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Bishop to meet humanists over ‘gratuitous’ anti-Catholic attacks

Bishop John Keenan (Picture courtesy John McSherry)

Bishop John Keenan of Paisley has agreed to meet a representative of the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) in a letter criticising the group for its “lazy and gratuitous attacks on Catholics”.

According to the Scottish Catholic Observer, the bishop’s letter urges the society to embrace a “fairer and more positive appraisal of the contribution of faith communities”. He said he was “routinely in the position of having to defend our Church, frankly, from what I would say are lazy and quite gratuitous attacks on Catholics in Scotland and their beliefs from members of the HSS”.

He said that the society seemed to feel “some kind of need to ‘take a pop’ at religion”. Catholics, he added, “conclude that you are as exercised to do away with the place of religion in Scottish civic society as you are to advance the cause of authentic humanism”.

Bishop Keenan will meet Fraser Sutherland, the society’s communications manager.

Mr Sutherland recently criticised the role of religious representatives on local authority education boards. He called the system “outdated, undemocratic and archaic”, and referred to “bigoted anti-LGBT activists”.

Bishop Keenan said the Church’s representatives were “distinguished former head and deputy head teachers”. He asked if the society was not really a “tiny group who exists only in the pages of newspapers”.

“In that sense are they really entitled to lecture on what is or is not real public representation? … When you look at the substance of their agenda, should they really not be called the ‘anti-religion society’ and, would it not be more honest … to just call themselves that?”

Mr Sutherland said he was “disappointed” by the bishop’s words but was looking forward to meeting him. His original remarks, he said, were in response to the appointment of an Evangelical to an education committee.