Cardinal Keith O'Brien said that the Act of Settlement, a 300-year-old law dating from an era of intense sectarianism, contributes to bigotry in Scotland, The Times of London reported.
"Our constitution contains legislation which describes my faith as 'the popish religion' and defines me and my co-religionists as 'papists.' That this arcanely offensive language enjoys legal sanction is outrageous," the cardinal said. "Anyone who seriously believes that introducing legislation aimed at eradicating sectarian attacks, which are often verbal, while elements of the very lexicon of hate they seek to abolish remain on our statute books, is indulging in willful ignorance."
The cardinal's remarks coincided with an effort by the Glasgow Rangers soccer team to wean its Protestant fans from sectarian abuse. Fans attending a match against Dundee United were given copies of a new "Wee Blue Book" with appropriate songs and chants.
The situation in Glasgow, where Celtic is the Catholic team, is echoed in Edinburgh, where Heart of Midlothian is Protestant and Hibernian is Catholic, and in Dundee.
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