DCSIMG

Leo Cushley: O’Brien will not return to Scotland

Archbishop-elect of St Andrews and Edinburgh Leo Cushley in the grounds of the Gillies Centre and St Margarets Chapel, designed by James Gillespie Graham. Photograph: Ian Rutherford

Archbishop-elect of St Andrews and Edinburgh Leo Cushley in the grounds of the Gillies Centre and St Margarets Chapel, designed by James Gillespie Graham. Photograph: Ian Rutherford

  • by STEPHEN MCGINTY
 

THE Catholic Church in Scotland will slowly rebuild its reputation which has been shattered by recent scandals according to Monsignor Leo Cushley, who this week will become the new Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

However, the veteran Vatican diplomat who has been sent to Scotland following the resignation in disgrace of Cardinal Keith O’Brien said there will be no “quick fix”.

In an exclusive interview with Scotland on Sunday ahead of his installation at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Saturday, the archbishop elect insisted the Catholic laity and the wider Scottish public can separate the crimes of paedophile monks and priests and the sins of the cardinal from the many priests who diligently serve their communities.

“I think quick solutions are not our style and I don’t think they usually fix very much anyway,” he said. “My own way will be to do it the way I have been made. I will do it quietly and patiently by building and rebuilding relationships with individuals, which will take a while. Apart from some things where we need to do some housekeeping, and housekeeping is a different matter, I think it will come through the best of what we have.

“Tweetings, and Facebook and the internet are a useful tool for getting the Gospel news out there but the thing that we are best at doing is human personal contact and it is on that level that we will live and thrive as a church or that we will not.”

Cushley also revealed that O’Brien will not be permitted to return to Scotland and is likely to spend his remaining years in exile.

The cardinal, who was forced to resign after admitting “inappropriate” behaviour with priests from his diocese and a seminarian, had hoped to eventually be permitted to retire to Dunbar in East Lothian, but Cushley said it was “quite unlikely”.

Pope Francis discussed the cardinal’s behaviour with Cushley during a meeting in the Vatican on 13 August. Although the Pope asked Cushley not to reveal the exact nature of the conversation, he said it could be characterised as resolute but compassionate: “He discussed Edinburgh and the cardinal with great clarity.”

Asked whether O’Brien might return to Scotland he said: “I think it is quite unlikely. The Gospel tells us to forgive and if we don’t then we might as well shut up shop and go home tomorrow. That is beyond question part of our attitude to what has happened. But we also have to be truthful and honest and recognise the damage that has been done and could continue to be done, and so for sake of the peace it would probably be better for him not to come back to Scotland.”

Among Cushley’s first tasks after being awarded the crook and mitre of archbishop is to find out the depth of disfunction within the diocese. He is also expected to ask those priests within the diocese who accused O’Brien if they are maintaining their own vows of celibacy.

He said: “My first priority is to get to know and appreciate the priests of the diocese and by doing that I’m going to find out quite quickly, if I do it well, what has been going on and what has been happening.

“I want to, quietly and patiently, rebuild trust within the clergy, but that does not mean that there will not be room for governance. There needs to be a new sense of direction. That is not to say there was not direction. Some things were done well, but there needs to be a renewed sense of governance in the diocese. That will not come about only through gentleness and understanding of the situation but through a certain amount of firmness and that was also something I heard in my discussion with the Holy Father.

“One word he used again and again was for me to be ‘merciful’ but to understand mercifulness in a way that it is not being soft [but] being gentle and firm.”

The 52-year-old, who was born in Airdrie, and who has spent the last 20 years working in the Vatican’s diplomatic service, is viewed as a safe pair of hands capable of steering the Catholic Church through its worst crisis in centuries.

He supports the idea of an independent inquiry into the Catholic Church’s handling of child sexual abuse cases – similar to the Nolan Inquiry which took place in England and Wales – which has been called for in the light of the recent revelations of historical abuse at a Fort Augustus boarding school in the Highlands. “In principle that sounds fine. The Nolan Inquiry was very successful and set a new bench-mark,” he said.

When Pope Francis was elected he refused to move into the grand suite of rooms at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican and has instead remained in a one-bedroomed suite at the Santa Marta Hotel in Vatican City. Cushley plans to follow his example and thinks St Bennets, the detached house in Morningside, Edinburgh, is too big for one man. He is now looking to move in an order of nuns.

“I thought it would be nice if I can find a way to turn it into a sacred, holy example of good living and Christian living,” he said. “I want to make it more useful in a Christian way.”

Twitter: @sgmcginty

Viewpoints: fear or favour

On fearing for his life in Burundi: “I did fear for my life. I knew people who were assassinated. Half a dozen. Killed and accidentally caught in the crossfire. Once it got dark the rebels would start to fire mortars over my head and into the city. You could hear the AK-47s on the periphery. There were two guards and two dogs and when they disappeared at night you knew you were really in trouble. In those circumstances you ask yourself important questions. It is like the end of the third Indiana Jones movie, the bad guy said: ‘what do you believe?’ That is what is going on in your head. Do you really believe this because your life is on the line.”

Viewpoints: fear or favour

On fearing for his life in Burundi: “I did fear for my life. I knew people who were assassinated. Half a dozen. Killed and accidentally caught in the crossfire. Once it got dark the rebels would start to fire mortars over my head and into the city. You could hear the AK-47s on the periphery. There were two guards and two dogs and when they disappeared at night you knew you were really in trouble. In those circumstances you ask yourself important questions. It is like the end of the third Indiana Jones movie, the bad guy said: ‘what do you believe?’ That is what is going on in your head. Do you really believe this because your life is on the line.”

On independence:

“I have to be careful. On faith and morals we will speak out because these are things that concern us, but things that are strictly political – unless we see an important difference in terms of us being able to preach the Gospel – I don’t think you will find us taking sides, but I trust I can still wear my saltire cuff-links.”

 
 
 

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