Many thanks to Red Maria for this, from this week's Tribune, by Conor McGinn (although he is wrong about immigration):
The growing isolation felt by Roman Catholics in the Labour Party is reaching a critical point. Recent outpourings of anti-Catholic sentiment, under the guise of debate around the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, have been reminiscent of language used during the era of Guy Fawkes - and about him and his co-conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot.
As an Irish Catholic, the natural political home for me on moving to Britain was the Labour Party. As Catholics from across Europe settled in Britain, their children and grandchildren maintained strong and proud Labour traditions and provided the backbone fro the party in its heartlands in England 's great cities, the mining valleys of Wales and Scotland 's industrial belt. We backed Labour because we believed in the values of the party and the trade union movement. Our values of social justice, equality and community were born as much from our Catholic tradition as they were from our Labour tradition.
In recent times, these values have been translated into support for progressive campaigns to alleviate debt and child poverty in the developing world. In some respects, these campaigns were instigated by the Catholic Church and other religious groups. A high profile campaign to support migrant workers - among the most exploited and vulnerable groups in our society - was led by senior figures in the Catholic Church, including Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who called for an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Catholic priests, nuns and laity work in some of the most deprived communities in Britain , with churches and community centres providing a range of support and services for families who have been neglected by the state and society. It is unsurprising that this aspect of Catholicism and the work of the Catholic Church are rarely acknowledged by detractors, who choose to ignore the selfless public service given by Catholics throughout the world.
Obviously, the attitudes of many Catholics towards issues such as immigration and child poverty are shaped, in part, by the teaching and message of the Catholic Church. By the same token, many Catholics will have had their views on other, more controversial matters, such as abortion, informed by that same Catholic faith. Unfortunately, the former is ignored and the latter contested by those whose antipathy towards Catholicism has been barely concealed in the debates around the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.
Among the most vicious of the recent attacks on Catholics in the Labour Party was an article in The Guardian by London MEP Mary Honeyball. This venomous piece included the implication that Catholics were not fit to hold ministerial office because they were subservient to the Vatican . Honeyball also referred to Catholicism having a "vice like grip across Europe " and accused the church of "interference in democracy".
Before anyone seeks to accuse me - or other Catholic members of the Labour Party who were deeply offended by her comments - of overreaction, they should read her article and substitute the words "Jew" or "Moslem" for "Catholic". Can you imagine the outcry? And in this regard, the anger felt by Catholics has only been exacerbated by the failure of any senior Labour figure to admonish Honeyball.
She peddles the myth that politically-active Catholics serve in obedience to the Vatican and are directed on how to vote by Rasputin-like clerics - almost as if they constituted a fifth-column in the Labour Party. If this were not so offensive, it would be laughable. Catholics are certainly not a homogenous group. In fact, we are one of the most diverse faith communities in Britain. And we are not dictated to by priests or even popes. Our Catholic faith shapes many of our views and opinions, in the same way that background, family, education and a whole host of other experiences do. We shouldn't have to make any apologies for that. And if the low-level war on politically-active Catholics continues, the only apology many of us will be making is to say how sorry we are to have to leave the Labour Party.
Well, now pro-life, pro-family, pro-worker and anti-war people have somewhere else to go.
Further to Tony McNulty's astonishing admission blogged here yesterday, there is a crying need for further investigation into the roots of all of this in the feud within Britain's Irish communities between orthodox Catholics and sympathisers with a Marxist guerrilla organisation during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.