Catholics in a changing Scotland: the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, 1878-1965
Turnbull, Michael T. R. B.
Between 1878 and 1965, the Catholic Church in Scotland changed from a small, reclusive and relatively unassertive community to become a force to be reckoned with in social and political terms. The thesis (the first to be based on a thorough examination of the episcopal correspondence of St Andrews and Edinburgh 1878-1965 held in the Scottish Catholic Archives, Edinburgh), argues that this change was caused by the combination of two momentous but unexpected and unconnected events in the 1850s and after — first, the arrival in Scotland of large numbers of economic migrants from Ireland (most of them Catholics) and second, the conversion (through the influence of John Henry Newman) of influential members of the Scottish aristocracy. The former were mainly confined to what is today the geographically small but very densely populated province of Glasgow, the latter, to the geographically more extensive province of St Andrews and Edinburgh, where Irish migrants, much fewer in numbers, integrated more successfully. While Irish migration has been extensively studied by scholars, the conversion of the aristocracy has, with some notable exceptions, remained unappreciated. The thesis contends that it was principally the simultaneous impact of these two phenomena which accounted for the development of the Catholic community in modern Scotland; that it was not only the critical mass of migrants which gave the Catholic Church political leverage but also the networking skills and the funds ofthe convert elites. Other changes in the Catholic Church were subsumed into this larger picture: the role of the clergy was transformed from a pastoral one in 1886 to a combative one in the 1930s and 1940s, while at the same time shifting vis-a-vis the laity (who were themselves moving from subjugation to co-responsibility). The thesis, however, deals not only with the secular clergy but also with the activities of religious orders — the important national provincial Council of Fort Augustus (1886), for example, and the consecration in 1929 of the dynamic Benedictine Abbot Andrew J. McDonald as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. By 1918, the virtual collapse of the Catholic school system played into the hands of the government; the resulting financial compromise was mutually beneficial but its price (while it affirmed the Catholic community by providing the educational tools for better employment opportunities), was the loss of autonomy and control. After a series of financial scandals in the 1880s and other examples of mismanagement in the first two decades of the twentieth century, episcopal and parish finances gradually recovered as stricter safeguards were imposed. Between the first and second Vatican Councils a sea-change is visible, not only in the relationship between pope and bishop but also between clergy and laity. The pressure of social and political events 11 gradually transformed the hierarchical pyramid that was the Catholic Church of 1878 into the more egalitarian model of the People of God as embraced in 1965 by the Second Vatican Council.