Saturday, 29 August 2015

Monsignor Michael Regan 1955-2015 RIP

Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh's photo.
REST IN PEACE: Archbishop Leo Cushley has paid tribute to Monsignor Michael Regan, the former Administrator of St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, who died yesterday aged 59-years-old. He had been ill for some time.

“Monsignor Regan was a man of great prayer who had a great devotion to the sacraments, something I was privileged to witness at his hospital bedside in recent days and weeks while administering those very sacraments to him,” said Archbishop Leo Cushley, 28 August.

“All those around about him – family, friends and staff -- were struck by the devoted way he would compose himself to receive the Sacrament of the Sick and Holy Communion.”

Monsignor Michael Regan grew up in London and came to Scotland to study at the University of Stirling where he graduated in 1977 with a Batchelor of Arts degree followed by an M.Litt in Modern French Literature. It was also there he discerned a calling to the priesthood.

He attended seminary at St Andrew’s College at Drygrange in the Scottish Borders before being ordained for the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh on 23 April 1982. During his 33 years of active ministry he served in Livingston, Dunfermline, Cowie and numerous parishes in Edinburgh including, until this year, seven years as Administrator of St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral.

“Monsignor Regan was someone who had a great sense of duty and who, when asked to do something, would always do it to the best of his ability, cheerfully and willingly,” said the Archbishop.

“Indeed, he was one of those people who had never learned to say “no” and so gave all his energy to the service of the many parishes he worked in especially within the city of Edinburgh. That’s why there will be many people in this city -- not just Catholics – who today will be regretting and mourning his passing.”

Academic studies were also an important part of Monsignor Regan’s life. Between 1985 and 1988 he attended the University of Paris and the Institut Catholique in the same city where he gained a Masters in Theology. He then joined the seminary staff at Scotus College in Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire, in 1993 spending eight years teaching there.

“I actually first got to know Monsignor Regan through our common interest in liturgy,” Archbishop Cushley recalled.

“We trained at about the same time in liturgy and from the first time I can remember meeting him, we always had wonderful, friendly discussions on the subject”.

The two men also worked together in the preparations for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Scotland in 2010 when Monsignor Regan helped co-ordinate events in Edinburgh.

“Monsignor Regan was a larger than life character and could be great fun as I found out on that day of the Papal Visit to Edinburgh,” said the Archbishop who, as a Vatican diplomat, was part of the Papal entourage.

“The Holy Father had just made his way through crowds of over 125,000 in Edinburgh and we paused for lunch at the Archbishop’s residence where I spent a very enjoyable, very happy few hours in the company of Monsignor Regan who was in a celebratory mood following the success of that first morning of the Papal Visit to Scotland.”

They then combined efforts again when Archbishop Cushley was appointed to the See of St Andrews & Edinburgh in 2013.

“Monsignor Regan was both Administrator of St Mary’s Cathedral and Archdiocesan Master of Ceremonies, posts where he did excellent work for many years and continued to do so in spite of the gathering clouds of his last illness. May he rest in peace.”

The Very Reverend Monsignor Michael Brian Regan 1955-2015. Parishes served;

St Andrew’s, Livingston, 1982-82
St Margaret’s, Dunfermline, 1982-85
St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Edinburgh, 1988-91
Sacred Heart, Cowie, 1991-93
Scotus College, Bearsden, 1993-2001
St Andrew’s, Edinburgh, 2001-08
St John the Baptist, Edinburgh, 2001-08
Our Lady, Mother of the Church/St Joseph’s, Currie/Balerno, 2004-08
St Kentigern’s, Edinburgh, 2006-08
St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Edinburgh, 2008-15

[From Diocesan Facebook Page]

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Final thoughts on McLennan and safeguarding...

Having posted twice in quick succession on the McLennan report, I think I will now give it a rest and give us all some time to think over precisely what this all means for the Church in Scotland.

As a set of final remarks, let me throw in the following:

a) Too much of the commentary about 'safeguarding' in the Catholic Church is grandstanding. The aim must be to deal precisely with the problems in each specific area. For example, the conditions in Scotland are simply not the same as the conditions in Ireland. Only by looking specifically at what went wrong in Scotland do we have a chance of getting it right.

b) All of us need to be careful about hijacking fairly straightforward cases of human wickedness and suffering for the sake of an agenda. A particularly poor example of this is here. Stopping someone from promoting non-Catholic positions under the banner of Catholicism is one thing; protecting criminals is another.

c) There has been much talk in Catholic circles of the Benedict option. To the extent that this means the Church separating itself from wider society, this would seem to make responses to safeguarding children such as the McLennan report less possible. I have made clear in the past that I'm highly suspicious of the Benedict option as a global solution. The issue of the protection of the vulnerable is something of a test case. Despite what I've posted critically about the report, on the whole I welcome it and the element of outside scrutiny it brings. Part of the reason for this is precisely what opponents of the Church would deny: child abuse and abuse of power is not simply a Catholic matter and all of us can therefore learn from each other on what has gone wrong and what to do about it. But to do that properly means Catholics being both willing to listen to outside and internal criticism and also to engage with it critically. There is a difficult path to tread between defensive rejection of all criticism and credulous acceptance of all criticism: both extremes are examples of failing to exercise due care and attention to the genuine problems at stake.

The difficulty with (eg) criticisms such as Catherine Deveney's is that at times she is right. I don't think the case of Cardinal O'Brien has been dealt with well: more transparency would have been good here as I've previously argued. I suspect that Archbishop Scicluna should probably have spoken to her. But there is no future in which an international body of 1 billion people will be able to guarantee that every phone call from every journalist will be answered or every employment dispute resolved to the satisfaction of every party. The inability of UK politics -a comparatively straightforward world in comparison- to deal satisfactorily with similar but simpler circumstances has been evidenced by Harvey Proctor's case.

There is a rich tradition of finding sexual scandal in the Catholic Church. Some of it is simply false. Some of it is true. The people who really have a stake in this are those parents whose children might be affected in the future. When I converted to Catholicism and brought my children into the Church, I did so with the whispers of those relatives who viewed the Church as a paedophile ring buzzing in my ears. Nor to be frank did I dismiss those worries: I didn't have much of a sense of how to negotiate the institution and I'm fairly cynical about human behaviour. But having thought about it as carefully as I could, I didn't draw a line between Catholic 'occasions' and secular ones, precisely because I thought it was dangerous to do so. (Most of the situations in which I suspected my children would be at risk from secret abuse by adults had nothing to do with priests or religious and it would have been imprudent to give them a false sense of security in non-Catholic occasions.) Others must make their own judgments. But if you think (for example) that your children would be safer in a non-Catholic boarding school rather than a Catholic one, I think you're a fool. And I think you'd also be foolish to think that the danger of a cover up would be any less in a non-Catholic institution than a Catholic one.  That doesn't exculpate those Catholics who have either committed the abuse or covered it up. But it is precisely because it is a widespread problem across society that the Church needs to open itself up to engage critically with those who might have something to teach it.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

More on McLennan and safeguarding

                                                             The culture of secrecy

Ttony of The Muniment Room asked a really good question in the combox of my previous post which has kept me reflecting over the past few days:

I was struck by the Japanese PM last weekend saying that Japan is reaching the point at which it should stop having to say sorry for WWII. Leaving that question aside, what point would our Church have reached for us to be able to say that it could stop apologising? Obviously there's no answer, but charting the course that gets us from here to there at least involves facing up to the enormity of what this means for us all. 

As he notes, it's a good question which obviously has no answer. And yet, why does it not have an answer?

In turning this over again and again in my mind, I was reminded of a bit in Sean O'Casey's Autobiographies where he basically tells a survivor of Stalin's gulags that he doesn't believe his story of suffering because of his loyalty to Communism. (So my memory tells me. But I've flipped through the indexless volumes and can't find it. It was many, many years ago since I last read them. Did I dream it? Anyway...) When I read that as a teenager, it struck me as utterly appalling. And it is that danger that Catholics must avoid. I love the Church. I will die a Catholic. And yet none of that, indeed because of that, nothing must stand in the way of hearing and recognising the truth.

Yet. Yet. One reads Catherine Deveney's piece in the Guardian. The apology 'rings hollow to me' she says. I sympathise. I'm not a great fan of institutional apologies: I'm not quite sure what they are, what language game they're part of. Normally, one expects agency and a resolve to change. I did something. I will not do it again. In the case of Japan, the narrative goes something like this. My nation deliberately inflicted harm on others as a result of a militaristic culture. We are sorry for having done this and we have changed. We are resolved never to do it again.

Does this pattern fit the Catholic Church? Deveney clearly thinks so. For her, the Catholic Church is a baroque, Protestant nightmare, full of flickering shadows and whispered corruptions:

They process slowly to the altar, Scotland’s Catholic bishops, their elaborate robes and red zucchettos symbols of their power and status. Around them, the light, honey-coloured stone arches of St Andrew’s cathedral in Glasgow soar, Italian-style embellishment spiralling up the slender columns in Madonna-blue paint and gold leaf...I am struck – not for the first time since the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien two years ago – by the way opulence sits cheek by jowl with ugliness inside the Catholic church.
The Catholic church had shaped my childhood. Flickering candles and the heavy scent of incense. Shadowy statues in dimly lit churches, the crucified Christ crowned with thorns and stained with blood. For me, those candles now flickered precariously and the bleeding figure of Christ took on the shape of abused children.

Deveney's Church is one that needs as much of a complete change of culture as did militaristic Japan. (One imagines that the flickering candles and talk of mysteries would have to go just as certainly as did Emperor worship and subuku.) It is frankly an impossible change. All one can do is to walk away from the shadows into the light (as one assumes Deveney has done).

Apologies are made for something to someone. If the 'someone' here is Deveney or Gerry Hassan with his glib talk of 'systemic' cover up, then the something is really beyond repair: it must simply be done away with. And that I guess for the majority of Protestant or secularised Scotland is straightforwardly the case. If we sweep away the candles, and the priests, and the doctrine, then and only then might we be in the position of the New Japan. In this narrative, a Japan-like apology does make sense and, even if at some distant point in the future, the need for apology might stop when we are completely new, a completely different Church.

But for Catholics -us- that sort of apology is impossible. The candles will not go. The whispered shame of the confessional will not go. The oddity of priestcraft (and indeed, it is odd) will not go. And we are left in the uncomfortable position of not being able blithely to damn the lot, but of sifting, with care. What (precisely) went wrong? What (precisely) can be done to prevent it in the future? What (precisely) can be done to repair the wrongs done? And here there are, I suspect, absolutely no solutions, but only ameliorations.

Deveney says:

For too long the Catholic church had been allowed to be lawmaker, judge, jury and hangman in its own world. 

Which world is this? In Ireland, much of the evil done was a result of the interpenetration of state and Church. But Scotland? There is a police force. There are courts. There are industrial tribunals. None of these are controlled by the Church. Any organisation, academic, industrial, governmental, professional, tends to the protection of its own, to its secrecies. Certainly there must be a willingness on the part of citizens to co-operate with law, but it is in the nature of criminal law that it must push against the reluctance of criminals and those around them  to be discovered. And as far as concrete evidence is concerned, the McLennan report states:

2.41 A senior social worker told the Commission that the Catholic Church was no worse than other big institutions in its reluctance to engage with the authorities. 

This has been a rambling post simply because I do not have a solution. To try to answer Ttony's question, there is no point at which we could stop apologising. Personally, I dislike institutional apologies: I'd much rather see concrete work done on the three questions.

What (precisely) went wrong?
What (precisely) can be done to prevent it in the future?
What (precisely) can be done to repair the wrongs done?

Perhaps real advance here would make the apology sound less hollow. But an apology made to those who think the Church should simply disappear will never suffice. Fair enough. In the end, I care less about what people think about the Church than that it does the right thing.