Unyielding faith and pastoral solicitude — lived out courageously in the public square.
Father James Morrow
~A Priest For Our Time ~
James Morrow was a Champion of the Unborn, of the disabled and the terminally ill, and of the Natural Law, Reason and Faith over atheism and the ‘dictatorship of relativism’.
Upon engaging in the pro-life cause, he campaigned vigorously, wrote prolifically and in latter years went many times to the places where abortions were being committed, in an attempt to save mothers and babies. For his pains he was arrested on numerous occasions. He refused to pay fines imposed by the courts as to do so would be somehow to agree that trying to save innocent human life were wrong! As a result he spent several terms in prison (where, incidentally, he always fought for the right to continue wearing his clerical collar so that the other prisoners and staff would know there was a priest among them). He was always popular with the other inmates and took part in — and always won — chess championships!
Born in Paisley in 1934, one of twelve children, he felt the call to the Priesthood from the age of six. A gifted student, his bishop sent him to study at the Gregorian University and Scots College in Rome, which Fr James always recognised as a great privilege. He was awarded the Bene Merenti medal by Pope Pius XII for the excellence of his thesis on Conscience.
He was ordained in the Eternal City in 1958. It was as a young priest during the summer holidays of 1967 that he became aware that Britain was to legalise abortion. For the rest of his life he would work tirelessly for the protection of all human life, from conception until natural death.
He served as a curate and then, having obtained a Bachelor of Education degree from Glasgow University and Jordanhill College, the bishops of Scotland appointed him as a teacher at their junior seminary.
In 1980, on loan to the diocese of Aberdeen, he was appointed Parish Priest of Braemar and Ballater parishes. At the same time, with ecclesiastical approval, he turned the old parish school into Humanae Vitae House, a pro-life prayer, training and retreat centre. Groups of students and families from all over the U.K. and beyond would visit for courses, holidays and retreats. From there he would mail and keep informed his vast network of pro-lifers throughout Britain and worldwide. In 1990 he was freed by his bishop to carry out his pro-life work full-time.
He lobbied politicians both at home and abroad, attending the United Nations ‘Population Conferences’ wherever they were held. Some Members of the UK Parliament complained about him because he told them they should get on their knees and pray to Almighty God. Fr James said, “Abortion is atheism in action.” He knew that the pro-life fight was not only about changing laws but about turning minds and hearts to God.
In 1988 he took part with a group of young pro-lifers in the first ‘Rescue’ at an abortion clinic in England. Eventually, as a Catholic priest, he became the public face throughout the 1990s of this movement in the U.K. and was much sought-after (and often reviled) by the mass media.
Throughout all his campaigning Fr James never forgot that he was first and foremost a priest of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. He never neglected his Divine Office, his daily Mass, daily Rosary and also Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament.
In 1998 he suffered a serious stroke. He worked hard at rehabilitation. Even in poor health he wanted to go to wherever he could do some good. Being touched by the work of a bishop and his priests on a visit to Uganda, he began to raise funds at home to help their pro-life work. His friends and followers continue to support this work today.
In 2008 then-Bishop Tartaglia of Paisley made Fr James a Canon of the diocese of Paisley. Four bishops and some forty priests concelebrated his funeral rites in St Mirin’s cathedral of that diocese in September 2010. Fr James had suffered further strokes. He had already purchased his stole for participating in the Papal Mass in Bellahouston Park. His last conscious action was following that Mass via television from his hospital bed and mouthing the words of the Eucharistic Prayer in Latin along with Pope Benedict XVI.
He is buried in Hawkhead Cemetery in Paisley. His tombstone bears the inscription ‘Humanae Vitae Defensor’.
On 19 September, the Fifth Anniversary Mass is to be held at 10 am at St Cadoc's church, Newton Mearns.
The Bishop of Paisley, Rt Rev. John Keenan will be the chief celebrant.