Scottish Catholics are "too wishy-washy" about standing up for their beliefs, the Archbishop of Glasgow has warned.

In a major new essay signalling a more muscular outlook for his church, Philip Tartaglia fears "too many believers" have adapted to the secular world around them by stressing not their faith itself but its ethical values.

Challenged by a robust secularism, he said Scottish Catholics avoid saying they "really believe in anything supernatural; in anything they can’t see or touch or experience; or in anything beyond modelling and encouraging decent behaviour.

He added: "Too many believers no longer talk about Jesus winning salvation for the sinful but instead point to him as a moral ideal of what humans should strive for.

"We accommodate. We compromise. We avoid conflict - even when conflict is the only proper course. We are too wishy-washy, as we would say in Scotland."

The Archbishop was writing this month in an American online publication called Crux run by one of the English-speaking world's leading experts in their Vatican. He was rehearsing arguments developed by John Haldane, the moral philosopher and Catholic thinker who splits his time between St Andrews and Baylor University in Texas.

Archbishop Tartaglia's essay reflected views he had given at a meeting with US colleagues in Philadelphia, earlier this summer. He was warning the Americans that they may soon face the similar threats to Scottish Catholics. Old school sectarianist bigotry - while not quite wiped out, was on the wane, he said. But Catholics, he added, were reacting to a new reality where only the faith stood against a what he sees as an intolerant consensus.

Archbishop Tartaglia said: "While that kind of old-style discrimination has largely faded, there is still a vague suspicion that Catholics don’t really belong, and if they are there, they should not make too much noise about their faith.

"Once upon a time, Catholics longed for and worked for the conversion of others, including a nation’s cultural elites. Now many of our Catholic leaders, intellectuals and academic institutions bend over backwards to assure the gatekeepers of culture and prestige that they’re just as right-thinking as they are.

"The new “religious” consensus in the UK is a combination of scepticism, consumer appetite, and political intolerance. It masks itself with progressive vocabulary, but its targets tend to be practicing Christians.

"Old-fashioned Protestant “No Popery here” slogans may have faded, but today’s discrimination is much more sophisticated.

"Atheists and secularists in the 1960s and 1970s were content to ignore or mock the Catholic Church, but today many see her as the single most formidable threat to their notions of justice and equality, particularly when it comes to matters of human sexuality."

The Catholic Church, the archbishop had suggested, filled more pews on a Sunday than the Church of Scotland, despite Presbyterianism, officially, having more adherents.

That makes it a target. Its problems, he suggested, are like a canary in the mine for America, where the church still had enviable power, respect and resources.

He said: "The chief errors of our time are anthropological, and when a culture becomes global, so do its problems. If the Church dissents from today’s new rulebook for the human person - and she must - then she should expect rough treatment."