Martin Hannan: Church has lost all its credibility

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In the last 48 hours, there has emerged a curious phenomenon in which we are asked to be sympathetic to the former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, because he finally told the truth.

I’m normally sympathetic to people exposed for past sins, but not this time. That he tried to avoid telling the truth for a week and that people within the Catholic Church backed him says everything about the scandal that has so badly affected people in Edinburgh and across Scotland.

The personal failings of the Cardinal are ultimately his alone. It will be for him to give account to the Pope and to God as to why he lived such a hypocritical existence.

I know that the Cardinal did immense good work in Edinburgh and beyond, and by all means give your pity to a man whose career has ended in such an awful, if self-inflicted, fashion. But always remember that he was quite happy to preach to the rest of us about how people should live their lives when he was doing exactly the opposite, and last week he allowed men of integrity to be pilloried when he knew they were telling the truth.

I pray to God that Keith O’Brien finds peace in his soul on this Earth, but I very much doubt that he will.

So how many other whited sepulchres are wearing a collar? The truth is we do not know, and a certain institution is going to do its damnedest to make sure that we never do.

What is most absolutely appalling about the last week or so is the way that the Roman Catholic Church, as it usually does, has tried to prevaricate and obfuscate when confronted with allegations made by sincere people who genuinely believed that they were trying to do the church some good.

Knowledgeable people, including newspaper columnists of impeccable Catholic connections, have been accused of being anti-Catholic simply because they reported and commented on the situation.

The tragedy for Scottish Catholics is that the truth was always going to come out, and the manner in which the church tried to prevent that inevitable revelation is utterly reprehensible and ultimately self-defeating.

It gives me no pleasure to say this, but not a single bishop in Scotland has fulfilled his duty to the faithful. For that duty includes being truthful and honest, and if you judge by the public pronouncements of the church, no-one can say that Archbishop Philip Tartaglia and his colleagues have covered themselves in glory, due to the misleading statements put out by their spin doctors.

Alternatively, if the bishops did not authorise their output, then it is the church’s spokespeople who must be blamed for a campaign of obfuscation at best, and downright lies at worst. The Scottish Catholic Media Office must be scrapped, for the simple reason that journalists no longer trust it to speak the truth. Its conduct is an example of the most fundamental problem facing the Catholic Church in Scotland. It has lost its way and all credibility.

Until a full and proper inquiry into all of these events is held, and until it no longer speaks with forked tongue, no-one can trust the Catholic Church to tell the truth. For Scotland, that is a genuine concern because we have never needed good men and women to speak out more about the evil of poverty and social injustice than we do now.

Mile sigh club

I WROTE last week that I was going to give my views on the plans for the Royal Mile, but the truth is that I am still trying to work out what exactly is going on with this project. I have to say that I am finding it all bamboozling.

There seems to be some sort of overall vision, but practically no coherent thinking, in what is being proposed.

The plans are confusing and do not address the single most important problem that many people have identified – exactly what kind of shops do we want to see on the Mile, and can the city council do anything to control the activities of retailers?

I personally doubt that the council can make the Mile work again. For instance, if the council, as proposed, was to bring in some sort of rule 
prohibiting the display of merchandise outside shops, that would surely be challenged in court and I suspect their lordships would have to side with the shopkeepers.

Making certain parts of the Mile for pedestrians only is also going to confuse visitors and locals alike, but if this idea is to proceed, can someone please make sure this does not happen until all the current tram and utility works are done?

I am still keeping an eye on a couple of council matters – the 
Castlebrae High School closure is due for debate today, and my worry is that the city’s case for closure is 
ignoring valid points made by anti-closure campaigners. Councillors must listen to all sides of this important argument.

I also want to make a prediction about the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal – some time in the next few weeks, evidence will emerge that this is a truly national problem and not just an Edinburgh issue. That’s all I know at present, but I’ll keep you informed of developments.