HC Deb 19 May 1879 vol 246 cc693-4

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether it is true that recently serious excitement and rioting were caused at Dundee by the appearance on public platforms of a person representing himself to be an ex-priest of the Catholic Church engaged in exposing the misconduct of the Catholic Clergy; whether the person in question was in the habit of mimicking in the most offensive manner the most sacred rites of the Catholic religion, such as the ceremony of the Mass as performed by the officiating priest; whether, after much bad feeling had been excited, it was not discovered that the pretended ex-priest had never belonged to any Catholic Ministry, but was an ex-convict, who some years previously had been found guilty in Canada of a disgraceful offence; and, whether, to prevent such abuse of the rights of religious discussion, some provision would be introduced, as in the Indian Penal Code, against gross and scandalous insults to the religious beliefs entertained by large sections of Her Majesty's subjects?


Sir, I have to inform the hon. Member that I have made inquiry into this matter, and I regret to state that I found that there did take place in Dundee some disgraceful exhibitions of the nature he describes. The chief actor in them described himself as an ex-priest of the Roman Catholic Church. I am informed that it is doubtful whether he ever held that position; but I have it on the authority of his own admission, and that is the only evidence I possess, that he was recently convicted in Canada of an attempt to commit a disgraceful offence. The law of Scotland, now that we know how the matter stands, is quite sufficient to meet such cases, and I trust to be able to give such instructions as will prevent the repetition of such a scandal.