The Right Reverend Hugh Lindsay
The Right Reverend Hugh Lindsay, Who Died on January 19 Aged 81, Was Forced to Retire As the Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle by Ill-Health, but Then Carved a New Apostolate for Himself As a Robust Defender of the Faith

March 11, 2009

Lindsay wrote to the Roman Catholic press and the national papers every week to counter misunderstandings. Stressing that he wrote in his own name, he was adamant that Church "smoothsayers" were not trying to sweep tales of sexual abuse under the carpet.

He also explained the principles that guided divorce lawyers in the Vatican courts and contradicted such recurring delusions as the existence of a woman Pope in the ninth century. Cardinal Hume's great achievement, he liked to say, was to show that it was possible to be holy and an Englishman.

The son of a draper, Hugh Lindsay was born on June 20 1927 at Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne. One of five children, he was aged four when an older girl pointed to a pipe-smoking parish priest and said she could see Hugh becoming a priest like that. He retorted that he would never smoke a pipe.

As a schoolboy in the Second World War he was evacuated to a non-Catholic family in Cockermouth, Cumberland, for two years. In 1943 he entered St Cuthbert's seminary at Ushaw, Durham, but interrupted his studies in January 1946 to join the RAF. Although, as a seminarian, he was exempt from military service, he saw this as a civil duty, and was posted to Air Headquarters in New Delhi, India. Later he recalled that his RAF colleagues thought him "mad" to be relinquishing marriage and family life to become a priest.

Lindsay returned to Ushaw in 1948 and was ordained in 1953. As an assistant priest in two successive Newcastle parishes, St Lawrence's, Byker, and St Matthew's, Ponteland, he combined his duties with those of a diocesan secretary. In March 1959 he became secretary to Bishop James Cunningham, a remote character who kept a low profile, and 10 years later was appointed his auxiliary bishop. At 42 Lindsay became the youngest bishop in the English Catholic hierarchy.

When Rome's apostolic delegate called him to announce his appointment, he told Lindsay in Latin that he would be titular bishop of "Cuncacestre". Lindsay remembered thinking "Where the hell's that?" as the delegate, sensing his bafflement, said in English, "Chester-le-Street", a one-time Saxon diocese.

After Cunningham's death five years later, Lindsay succeeded him as bishop, adopting a collaborative rather than a dictatorial approach to both clergy and laity. He reflected the changed perceptions of the Church after the Vatican Council, though some critics said he was slow to implement Council directives because he preferred consultation to imposition.

Although not a traditionalist, he took a very traditional line in the 1970s when vandals broke into a church at Jarrow and scattered the Communion hosts in the tabernacle. He ordered all-night Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the diocese in reparation for the sacrilege.

Lindsay established good ecumenical relations with other churches.

Hugh Lindsay resigned in 1991 after two back operations and moved to Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria, where he was chaplain to the Augustinian sisters.


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