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Monday, 17 April, 2000, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Winning Weighs In: transcript
Cardinal Winning graphic
This is the full transcript of Frontline Scotland's Winning Weighs In programme, broadcast on 4 April.

Martin Hogg, Lesbian and Gay Christian Association: I don't think Cardinal Winning needs to be the man he is.

I think the sense of fear and loathing of certain communities that comes across from him is not something which goes with his office.

And I think the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland deserves someone who is preparatory more loving, and more open, and more tolerant.

Sister Rosann Reddy, Cardinal Winning Pro Life Initiative: All the Cardinal is doing is what a Cardinal of the Catholic Church should be doing, and that is leading his people, that is teaching his people.

That's one of his primary roles as a bishop of the Church.

Presenter, Jane Franchi: His critics say he's over the top with his comments; out of touch with public opinion; and that he's often wrong.

His supporters say he is in tune with his Church; in touch with his people; and that he's right.

When Cardinal Winning weighs in, it captures headlines. There's nothing new in that. He's always been outspoken.

What is new is the fledgling parliament on his doorstep, whose members read those headlines, knowing that he speaks for three quarters of a million Catholics in Scotland - in theory.

In practice, when Winning weighs in, who does he represent, and who does he influence?

The miner's son from Wishaw epitomises the local boy made good. In his early 30s he'd already caught the eye of The Vatican and the Pope at the time and was made Spiritual Director of the Scots College in Rome.

He was only 49 when he became Archbishop of Glasgow.

Then, in 1994, he made history, he joined the elite of the Pope's closest advisers, Glasgow's first ever cardinal and only the third Scottish cardinal since the Reformation. The ceremony in Rome was quite a party.

Reporter: What do you think your first task will be now when you get back eventually to Scotland?

Cardinal Winning: Just to... not to impose myself on anybody, but just to take it quietly and see what emerges I suppose.

Presenter: What emerged was that the stated desire for and commitment to a quiet life wasn't to last.

Almost immediately he, who was considered left-wing, was on a collision course with the political party to which he was said to be so closely allied.

Labour, under Tony Blair, still in opposition, found this son of Lanarkshire condemning them for their stated commitment to Christian values and their free vote policy on abortion.

Winning: That to me is a sham, is a sham.

Presenter: Unequivocal as ever, as was his refusal to apologise.

Sister Rosann Reddy, Cardinal Winning Pro Life Initiative: I really do think he would much rather he didn't have to speak out on many of these issues.

But we're living in the 21st century and these are the issues he needs to speak out on. And centuries gone past cardinals spoke out on issues that nowadays we wouldn't even vaguely discuss because those were the issues of their generation, those were the issues of their day.

These are the issues of the 21st century, and these are the issues that people are looking for strong moral leadership, and if they can't find that in a cardinal of the Catholic Church, then we're in a sorry state.

Presenter: But there are those in the Catholic Church who disagree. Father John Fitzsimmons has long been a public and constant critic of the Cardinal's strong moral leadership.

It's too black and white, he says, too dogmatic. Real life just isn't like that.

Father John Fitzsimmons: To a whole lot of us in the Catholic Church who I think have no respect for the complexity of the modern world, and more respect for the complexity of the lives that people have to lead, and consequently are not so disposed just to toss out hard and fast formulae.

Whether those formulae come from 196 Clyde Street, or indeed from the Piazza Santa Vecchio in Rome.

Presenter: Wherever they come from they invariably come to the attention of Scotland's new legislators who are rarely left in any doubt about the Cardinal's stance on a wide range of issues.

Kate Maclean MSP, Scottish Labour Party: I do think in recent months he certainly has had a much higher profile, and I think MSPs are more aware of his opinion, and I have to say it is his opinion.

I know many Catholics who don't feel that Cardinal Winning represents their views, and their vision for the modern society.

Presenter: He's been described to us as Scotland's most powerful unelected politician.

Kate Maclean: I wouldn't say he was a politician. I think the problem is that the Church and state shouldn't encroach too much on other, on each other's territory. And the only to absolutely influence a vote in Parliament is to be an MSP.

The only person that can influence a vote is the MSP themselves, and I suppose if people want to have that ultimate influence then maybe they should think about being politicians.

Presenter:Inevitably across the country at the Archdiocese office in Glasgow where, of course, Cardinal Winning does have the ultimate influence, his outspoken comments aren't seen as Church encroaching on state territory.

As a cardinal he's obliged to provide moral leadership, and that's what he's doing. But given his unshakeable stance on certain lifestyle and moral issues, such as abortion and contraception, it was inevitable that old Church and new state were heading for conflict. Collision course.

Health Minister Susan Deacon's initiative to combat the rising number of teenage pregnancies and the increase in sexually transmitted diseases among young people.

Her proposals included expansion in sex advice; free contraception; and possibly the morning after pill at clinics across Scotland.

Father John Keenan: They're given more and more sex education, more and more contraceptive advice, and facility to young people and it's not working.

So what do we do, we give them even more, and it still doesn't work because we have more teenage pregnancies, more abortions, so what's the answer?

We give them even more again. And what we've been saying is well maybe that's not the answer.

Maybe instead we shouldn't be going down a road which for a generation hasn't been successful. I don't ... in that context, what I would say is that Susan Deacon's policies, and the policies of the executive in that regard, are extremely unhelpful, even foolish.

Presenter: And completely at odds with the teaching of the Catholic Church, which forbids contraception and abortion.

It's a measure of the Cardinal's total commitment to those teachings that he set up his Pro-life Initiative, and measure of Sister Rosanne Reddy's commitment that she runs it.

Presenter: Is he leading a people who don't actually agree with what he says, who are in fact not practising what he preaches?

Sister Roseann: No, I think the vast majority of Catholics are practising what the Church teaches.

Presenter:It's always young Catholic women and not practising contraception?

Sister Roseann: I'm telling you that as many of them are as are not. I'm telling you that many of them are, I can't speak for every Catholic and neither can you speak for every Catholic woman, and neither can you speak for the number that are using contraception or not.

But what I'm saying is there are a lot of young Catholic women, and men, who are following the Church teachings, who are striving to know and to understand what God is asking of them.

Presenter:The Tablet - a weekly newspaper published in London for Catholic communities around the world. It's considered liberal, aware that practising Catholics will not always absolutely abide by the Church's teachings.

Annabel Miller, executive editor, The Tablet: I think clearly the Humani Vitae, which was the document that banned contraception in 1968 did cause a huge crisis of conscious in the Church, and a lot of people went away and didn't come back.

And I think that's the reason also people don't go to Church these days, is because they just don't agree with that rule, they don't think it's right.

But I think a lot of Catholics, whether they go to Church or not, are using contraception. I think that just simply must be the case when you look at the size of their family. Unless they've all got massive self-control, which I think is rather hard to believe.

Presenter: No-one's in any doubt though about the Cardinal's beliefs. He wouldn't be interviewed for this programme, but his spokesman says he maintains his stance on a whole range of moral issues, be it contraception, sex before marriage, abortion, no matter how out of vogue he might seem.

Presenter: Do you accept that that once again puts the Catholic Church in conflict with, shall we say, the more open-mindedness which appears to exist in Scotland now, that you appear to be in this very entrenched position?

Ronnie Convery, Cardinal Winning's spokesman: It puts us in conflict with what you might call the forces of political correctness. It puts us in conflict with what you might call the siren voices of liberalism.

But I don't think that it puts us out of touch with the deeply held values of most people in Scotland.

Presenter: When you call them the siren voices of liberalism, what do you mean by that?

Convery: I mean people who would advocate an absolutely anything goes morality.

Presenter: And in the Cardinal's eyes, if anything goes it should not be Section 28. Undoubtedly the biggest controversy in the short history of the Scottish Parliament, the executive's commitment to scrap it.

Section 28 bans the promotion of homosexuality in schools. In the executive's opinion it's unnecessary and discriminatory. In the Cardinal's opinion it is vital, protecting against, in his words ...

Winning: ... I hesitate to use the word 'perversion', but let's face up the truth of this situation, that's what it is. Are we now being asked to say what was wrong before is now right, and they can go ahead and do it.

It's bound to affect society. It's bound to affect the transmission of things that we don't want in society. It's bound to affect the promotion of a lifestyle which is contrary to everything, natural law, not just religion.

Presenter: Indeed, the Keep the Clause campaign has crossed religious divides, uniting the Cardinal with millionaire bus owner Brian Souter, together with, among others, Muslim, Hindu, and Free Church leaders.

Religious divides may have been crossed, but many argue that enormous barriers are going up in their place.

Martin Hogg is a law lecturer at Edinburgh University. He's a committed Christian, a member of the Episcopal Church. But he's also gay.

Martin Hogg, Lesbian and Gay Christian Association: I was becoming optimistic about Scotland's getting away from this. We were becoming a more accepting, tolerant society.

We had this wonderful parliament, it was presenting a future for all Scottish people to maximise their happiness, and to realise their potentials and their dreams.

And suddenly in comes this man and tries to demolish that, and without realising the effect it has on ordinary human beings lives.

Winning: If you say anything about homosexuality today you are accused of being homophobic, which is absolute rubbish.

Presenter: Predictably the group of gay people who joined Frontline for a discussion had their own views on Cardinal Winning's comments about their lifestyles.

Female: I do practice, I am a Catholic, and go to Church. And I take communion, and I go to confession. And I went to Church the other Sunday, and I walked in and there was a big book and everybody was signing it.

I was like ... oh I wonder what that is? I went up, and it was a petition for Section 28. I was so disgusted.

They were handing out leaflets and everything. And then when I sat down to receive Mass, I just ... I wondered why I was there.

Female: Maybe he doesn't realise that every time he says something in the media, or the press, about homosexuality and how it is a perversion, and how it's not right.

There are people listening to what he says, young gay people particularly I'm sure, indeed Catholics, who listen to what he says and take that on board.

Male: Church numbers have been falling now. They can't fill churches any longer. I think he's appealing to peoples' prejudices.

Presenter: Calling them perverted doesn't seem to be treating them with respect. This is a point which has been put to us by those who found that remark very, very hurtful, damaging to them, damaging to their faith, certainly not signs of respect to them.

Father John Keenan: I think if the Cardinal had said that homosexuals, or practising homosexuals were perverted then ... it sounds as though we're playing with words, but I don't think it is.

What he is saying all the time is that as a person anyone - homosexual, heterosexual, whatever condition or state of affairs is someone who is created in the image and likeness of God, you're uniquely loved by God, deserving dignity and respect.

But that having been said, there are certain kinds of action which are either right or wrong, and the Cardinal was not referring to statements about people, but rather specifically talking about an action, the genital homosexual act, which I think when we think about it in terms of what it is, imagine what it is, that many people would say well maybe there isn't something which is absolutely right about that.

Presenter: Some may find the debate an uncomfortable one. People in the gay community say it's more threatening than that.

Martin Hogg: Although I've got a fairly thick skin myself, you do start to wander around feeling, I mean particularly at the height of the debate when he was really laying in with his language of perversion ... you did wander around the streets thinking are people are looking at you differently? What are they thinking? What's going to happen next?

Presenter: Of course you can't actually say that that was because of him or because of the debate on Clause 28.

Martin Hogg: Well, I can, because if somebody starts to ... broadcast on national media and across the press comments about gay people being perverted, you are going to make those people feel vulnerable.

I mean, if you start making racist comments about people, start making sexist comments about people they'll feel vulnerable no matter how hard skinned they are, because they are worried that somebody is going to pick up on these comments and use them as an excuse to take out aggression on individuals.

Annabel Miller: I think sometimes on the Section 28 debate he's been so forthright as to alienate some people who could have otherwise supported him. For example I think on the ... there is quite a big ground swell of opinion that people don't want children to have homosexuality thrust at them at school as an alternative lifestyle.

But a lot of those people actually don't want words like perversion used to describe homosexuality.

A lot of people who would have not much problems with what he's saying do have a problem with the way he's saying it sometimes, because it comes across as uncompassionate, rather reactionary.

Convery: The official teaching of the Catholic Church, which is to be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that is the ultimate definition of these things, describes homosexuality, the homosexual act as an act of great depravity.

Now, he could have said that. He actually quoted St Paul, and said the homosexual act was a perversion. Which, if you think of it, what does perversion mean: perversion means "to use something for a purpose other than that for which it was intended."

And I think most people, even gay people, would say that the homosexual act involves the use of the human body for a purpose other than that for which it might be perceived to have been designed.

So in that sense, the Cardinal, you might actually say was softening the line, because I would have thought perversion was a less strong word than to call an act of grave depravity.

Father John Fitzsimmons: The whole thing got out of hand. I mean there are two dimensions to this. One is the kind of self assurance and dogmatism, if you like, of the new Labour Executive, that thinks all it has to do is to say we're going to do this and it'll be done.

That's the first thing. The second thing is, the Cardinal's reaction and the opinion of most other folk that I know of, is completely over the top. And quite a lot of Catholics that I've spoken to, and I'm not talking about people who work in universities, or anything, I'm just talking about ordinary simple folk when you talk to them about it, they like to bang heads together.

We'd say how on earth have we reached the situation in such a short period of time where the Church and the parliament are barking at one another. They should be sitting down and having dinner together and talking these things out.

Presenter: Talking things out, but to what extent should religion be part of the discussion? Because according to a new book it's becoming less and less important. Scotland's Shame examines sectarianism.

Sociologist David McCrone has co-authored a chapter. He suggests that this diminishing power of the Church could lie behind the Cardinal's high profile.

Professor David McCrone, University of Edinburgh: I think the role of the Catholic Church in Scotland, as other churches, is now coming under serious consideration.

We've seen, for example, from the recent surveys that by 1999 the most important group of religious people are people who don't have a religious affiliation, and therefore being a Catholic, being a Protestant, being a member of a denomination is certainly a minority sport these days.

Perhaps he has calculated that the only way to defend interest is to play a political game, to raise the profile. Because in a highly secularising society where fewer and fewer people are influenced by religion there seems very little point in being apathetic, keeping your head down, nothing to be gained perhaps is what he has calculated.

And the only way that you can raise the stakes is to have a high public profile.

Presenter: It couldn't be much higher. He's even been described as a media star. Rarely a week goes by without a quote, or a reaction from the Cardinal.

Convery: He is someone who is prominent in public life. He is well known, and he's not afraid to put his head above the parapet. And you're a journalist, you know that makes someone a media star, that makes someone of interest. Very few people in public life are prepared to put their head above the parapet and say what they believe to be true.

He happens to be prepared to do so, and he gets a bit of flack for it, but he gets a lot of support for it. But he doesn't do it to make the headlines.

Presenter: He makes them nonetheless, although he can't guarantee they support him. A recent editorial in The Sunday Herald asked: "Does Cardinal Winning truly represent the majority opinion of Scottish Catholics on a range of moral issues. And if it doesn't, what are they going to do about it?"

Joint author of the editorial, Pat Kane, who was born a Catholic, says the liberals have been silent too long. His editor believes one of his tasks is to give them a voice.

Andrew Jaspan, Editor, Sunday Herald: I would hate you to, in any way, portray this paper as being on a campaign against Tom Winning, that's not the case.

What we have just sought to do is to question. The trouble is in this arena just to question, to seek to question can put you in a position where you are seen as being anti-Tom Winning, which by implication makes you anti-Catholic.

And what we're saying is it's a much more interesting, frankly, situation than we face in Scotland, and it's one that I think a lot of Catholics, I believe, given the correspondence I've had, share our views that there are no black and white absolutes on this thing.

Pat Kane, Associate Editor, Sunday Herald: If I hear another comment about how Cardinal Winning has lost it, that he's out of touch, and I can tell you a lot worse from amazingly prominent Catholics within this area, I think I would scream.

Because the level of criticism of his leadership is broad, widespread, and quite profound.

But you do not see a voice about anyone, and I think that's part of the whole unreconstructed semi-tribal nature of Scottish Catholicism at the moment.

And I think that that has to change, and I think ... I hope very much that it changes, and I think if there needs to be forces for that to change then I'm happy for my role within The Sunday Herald to do that, to say to people you don't always need to defer to the fathers, you can actually speak up about your own conflicts or religious identity in your country in your own way.

Presenter: It's the Cardinal's capacity for speaking up in his own way that concerns some. And not only because what he says is so often uncompromising and hard line.

But as one man in one archdiocese increasingly becomes the focus of media and public attention, the so-called voice of Scotland's Catholics, his critics warn it's an indication of the Church becoming more and more centralised.

Father John Fitzsimmons: The media almost universally referred to Cardinal Winning as the leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics ... he's not. My leader is my own bishop.

If I was a priest in Aberdeen my leader would be the Bishop of Aberdeen. My leaders are the Conference of Bishops in this country of whom Cardinal Winning happens to be the president.

And if I have a problem, I think the problem is this ... that I thought Conferences of Bishops were supposed to operate where the bishops together would come to a common mind, and then he, as the president, would articulate it.

What you've got in this country, small and all as it is, is one individual, ie. the Cardinal, who says something and the rest of us are left chasing the game, and that goes for the bishops as well as it goes for me, and I don't think that's healthy.

Sister Roseann: He's the head of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, and I'm sure if you went to all the other bishops, certainly when the Cardinal made his announcement about the Pro-life Initiative the next day the Bishops of Scotland were meeting and the Bishops of Scotland gave their wholehearted approval.

Presenter: Should they have known about it before though?

Sister Roseann: Well it's his initiative, it was up for him to decide that. He decided to do that, he has been the main person behind that. That's up to him if he wants to do that.

Like ... it's not ... the Catholic Church is not a committee, we've never been a committee, it's not run by committee. And part of the Cardinal's whole ethos in being a bishop and being a cardinal is to lead.

Presenter: But the whole question of leadership in the Catholic Church is coming under concerned scrutiny. As the Pope becomes more and more visibly frail it's being claimed that many of his statements, his pronouncements, are being formulated by ultra-Conservative Catholic factions with The Vatican.

The group most often mentioned by writers and observers - Opus Dei it means 'work of God'. Its members world-wide include the influential and the highly educated.

Father John Fitzsimmons: You'll always get organisations like Opus Dei, for example, which are intent on controlling and building the Church according to one single model, one single image of the Church, which is effectively a right wing, anti-greased kind of model of the Church.

And undoubtedly some of the people surrounding the Cardinal are of that stamp.

Presenter: Do you know this for sure?

Father John Fitzsimmons: Aye, and I think most people would recognise that that's the case. But even if they don't belong to Opus Dei, they come out of the same kind of stable in terms of the mentality and the way that they operate, and the way that they view the Church.

Now, I don't necessarily think it's sinister. What I do think is wrong with it is that it wants to press everybody into the one mould, and that's ... it's a type of ecclesiastical fascism.

Convery: It's essentially like a diocese with a bishop at its head, but which is spread throughout the world rather than being confined to one particular area of the Church.

Presenter: Is it very right wing?

Convery: Well, if you mean is it loyal to the Pope, then if that is right wing then it would be very right wing.

But I mean, so is Cardinal Winning, so are the vast majority of Catholics pretty loyal to the Pope. What is unfortunate is the people tend to regard being right wing as ... as being loyal to the Pope as being somehow right wing.

That's not right wing, that is faithful to the teaching and the tradition of the Catholic Church.

Presenter: But is it not a very reactionary movement. This is what the Liberals argue, that Opus Dei is a very reactionary movement in that it is, if you like, a measure of where the Catholic Church is going, and that's why that they're concerned about it.

Convery: Well, do they mean world-wide, I mean do they mean local.

Presenter: ... and here ...

Convery: ... the Pope has been very supportive to Opus Dei, I mean there's no doubt about that, he has made them a personal prelature, he's made their top man a bishop, he invites them to all his meetings and so on.

So he has certainly been very supportive towards them. But I mean Opus Dei is just one of a large number of groups, new religious movements they're called, who are springing up all over the Church.

Presenter: Are you a member of Opus Dei?

Convery: I'm not a member of Opus Dei. I know that some people say I'm a member of Opus Dei. I was a member of Opus Dei about five or six years ago, but I'm not a member of Opus Dei now.

Presenter: Why not, I mean how did you come out of it?

Convery: I decided I didn't want to be a member any more.

Presenter: Any particular reason?

Convery: I couldn't keep up with the spiritual life that was demanded of me, to be honest. Being a member of Opus Dei involves a very full spiritual life.

I mean it's going to Mass every day, the rosary every day, and hour of mental prayer every day. And I just couldn't keep up with it.

There is no secret about membership of Opus Dei. I would know if there were any other members of Opus Dei in and around this office, and I know there aren't.

Presenter: There aren't?

Convery: There aren't.

Presenter: So this is an unfounded fear then of the so-called liberal drive?

Convery: I have never heard that fear expressed. You express it to me, but I mean ... if they are worried about that, then they're barking up the wrong tree.

Presenter: But whatever the power structure around Cardinal Winning his critics warn that his and his office's dogmatic statements are in danger of increasing alienating Catholics.

And this in a nation whose new parliamentarians promise open-mindedness, understanding, and tolerance.

Father John Fitzsimmons: We Catholics have got to be careful because if we carry on the way we're going we could finish up as the only sectarian organisation in this country.

Presenter: Meanwhile, the miner's son, the media star, the man of the people, to some the left winger, to others the reactionary, Cardinal Winning reaches another milestone this summer.

On the third of June he'll be 75. Under Church law that means he must offer his resignation as a bishop. Nobody can say for certain, but it's thought unlikely that The Vatican will accept it.

Sister Roseann: The people love him, that's the thing, when the Cardinal was made Cardinal two plane-loads of people flew out to Rome just to be there, and I think he would be sadly missed if he had to retire, sadly missed.

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