Wright attracted worldwide media interest in 1996 when he eloped with a divorced woman parishioner, Kathleen MacPhee. (A condition of priesthood in Roman Catholicism is that ordinands take a vow of celibacy). It subsequently emerged that he had fathered a child with another woman in 1981. Wright resigned, and he and MacPhee were traced to a house in Kendal, Cumbria. He died from cancer of the liver, aged 64.
A week and a half later, Wright surfaced, and met the church's leader in Scotland, Cardinal Thomas Winning, at his residence in Glasgow, where he submitted his resignation. They discussed MacPhee, but the Cardinal said at the time that there had been no talk about sexual relations. The Cardinal said he hoped Wright could one day resume his vocation as a priest. This prompted the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume, to suggest that the celibacy rule may be relaxed by the Vatican.
The following weekend, a former parishioner of Wright's, Joanna Whibley, came forward to say that she had become pregnant by him, and given birth to a son, Kevin, in 1981.
Wright and MacPhee were traced to a rented cottage in Kendal, Cumbria, by journalists from the News of the World, and agreed to sell their story. They escaped to France, Wright travelling under the name of David Janssen, the actor in the TV series The Fugitive.
In their interview, MacPhee explained that she loved Wright despite his vocation. "He could have been a plumber or a dustman. If he was it would have been a lot easier. But he was a bishop," she said. Wright insisted in the same interview that he and MacPhee had not had a sexual relationship.
The pair were reportedly paid around £100,000 for their story. The money was split between MacPhee's three children. This caused anger among the Catholic hierarchy. Cardinal Winning called the decision to speak to a newspaper "deplorable", and a spokesman for the Church in England and Wales described it as a "betrayal of trust". At Mass in Wright's former diocese, the congregation was told by Fr Sean MacAulay: "Like Christ was betrayed by someone in his group for 30 pieces of silver, perhaps we feel similarly betrayed at this moment in time.
In 2006, the managing editor of the News of the World, Stewart Kuttner, said the story had been his favourite newspaper front page of all time. Though not a story of international magnitude, it was a great scoop that everybody wanted, he said.
Wright registered as unemployed, and was spotted looking for work in the Jobcentre in Kendal. Macphee took a job as a geriatric nurse in the town's Westmorland General Hospital, before the pair moved to the nearby town of Carnforth, in north Lancashire.
Wright married MacPhee in a civil ceremony in Antigua in June 1998.. In 1999 his autobiography, Feet of Clay, was published. The pair later moved to New Zealand, where he became gravely ill with liver cancer in 2003. He died in 2005.
From Loved Leader to 'Two-Faced Rotter.' (Roderick Wright, Scottish Bishop Has Weekend with One Woman and a 15-Year-Old Son with Another)
Oct 04, 1996; OXFORD, England - The story of Scottish Bishop Roderick Wright who resigned after disappearing with a divorcee, Kathleen MacPhee...
Media leads defensive Scottish hierarchy on a merry dance Andy Pollak, Religious Affairs Correspondent, writes from Glasgow on how the Scottish Catholic Church may try to ride out the Bishop Roderick Wright storm instead of facing the issues of celibacy and accountability
Sep 25, 1996; THE most damaging week for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland this century, is what the editor of one of the church's own...