By Rory Reynolds
ONE of Scotland’s most senior Roman Catholic bishops has accused Gordon Brown’s administration of discriminating against Catholics.
Bishop Joseph Devine attacked Labour for running “the most anti-faith and anti-family government in living memory”.
Writing in a comment article over the weekend Devine claimed that the party had lost its traditional moral values and had failed to discipline senior MPs who have used inflammatory language when attacking the Catholic church and the Pope.
He also described Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy’s claim that Labour is the natural party for religious voters as “bewildering”.
And Devine also spoke from “personal experience” of being subjected to “abusive treatment” for criticising government policy on abortion of human embryo research.
His comments come as Labour campaigns to hold onto constituencies in the west of Scotland where several large Catholic communities are based.
Devine said he was “astonished” when the prime minister described Christian churches as “the conscience of our country”.
He said: “This spectacularly from a leader whose political regime will be infamously remembered as the most anti-faith and anti-family government in living memory.
“The pioneers of the Labour party would not recognise their beloved party today.
“Its current and recent leaders have reneged on its traditional roots where Christian values were its inspiration…How that once great party has since been hijacked by its new patrons of aggressive secularism and atheist attitudes.
“For many Catholics, the Labour Party is becoming a very uncomfortable place to be.”
The bishop highlighted the departure of Young Labour vice-chairman Conor McGinn in 2008, who left after alleging that the party had an anti-Catholic prejudice.
McGinn took issue with comments from colleagues, including Mary Honeyball, the Labour MEP for London, who asked whether devout Catholics should be allowed on the front benches of the government in case they followed the Pope’s doctrine over government policies.
Devine said: “Apparently one can hold the widest range of values and assumptions and still hold office unless, of course, you happen to be a Catholic.
“It would appear that to admit to religious belief is sufficient to disqualify an opinion.
“Labour MPs have made public protests; Jim Dobbin even felt compelled to write to Brown to record his concern about the anti-Catholic prejudices of some of his colleagues.”
Frank Roy, Labour MP for Motherwell and Wishaw and a practising Catholic defended his party against the claims.
He said: “Bishop Devine’s anti-Labour views are well known and he is entitled to them.
“However, the Labour party will remain the voice for hard-working families and we are proud of our record of support for families of all religions and none.”