Scottish Bishops urge Queen to honour Catholics
Scotland's bishops have called for an inquiry into why members of the Catholic Church appear to have been excluded from the Order of the Thistle, the ancient order signifying the highest honour the Queen can bestow on her subjects in Scotland.
The Church believes that the omission of Catholics from the order makes the Royal Household vulnerable to accusations of bigotry and is hampering initiatives to wipe out sectarianism north of the border.
The Bishops' Conference, the body representing the eight Scottish dioceses, has said it will write to the Queen to ask why a Catholic has yet to be appointed to Scotland's equivalent of the Garter during her reign.
The move has been prompted by the recent death of Viscount Younger of Leckie, the former Scottish Secretary and Defence Minister, who was one of the 16 members of the order.
The bishops believe that accusations of anti-Catholic bias could be answered by replacing Viscount Younger with a prominent Catholic.
"It is worrying and regrettable that no Catholic in Scotland has been honoured by the monarch through membership of the Order of the Thistle," said Peter Kearney, the Bishops' Conference spokesman.
"Those advising the monarch may wish to explain their decisions to the Catholic community in Scotland. It leaves her open to possible accusations of bigotry."
Mr Kearney linked the situation to the 1701 Act of Settlement, the legislation that prevents Catholics from ascending to the throne.
Bishops' Conference of Scotland
The Order of the Thistle (Royal Stuarts)
Cardinal wants end to ban on Catholic royals (4/6/02)
Queen invites cardinal to preach to Royal Family (6/12/01)
11 Mar 2003