Catholic Churches in Scotland Vandalized

News: Commentary
by Bruce Walker  •  •  April 30, 2019   

Northern United Kingdom latest to experience attacks

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Scotland is the latest nation reporting vandalism against buildings and statuary in its Catholic parishes. Saint Simon's Catholic Church and cemetery in Glasgow and Holy Family Church in Mossend, North Lanarkshire were both attacked over the course of this week.

The Glasgow-based Daily Record newspaper reported April 25 that vandals had defaced the bus stop in front of Holy Family with a slur against the Pope. The graffiti was discovered one month after numerous windows had been broken in the parish's primary school on March 25.

Glasgow Police tweeted "significant vandalism" was committed against St. Simon's on April 29. "There is nothing to suggest the incident is sectarian or hate crime. Inquiries are ongoing," the police claimed.

In an email response to Church Militant, a member of the Scottish Catholic apostolate Sancta Familia Media (SFM) recounted the damages incurred at St. Simon's in Glasgow under the condition of anonymity: "The church is open daily and this vandalism happened during day hours. A statue of the Sacred Heart was smashed. A Marian shrine and altar attire were scattered."

Addressing the Holy Family vandalism, Church Militant's source wrote: "Last week, our parish had 'F*& The Pope' scrawled in big letters on a bus stop outside our Church."

A statue of the Sacred Heart was smashed. A Marian shrine and altar attire were scattered.

As noted by Glaswegian police, there's no concrete evidence supporting whether the crimes were random attacks by destructive vandals or premeditated attacks against Catholic-specific targets.

However, Catholic churches, relics, clergy and laity have been subjected to decades of sectarian hostility in Scotland. For example, the Orange Order is a Protestant group frequently at odds with Catholics in Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Orange Order is named after William III of Orange, who defeated James II, the last Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland, in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne. The battle is commemorated each June 12, most prominently in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

"It seems these attacks are stemming from a rising intolerance from marching Orange Order bands and affiliated groups," the source said. "The order always condemns these attacks it must be said, but it still seems there could be a correlation."

The SFM representative's email continued: "We interviewed a Catholic Rangers FC player (traditionally Protestant-backed football team) and the mere fact this player was photographed at our church caused a severe torrent of abuse."

Actions by marchers during the 2018 Orange Walk — as the events have become known — prompted the archdiocese of Glasgow to tweet the disrespect shown Catholic clergy:

Scotland has recognized a sharp drop in religious followers in recent years. Yet, according to some reports, Catholicism is on track to become nation's largest Christian religion in Scotland within the next seven years despite a precipitous 19% decline in membership between 1982 and 2010. The number of practicing Catholics is estimated to be below 200,000 out of a total population of 5 million.

Currently, this number represents approximately 14% of Scottish adults identifying as Catholic. Fifty-one percent of the country's population surveyed claim they don't belong to any religion while 24% continue to identify as members of the Protestant Church of Scotland, which has been bleeding members over the past half-century.

This percentage of Scottish Catholics relative to the number of individuals practicing religion is surprising considering the Catholic Church and its members endured hundreds of years of persecution and significant repression of the practice of the Catholic liturgy during the period bracketed by the 16th century Scottish Reformation and the end of the 19th century.

"So far the politicians are not doing enough," wrote the SFM contact. "All we hear are responses that repeat the same platitudes about all faiths should try to get along with one another."

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