A VATICAN career diplomat appointed to be the new archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh has promised a period of “reconciliation and healing” following the scandal surrounding his disgraced predecessor.
• Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s successor named
• New Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh comes to role from Vatica’s foreign office
Monsignor Leo Cushley said the standing of the Catholic Church in Scotland had taken a “battering” when Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigned after admitting inappropriate behaviour with a number of priests.
Mgr Cushley, a Scot who has worked all over the world in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, said Catholics in Scotland had been left “upset and dismayed” at what had happened. But he said the task facing him was “comparatively easy” when compared to missions he had carried out for the Church in Africa.
The 52-year-old, who was born in Airdrie, has been a priest of Motherwell diocese for 28 years, but has not worked in Scotland since 1993.
He will be ordained at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on 21 September. His appointment comes after revelations emerged earlier this year about inappropriate relationships Cardinal O’Brien had with priests and seminarians.
Cardinal O’Brien is understood to be on a penitential retreat in a monastery in Europe, but a spokesman for the Church yesterday refused to comment on his exact whereabouts.
In Edinburgh yesterday, Mgr Cushley, who is currently head of the English section of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, expressed his surprise at his appointment. Seeking to pre-empt any questions about his predecessor, he said: “I realise it’s a very delicate moment, and there’s a lot to be done.
“There are important questions I will need to familiarise myself with, including the events around the departure of Cardinal O’Brien.
“I would ask you to keep in mind two things about that. First of all, under canon law a cardinal can only be tried and judged by the Holy See.
“So, we will have to wait and see what the Holy See wants to do about that.
“Secondly, I myself have no jurisdiction in the archdiocese until the day after I am made an archbishop.
“I have no access to the files, the archives, to anything. With regard to what will happen in the future, it’s impossible for me to comment.
“Whatever happens though, it is my sincere hope and my intention to do whatever I have to do, always in truth, but also with charity, with a view to the reconciliation and the healing of the Catholics in Edinburgh, who I am sure have been upset and dismayed by these events.”
Asked if the Church was at its lowest ebb as a result of the scandal, Mgr Cushley said: “Not at its lowest ebb, but it has taken a bit of a battering.”
The archbishop-designate said much of what he knew of the Cardinal O’Brien affair had come from the press. He has had no discussions of the issue with Pope Francis, he said.
The new archbishop is orthodox in his beliefs and supports the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, contraception and prohibiting female priests. Responding to questions about “cronyism” in the Church, he said: “I think there’s a lot of stocktaking to be done. I’m going to have to look around myself.
“The first nunciature I went to was in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi. It was just at the end of a civil war – 400,000 people had been killed – there was an economic embargo on the country and my second ambassador was assassinated.
“You have to get a grip of yourself because your life is actually on the line.
“So, you have a very different attitude in coming to this kind of thing. Coming back to being pastor in Scotland – you have peace and you have prosperity. You have the rule of law. After that, personally, it’s pretty straightforward. It’s a comparatively easy task.”
Commenting on the appointment, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, who has been apostolic administrator of the archdiocese since the resignation of Cardinal O’Brien, said: “I’m sure I speak for the bishops’ conference and the Catholic Church in Scotland in welcoming Leo home, and in wishing him every blessing in his new responsibility.
“On a personal level, I have known Leo for many years and I think this is a really great appointment.
“I look forward to working with him and to handing over this wonderful archdiocese to him.”
First Minister Alex Salmond said: “I wish to pass on my warmest congratulations to Monsignor Cushley on his
appointment as archbishop-elect of the archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.
“The Catholic Church is integral to Scotland, making an enormous contribution to Scottish life and society and I look forward to this outstanding leadership continuing under the guidance of the new archbishop.”
John Haldane, a professor at St Andrews University and a cultural adviser to the Vatican, said: “He is a good choice and will be his own man, he’s not going to be a [Cardinal Thomas] ‘Winning’ or an ‘O’Brien’.
“He is clever and capable with an amiable personality. As a diplomat he knows when to listen. I do think it is probably a bit daunting for him, but he is a loyal servant and he will do what has been given to him.”
Historian Tom Devine said: “I think that he will have precious little time, for some time, to move outside the problems of the archdiocese and the situation there is probably nearing implosion. It will be a heavy responsibility.
“I can’t think of a post-reformation prelate in Scotland where the challenges are so awesome. He has a role in a period of introspection of putting the house in order and then maybe after that looking outward and giving spiritual leadership to elsewhere in the country.”
Profile: Movie buff who faced danger in Africa
WHEN the machine gun fire of the civil war got too close to the Vatican’s residence in Burundi, Leo Cushley would pour himself a whisky and watch a video of Local Hero. As secretary to the Pope’s ambassador to the war-torn African nation, the Scottish priest spent four years in a hostile land, but one he grew to love.
As one of the brightest young priests in the Motherwell diocese, Monsignor Cushley was picked to train as a Vatican diplomat at the Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome.
After graduation, his first posting was to Burundi, then in the grip of a civil war, where among his tasks was helping to negotiate food aid to those forced to flee to the mountains.
Over the past decade Mgr Cushley has served as a diplomat in New York, South Africa and Portugal, where he was heavily involved in negotiating the Holy See’s new concordat with the Portuguese government. Fluent in Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese, he was transferred in 2009 to run the English-Language section of the Secretariat of State, the Vatican’s foreign office, where he was responsible for both relations and translations for the Pope. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Scotland and England in 2010, Cushley was responsible for drafting the Pope’s speeches.
A movie buff with an impressive DVD collection, Cushley is also a bon viveur who, by culinary instinct, will invariably pick the most exotic (and expensive) item on the menu and who has a particular fondness for lesser known Portuguese wines.
He runs six miles, three times a week and enjoys hill-walking. Although a keen golfer, he describes himself as “rubbish” at the sport.
Liz Leydon: High hopes of an open mind from a man who likes U2 and opera
THE newly-appointed Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh is not only taking on an Archdiocese, he is taking over a role last filled by a cardinal. And that cardinal left the position under unusual and difficult circumstances.
It is a great relief Monsignor Leo Cushley, the archbishop-elect, has agreed to leave his role as head of the English-language section of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State to bring his God-given skills and talents back to Scotland.
Nigel Baker, the British ambassador to the Holy See who works closely with the Vatican Vatican’s Secretariat of State, sees Mgr Cushley’s appointment as “an important and timely appointment of great significance for Scotland and the Scottish Catholic Church”.
Clergymen who were at seminary with Mgr Cushley say he is “highly intelligent, kind and thoughtful, just decent” and that “he can be very witty”.
Former colleagues from Lanarkshire schools where he was chaplain recall that he loved that role.
Although secular society issues – same-sex “marriage” and assisted suicide, for example – remain pressing, pastoral support and guidance are likely to initially take precedence over policy and politics
As to where Mgr Cushley stands on theology and the future path of the Church in Scotland, it is too early to predict.
Surely a Scottish outdoorsman whose musical tastes range from U2 to opera must keep an open mind?
• Liz Leydon is editor of the Scottish Catholic Observer
Archbishop’s in tray
THE new Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh’s in tray will be groaning by his ordination in September.
The first task will be dealing with the aftermath of Cardinal O’Brien’s scandal, which will include speaking to anyone who has concerns about how the archdiocese has been managed and also to the priests who made the original complaints about the cardinal’s behaviour.
A key task will also be deciding on closures as the church seeks to balance a lack of priests with too many parishes.
No Vatican investigation into O’Brien
THE papal nuncio in London, Antonio Mennini, confirmed last night that there was no active investigation into Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who was forced to resign in February after admitting inappropriate conduct with priests and seminarians.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s location is unknown, with the Catholic Church stating only that he is no longer in Scotland. He is believed to be in a monastery, either in England or in continental Europe, completing a three-month retreat of “spiritual renewal, prayer and penance”.
In March, after initially denying allegations made against him, he admitted his sexual conduct had “fallen beneath the standards expected of a priest, bishop and cardinal”. After fleeing Scotland for two months he then attempted to move into a flat in Dunbar, East Lothian, where he had always planned to retire.
He was ordered by Pope Francis to leave Scotland and enter a period of retreat to atone for his behaviour. It was made clear that any future return to Scotland would be by agreement with the Vatican.
As a cardinal, the only person who has authority over him is the Pope and it is not yet known if he will be asked to voluntarily resign his red hat.