Saturday, August 26, 2006

Cross yourself with care – you could be prosecuted

Cranmer sympathises with the Catholic Church. Yes, you read correctly. It has criticised Scottish prosecutors for cautioning Artur Boruc, the Polish Roman Catholic goalkeeper for Celtic, who crossed himself during a match against Protestant Rangers. He was cautioned for a ‘breach of the peace’, insofar as the gesture was considered ‘provocative’. Boruc had the choice of being prosecuted, or accepting a caution. He chose the latter, which leaves him with a criminal record.

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 dominance
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.


Anonymous Rick said...

The Procurator Fiscal should be called to account. He should be asked to confirm this action was not in breach of Article 9.2 of the European Convention on Human Rights nor of Article 52.3 of The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Article 25.2 of the Polish Constitution states:

2. Public authorities in the Republic of Poland shall be impartial in matters of personal conviction, whether religious or philosophical, or in relation to outlooks on life, and shall ensure their freedom of expression within public life.

The United Kingdom has no constitutional provision protecting freedom of conscience, religion, or expression and is wholly reliant upon Article 9.2 of the ECHR

26 August 2006 at 13:21  
Anonymous griswold said...

Umpteen footballers made the sign of the cross during the recent tournament in Germany. To prove provocation implies that this act was a taunt rather than a manifestation of personal devotion. I am surprised Celtic allowed their employee to accept a caution.

26 August 2006 at 13:56  
Blogger Croydonian said...

There's a different interpretation of it at Mr Eugenides' place. He reckons the goalkeeper faced the crowd while doing this and followed it up with an obscene gesture.

26 August 2006 at 15:13  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Croydonian,

Indeed, quite possibly, but so did Gazza, and he was simply fined. And moreover, the Procurator Fiscal has focused only on the self-crossing, not the obscene gesture. His Grace is more concerned with the disparity between the punishments and the Procurator's focus, rather than with a defence of Mr Boruc.


26 August 2006 at 15:31  
Anonymous Rick said...

I do not believe anyone should accept a Caution without being fully informed of the legal consequences; nor do i like Administrative Justice in place of due-process

26 August 2006 at 16:14  
Blogger Mr Eugenides said...

I take your Grace's point about the disparity between the punishment meted out to Boruc, and that suffered by Gascoigne. Given that Boruc is a foreigner, to whom a police caution, however unwelcome, will not make one iota of practical difference, while the latter was fined £40,000, we may quibble about whether the one punishment was so harsh and the other so lenient.

As I have indicated on my blog I was present at the match, and am not a neutral; but I have tried to report what I saw fairly and objectively. There is no question of the player in question having been punished for an expression of faith. Were that the case I would be the first one to condemn it.

I think the fact that Celtic FC have not [so far] seen fit to comment or complain speaks volumes. They are normally very quick to complain about any manifestation of sectarianism - real or imagined.

26 August 2006 at 17:36  
Anonymous Rick said...

to whom a police caution, however unwelcome, will not make one iota of practical difference,

He will find entry into the United States somewhat more complicated

26 August 2006 at 18:29  
Blogger Fruning Graplecard said...

I wrote this on my own blog but it applies here of course:

I ask, Who complained? What was their motivation for this? Were they genuinely surprised, shocked, placed in fear of their lives? Or were they, as I suspect, making mischief? It does not matter. What matters is that the Police and the office of the Procurator Fiscal conspired to exercise a hate crime themselves by being party to an act of religious persecution so obvious and so blatantly anti-Christian that they themselves should be prosecuted for inciting religious hatred.

I don't think I need to explain what an outcry it would have caused if a Muslim had been arrested for enacting an equivalent gesture.

Here again, the tyranny of the weak, the triumph of the madness that is pervading our culture at every level.

26 August 2006 at 19:58  
Anonymous Ulster Man said...

I've gotto agree with Fruning. How did the police miss the fact that this complaint was mischievous, and sectarian-motivated itself?

It's true that crossing is not just a Catholic thing, but it's definitely only 'High Church' Protestants who also indulge. In that sense, any good Presbyterian Scot would almost certainly have taken it as an exclusively Catholic gesture. But a police caution and criminal record? A bit over the top, I think. If Ulster Prods complained every time the Catholics caused offence, or 'disturbed the peace', the NI police force would have too much paperwork.

26 August 2006 at 21:09  
Blogger Fruning Graplecard said...

I am not a legal type, or a Scot but I have lived North of the Border for three years. It appears that the charge of "Breach of the Peace" is a peculiar umbrella term, often used in Scotland for almost anything, if regular persusals of the court pages is anything to go by. It is used without discernment or fairness on anyone whom the police find objectionable, and is rarely dismissed in court. Its essential unfairness is that it is so vague as to amount to the act of arresting people without informing them of their putative crime. It was used indiscrimately at the G8 Gleneagles conference against peaceful protesters, and I dare say it will be used again and again.

Here is a report on the BBC website, and can be found at

A QC has told five senior judges that an accused must cause fear and alarm to be guilty of breach of the peace.

The claim came in a hearing into a series of appeals which could define the crime of breach of the peace.

It is the most common non-motoring offence brought before Scottish courts and is part of Scottish Common Law.

Breach of the peace has become a flexible charge, leading to criticism that it is a catch-all offence for police when none other is available.

It was established before acts of parliament shaped Scotland's legal system.

Common law offences can be reinterpreted by judges' decisions as there is no statutory definition.

Range of offences

Over the years, breaches of the peace have varied from shouting in the street to what amounts to stalking.

Each year more than 15,000 people are charged with breach of the peace.

They included three anti-Trident protesters who argued they were taking part in non-violent action when arrested.

In the appeal the High Court found the following ruling:

the conduct must be "genuinely alarming and disturbing in its context to any reasonable person"

I ask again, who made the complaint? Were they "genuinly alarmed" or just wanting to make trouble?
Is the Procurator Fiscal's office institutionally anti-Christian?
And the Police???

27 August 2006 at 00:31  
Anonymous novocastrian said...

Harrumphing southerners commenting on Glaswegian affairs is not edifying. Most of you have no idea what Old Firm matches are like. Common sense please, not pseudo religious posturing.

27 August 2006 at 09:50  
Blogger Terry Hamblin said...

Who is at fault here?

The Roman Catholic Church for continuing with superstitious ritual? - But people must be free to choose whatever religion they like even if like Tom Cruise it makes them look idiotic.

The tribalism enegendered by football matches? - Far better that it is expressed with a plastic coated ball than with knives and knuckle-dusters.

The police for being heavy-handed? - They were only being rightly concerned about keeping the peace.

The press for blowing up a sily incident into a scandal? - But they made a correct decision that people would be interested.

The law for turning a quiet word from the police into something formally known as a 'police caution' that carries with it a criminal record? - That would be my target.

27 August 2006 at 09:53  
Anonymous Rick said...

Harrumphing southerners commenting on Glaswegian affairs is not edifying.

So long as a Lanarkshire MP is in charge of policing in London directly and the rest of England indirectly, I expect that the Celts will just have to get used to people in England having a say in how his constituents behave................

27 August 2006 at 11:07  
Blogger Fruning Graplecard said...

Old Firm matches are simply a celebration of sectarianism, sanctioned by the authorities, under the specious guise of a sporting event. You only have to remember recent events when people flying English flags have been attacked. Hadrian had the right idea, believe me.

27 August 2006 at 18:24  
Anonymous Rick said...

and what is an ice-hockey match Russia v Czech Republic ?

27 August 2006 at 20:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it were for the obscene gesture, he should be reprimanded by the league and not the local constabulary. For the cross, they should mind their own business, as that's simply his preferred expression of his religion, whether or not it was cynically employed.

Maybe if the local police would prosecute the fans who regularly sing vulgar sectarian songs at matches, then we might at least find some consistency in this befuddling, moronic decision.

The caution should be immediately removed from his record, or the Catholic Church and other bodies should take legal action against the local police and government and hold those who would engage in such petty fascist nonsense responsible.

Oh, and a sign of the cross "superstitous ritual"? Only to obnoxious secularists who can't seem to stand an expression of faith or belief apart from their own narcisisstic nihlism.

28 August 2006 at 05:16  
Anonymous agatha said...

in an era of apathy is there any hope for democracy in the U.K?

10 September 2006 at 11:14  

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