History of crisis

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The so-called crisis in the Scottish Catholic Church is hardly the worst since the Reformation.

The worst period was in the 1860s when militant Irish laity and clergy clashed bitterly with their Scottish co-religionists over money, assignment of clergy and politics.

The Glasgow Free Press and its successors were virulent critics of the Scottish clergy. Outspoken letters from both sides to Rome would make your hair stand on end. In many parishes there was virtual open warfare.

These fissures remained through the Fenian Martyrs’ episode, the execution of Michael Barrett for the Clerkenwell bombing to the election of the Parnellite Rev Henry Murphy to the Glasgow School Board far ahead of the “official” Catholic candidates.

By 1868 Rome had sacked both the Irish and Scottish bishop of the western district and brought in the Englishman, Rev Charles Eyre, to bring an end to the feuds.

Since the Reformation Scotland has had only two Irish-born bishops: both have been sacked for very different 
reasons.

Be that as it may, the present crisis is not about the spectacular downfall of a cardinal. It is the story of the last 50 years, which has seen a marked decline in Mass attendance, in seminaries, in religious orders of men and women, a decline in Catholic marriages and birthrate, increased divorces and the general adoption of 
contraception.

Today, the average age of the clergy is usually put at 55 plus and in at least one diocese there is no prospect of an ordination for several years.

Parishes have amalgamated as urban renewal destroyed old tight-knit communities and the number of clergy fell. Priests are serving two or three parishes. The image of an obsession with sex and the unfortunate rants about gays in recent times have not helped.

It is time for a serious rethink.

Bernard Aspinwall

Arran View Gardens

Seamill, West Kilbride

I READ with interest the debate between your correspondents on the role of the pre-Reformation Archbishop of St Andrews, ­Cardinal David Beaton (Letters, 
7 March).

Many of your learned correspondents will be well aware that the Catholic Church at the time had completely lost control of its senior appointments and these were wholly in the hands of the Crown.

Cardinal Beaton was, however, instrumental in stopping the marriage of the infant Mary Stuart to Henry VIII’s son ­Edward, which would have ­resulted in the absorption of Scotland into England long before it ­happened.

In the consequent English ­invasion of Scotland during the 1540s, Cardinal Beaton played an almost heroic role in defending his country.

His murder, although related in part to the Reformation struggle, may have been orchestrated for political reasons by agents of Henry VIII.

Alan Clayton

Letters Way

Strachur, Argyll