BY ED WEST
THREE QUARTERS of Scotland’s Catholic bishops will leave their posts or apply for retirement within two years, it has been discovered, meaning that a new generation of bishops will soon lead the Church.
Three of the country’s eight bishops have applied to retire on age and health grounds, with three more, including Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrew’s and Edinburgh, expected to have left by the end of 2013.
Bishops must apply to retire once they reach 75, and Bishop Peter Moran of Aberdeen is expected to be the first to go, within a year, followed by Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow in 2013.
Bishop Vincent Logan of Dunkeld, 69, has meanwhile asked to retire on health grounds, and Bishop John Cunningham of Galloway is likely to ask for retirement before he is officially required to by Canon Law in 2013.
It is understood that Cardinal O’Brien wishes his successor to be appointed urgently after he applies for retirement in 2013, as does Bishop Joseph Devine of Motherwell, who will apply in August.
An outspoken critic of government policy in recent years, Cardinal O’Brien was born in Co. Antrim and moved to Edinburgh as a child. Ordained in 1965 he was installed as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh in 1985. He has been suffering from heart problems for several years and was fitted with a pacemaker after fainting before a Mass in 2008.
There may be a reduction in the number of dioceses to deal with the changes. There is speculation that the reopening of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow in April will trigger a date for the departure of Archbishop Conti, with Bishop Philip Tartalgia of Paisley widely tipped to replace him before being later installed as cardinal.
Glasgow-born Bishop Tartaglia, one of eight children, was ordained in 1975 and installed as bishop in 2005. A strong critic of government policy on the family, he wrote to David Cameron in 2010 to insist that “the Catholic Church will not register civil partnerships nor celebrate same-sex unions: not now, not in the future, not ever, no matter what legisla tion or regulations your Government enacts or endorses”. He has also criticised the Government’s decision to upgrade its nuclear weapons capability.
Candidates for the soon-to-bevacant posts include the Bishop of Paisley’s brother, Mgr Gerard Tartaglia, Mgr Peter Magee, Fr Patrick Burke and Fr John Keenan, the chaplain of Glasgow University.
Mgr Magee, of the Diocese of Galloway, is a former papal diplomat who has served in Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Cuba, and said of dictator Fidel Castro that despite his international image “the truth is that he has humiliated his own people, depriving them of the free exercise of some of their most fundamental rights and freedoms”.
He has also worked for the Holy See’s UN office in Geneva and then in the United States.
Mgr Peter Smith, Fr Paul Conroy and Fr Gero McLoughlin are among the other candidates tipped to become possible bishops.
The appointments will be made by the new papal nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, who will be advised by Mgr Leo Cushley, head of the English Language Section in the Vatican and a former curate at Motherwell Cathedral.
Hugh McLoughlin, a contributor to the Scottish Catholic Observer, told the Glasgow Herald: “More or less an entire generation of bishops will soon depart the scene.
“Previously I’d have been quite happy to assure everyone that Bishop Tartaglia of Paisley would succeed Mario Conti as Archbishop in Glasgow and Keith Patrick O’Brien as cardinal in time. Now I am not so sure. I have a strong fancy that this post might very well go to Mgr Peter Magee.”