The former Bishop of Paisley has expressed his sadness at continued “anti-Catholicism” in Scotland.
The Catholic Church has called for a public acknowledgement of the extent of the bias against the religion.
The move follows the release of new Crown Office statistics which show an increase in religiously-aggravated hate crimes directed at Catholics.
The data contained in the report “Religiously Aggravated Offending in Scotland 2011-12” shows an increase of 26 per cent in religious hate crimes.
Some 876 people were charged with a religious aggravation in 2011-12 and attacks on Catholics accounted for 509 incidents.
That is accounting for 58.1 per cent of all such offences, making Catholics most likely to be victimised.
In fact, anti-Catholic attacks are more prevalent than attacks on all other religious groups combined.
The Most Rev Philip Tartaglia, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and Archbishop of Glasgow, who was until recently Bishop of Paisley, said: “I am saddened by the latest figures on religiously-aggravated offending.
“While most Catholics are safe most of the time, these figures show a side of Scotland which is truly unfortunate.
“Sadly, it seems incontrovertible now that our problem is not so much sectarianism but anti-Catholicism.
“This is regrettable because popular culture is inventing all kinds of new reasons to marginalise and hate Catholics.
“In the face of this, the Catholic community of Scotland remains steadfast in faith, joyful in hope and fully committed to being part of Scottish society.”
During the Archbishop’s term as Bishop of Paisley, the Paisley Daily Express told how sectarian graffiti was daubed in the statue of St Mirin that stands outside the Roman Catholic St Mirin’s Cathedral in the town.
The letters “FTP” – an obscene insult directed at the Pope – were spray-painted on the statue’s plinth.
In an interview that the then Bishop of Paisley gave to the Paisley Daily Express shortly before he left office, he reflected on the attitude towards Catholics in Scotland in the light of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent visit.
He pointed to certain polls that revealed a high percentage of Scots viewed the Papal visit in an unfavourable light.
“There is something, I think, in Scotland that’s a bit anti-Catholic,” he said.
“I don’t know if it’s pre-conscious or what you would call it but there is a deep-rooted sentiment.
“I don’t know whether that’s for historical reasons or whether it’s because the church will always generate that kind of reaction because it presents a truth that not everyone is prepared to accept: the truth of God, the truth of Christ, the truth of the Gospel.
“The Catholic Church does not accommodate the Gospel to people’s likes and dislikes, he added, and that is why he believed some people are hostile to it.
“It is true that there are people who can’t stand Catholics,” he told the Paisley Daily Express.
“To be honest, I thought this was past in Scotland.
“I thought that this was something that belonged to the stories I heard when I was a child.
“It really has surprised me that statistics are emerging of this kind but it also surprised me that the poll I was talking about showed such a high level of discontent. I found that something to reflect upon.”