Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bishops' PR Calls For Break Between Catholic Church And Celtic FC

Bishops' PR Calls For Break Between Catholic Church And Celtic FC

Faith shouldn't follow a football team, says leading catholic

By Jenifer Johnston

The Catholic Church should question its 'outdated and offensive'
relationship with Celtic Football Cub and stop 'maintaining old
ideas in young minds'.

Peter Kearney, the official spokesman for Scottish Bishops, has
told the Sunday Herald he is 'sick and tired' of priests offering
prayers for Celtic victories at the end of Mass and the team's
players visiting Catholic schools.

He also wants an end to Celtic souvenirs being offered as prizes at
church events, saying the continuance of linking Catholics with
'one particular Glasgow football team' is 'outdated and offensive'.

Kearney, speaking in a personal capacity, said: 'It angers me when
I go to Mass and there's an announcement urging parishioners to buy
raffle tickets, perhaps for church repairs, and we're supposed to
rush forward because first prize is a football signed by all the
Celtic players.

'I've even seen football shirts from Italian clubs being offered as
prizes. Are we supposed to believe they're desirable because Italy
is a Catholic country? It would be laughable if it wasn't so

'Why do so many priests and Catholics still believe because we are
Catholic we're all card-carrying Celtic supporters? I've often
heard priests offering up prayers for a Celtic victory against
Rangers. Even if it's meant as a joke, it's still aligning
Catholics with one team.

'It also angers me when Catholic schools invite Celtic players to
address assemblies and have a kick-about with pupils. It's
maintaining old ideas with young minds and should be stopped. We
may as well tell Catholics to drive one particular model of car
because that's a Catholic car.'

Kearney's comments come two weeks before a conference to be held by
the anti-bigotry group, Sense Over Sectarianism .

The Catholic Church has been accused of political blackmail in
recent weeks for announcing that it will advise worshippers in the
run-up to the Scottish elections to vote against candidates who
oppose denominational schools.

A spokesman for the Nil By Mouth anti-bigotry group said Kearney
had made 'serious and valid points'.

He said: 'Celtic were of course founded by Irish Catholics and were
one of the few teams to accept Catholics as players. They have
since then gained fondness in the Catholic community.

'However, Celtic have stated in recent years that they are a non-
religious and non-political institution. I think Kearney's comments
are understandable if he thought this behaviour by priests is
inappropriate or unprofessional. There is an issue about
stereotyping supporters of one team or another.'

Kearney added that the Scottish Catholic identity should not be
continually linked with supporting Celtic.

'We should be proud of our Irish history, we should be proud of our
Scottish history, but we should be ashamed of linking our faith
with a football team, whichever it is.

'There is a parish I know where the altar boys are Rangers
supporters. I wonder how they or their parents feel when they hear
prayers being offered up for a good Celtic victory on Saturday. I'd
rather we got away from promoting football altogether. It's a
minority pastime which gets far too much attention.'

Kearney denied Catholics with a strong Irish background would be
offended if Rangers souvenirs appeared in parish raffles. He said:
'I'm from an Irish background and it would not offend me or many
others I know.'

Yesterday, Celtic Football Club expressed surprise and bemusement
over Kearney's comments. Spokesman Iain Jamieson said he was unsure
what had prompted Kearney to lash out at the association between
club and church.

He said: 'Since our formation in 1888 Celtic have been open to all,
regardless of race, religion or political persuasion. Celtic make
charitable donations to a range of organisations based solely on
each organisation's aims. I would also stress that the club are
involved in several initiatives that aim to promote tolerance and
combat bigotry in all its forms. We already work with churches in
that respect and look forward to doing so in the future.'

Jamieson added that Celtic players were involved with sports
education programmes that brought together children from all faiths
(and none) in order to promote the sport of football.

The Rev Alan McDonald, convener of the Church Of Scotland's Church
And Nation Committee, said he could not comment on Kearney's views,
but added: 'The issue of bigotry, sectarianism and improving civic
life in Scotland is still very high on the agenda for the Church Of

Celtic have a historical link to the Catholic Church from their
founding days. In order to alleviate some of the poverty and
discrimination faced by Irish immigrants, an Irish Marist Brother
in Glasgow's east end set up a team to compete with the already-
established Rangers side.

Brother Walfrid established Celtic Football Club with two aims: to
raise funds to provide food for the poor in the east end; and to
halt the growing friction between the Irish community and native
Glaswegians. In his mind Celtic was a club to be supported
Protestant and Catholic, Scottish and Irish alike.

It was a source of great frustration for the priest that Celtic was
pronounced with a soft 'c' by the Irish immigrants who were
unfamiliar with the word, but he had chosen the name as a symbol of
both the Scottish and Irish identity.

Copyright © 2003 smg sunday newspapers ltd. no.176088
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