The Endless Agony Uncle
For twenty years I have been engaged in a fight to remove a Catholic priest from a radio phone-in. Over the years, listeners to Radio Forth's phone-in Open Line have been hearing some amazing things from its host, Fr Andrew Monaghan, or "Andy," as he is known 'on air.' For he has been giving advice implying approval of abortion, contraception, fornication, and has advised homosexuals to attend a group with links to a paedophile organisation. When complaints have been made, his superiors have rallied to his support. When you read this account, you will wonder whether in its unswerving support for this priest, the hierarchy is not failing in its duty to the wider community. As a Catholic I could not just ignore this effective conspiracy to corrupt the morals of the public. Hence my reason for publicising this account.
Fostering Abortion and Contraception
A few words about the programme: it goes out from 11pm for three hours on Saturday nights, on Forth 2 and AM Tay Stations, being broadcast from Edinburgh. It started in 1979 and Fr Monaghan has been associated with it ever since - so it is now in its twenty-third year. Its span has coincided with that of the present pontificate, and is still without remedy from any Church authority. The listening audience is calculated at about 20,000. Until recently "Andy" was always accompanied 'on air' by a female colleague, whose role was clearly to respond to women with personal problems.
In 1982, I was leader of a pro-life group in Edinburgh, and undertook to check reports that Fr Monaghan was advising pregnant women to go to the local Brook Advisory Centre - which apart from other things was an abortion-referral agency (now called Caledonian Youth). On 22nd March 1982 I taped "Andy's" female counsellor "Jean" - advising a woman called Pauline who had an unplanned pregnancy to "go the place 'Andy' just mentioned.. which is the Brook Advisory Centre.. to decide whether or not you want to have this child." Then I discovered that "Jean" was the Organising Secretary of the "Brook Centre" - Mrs Jean Malcolm!
So here was the head of an abortion agency colluding with a priest in directing pregnant women to her Centre! I immediately wrote at once to Fr Monaghan's superior, Cardinal Gray, enclosing a transcript of the call - and revealing "Jean's" identity. He simply got the priest to write to me... and in his letter he claimed that "the Brook" often helped girls keep their babies. I was not so easily deceived however as I had internal documents from the Brook establishing that it had two main purposes - to provide free contraceptive advice to young people, and when that failed, to enable them to have abortions. Most of the pregnant women they saw went on to have an abortion. But why was this priest allowed to broadcast in this way? Why was he so apparently immune from censure? Was it not significant that his own uncle was the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh?
As for "Jean," after I had revealed her identity to the Cardinal, she left the programme, never to return.. Her successors all continued the policy of recommending "the Brook Centre." On 14th May 1983, a schoolgirl called Linda rang to say that she was pregnant and did not want her parents to know. "Jessie," the new female counsellor, urged her to attend "the Brook." Then Linda said: "Could I have an abortion in private?"
JESSIE: "The best thing you could do is to contact the Brook Advisory Centre and they will give you all the information you require. Will you do that?"
LINDA: "Right now I'm in the middle of my 'O' levels"…
ANDY: "You won't have any exams next week, Linda, have you?"
LINDA: "Well I've got ACCOUNTS on Monday."
ANDY: "Yes, well, maybe on Tuesday then - you'll have Tuesday off, have you?"
LINDA: "Ah, Yes."
ANDY: "That'll maybe be a day for a journey to Edinburgh - you could phone up on Monday evening - eh?"
ANDY: "Will you try that?"
LINDA: "Yes, I'll try that."
JESSIE: "Good. Right, well, you do that - and we'll be thinking of you Linda."
On Open Line one also could hear teenagers being urged to attend the Brook Centre for contraceptive advice. Thus on 7th May 1983, a lad of 18 called "Colin" told "Andy" that he had met a girl at a party three weeks before and had intercourse with her. She was now claiming she was pregnant by him. Andy said she was 'having him on' and then handed him over to his most recent 'counsellor':
HELEN: "Hallo Colin - I've a wee suggestion. Do you think you could maybe go along to the Brook Advisory Centre and just have a discussion with them about what you look for in a relationship - and a discussion with them about, you know, if you are going to have intercourse with your girlfriend you ought to be thinking about contraception. So I could give you their phone number and they would certainly be able to advise. [gives the number]. It might be a help for your girl-friend to go along there too… It's worthwhile doing some thinking about it now - and then you won't be caught again.".
ANDY: "When you phone up for an appointment, Colin, would you ask for an appointment with a Counsellor?"
ANDY:"And then they will know right away what sort of person to give you an appointment with."
ANDY:"And then it'll make it it much easier for you."
COLIN:"Right, so I just ask for a Counsellor?"
ANDY:"Yes, you ask for a Counsellor, you phone them up and ask for a Counsellor and they'll tell you a time to come along."
COLIN:"Right. Okay. I'm very grateful for your advice."
So off went Colin to the Brook for advice on contraception, just as Linda went to arrange for an abortion, both with the blessing of "Andy."
Cardinal Gray's Complicity
Naturally I again complained to Cardinal Gray. When he eventually replied, on 21st June 1983, he claimed that Linda went to "the Brook" merely for counselling, and then tried to suppress all my concerns by stating: "the work of Father A Monaghan on the Open Line…has been investigated before at local level and in Rome."
This implied that it had been approved. I found it hard to reconcile this affirmation of orthodoxy with what I was hearing on Open Line. Was the Cardinal really implying that the Vatican approved of "Andy's" advice to a woman called "Jean" on 4th February 1984? First the call was handled by Helen, who was then joined on air by "Andy":
HELEN: "Jean - you say you've been going out with your boyfriend now for over nine months and you love each other very much but you say that when you have sex you can't have an orgasm and you are beginning to think there is something wrong with you… I think your enjoyment of sex, and fulfilment, is linked up with being able to relax and be at ease with each other and enjoy each other. I don't think for a moment that you are some kind of freak at all."
ANDY: "It sounds to me that a lot of Jean's problems would be solved if she started talking with her boyfriend about it. This is one of those subjects where everybody doesn't say anything - and getting very mixed up about it - and all because they won't say, and if they just talk about it, they could have a laugh… somehow a wee smile relaxes their own relationship with one another."
HELEN: "I mean, Jean, you have to not have all sorts of expectations about yourself and about what's going to happen. You've just got to get to know your boyfriend better and the more you get to know him the more you get to love him, and the more he gets to know you the more he gets to love you, then the better things will be…"
ANDY: "Can cause an awful lot of distress though, can't it Helen?… There are books as well aren't there that she could read to open up the whole subject to herself and perhaps give her the language to talk about it with her boyfriend...?"
HELEN: "Yes, there are certainly quite a few books, Jean, that you might want to get. Perhaps if you had a sensitive librarian, you know, you could maybe get her on one side and ask her which ones she could recommend… but even just going and talking to your doctor might be of help especially perhaps if you are going for contraceptive advice, you could mention this to him and get some reassurance from him or her.'
Clearly "Andy's" sole aim was to make the sin more fully enjoyable! "Helen" was in fact… Rev Helen Cook of the United Free Church of Scotland. When I made her identity known, she too left without warning.
Another group recommended by "Andy" on Open Line was the Scottish Homosexual Rights Group - SHRG (now called OutRight! Scotland), which ran a 'gay centre.' This was originally based in the Edinburgh University Catholic Chaplaincy in George Square. Back in the 1970s the then Chaplain Fr Anthony Ross OP allowed this group to hold commercial dances in the premises, which were so successful and well-attended they raised sufficient funds to buy premises in Broughton St. I was concerned that like "the Brook" this Centre might hold hidden moral dangers. Then in early 1984 I was asked by the leader of Family and Youth Concern to investigate whether the paedophile group Paedophile Information Exchange [PIE] was linked to SHRG, as it was producing a magazine whose mailing address was an address in Broughton St.
So, with the awareness of the police, I went undercover in SHRG and discovered that its leader, Ian Dunn, had with two others, set up PIE, and was using his own flat as mailing address for its magazine. I taped him boasting of having had sex with a 14-year-old-boy and the tape was instrumental in getting the Labour Party to drop him as their candidate for the Regional elections. My evidence linking SHRG with PIE also forced Dunn to drop a £21,000 libel suit against the Scottish Sunday Mail, which had run an expose of Dunn without having the full facts.
So this was what I found in SHRG, in the group which Fr Monaghan was recommending on Open Line. My information was taken seriously by the police, the press and the Labour Party. The only people it failed to impress strangely enough - were Fr Monaghan's superiors!
Turning Up the Heat
In May 1985 I wrote an "Open Letter to Catholics in Radius of Radio Forth" and distributed it widely in an attempt to get the laity to exert pressure on Cardinal Gray. The trouble with the laity was that they knew what Fr Monaghan was doing, but they didn't want to know. They were apathetic. The Open Letter was distributed in leaflet form and I managed to distribute thousands at a big Charismatic gathering. Scotland's Daily Record reported on this the day after - on May 28th - and the hierarchy immediately issued a statement claiming that my allegations were unfounded. It was a paper war which was having no effect. So I was relieved when the head of the Catholic organisation Pro Fide decided to lend a hand. He knew a priest in the Vatican - working in the Pontifical Council for the Family - the same department which Cardinal Gray had been claiming had approved "Andy's" broadcasting. Within a short time the Vatican was re-opening the case.
By now Cardinal Gray was approaching 75 and had announced his retirement as Archbishop. His successor was named as the Most Rev Keith Patrick O'Brien, Rector of the Junior Seminary near Aberdeen. When the head of Pro Fide wrote to him complaining of Andy's promotion of Brook and SHRG, he replied, claiming that "the Brook is not involved in abortion, SHRG has no links with paedophilia, and on Open Line Fr Monaghan is doing God's work - and the Pope's." Clearly the time was ripe for the Vatican to institute some discipline in the Church.
O'Brien Defies Rome
By this time I had assembled a dossier of evidence which was now examined by the Vatican. Regarding the conversation with "Linda," Canon Law stipulates that not only the woman and the surgeon, but anyone influencing her to have an abortion, incurs the penalty of excommunication. Yet there was no Canonical Enquiry. The transcripts were not even cited by the Vatican in its written response to Fr Monaghan. Cardinal Gagnon, head of the above department, merely asked Fr Monaghan to write an account of the goals and pre-suppositions of his counselling on Open Line. He then stated that Fr Monaghan's reply showed that he failed to follow the Church's teachings. It is rather like the Police having CCTV evidence of a mugging, and then asking the attacker his views on the rights of the individual. Certainly if my evidence had been brought into play, the Vatican could hardly have excused itself for not acting upon it.
Eventually in April 1988, Cardinal Gagnon asked Archbishop O' Brien to remove Fr Monaghan from broadcasting, stating that if he refused, he would make it known to laypeople in Britain that the previous approval of his broadcasts was now withdrawn. Archbishop O'Brien refused - and so Cardinal Gagnon kept his promise. In his letters he described "Andy's" participation in Open Line as "scandalous." These letters were leaked to the press and became public knowledge and immediately Fr Monaghan started a campaign to bolster his support. By falsely claiming that he had been 'condemned' by the Vatican, he was able to manipulate the situation to his advantage. At its 1988 annual meeting, the National Priests Conference, consisting of liberal clergy, passed a motion supporting Fr Monaghan, without even considering the facts of the case. Attending that meeting was the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Barberito, who made an intervention that was to prove decisive. When asked by the assembled clergy to comment on Rome's withdrawal of approval for Fr Monaghan, he stated that he "didn't need the Vatican's permission to broadcast" [article in The Wanderer, 13/4/89]. In this way he sabotaged all Cardinal Gagnon's efforts to effectively stop the scandal. He was effectively giving the green light to Archbishop O'Brien to allow Fr Monaghan to continue broadcasting. And from that point on, he has continued to run Open Line and give scandalous advice.
In an attempt to influence the situation, Cardinal Gagnon authorised the priest who had investigated my tapes to publish a series of articles in the US Catholic paper The Wanderer in 1989. These used my evidence as a means of exposing Fr Andy's activities. But it all begs the question: if Rome considered that evidence substantial, why did it not take remedial action? The Vatican appears like a headless chicken, running in circles. A Cardinal pulls one way, the Nuncio the other. Is the Pope prepared to restore discipline? When Scots Bishop Roddy Wright ran off with a married woman, he acted swiftly by reducing him to the lay state. Why is "Andy" so exempt from Church discipline?
No End in Sight
Each time complaints have been made, "Andy's" superiors have backed him. His support is now widespread. All because Rome's sword-arm was weakened. By letting offenders off the hook, the Church is failing in its duty. The scandal goes on, as more recent transcripts show:
LESLIE: "Cecilia, thanks for your call. You're 36 and you're pregnant, and you feel … you're not wanting to continue with this pregnancy.." [She recommends the 'Brook' and adds…] "If you decide to go ahead with a termination, they can organise that for you…"
ANDY: "Thanks, Leslie" [from Open Line, 19.11.95]
'I thought that's maybe a sign from God, or something, I could have been dead.. Weird things are happening to me.'
"Andy" then denied it was 'a sign from God'.
SEAN: "I think I'm going to go to hell because of what I've done."
Andy asked: "Are you still seeing her?"
SEAN: "There's nothing going to split us up now."
Andy then advised him to go to a group called 'Couple-Counselling and talk about his relationship'.
SEAN: "I know, but that's not gonna help."
ANDY: "It will help."
SEAN: "Can I ask you a question - do you believe in God?"
ANDY: "I do, yeh."
SEAN: "What do you think He thinks about me?"
ANDY: "What do you think - that He thinks about you?"
SEAN: "I dunno - but I've committed adultery, that's one of the Commandments, isn't it? Not to commit adultery?"
ANDY: "Yeh, that's right - yeh."
SEAN: "So what's going to happen?"
Andy: "What's your faith conviction? It's that I'd like you to talk about.. Nothing's going to happen to you that way, right? God doesn't go around with thunderbolts'
SEAN: "How do you know?"
Andy: "Because if there's a God, God has revealed himself as love, and as understanding (etc… )"
…Sean finally agreed to go along to Couple-Counselling.
The above advice contravenes guidelines laid down by Cardinal Gagnon in his response to Open Line broadcasts: "In any situation where a Catholic priest or counsellor is speaking on matters of faith or morals, it is absolutely essential that total integrity of doctrine be not only maintained at all times, but also seen to be maintained."
The referrals to SHRG have also continued: thus on 14th December 1996 a young man called Open Line asking for "gay places to go in Fife" and "Andy" gave him the number of SHRG for further information.
One no longer hears Fr Monaghan urging pregnant women to attend "the Brook," which is now known as Caledonian Youth. It may be premature to celebrate, however. There's a possibility he has found a way of avoiding censure. As we have seen, a few years ago, such recommendations were frequently heard on Open Line. We even had Mrs Jean Malcolm, Organising Secretary of the Brook, working as the "female counsellor." The purpose of such counsellors was to deal with specifically female problems. But, when they recommended the Brook "Andy" tended to add comments implying support for that advice, which provoked complaints such as mine. Given that background - is it not significant that there is now no female counsellor? But that does not mean there is not one .. in the background. There has always been provision for very personal calls to be discussed privately - 'off air'. So surely this could provide a way of discussing 'pregnancy calls', without provoking complaints about Fr Monaghan? The present format of Open Line tends to support that thesis. I should state that there has always been a 'producer' in the background. But now there are two support staff - both women: Heather and Jane. A caller on 28th April 2002 revealed that she "had just been speaking to Jane" which suggests she is a counsellor. Are we justified at taking these arrangements at their face value, given the previous incidence of 'pregnancy cases'? Perhaps we should recall how Andy has tried to deceive people before - by claiming he had the Vatican's approval.
We now know how he acquired that 'approval'. The Wanderer article of April 13th 1989, reveals that when protests were first made to Rome, they were unsupported by transcript evidence. So it was a relatively easy matter for "Andy" to drum up letters of support from his listeners and for Cardinal Gray to assure the head of the Pontifical Council for the Family that Fr Monaghan was 'orthodox'. Significantly "Andy" then used it to camouflage his activities. So - could a scandal that began with deception, not be continued through similar means?
In fact deception has characterised this scandal throughout. Objective moral evils such as fornication and abortion have been portrayed as acceptable. How relevant the words spoken by the Pope at the recent World Youth Day at Toronto?
'The spirit of the world offers many illusions and parodies of happiness. There is perhaps no darkness deeper than the darkness that enters young people's souls when false prophets extinguish in them the light of faith and hope and love. The greatest deception, and the greatest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God, of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility. The Lord is calling you to choose between these two voices competing for your souls' [The Universe 4th August 2002].