I refer to your coverage of the position of Roman Catholics in Scotland and in particular to the observations of Tom Devine ("Remarkable change in standing of Catholics", The Herald, January 9).
It was Charles Oakley, the Glaswegian historian, who observed: "There is no subject which writers and speakers about Glasgow are less willing to tackle than that of the Irish in Scotland." It is to be welcomed, therefore, that the current debate is taking place, provided it takes place in measured terms.
I believe Peter Kearney has done a disservice to relations between Catholic and non-Catholic communities in Scotland by using intemperate language likening the position of Catholics in Scotland to the situation of the black population in the US in the 1960s ("Church: Bigotry fight like US civil rights struggle", The Herald, January 8 & Letters, January 8).
His concerns about Catholics losing their rights under the Education Act of 1918 are unlikely to be realised against the express wishes of the Roman Catholic church and its followers. MPs, MSPs and councillors are all aware that, to try and amend the terms of the 1918 Act against the desires of the religious community deriving what they see as benefits from them, would be a vote loser.
Over the past few generations there have been welcome changes in behaviour, attitudes and practices. Employability is no longer determined by which school the job applicant attended. As Prof Devine remarks, Catholics in Scotland have progressed through all professions, business activities and trades, many of them with distinction.
Many families no longer refuse to attend marriage ceremonies of their children when they marry outwith their branch of Christianity. Most parents, in my experience, would prefer their children to enter sound and abiding relationships rather than advocate to their offspring they limit their choice to a particular religious grouping.
It is, of course, a matter of regret and distaste to many people that, in relation to certain football matches, there are those, not all with "neddish" characteristics, who would like to continue to have the opportunity to render songs that have little or nothing to do with football; albeit we have the occasional setback and are from time to time faced with the downside of the rivalry between certain supporters of Rangers and Celtic.
Surely the fact that large numbers of the population could leave one country and arrive in another, where religious persuasions were different, without the extreme upheaval and disorder such events occasioned elsewhere, deserves favourable comment as reflecting the essential tolerance, good sense and magnanimity of the majority across communities.
Ian W Thomson,
38 Kirkintilloch Road, Lenzie.
Catholics pretty well expect to get a hard time, or at least they should. Indeed all Christians expect to get it tough since it's what Christ himself predicted.
Sectarianism and the scourging at the pillar of public opinion of Christians are nothing new. They are not going to go away with legislation or media campaigns.
These days it's not so much Protestants and Catholics ladling into one another as secularists having a go at both. Most people, even the most committed secularists, will have heard of the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount and the references therein to the meek, the hungry, the peacemakers and the persecuted.
Christ never promised that life would be easy for those who based their lives on the charter of the Beatitudes. The words he used are strong and hard by any standard: "You will receive abuse, you will be persecuted and all kinds of calumny will be spoken against you on my account."
The hard lesson of being a Christian, and in particular of being a priest or a minister, is that suffering always walks side by side with peace and no matter how much we try, we cannot separate them.
Christ's thoughts did not end with words of hardship, but words of hope: "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you."
Tom Devine is correct. Catholics are in no way persecuted or discriminated against in the way black people were in the southern states of America.
39 Round Riding Road, Dumbarton.
It might not be helpful, as Peter Kearney suggests, to create a separate offence of anti-Catholicism. It will tend to reinforce perceptions of victimhood in one community and resentment of further singular/privileged status in another.
It is dangerous to depart from a position of equality before the law. In the short-term it may be helpful to focus on the implementation of existing anti-sectarian legislation, in particular relating to offensive chanting at sporting fixtures.
In the longer-term attitudes must change. This requires a recognition on the part of the majority community that there is an ongoing problem, and from the minority community a parallel that they too are part of the problem. Until then we are likely to face prolonged and sterile debate, trading myths and stereotypes; unless all concerned read some of the more serious and scholarly literature produced in the last couple of decades. As a starting point, I suggest Tom Devine's magisterial The Scottish Nation, 1700-2000 and the insightful New Perspectives on the Irish in Scotland, edited by Martin J Mitchell.
4 Ochil Road, Bishopbriggs.
Alistair McBay of the National Secular Society would do well to know that, far from creating narrow-minded youngsters, Catholic schools are actually oases of diversity and tolerance (Letters, January 9). They instil a strong ethos of service to wider society and the sense of identity and belonging which independent inspectors consistently applaud in them is precisely what leads to broad-minded citizens.
They select religiously, not socially, which is why the pupil profile in them is more socially varied than in other schools. The schools' ethos of engagement with wider society means pupils learn service and understanding of others.
Daisy Cottage, Oldhamstocks, East Lothian.
Peter Kearney's comments regarding sectarianism in Scotland have generated some interesting letters in The Herald. Those calling for an end to Catholic schools should be aware of two things: there is no evidence Catholic education contributes in any way to sectarianism. Secondly, Catholic schools can often outperform non-denominational schools which may explain why a significant proportion of parents who do not share the Catholic faith send their children to them.
18 Norwood Drive, Giffnock.
I was brought up a Catholic and have lived and worked throughout Scotland with a noticably "Catholic" name. I do not recognise the bigoted picture of Scotland Peter Kearney is trying to create; indeed my experience is the opposite.
Lock 6 Cottage, Cairnbaan, Argyll.
Peter Kearney draws a corollary between anti-Catholic sentiments in Scotland and racism in the US (Letters, January 8). There is a major difference. We are born with our skin; we choose (or have chosen for us) what we believe. Much of the anti-Catholicism ascribed to secularism relates not so much to what individual Catholics believe, but more to what is written or uttered by the leaders of the church and their spokespeople.
During the past year we have heard abusive comments about homosexuals, vituperative pronouncements about same-sex partnerships and vigorous defence of segregated schooling, all discussed, condemned and attacked, many would say deservedly so. Is this anti-Catholic? Is Mr Kearney's view: if you are not one of us, you are against us?
12 Longformacus Road, Edinburgh.
There is a danger that reports about alleged religious sectarianism may exaggerate the seriousness of the purported problem.
Nearly three-quarters of alleged religiously aggravated charges (not crimes) in Scotland in 2010/11 were breaches of the peace. In relation to more serious crime, when I quizzed police officers who monitor, record and attempt to curb knife crime in Glasgow at a recent seminar in the Scottish Police College, I was informed there was no religious dimension to this more serious type of offence.
Prof Norman Bonney,
17 Palmerston Place,
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