Reformation Revisited
Scotland’s last Catholic seminary closes

Martin Blackshaw

Is it any wonder?

(Posted June 29, 2009  The last week in May 2009 saw the last Mass celebrated in the last seminary in Scotland. Scotus College, home to a mere nine candidates for the priesthood, closed its doors for good bringing the curtain down on almost 300 years of official seminary life in a country once so Catholic that the Popes accorded it the special title of “dearest daughter of the Church.”

If these Popes were alive today I think it quite likely that the word “dearest” would be replaced with ‘dysfunctional’ in keeping with a complete loss of the sense of the sacred in the Scottish hierarchy.

While it is truly lamentable that a 16-year-old seminary should be fated to call time on a glorious history, one look at the chapel in that horrendous building does provide some comfort in the knowledge that at least one thoroughly liberal hell hole has gone down the drain sooner rather than later.

I have never seen such a dreadful excuse for a Catholic chapel, as that in Scotus. Frankly, I would have hesitated to walk my dog near the place let alone send young men there to be malformed as priests.

For more than 1000 years the Church in Scotland was at the very heart of Catholicism in Europe. It was a seat of great learning and evangelising from the 6th to the 16th centuries, numbering among its litany of saints such illustrious names as Ninian, Kentigern and Columba.

Then came the Protestant Revolution which saw the Catholic hierarchy abolished, churches, seminaries and universities burned down or seized, priests executed or driven out and the general Catholic population dispersed into small pockets throughout the land. Catholicism in Scotland was almost, but not quite, eradicated.

With worshipping, voting and property ownership rights removed from Catholics by the Reformers, underground seminaries were established in the highlands and islands to cater for the needs of an impoverished faithful.

For their part, the Popes established Scottish seminaries in the safe havens of Rome and Spain which sent priests to Scotland by secret route to help in the pastoral work, a work that meant certain death for those discovered. These priests became known as “the priests of the heather.”

Outstanding among these great priests was the Jesuit St. John Ogilvie who was hanged, drawn and quartered in Glasgow in 1615 for the crime of being a Roman Catholic priest.

Finally, in 1714, through the blood of these martyrs, the persecution was sufficiently relaxed to allow a semi-official seminary (Scanlan) to be established. It was small, but it was a beginning.

By 1878, and with no small thanks to a very large Irish Catholic immigration, the Church was permitted to re-establish the hierarchy in Scotland. It was the very first act of the new pope—Leo XIII.  

From that year Catholicism spread rapidly across the country so that by 1970 five seminaries, two junior and three senior, had sprung up and were filling up. Indeed, even in 1970 the intake of young men for just one of the junior colleges was 65. This gives us an idea of how vocations were flourishing… until, that is, the Conciliar vandals took over.

The early Protestant Reformers employed brutal violence to deprive Scottish Catholics of their religion. With the reformers of Vatican II, however, the method applied was a gentle coaxing into religious indifference through doctrinal deviances introduced under a false application of obedience to authority.

The Catholic Hierarchy in Scotland enforced the New Mass and ecumenism, stripped the churches of their altars and rails, their tabernacles and shrines, introduced Communion in the hand, standing, Ministers of the Eucharist, women active in the Sanctuary, and all those other abuses Catholics had previously associated with Protestantism. The bishops did all these things in the name of Vatican II, claiming obedience to their lawful authority, and Catholics fell for it hook, line and sinker.

As a result of this alien interpretation of our holy religion, many priests and faithful abandoned the faith, while the number of vocations naturally began to decrease.

Rather than address the real source of the problem, the bishops began a succession of seminary closures and mergers until they had eradicated all but one seminary—their 1993 liberal flagship called Scotus. Now they have succeeded in closing even that strange place and moved us a step closer to a country of priestless parishes, which, of course, is what the Protestant Reformation sought in vain to achieve 400 years ago.

It was interesting to note a newspaper report on the closure of Scotus in which Cardinal Keith O’Brien (East Scotland) and Archbishop Mario Conti (West Scotland) expressed their “trauma” at the closing of this last seminary in the land.


Let us briefly examine a few incidents in the course of stewardship of these two most senior Scottish prelates to see if “trauma” means for them what the trauma of taking away the traditional Catholic faith meant for a multitude of Scots.

A few years ago, I was informed that a certain Fr. Gerry Nugent, the parish priest of the beautiful red sandstone church of St. Patrick in Glasgow, was handing the building over to the Buddhists for three days as the paying venue for their ‘musical bowls’ concert.

I already knew about the outrageous Fr. Nugent’s ministry in that church, how he had tables and chairs and couches placed at the back of the church facing the tabernacle where vagrants ate, slept and held loud and uncouth conversations. I had also heard about his posters on the notice board supporting active homosexuals and other such scandals. Archbishop Conti had been informed of all these things, but failed to address them. This Buddhist outrage was the limit.

Before setting off to join a small group to recite rosaries of reparation outside St. Patrick’s, I telephoned Cardinal O’Brien and appraised him of the situation. He claimed to know nothing of it and promised to call me straight back once he had spoken on the phone with Archbishop Conti.

Needless to say I never received that return call, but there was a police presence at St. Patrick’s when I arrived and we Catholics were sternly warned that we must not attempt to enter the church.

What we managed to see through the open door was a picture of the Dali Lama on the altar and a host of Buddhist monks sitting on the Sanctuary floor chanting their prayers. This was Cardinal O’Brien’s and Archbishop Conti’s response to our Catholic protest of sacrilege—to call the police!

A few years later the news broke that the brutalised body of a missing Polish girl had been found under the floor of that church. One of Fr. Nugent’s vagrant friends was arrested for the crime and it soon became clear that he was a fugitive serial rapist and murderer. It later came out that he was also responsible for the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl.

Of course the press had a field day and many mea culpas inevitably followed, but the church was never formally reconsecrated and no Church penalty was incurred by our negligent shepherds, even though Cardinal O’Brien had only decade before been severely reprimanded by Pope John Paul II for his dissent from the Church’s moral teaching.

Now here is the really sickening part. When Pope Benedict XVI released Summorum Pontificum, Archbishop Conti raised a good many eyebrows around the globe with his extremely repressive interpretation of that document. It was to all intents and purposes public disobedience to the wishes of the Holy Father in an outright rejection of the right of traditional Catholics to the old Mass. He arranged for a new Mass in Latin to be celebrated every week in none other than St. Patrick’s church.

Is it any wonder, then, that Scotland is now without seminaries? Is it a surprise that with such deplorable leadership Pope John Paul II finally had to admit that Scotland is no longer a Christian country?

Archbishop Conti is due to retire. The one tapped to succeed him is Bishop Philip Tartaglia who’s already written a negative response to my inquiry regarding Summorum Pontificum. He said he was raised with the old Mass but has no desire whatever to celebrate it and claims the existence of all manner of obstacles for those who wish it.

So it seems it will be business as usual for the Conciliar reformation hierarchy in Scotland. These are men who baulk at tradition. Archbishop Conti’s Cathedral church looks like an empty barn, it is as void of Catholic beauty as any Protestant equivalent. And now we have no more seminaries here in Scotland.

By their fruits we know them…