Cross yourself with care – you could be prosecuted
The Catholic Church is right to find this ‘worrying and alarming’. Crossing oneself is a religious and devotional gesture. To assert that Boruc used it provocatively is to judge the man’s heart. Of course, he may have done so, and apparently there had been other concerning aspects of his behaviour during the match, but the Procurator Fiscal has decided to focus on his making the sign of the cross. Such a development means that religious expression is limited by the effect it may have on others. What, for example, should be made of the ritualistic mantra that precedes the All Blacks’ rugby matches? Translated, the words include pseudo-religious phrases:
It's my time! It's my moment!
Our supremacy will triumph
And will be placed on high
Provocative, perhaps? Such words would certainly be considered so if they were chanted by Germany or Iran. And what if, in some future World Cup, the USA’s ‘Great Satan’ happens to encounter Iran’s ‘Warriors of Allah’? Would an American Christian who crosses himself, potentially offending the Muslims, be arrested? Members of the Italian team, and some from South America, have all been seen to cross themselves at moments of high tension during a match. Such gestures are expressions of personal devotion, and are not considered to be provocative in the way that, say, a Nazi salute may be (and the above picture of Boruc looks ominously like such a gesture). Perhaps most significantly, Boruc's treatment is markedly different from that meted out to Rangers' Paul Gascoigne, who inflamed tensions in exactly the same Celtic-Rangers context with his imaginary flute-playing. Gascoigne pretended to play this Loyalist symbol, and aimed it directly at the traditionally Catholic Celtic supporters. For this, he was simply fined by his own club. He was not given a formal caution by the police, and he did not earn a criminal record through the action. Why was Boruc treated so differently?
If nothing else, this should persuade Cardinal Keith O’Brien that the Act of Settlement is not the only cause of Scotland’s religious problems, and that even Catholic rituals may inflame sectarianism.