EIGHT days ago, as the Very Rev Thomas Canon White, the Parish Priest of St Mary’s and St Alphonsus, was speaking to his parishioners after Vigil Mass, they were subjected to a torrent of anti-Catholic abuse by the supporters of a passing Orange Walk.

The Orange Order subsequently said those who engaged in this contact weren't marching. It had apparently escalated to a revolting incident in which Canon White was allegedly spat upon and had to fend off an attempted assault. The subsequent social media storm was followed, as night follows day, by increased interest from the mainstream media and condemnatory statements were made by a variety of politicians, including the First Minister.

But here is the thing, for those of us in the Catholic community in Scotland, particularly the working-class community (ie most of us), this incident, appalling as it was, was not surprising. We have grown up knowing that this happens and has happened in that particular parish on numerous occasions. This is part of our folk memory. This is not new. What is new is the extent to which this incident has triggered an outpouring of horrified utterances from politicians, journalists and sections of the public. It is almost as though, for the first time, they noticed that Scotland has a deeply-rooted problem with anti-Catholicism. Somehow, this undeniable fact had slipped by them, but now that it had been brought to their attention, they thought they should do something about it!

Unfortunately, doing something about it, has become a call for the state, at some level, to do something about it. An online petition was set up calling for Glasgow City Council to ban Orange marches and was signed by almost 80,000 people. I understand why each and every one of them has done so but I think they are wrong and I strongly disagree with them.

The petition itself will go nowhere, mainly because it is asking the council to do something that it legally cannot do. The powers they have are necessarily, in a democratic society, restricted. All decisions to ban or re-route a march must be proportionate to the purpose for which the decision is made – and, crucially must comply with Article 11 of the European Charter on Human Rights, which protects the right of freedom of assembly and association.

However, I do not disagree with the petitioners on legal grounds. Instead, my disagreement is in three parts. The first arises from a class analysis of society. I do not think that you change people’s minds by banning them or refusing them the normal rights of civil society. The Orange Order is a despicable organisation whose sole reason for existing is to be anti-Catholic. However, their assertion of the supremacy of their version of Christianity is not, actually, about religion at all – in the words of James Connolly: "The Orange Order wasn’t founded to safeguard religious freedom, but to deny religious freedom and it raised this religious question, not for religion, but to use religion in the interests of oppressive property rights of rack renting landlords and sweating capitalists."

Those people who join it or follow its marches are, in the main, people whose class interests are the same as those of the majority of Catholics. Socialists and trade unionists therefore should be convincing them that their ingrained hatred of Catholics was nurtured by those whose interest lies in a divided working class.

My second reason is based on this observation; people react to being banned by becoming more intransigent. The Orange Order in Scotland has declined massively in the post-war years and was, at the last count, down to around 50,000. Instituting a blanket ban would create the best recruiting sergeant the Order could hope for. A perverse outcome indeed.

My third reason is based on a close observation of the late, unlamented, Offensive Behaviour Act. Any legislation enacted to restrict the right to march of the Orange Order would, almost certainly, be framed in such a way that it could be used against other groups. So those who signed this petition may find that their organisations would fall foul of it.

So, can we do nothing then? Well, we could start by applying the law as it stands and treat the Orange Order in the same way as every other organisation. It is the failure to do precisely that which is really at the root of this issue. I have to live with the fact that some people hate me because of my religion, but I don’t have to accept that the state gives them more rights. The fact that it has done so with little or no comment from politicians or journalists up until last weekend is really a much bigger problem.

Orange marches comprise about 60 per cent of all marches in Glasgow, yet their numbers are tiny compared to the trades' union movement for instance. Glasgow City Council has the right, and could, restrict the number of marches and the routes they use in order to meet the needs of particular communities.

I bow to nobody in my condemnation of the Orange Order and all it stands for and nobody will be happier than me on the day they cease to exist, but until they do we have to accord them the same rights – not greater rights – than everyone else. Banning things may seem like a quick fix to the hate Catholics have faced since we arrived on these shores but it doesn’t work and it is a danger to us all. On the other hand, if our political leaders acknowledged and named the source of the hatred and consistently called it out for what it is, we might stand a chance of defeating it after all these years.