Damian Thompson

The Scottish Catholic bishops and the Nationalists: a scandal is coming to light

The Scottish Catholic bishops and the Nationalists: a scandal is coming to light
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Professor Tom Gallagher, a Scottish Catholic historian, wrote a post here yesterday accusing the Catholic hierarchy of Scotland of covertly supporting the Yes campaign. Now there are two pieces of evidence to support his claim.

The first is a letter from Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow to departing First Minister Alex Salmond. Never have I witnessed a senior cleric suck up to a politician so shamelessly. Truly he has earned Private Eye's Order of the Brown Nose (OBN).

Dear First Minister,

You have announced your decision to step down as First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party. On behalf of the Bishops Conference of Scotland, I want to acknowledge your long and outstanding career in politics, and your distinguished service as First Minister of Scotland. With good reason, you have been described as one of the most able and influential political leaders that Scotland and the United Kingdom has ever produced.

The Bishops are especially grateful for your recognition of the important place of religion and faith in Scotland, for your support of Catholic education as making its own distinctive contribution to the good of Scotland as a whole, and for your sensitivity to the issues around religious freedom which are emerging in our country as they are elsewhere. You have also shown real concern for those in our society who are less affluent and less fortunate. And of course, you have always been a wonderful champion and ambassador for Scotland at home and abroad. We hope that your political successors will be inspired by your example and continue to protect and promote these same values.

And lastly, we remain grateful for the support and assistance given by your government before and during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Scotland in 2010.

The Bishops Conference of Scotland wishes you every blessing and happiness in the future. With my prayerful good wishes,

Philip Tartaglia, Archbishop of Glasgow President of the Bishops Conference of Scotland

This speaks for itself, I think. Pass the sick bag. But here is a screen shot from a document that does not entirely speak for itself:

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 19.11.08

This is a press release put out by Jim Sillars, the hard-Left Nationalist who threatened pro-Union big businesses with nationalisation or some other form of punishment in the event of a Yes vote. In fact, you can probably see that this is the 'day of reckoning' document in which he did so. 'What kind of people do these companies think we are? They will find out,' it concludes.

And then, underneath: 'Notes to Editors. 1. For further information contact: Peter Kearney [phone number blacked out] or Jim Sillars.'

Peter Kearney is the name of the press officer for the Scottish bishops, including the Most Rev Philip Tartaglia OBN. Is it the same man? Mr Kearney of the Scottish Catholic Media Office has not responded to my answering machine message, but senior Scottish journalists, including Catholic ones, insist that it is he. Peter Kearney's SNP sympathies and friendship with Jim Sillars are no secret. There's nothing wrong with that – but what on earth is he doing apparently acting as press officer for Sillars's menacing rant while simultaneously working in a similar capacity for the Catholic bishops of Scotland?

A leading Scottish Catholic journalist told me: 'It would be interesting to know if the number on the Sillars document is the same as Peter's mobile for the Catholic media office, because that would take things to a new level.' I can't say, as the number isn't visible.

Here's another question I can't answer. Did Peter Kearney play any part in the writing of Tartaglia's farewell to Salmond? No SNP apparatchik could have drafted anything more gruesomely sycophantic.

Scottish Catholic supporters of the Union are furious about this. Let me finish with a statement from the composer James MacMillan:

The oleaginous letter from the Scottish bishops to Alex Salmond on his resignation has come as a shock to many Scottish Catholics, even the ones that voted Yes. We expected statesmanship from the hierarchy, especially in the light of the O'Brien disaster. Instead they have turned a blind eye to priests and other officers of the church who campaigned openly for one side in the referendum, sometimes directly from their pulpits.

We heard nothing from them about the disgraceful bullying tactics operated by thuggish nationalists, who hounded down Catholic MP Jim Murphy in the streets, and it was left to the Church of Scotland to offer a reconciliation forum in a service in the High Kirk of St Giles. O'Brien damaged the church in sucking up to the SNP, who must regard some Catholics here as their useful idiots. There is no advantage to the church in being so close to the guileful, ruthless politicians of our age, of any stripe. In the light of its disappointing referendum behaviour, our church will have to relearn this again. From scratch.