FROM A SALFORD PRIEST KNOWN TO ME:
Dear Bishop Pat, I thought you might be interested in keeping an eye on ongoing events in the Diocese of Salford.
It has been eight years since John Kenneth Stanley Arnold left the Archdiocese of Westminster and headed north to take up charge of the Diocese of Salford, replacing Bishop Terence ‘Bungalow’ Brain, during those eight years the Diocese has sunk, vocations have all but disappeared, we have had no ordinations now since 2019, and the two in that year were late vocations, good men, but of advanced years.
Other younger priests are leaving the diocese, in the last few months Fr Gambella, ordained 2014 has transferred to Aberdeen, and Fr Horne, ordained 2013 has joined the staff of the Nuncio in London, many more at the opposite end of the age range are opting for early retirement, while others are on long term sick leave (usually following mental breakdowns), the common cause of all this is Arnold – a nasty little bully with a vindictive streak as long as the M6, the Westminster clergy nicknamed him ‘Ming the Merciless’ when he was their VG and Auxiliary, he was also accused of being involved in the Ealing Abbey coverup.
He demands utter unquestioning obedience and reacts badly if challenged, he’s been known to scream in the face of Priests who disagree with him and if you cross him, he will go out of his way to break and destroy you.
These days he remains holed up at Wardley Hall, his moated Tudor mansion, he never goes on visitation and communicates with his clergy only through weekly Friday emails, the clergy en-masse are more demotivated and fed-up than ever before in diocesan history, they all live in fear of questioning Arnold, having seen their colleagues forced out of ministry, while he jets around the world on CAFOD business.
Nero allegedly fiddled while Rome burned, Arnold however has another solution to occupy himself while Salford crumbles, he is spending tens of millions of pounds of diocesan funds refurbishing his Wardley Hall estate converting it into a Laudato Si research and education centre, this project and expenditure is his vanity project, there was no consultation of clergy or laity about whether they wanted their money spent in this way, it just happened and the diocesan finance gurus are getting increasingly worried about the solvency of the diocese.
The death this last week of Sister Rita Lee, star of the BBC television series about her work amongst the poorest members of society in Manchester, reminded us why she disappeared so suddenly in 2017 and moved to Derby after a lifetime in the Diocese, she publicly confronted Arnold about his spending on Wardley Hall while she was struggling for funds to help the poor and homeless, and then suddenly was recalled by her superior and sent to Derby. A similar situation occurred at the Cornerstone RC Homeless centre in Moss Side, when the entire volunteer staff were sacked without warning and replaced. Last year, the entire Safeguarding team walked out and had to be replaced en-masse.
Arnold’s treatment of lay staff and volunteers is notoriously bad, when he arrived in the diocese, one of his first acts was to forcibly shut the Diocesan Archives, which at the time was one of the most open and accessible Catholic archives in the country, Fr Xxxxxx and Mr Xxxxxxx who ran it had an open door policy – Fr Xxxxxx was forced into retirement and Mr Xxxxxxx turned up one day to find the doors chained shut and was told to hand in his keys and leave – after 15 years of voluntary service, the other volunteers received not even that. Paul Carr, a school friend of the then VG Mgr Kay, (Carr a former priest, originally with the Church of St Pius X, who then did a couple of years with the Diocese) was appointed as archivist and since then the archives have remained sealed and inaccessible, Arnold was later removed as episcopal patron of the Catholic Archives Society.
Then we have the case of Fr Tony Duffy, a diocesan priest of more than thirty years who had been on leave with mental health issues, Arnold forced laicisation on him cutting him off with no means of support, and a few weeks later he was found death in a homeless hostel in Manchester, Arnold’s response was to ban the clergy from concelebrating his funeral, to ban any mention of his priesthood from his eulogy and to refuse to pay for the burial.
The man is without empathy, conscience or compassion, his reckless spending habits are bankrupting the diocese, he’s killed off vocations, the clergy have given-up, the numbers of lay staff bullied out of their roles is extraordinary.
As a footnote, another interesting character in the Diocese is the aforementioned former Vicar General, Mgr Anthony Kay, who also served as Vocations Director for many years, (he had a reputation of selecting for formation candidates who were ‘pretty gay boys’ and rejecting from formation those who repelled his advances). He went on to become VG under ‘Bungalow’ Brain and took advantage of Brain’s dodderiness to build an unprecedented power base, removing all clergy and lay staff who weren’t subservient to him and replacing them with his friends. With the arrival of Arnold things became difficult (you can’t have two dictators in one kingdom) He was allegedly due to become the 7th Bishop of Lancaster in 2017/18 but the offer was withdrawn at the 11th hour (for an unknown reason) and within twelve hours of the announcement of the appointment of Paul Swarbrick, Arnold sacked him as Vicar General and Kay then disappeared, leaving the country for the next eighteen months, then suddenly reappeared, reassumed his former post as PP at St Mary’s, Mulberry Street, Manchester, a tiny city-centre parish with no resident congregation, school or chaplaincy work, where he has been left – nobody knows why, when a man of his age should be running some of the huge busy parishes elsewhere.
There is much more going on in the diocese, this is just the tip of the iceburg and sooner or later the proverbial is going to hit the fan.