Prickly Prelate Who Will Brook No Dissent
Vallely, Paul, The Independent (London, England)
Few Catholics in Scotland are surprised at the vehemence of Cardinal Thomas Winning's attack on Tony Blair over New Labour's attitude to abortion. He is not known for his coyness. This was after all the man who trenchantly attacked the Tories under Margaret Thatcher and once rounded on the Prince of Wales for "woolly theology".Born 71 years ago of Lanarkshire working- class stock, Thomas Winning never lost the salty characteristics of his upbringing nor the laager mentality of a childhood in a nation where anti-Catholicism was entrenched more deeply south of the border.
It developed in him a strong sense of justice and a social conscience well to the left of centre. Those who know him say that had he not been a priest, he would probably even have become an MP of the Old Labour variety - "a kind of hard-left Jimmy Knapp, but with a career sprinkled with gaffes".
There are those who would say his church career is not dissimilar. But there was another formative influence there. He went from school to a junior and then a senior seminary, trained in Rome and after ordination and taking up parochial responsibilities returned to Rome as spiritual director of the Scots College seminary there. It was before the liberalising Second Vatican Council, when the Church turned outwards to embrace the insights and the challenges of the secular world. Though Cardinal Winning encompassed its theological and pastoral approach he was never able to shake off the hierarchical and authoritarian tradition which the reformers tried to renounce. Among his Roman posts he has been a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's fierce suppressor of dissent and watchdog of doctrinal orthodoxy. Priests and laity in the Cardinal's archdiocese in Glasgow speak of him as a hard, even harsh, disciplinarian who is unused to contradiction. That is why his intervention in the political debate this week characteristically took the form of a personal reproof of Mr Blair. …