Remembering Mgr Gerard McKay: an excellent, erudite canon lawyer

Mgr Gerard McKay (Diocese of Argyll and the Isles)

The Very Reverend Monsignor Gerard McKay, Prelate Auditor (Judge) of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, died on December 29, 2018, at the Casa di Cura Pio XI in Rome after a long battle with cancer. The Funeral Mass for Monsignor McKay was offered on January 4, 2019, at 11:00 A.M., at the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Damaso in Rome. Immediately following the Funeral Mass, Monsignor McKay was buried in the Tomb of the Pontifical Scots College at the Verano Monumental Cemetery in Rome.

Monsignor McKay was born on October 21, 1949, in Glasgow, Scotland. He was the sixth born son of Neil McKay and Mary Ferguson. In addition to his four older brothers, one brother having been stillborn, he also had a younger brother and two younger sisters.

He received his primary school education at Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School in Glasgow, Scotland (1955-1960) and St. Mun’s Primary School in Dunoon, Argyll, Scotland (1960-1961). In the Fall of 1961, he entered the minor seminary for the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles, first studying at St. Vincent’s College, Langbank, Scotland (1961-1963), and then at St Mary’s College Blairs, Aberdeen, Scotland (1963-1967). From 1967 to 1971 and from 1973 to 1976, he continued his seminary studies for the priesthood at the Pontifical Scots College in Rome, studying philosophy, theology and canon law at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

During the academic years 1976-1977 and 1977-1978, and for the first three months of the academic year 1978-1979, he resided at the Pontifical Lombard College in Rome, in order to complete his doctoral studies in canon law, especially the research and writing of his doctoral dissertation, in a place closer to the Pontifical Gregorian University at which he was studying and to the various libraries of Rome. He remained always particularly grateful for the hospitality and the discipline of the College, which favored greatly his doctoral studies.

From 1967 to 1969, he studied in the Faculty of Philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, obtaining the baccalaureate in philosophy with honors. From 1969 to 1971 and from 1973 to 1974, he studied in the Faculty of Theology of the same University, obtaining the baccalaureate in sacred theology with honors. From 1971 to 1973, he studied at the University of Edinburgh, from which he graduated with the degree of Master of Arts, with specializations in Ecclesiastical History and English Literature, on July 13, 1973.

From 1974 to 1978, Monsignor McKay studied in the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University, obtaining the baccalaureate in 1975 with high honors and the licentiate in 1976 with highest honors. On February 27, 1979 he presented and defended his doctoral dissertation, “Counsel and Consent: The Governance of the Diocesan Church according to the «Commentaria in Quinque Libros Decretalium» of Sinibaldo de’ Fieschi (Pope Innocent IV).” With the publication of the doctoral dissertation on February 21, 1983, he obtained the doctorate in canon law with highest honors.

Monsignor McKay, together with 358 other deacons from all parts of the world, was ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 1975, by Pope Saint Paul VI. The special Papal Mass of Ordination of Priests was an important part of the observance of the 1975 Jubilee Year of the Birth of the Lord.

After completing his studies of Canon Law, he served in his home diocese of Argyll and the Isles and in what was then The Scottish Catholic Tribunal and is now the Scottish Catholic Interdiocesan Tribunal. During his years of service to the Tribunal, he also served the Parish of Saint Leo the Great and the Parish of the Holy Cross, both of which are in the Archdiocese of Glasgow.

In 1979, he was appointed Vice-Officialis of the Tribunal. In 1982, he was named Officialis, a position in which he served until July of 1985. On August 11, 1985, he was named parish priest of the Parish of the Visitation at Taynuilt, Argyll.

Over the years, he published scholarly articles in various canonical journals. He also served as a canonical consultant to various institutes of the consecrated life. He was particularly devoted to assisting communities of contemplative nuns. In addition, he served on various ecumenical commissions, especially those involving the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland.

While serving as parish priest at Taynuilt, he also served the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles as Vice-Chancellor, Secretary of the Diocesan Presbyteral Council, and Secretary of the Diocesan Finance Council. In July of 1992, he resigned his pastorate and his other diocesan offices, in order to accept an appointment to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Roman Curia, in its matrimonial section. He began his service in the Congregation on October 1, 1992. He served at the Congregation until July 24, 1996, when Pope Saint John Paul II named him a Defender of the Bond at the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota. On November 30, 1996, Pope Saint John Paul II named the then Father McKay a Prelate of Honor with the title of Monsignor. On June 22, 2004, Pope Saint John Paul II named him a Prelate Auditor (Judge) of the Roman Rota.

Because of his notable erudition, in general, and of his excellence as a canon lawyer, he served on several special commissions of the Roman Curia. He was also a consultor of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. For many years, he was a consultor to the Vox Clara Committee of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. In this capacity, he was instrumental in the work of the most recent English translation of the Roman Missal. He also served as a visiting professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. He was consulted privately by many in questions of canon law.

From the summer of 2016, he battled with multiple myeloma. On April 24, 2018, at a special session of the College of Prelate Auditors of the Roman Rota, to which other friends and colleagues were invited, the Dean of the College announced that, for reasons of failing health, Monsignor McKay had resigned his office of Prelate Auditor (Judge) and that Pope Francis, by an extraordinary act, had granted to him the status of Prelate Auditor Emeritus of the Roman Rota. In August of 2018, Monsignor McKay began to battle with yet another form of cancer, an aggressive sarcoma on the hipbone. Having valiantly and serenely endured such severe illness for over two years, he died peacefully in the Lord, with the help of the Sacraments of the Church and of the prayers of his family and many friends.

Monsignor McKay was preceded in death by his parents and by one brother. He is survived by his brothers Neil and his wife Marie, James, Jack and his wife Maureen, Nicholas and his wife Barbara, and Desmond and his wife Gietty, and by his sisters Mary Rose and Anne Marie, and by many nephews and nieces, and great-nephews and great-nieces.

May he rest in peace!