Runaway bishop sells his story

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The Independent Online
THE DISGRACED Roman Catholic bishop Roderick Wright, who resigned after an affair with a divorcee and was revealed last week as the father of a 15-year-old son by another woman, has provoked further outrage by selling his story to a tabloid newspaper.

Senior Catholic clergy denounced as "deplorable" the decision by the former Bishop of Argyll and the Isles to sell, to today's News of the World, his version of the two affairs which prompted his departure.

Mr Wright is pictured in the paper in a T-shirt rather than a dog collar and with his arm around his mistress, Kathy MacPhee. He is quoted as saying: "We tried to contain it, but it developed into something we both recognised as love. I want to apologise for all the hurt and damage we have caused."

Since their disappearance, the former bishop has been living with Ms MacPhee in a terraced house in Kendal, Cumbria. His apology did nothing to soften the fury that his latest move provoked last night among the embattled church hierarchy, his former congregation, and his hitherto unacknowledged family in Polegate, East Sussex - Joanna Whibley, 48, and her son by Mr Wright, Kevin, 15.

Cardinal Thomas Winning, head of the Church in Scotland, and Archbishop Keith O'Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said in a joint statement: "We regard the sale of his story by Roderick Wright as deplorable." Roderick Wright should have contacted the Church directly, said the Archbishop. "Money does not make up for the damage he has done but I would hate to think Roderick himself is going to benefit from a very large sum of money. It does show Roderick up, unfortunately, in a very, very bad light."

Mr Wright's former parishioners at Oban Cathedral gasped when told at last night's evening Mass by Father Sean Macaulay that he had sold his story "for a figure of pounds 300,000 or in that region".

However, The News of the World's editor, Phil Hall, said the sum was "way below" pounds 50,000. The couple had asked for the money, but not for themselves. "They asked for a small sum to go to her children, who they see as the real victims," he said.

Angriest of all was Ms Whibley who, on Friday, said she still loved Mr Wright. Last night, shesaid she could not believe he had sold his story. She urged churchgoers to withhold money from the Church until the matter was sorted out. "If people do wish us well, I really would like to say please, please, don't put money in the collection," she said. "They should spend the money on themselves and enjoy it."

And, in a bitter but confused response, Kevin Whibley said: "If he's making a profit out of this story, our story, I'm very angry about that, and if he offers to make payments to us he won't hear the end of it from me until we've got the money ... I've got the money."

The Catholic Church in Scotland has suffered a huge loss of authority. Before the news of the "kiss and tell" broke, Cardinal Winning had spoken of being "duped" by Roderick Wright, who had categorically denied previous rumours he was having an affair.

Archbishop O'Brien likened the saga to a "can of worms". He said: "We don't know who is going to come forward and make accusations, and the only one who can refute them is Roderick Wright himself. We need him to tell us what has happened and what is happening."

Last night, News Group, publishers of the News of the World, issued a warning to other publications, declaring it had "contracted with the Rt Rev Roderick Wright, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles and with Mrs Kathleen MacPhee, to secure exclusive world rights in their story and pictures". The group said it had lawyers standing by to prevent infringement of its rights.

Inside Story, page 17

Jack O'Sullivan, page 20