Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Crossing oneself and the Scottish police

Over the weekend, I read on Iain Dale's diary that the Celtic goalkeeper had been charged and cautioned for blessing himself in front of the Rangers fans during the Old Firm game last February. However, Mr Eugenides had a different perspective. Archbishop Cramner on his blog made a strong defence of the right to bless one self. However, I heard on Five Live yesterday that the Scottish police have clarified that Boruc's offense wasn't the sign off the cross, but other gestures that followed (presumably the one that implied that Rangers fans were rather fond of committing the sin of Onan).

Most of the comments seem to be based on the single BBC report on the matter (both MrE and the Archbishop refer to the BBC story, where as Iain refers to the Archbishop). The BBC report does not so much cover the news that Boruc was cautioned, as the Catholic Church's response to that. That BBC report links to another report in which the Crown Office is quoted as saying that : "The decision to use an alternative to prosecution in this case was based on an assessment of behaviour, not one single act, which appeared to be directed towards the crowd, which was being incited by that behaviour and which caused the police to intervene and calm the crowd." In fact, it would appear that Boruc's gestures were even more provactive than Gary Neville's gestures to the Liverpool fans earlier this year.

It therefore would appear that this controversy has been caused, not by the decision of the Scottish authorities to caution Boruc, but by the interpretation of the Catholic authorities in Scotland that he was being cautioned by the police for blessing himself. It would therefore seem to me that this whole row has blown up because of an overly paranoid reaction of the Church - or at least certain segments of the Church.

This is a rather worrying trend - because Archbishop Rowan Williams is so busy trying to hold the Anglican Communion together in its current troubles, in some ways Cardinal Murphy O'Connor is seen as the de facto moral leader of Christians in this country (it was the Catholic bishops - in particular Archbishop Smith of Cardiff - who made much of running in the media over Lord Joffe's Bill, though it must be acknowledged that the Anglican Bishops did attend the House of Lords and vote in opposition to the Bill). But Catholic Herald reports on Adrian Hilton took down a committed Christian candidate for the Tories in Slough, and now it appears that they are taking the worst possible interpretation of events in Scotland.

There are battles worth fighting - taking down a Christian candidate in Slough over alleged anti Papism or defending a goalkeeper who makes obscene gestures to opposition fans doesn't strike me as the best use of the resources.

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