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 ("Sadness greets leader's decision", The Herald, February 26, and Letters, February 26).

The Cardinal celebrated mass in Dunbar with us on Saturday night and I spoke briefly to him afterwards. His parting words to me were "to keep carrying the flag".

Now, more than ever, Scotland's Catholics must be strong in their faith and not be afraid to defend and promote the Catholic Church and her values. 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 "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.

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

Martin Conroy,

Daisy Cottage, Oldhamstocks, East Lothian.

I AM astonished that, in the vast swirl of comment about Cardinal O'Brien's resignation, the central issue has had limited discussion .

The issue is that a church leader who expressed anti-gay views in vehement language with apparent personal disgust, who spearheaded a huge campaign against gay marriage, has himself been accused of inappropriate approaches to men. There is a pressing need for the Catholic Church to re-examine its attitudes to gay people, and to do so openly and accountably to its own churchgoers, many of whom disagree with its stance in any case.

It is a great pity that Cardinal O'Brien's recent sensible and overdue suggestion that priests be allowed to marry has now been overshadowed by these events. The Catholic Church in Europe has been in crisis for years, as numbers of applicants for the priesthood decline. In Scotland, where Cardinal O'Brien as leader abandoned most of his once-liberal principles, the traditionalist conservative grip and influence of the West of Scotland hierarchy needs to be replaced by open and imaginative, forward-looking leadership. Perhaps the current upheaval will precipitate that: but alas, probably not.

Sarah Nelson,

Comely Bank Road,


WHATEVER the outcome of Cardinal Keith O'Brien's current personal Via Dolorosa his name, it must be said, has been one of the few which, both before and during his cardinalate, has consistently appealed for an essential dignity and decency to prevail in human society even, I may say, in the midst of our common human frailty; in contrast, that is, to the intolerable and cowardly fence-sitting and/or moral silence which has otherwise characterised various religious and indeed political bodies and institutions in these days. I will continue to pray for a gracious and charitable outcome anent the Cardinal and his critics.

Revd Alistair Jessamine

Minister Emeritus, Dunfermline Abbey,

11 Gallowhill Farm Cottages, Strathaven.

Being someone fairly devoid of any organised religion engagement I am deeply disturbed that anyone – cardinal or car mechanic –can be so easily condemned by a witch-hunt which obfuscates accusation and allegation, then reverses our time-honoured principle of innocent until proven guilty. The unseemly haste of the Vatican to extinguish this issue set amidst shadowy accusations and anonymous accusers appears to me to indicate other agendas taking priority. In so doing it creates a dangerous precedent for a plague of score-settling on a mediaeval scale. How does this square with the principles of a civilized democratic society for which so many have fought and died to establish?

George Devlin,


6 Falcon Terrace Lane, Glasgow.

Amidst all this turmoil in the Catholic Church it might be helpful to view this crisis from a more basic perspective.

The Catholic Church is based on a premise and a promise. The premise is that human beings are not perfect, but are subject to temptations that neither benefit themselves nor those around them and to which they often succumb. The promise is that forgiveness is available subject to sincere repentance and a willingness to act with integrity in the future.

In essence the teachings of the church are a guide to what integrity entails and its consequences for our behaviour. Notwithstanding the recognition that its leaders are also fallible, belief in the promise that its message is true and eternal has enabled the church to survive for 2000 years. It might not be music to some ears, but the Catholic Church has had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra.

Gerry Devlin,

34 Monroe Drive, Uddingston.

I READ with interest Harry Reid's comprehensive indictment as to who can be believed and who is telling the truth following the almost daily exposé of politicians, bankers and now leading church figures ( "Is there anyone out there the world can still trust?", The Herald, February 24). Such corrupt practices are per se no new phenomena. It is merely that persons are now prepared to publicly speak out on unacceptable treatment they have hitherto endured. However, until proven beyond doubt, society has to be cautious as to both the timing and aim of such revelations. Occasionally the informative source will prove to be the enemy within, be it political party, corporate business or even church hierarchy. It is no longer a question of who will cast the first stone. It is more a case of applicants willing to do a demolition job. The truth hurts but that is surely preferable to an ever-continuing, spinning web of deceit.

Regardless of the power or position of the arraigned party it is imperative that accusations are publicly considered and publicly resolved. Such process is in the interests of all parties concerned.

Allan C Steele,

22 Forres Avenue, Glasgow.

MARRIED Catholic priests are not an innovation. Since the Roman Catholic Church appropriated Orthodox Church territories in Eastern Europe and Ukraine from 1596 onwards it allowed their parish priests to continue to marry, but only before ordination; they were not allowed a second marriage.

There are substantial Eastern Rite churches in most East European countries; in Ukraine, Slovakia and Romania in particular. Despite decades of persecution involving many martyrdoms under Soviet or satellite rule – the Communists regarded them as a Trojan horse of the Vatican – they resurfaced brimming with vitality, as I saw them filling the central square in Cluj in Romania for an outdoor mass.

Nor have they had problems with vocations, as I found during a visit to an overcrowded Slovak seminary in Presov. Attempts by the Roman church to ban married priests in its many Ukraine communities in the United States and Canada have encouraged considerable opposition – some vibrant young priests I met in 1987 in Washington told me they had beaten the ban; they had gone back to Europe to be ordained by their own bishops there.

Mrs Janice A Broun,

Martin Lodge, Ardross Place,