Kevin Mckenna:


AMIDST the echoes of a Catholic child­hood in the West of Scot­land, the clam­our of or­ange pa­rades still res­onate. In vain you try to re­call a sense of jeop­ardy as all those men and women, their faces hard as flint, marched past on feet that al­ways seemed to be set at ten to two on a clock­face. There was no jeop­ardy though, only fas­ci­na­tion tinged with a slight un­ease from all those em­broi­dered sto­ries from un­cles in whisky when Mar­garet Maria or Damian John were mak­ing their first holy com­mu­nions.

In those hot sum­mers there was a swag­ger about the Orange­men that seemed rooted in a con­fi­dence that comes from know­ing your place in so­ci­ety and in the cer­tainty that it was near the top of it. In the decades that have since passed that con­fi­dence has steadily evap­o­rated and there is lit­tle cer­tainty about any­thing. How could there be? The pil­lars that once up­held and re­in­forced their view of the world have crum­bled and what re­mains is un­der siege.

The Con­ser­va­tive and Union­ist Party in Scot­land, once a citadel of in­tel­lects like Mal­colm Rifkind, Michael Forsyth and Ge­orge Younger, is now the pre­serve of an as­sort­ment of back­woods­men whom you wouldn’t trust to re­turn safely with the mes­sages. The Church of Scot­land is a mere husk of what it once was; sus­cep­ti­ble to every pass­ing pop­u­lous whim and call­ing it ‘in­clu­sive­ness’. The fac­to­ries and yards that once guar­an­teed well-paid em­ploy­ment and se­cu­rity of ten­ure have van­ished and the once down­trod­den Ir­ish Catholic com­mu­nity has risen to a po­si­tion of gen­uine in­flu­ence in pol­i­tics, me­dia and the se­nior pro­fes­sions.

Or­ange Pa­rades in 21st cen­tury West of Scot­land are a shadow of what they once were. The Or­der, once a power in the land, now has lit­tle in­flu­ence and its most faith­ful fol­low­ers re­side in some of Glas­gow’s most de­prived neigh­bour­hoods. Where it once ex­uded self-con­fi­dence and poise, now there is only de­fi­ance and re­sent­ment. They have be­come marginalised and yet that which they hold dear still has a place in this mod­ern Scot­land of many cul­tures.

The as­sault car­ried out last Satur­day on Canon Tom White and the ver­bal abuse of some mem­bers of his con­gre­ga­tion in the east end of Glas­gow marked the low­est point of the Or­ange Or­der in Scot­land. It’s be­yond dis­pute though, that none of the ac­tual marchers were re­spon­si­ble for this and that these were the ac­tions of less than a hand­ful of those rag-tag watch­ers who walk along­side the pa­rade. The Or­der was quick to con­demn the as­sault and stated its de­sire to work with the po­lice to iden­tify the per­pe­tra­tors. In re­cent years it has em­pha­sised its non-sec­tar­ian na­ture. It ex­ists merely to up­hold the Protes­tant faith, loy­alty to the crown and sup­port for the Union.

The con­dem­na­tion of the at­tack has been univer­sal and was fol­lowed by loud calls for all Or­ange pa­rades in Glas­gow to be banned. An on-line pe­ti­tion call­ing for an end to them has at­tracted 75,000 sig­na­tures. This at­tack shouldn’t have hap­pened and the Or­ange Or­der now has a for­mi­da­ble task on its hand to en­sure that it doesn’t fade into obliv­ion on the wings of pub­lic cen­sure.

I get queasy though, when all the usual out­rid­ers of en­light­ened, di­verse and multi-cul­tural Scot­land start to as­sem­ble moral fir­ing squads. At times like this some peo­ple get rather se­lec­tive in their in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what it means to be cos­mopoli­tan and in­clu­sive. I’m think­ing of the sanc­ti­mony of dunces that com­prise the swollen ranks of Scot­land’s lib­eral elite who all pile in to con­demn move­ments and tra­di­tions that don’t fit with their cosy, chi-chi agen­das.

I sus­pect that many who signed the on-line pe­ti­tion ban­ning Or­ange pa­rades, even though they rep­re­sent the in­alien­able right to march for the faith and the crown, will also be among those are never slow to con­demn the Catholic Church for be­ing too Catholic. This usu­ally oc­curs when the Catholic Church seeks to up­hold its be­lief in the sanc­tity of all hu­man life and the na­ture of holy mat­ri­mony.

The same peo­ple who con­demn bul­ly­ing and in­tim­i­da­tion of women glee­fully dis­play pho­tos on so­cial me­dia of fe­male Or­ange marchers and cru­elly mock their looks and their shape. These women sim­ply wanted to have their big day out with fam­ily and friends – just like all of us who love our right-on po­lit­i­cal marches – only to see them­selves hu­mil­i­ated by a dread­ful posse of sneer­ing lib­er­als on so­cial me­dia.

The Catholic hi­er­ar­chy, which has been vo­cif­er­ous in its con­dem­na­tion of last week’s in­ci­dent, re­ally ought to be care­ful here. It’s fond of play­ing the vic­tim card by por­tray­ing spo­radic in­ci­dents like these as in­dica­tive of a per­ni­cious, na­tion­wide at­tack on their church. There are in­deed pock­ets of an­ti­catholi­cism here and there across Scot­land but the dam­age this has caused the Church is as noth­ing com­pared with the decades of cler­i­cal sex abuse and sub­se­quent at­tempts at cover-up by its own lead­ers and pro­fes­sional fac­to­tums. The en­emy of the Catholic Church in Scot­land isn’t the Or­ange Or­der, it’s the ranks of mil­i­tant athe­ist hu­man­ists amongst our po­lit­i­cal classes. These peo­ple af­fect hor­ror at last week’s as­sault in the knowl­edge that it will give them am­mu­ni­tion in their ul­ti­mate quest to make in­clu­sive, en­light­ened and tol­er­ant Scot­land a Chris­tian-free zone.

Let’s speak frankly here (and I do so as a com­mit­ted sup­porter of an in­de­pen­dent Scot­land). We sim­ply can­not, in a ma­ture and di­verse

Scot­land go around ban­ning marches be­cause we don’t like the look of them. We na­tion­al­ists are no strangers to the odd ur­ban pere­gri­na­tion and big dis­plays of flag-wav­ing. This week­end tens of thou­sands of us will also in­dulge our hu­man right to be ex­tremely rude about a vis­it­ing US pres­i­dent while a few hun­dred Scot­tish firms and their em­ploy­ees hope that their Amer­i­can clients turn a blind eye. The Or­ange Or­der though, is con­sid­ered fair game be­cause they’re a bit rough and un­kempt and they don’t sup­port the econ­omy of Byres Road.

In­stead of try­ing to ex­ploit this cri­sis in the Or­ange Or­der, the Catholic hi­er­ar­chy should be reach­ing out to them to seek an ac­com­mo­da­tion re­gard­ing the num­ber of marches and some of their tra­di­tional routes. When the big push comes to out­law all “un­ac­cept­able” sym­bols of Chris­tian­ity in Scot­land these two will be the last de­fend­ers. We should both get to know each other a lit­tle bet­ter.

The en­emy of the Catholic Church in Scot­land isn’t the Or­ange Or­der, it’s the ranks of mil­i­tant athe­ist hu­man­ists

„ Or­ange pa­rades in 21st cen­tury West of Scot­land are a shadow of what they once were, but an on­line pe­ti­tion call­ing for them to be banned has at­tracted 75,000 sig­na­tures.

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