Don’t expect change from Church ‘crisis’

Professor Tom Devine’s claims (news, 26 February) that the Cardinal O’Brien 
pantomime is “the gravest single public crisis to hit the Catholic Church in Scotland since the Reformation”, with “incalculable” effects are tosh .

The squeals of schadenfreude from the gay rights lobby and those worshipping at the altar of Richard Dawkins will fade once they realise swiftly that no change will come of it.

Those remaining practising Catholics will not be “stunned” or “demoralised” by the airing of suspicions many held privately for 

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Father Ted did for the Catholic Church what Spitting Image did for the Royal Family, stripped the last vestiges of cap-wringing reverence 
towards it and transmogrified it into the horsehair sofa of the nation at best – something vaguely still useful and thus tolerated by society at large – but mainly an Aunt Sally, 
accepted warts and all.

There are no more brickbats that can be hurled at an organisation that’s no more riddled with hypocrisy, back-biting and petty earthly 
intrigues than when Chaucer parodied it as such in the 
Canterbury Tales back in 1475.

Mark Boyle

Linn Park Gardens


“Is the Pope a Catholic?” is a standard retort to those who ask questions with self-evident answers, yet, in your leader (26 February) you seems to suggest that the new Pope shouldn’t be a Catholic, but instead adopt a value system “in tune with modern Scottish society”.

The media and political establishment just don’t get religion. They expect all to bend to their secular liberal will, and react with bemusement when, against the tide of opinion polls, people retain a world view founded on revelation from a transcendent authority.

Tom Gallagher (Letters, same day) raised the issue of the Kirk lacking a clear spokesperson. The cause of this is not primarily structural: the Church of Scotland lacks not a clear messenger, but a clear message.

Rev Sally Foster Fulton’s bland and wordy platitudes offered in the Newsnight Scotland religion debate contrasted sharply with Patrick Harvie’s forceful assertion of his secularist views.

The media need to include Christians willing to argue their case with passion and clarity – and these are not only found in the Catholic Church. The burgeoning evangelical church movement should be represented fairly as well.

Richard Lucas



Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation statement gave an interesting insight into the hubris that seems to be ingrained in many religious leaders; the notion that they speak for, or should have influence over, people who are not part of their religious group.

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Cardinal O’Brien does not have the authority to wish the current Pope a happy retirement on behalf of the Scottish people.

I personally hope that the Pope spends much of his retirement mulling over his role in the Church’s response to systemic child abuse on an international scale – I suspect that I’m not the only “person of Scotland” to hold this view.

Robert Miller

Bracken Avenue


When I heard the news of
Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation I was stunned, shocked and saddened as I imagine all of Scotland’s Catholic community were.

The cardinal celebrated Mass in Dunbar on Saturday night and I spoke briefly with him. His parting words were “to keep carrying the flag”.

Cardinal O’Brien will be sorely missed, as will Pope Benedict at this unprecedented time for the Church.

On the eve of Pope Benedict stepping down as Supreme Pontiff, Scotland’s Catholics, and the wider Christian community, should remember the Pope’s words from his visit to the UK in 2010 when he said that “society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility.

“Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved country.”

Martin Conroy


East Lothian

Professor Tom Gallagher (Letters 26 February) wants the next leader of Scotland’s Catholics to “leave the media to its own fate and concentrate on the day job”.

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It would be a pleasant change of pace if the new leader could also leave us non-Catholics to our fate, and accept his day job doesn’t extend to claiming the right to interfere in our lives, any more than he would allow an imam or rabbi to interfere in his.

The Church’s often unreasonable and inhumane teachings are for those who choose to follow it, ideally restricted to those who have reached a stage of intellectual maturity so as to make an informed choice.

It is time the Church stopped trying to impose those increasingly incoherent teachings on the world outside by the ruthless pursuit of secular political power, helped sadly by those craven politicians who think (wrongly, as the same-sex marriage vote in Westminster showed clearly enough) that the Church can deliver a block vote.

Alistair McBay

National Secular Society

Atholl Crescent


The dangers for even leading clerics of flying too close to the media sun are pointed out in Professor Gallagher’s letter.

Being used by the media for an instant and headline grabbing quote on contentious subjects has in the end taken a heavy toll. Cardinal O’Brien has also, I believe, been used by wily politicians as a pawn in an attempt to secure the votes of a large section of the Scottish electorate – again there is a price to be paid.

There is little doubt that he will be abandoned mercilessly when his usefulness to those manipulating is considered done.

Many of us opposed in 
principle to same-sex marriage will be dismayed.

The cardinal’s intemperate remarks on the subject were in fact harmful to the cause.

Genuine, grave and heart-felt doubts about same-sex marriage were buried beneath the cardinal’s rhetoric.

No-one wins with Cardinal O’Brien’s resignation.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg