Cristina Odone says Catholics won't grass on priests

Why Catholics would not grass on paedophile priests

We live in an age where we supposedly empathise with minorities and allow for past persecution in judging their present behaviour. Not so with Britain's Catholics. They are a minority (4.6 million) who have endured centuries of persecution - underpinned by laws that barred them from voting, worshipping, standing for parliament and, even to this day, from marrying an heir to the throne.

They encounter each day a campaign of prejudice conducted in the Guardian comment pages and in BBC appointments within the BBC. They can find no solace in their clergy: the men of the cloth, it seems, either are paedophiles or have conspired to protect paedophiles - police is now investigating Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor for allegedly hindered the prosecution of a paedophile priest.

While Catholics in Britain brace themselves for the onslaught of "sex-mad priests" headlines, non-Catholics ask: why did no one, ever, go to the police?

I can tell them. Because that would mean using "them" against "us". The Catholic world is polarised between friends (fellow Catholics) and foes (everyone else). This ghetto mentality is the natural consequence of a history of humiliations. The notion of being second-class citizens under threat is so ingrained in the Catholic community that handing over even a suspected paedophile to an outside court of justice is as difficult as it would be for Palestinians to hand over a suspected terrorist to the Israeli authorities. He is one of us - let us deal with our own, is the philosophy adopted by those minorities that fear justice will never be carried out in their name. Shop on your own, and you will feel treacherous - as I did, when, in the wake of the scandal involving American paedophile priests, I criticised a priest on Newsnight for colluding in the cover-up. I felt I had given "them" some ammunition.

Now, as we wait for the police to investigate the cardinal, Catholics steel themselves against the secularist mob, who will be baying for blood - or at the very least the cardinal's resignation. But before they cast their first stone, the anti-Catholics should pause to consider whether their vile persecution may have played some part in this tragedy.