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The Life of Cardinal Winning: This Turbulent Priest

The Life of Cardinal Winning

by Stephen McGinty

Stephen McGinty tells for the first time the full life-story of Cardinal Thomas Winning, arguably the most controversial and pugnacious Archbishop in recent British history. Cardinal Winning's father was an unemployed miner in Lanarkshire, whose illegitimate birth remained a family secret Winning took to his grave. Raised in a crucible of anti-Catholicism, Winning - as priest, bishop and cardinal - set about moving the Catholic Church, by sheer force of his own personality, out of the ghetto and into the mainstream. His stated ambition was to build the City of God on the streets of Glasgow, but his Pastoral Plan for spiritual renewal fell on somewhat stony ground - partly because of problems with his priests, partly through his own impatience. As Archbishop of Glasgow, he almost bankrupted his diocese with a debt of £10 million, yet still found the funds to offer cash to dissuade women from having an abortion. Cardinal Winning never ceased to be an outspoken and unashamed champion of traditional Catholic values, fiercely anti-abortion and anti-homosexual acts.

Cardinal Winning was an outspoken and unashamed champion of traditional Catholic values who became a constant thorn in the government's side. The son of an unemployed miner in Lanarkshire, he grew up in the 1930s, a time of great hostility to Roman Catholics; he himself was bullied and forced to renounce his faith in the face of Protestant hostility.
As an adult he fought hard against the repression of Catholics and the "loose morals" of an increasingly secular society. Strongly anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality, and a bit of a misogynist, he strongly defended the poor and the unemployed when he was Archbishop of Glasgow. Despite being beset by ill health and insecurity, he became (in 1994) only the third Scottish Cardinal of the 20th century. His sharp tongue often landed him in hot water; he compared abortion to the practices of the Nazis and accused Prince Charles of "woolly theology" when Charles criticized the Vatican's stance on divorce. In addition, he was something of a closet nationalist who was privately keen to see an independent Scotland.

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