee development Hugh Dallas, allegedly sent an e-mail to other SFA staff on the day of Pope Benedictâs September visit to Scotland which joked about Catholic sex abuse scandals and implied the pontiff was a pedophile.
Peter Kearney, director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, wrote to the SFA two months after the e-mail was first reported to have been sent, asking for further action. Dallas resigned later that week, citing family reasons.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Kearney criticized âsectarianismâ and said the reaction to his letter âhas proved beyond doubt that Scotland has become completely inured to the corrosive effects of religious bigotry and may even have lost sight of what constitutes it.â
Comments defending Dallas claimed that many similar e-mails circulated widely before the papal visit. These claims do not lessen the culpability of those accused of bigotry, but instead âilluminate the reality of a layer of deep, wide and vicious anti-Catholic hostility in our country.â
Kearney also countered the âtortured logicâ of those who said he should have been silent because of sex abuse scandals in the Church.
The Church represents the âbroadest sweep of humanity,â and some priests, vowed religious and lay people have committed âthe most heinous and vile crimesâ for which they should be punished, he emphasized.
However, fewer than 0.5 percent of the about 2,000 Catholic priests who have worked in Scotland over the last 25 years have ever been convicted of sexual abuse.
âI am disturbed by the fact that in a country where over 99 percent of Catholic clergy are demonstrably innocent of any offense they can be so frequently subjected to hate fuelled opprobrium,â Kearney said. âI do not accept for an instant that such failures automatically condemn over 1 billion people to perpetual silence.â
He also noted that anti-Catholic bigotry has existed in Scotland for âa very long timeâ before any revelations of sexual abuse. âTo pretend otherwise is simply delusional.â
Catholics have often tolerated anti-Catholicism in part because a desire to âassimilate and integrateâ has overcome âa willingness to challenge.â According to Kearney, there is a new resolve to challenge anti-Catholicism especially among young Catholics.
âBeneath the surface of the nasty emails and the intemperate asides of public figures there are others whose malignancy is altogether more pernicious,â he warned.
Kearney cited several violent incidents. Attackers hit a Lanarkshire priest in the head with a concrete block and an intimidating mob surrounded a West Lothian priestâs car and shouted âvile invectiveâ at him.
Thugs inspired by âthe Catholic baiting of the chattering classesâ are responsible for parish windows being barred and grilled after decades of vandalism and attack, the spokesman said.
âSuch incidents are a mere snapshot of the daily tide of intolerance Catholics, especially clergy, have suffered and continue to suffer in what was once dubbed âthe best small country in the worldâ.â
Emphasizing that Catholics do not represent extreme zealotry and do respect othersâ beliefs, Kearney said his generation has been formed to play âa full and active partâ in Scottish life.
âLet no one be in any doubt, with this shameful episode, Catholics in Scotland have drawn a line in the sand,â his Sunday Times piece concluded. âThe bigotry, the bile, the sectarian undercurrents and innuendos must end. Such hateful attitudes have had their day, they poison the well of community life, they must be excised and cast out once and for all.â
Rev. Ian Galloway, convener of the Church of Scotlandâs Church and Society Council, supported Kearney in comments to the Scottish Sun. He said the Anglican body âwants to see Scotland rid of every last vestige of sectarianism.â He added he was âespecially appalledâ by acts of anti-Catholic violence.