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Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor: ‘I thought of being called Benedict if elected pope’

By on Monday, 27 August 2012

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor receives his biretta from Blessed Pope John Paul II in 2001 (Photo: CNS)

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor receives his biretta from Blessed Pope John Paul II in 2001 (Photo: CNS)

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is the first man to survive being Archbishop of Westminster. Unlike his predecessors, who died in office, he walked out of Archbishop’s House, aged 76, to begin a life of retirement.

I met him a few weeks ago, on a rain-lashed day, at his spacious and surprisingly modern home in Chiswick, west London. He spoke candidly for an hour in his living room and then invited me to his dining table for fish pie, followed by strawberries. Away from the faded grandeur of Archbishop’s House and the anxieties of office, his personal qualities shone out: his kindness, his hospitality, his ready humour and humility.

Today is his 80th birthday. This is a turning point for the Church in England and Wales, which no longer has a voting cardinal, and another major event in the life of a faithful servant who, as he says below, never imagined he would one day be a Prince of the Church. On behalf of our readers, I wish him a very happy birthday.

– Luke Coppen

I remember you once said you felt no one had written a history of the Catholic Church in England in the modern era that told the story from the inside, as it really happened. What did you mean by that?

Overall, Catholic history since the Reformation is very clear. The Penal Times lasted for about 250 years until the restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850. The aim of the Catholic Church then could be divided into two. First, there was the conversion of England, which was a kind of dream. The other thing was: keep the faith. Catholics were mostly poor immigrants, a lot of them from Ireland and Italy. So we built our schools and our churches, and were on the periphery of society. We weren’t part of the establishment in any way.

Nowadays you’d be urging Catholics to be involved in public life. My father was asked in Reading to become a JP, but he didn’t. He felt his duty was to the Church and to the family, which he fulfilled very devoutly and fully.

So it was a Church within the nation but rather separate. We were proud to be Catholics and we were linked to the Pope and the worldwide Catholic Church. And, I suppose, the Church prospered numerically. The education was clear. Most people went to a Catholic school and learnt the Catechism. Even if they didn’t practise the faith there was a sort of folk religion of Catholicism. In Reading, where I lived, there were great crowds at Mass, but a lot of them just came to meet together on a Sunday.

So when I said someone should write a history of the Catholic Church I was thinking both of that but particularly of what happened since the Council. The aim was not just to keep the faith. The conversion of England had to be reinterpreted in the light of ecumenism. The faith had to be lived out in the midst of a society that we were very much a part of – in the world but not of the world.

So you have the insights of the Second Vatican Council, plus an ever-growing secularism. And that mission of the Church, which will last to the end of time: how does one interpret that? The Pope talks now about a new evangelisation. How are we going to live that in our time? Has history helped over the last 50 years?

Were you criticising a reading of recent Church history that is too politicised, seeing everything as Right versus Left?

The key point is not any of that at all. It’s faith in Jesus Christ: baptism, Eucharist, Scripture, the deposit of faith which was given to us and is not going to change. Living that out in the midst of the world is what the new evangelisation is about. It’s not new in the sense that there’s a new Gospel. It’s new in the sense that there’s a new world out there, new concepts to be combatted. I think the challenge to the Catholic Church is very great in this country. Elsewhere, too, of course.

Do you agree with the widely held view that the story of the past 50 years is of Catholics becoming part of mainstream British life?

Yes and no. Yes, it’s true that Catholics entered into public life. Why? Because of the 1944 Education Act. Before that lots of Catholics didn’t get a proper secondary education. But now many more Catholics went to university. A new generation came out that was not content to be on the periphery any more. They felt they had a right to be part of society.

But I don’t think we ever became established. There is still a sense that being Catholic is being different. You’re not part of the Establishment and most Catholics wouldn’t want to be. People often ask me: “Do you think the Church of England should be disestablished?” I say: “I think it will be. But it’s not for us to ask for it.” They must decide when they think it’s better, for the sake of the Gospel, to be disestablished.

So you support disestablishment?

As I say, I think it will happen and I think it might be of benefit to Anglicans if it did at some point. They obviously think that at the moment it’s an advantage to them, and I respect that. But I think it will change with time.

What led you to become a pioneer in ecumenism, particularly with regard to relations with Anglicans?

Two things. I got quite friendly with one or two Anglican clergy when I was in my first parish in Portsmouth and saw the good that they did. And when I became secretary to Bishop Worlock I read with great delight the [Vatican II] document on unity, Unitatis Redintegratio, which said: “There is no unity worthy of the name without interior conversion, newness of attitudes and unstinting love.” In other words, we had to change. When I was brought up we looked at Anglicans and other Christians with suspicion. They were beyond the pale. But now we were told: no, they’re our brothers and sisters in Christ, even if we’re not fully united. Now, that demands a new attitude.

As rector of the English College, I brought Anglican students for a term. I hosted the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Coggan, when he went to see the Pope. So by the time I became a bishop I was very disposed towards cooperating as much as I could with Anglicans, particularly in Arundel and Brighton, which was my diocese.

Then we had the great visit of Pope John Paul in 1982. It was very moving to see him in Canterbury Cathedral. Tears came to my eyes when I watched it on television. I was then appointed to the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), so I had to spend a lot of time looking at the issues.

When you watched John Paul II in Canterbury Cathedral did you think that full unity was possible?

I thought that at least we could have a recognition of Anglican orders. Even if there wouldn’t be absolutely full unity we could recognise their orders. Therefore, they would be able to receive Communion from us and we from them. That was my hope when I started with ARCIC.

Later, women priests would pose a very serious obstacle, because it’s not something you could change, from their point of view. Also, it brought into focus the key difficulty. We might believe the same about the Eucharist and about ministry, but where was the authority? There were certainly things they said to us that we had to take on board: how is authority shared in the Church? But we asked: “Where is the focus of your authority?” For us, it’s the Pope and the bishops. For them, it’s much more dispersed. As a result, they find it more difficult to have an authoritative church.

You were co-chairman of ARCIC for almost two decades. Do you think the two communions actually drifted further apart in that time?

Again, I would say yes and no. It’s true that we drifted further apart, not just because of the ordination of women, but because of the difficulties they were increasingly having with the exercise of authority.
It was making full doctrinal unity more problematic. Even if they hadn’t ordained women we would have had a lot of difficulties.

Anglicans believe that the source of our faith is Scripture, tradition and reason. We say that it is Scripture, tradition and teaching authority. It’s that third source that is a crucial difference. The Church of England always tried to be Catholic and Protestant. But it was always very much tied to the state. That’s why it has its challenges now with the wider Anglican Communion. In England it is – or was – the religion of the nation. Therefore they were close to the Government and if the Government decreed something they were more inclined to follow “reason”. It’s “reasonable” to agree to contraception. It’s “reasonable” to allow embryonic exploitation. That makes it more difficult for them to agree on the doctrinal and moral issues, which are very divisive.

On the other hand, faced with a very secular society we have moved closer together. When I was Archbishop of Westminster we held meetings of their bishops and our bishops twice. You could see that it helped us to be with them and them to be with us in confronting issues which are common to both of us.

The relationship between Benedict XVI and Dr Rowan Williams seems remarkably warm.

Very warm. Rowan Williams is very spiritual, very learned and, in a way, very Catholic in his views.

Have those qualities helped during controversies like the creation of the ordinariate?

Certainly. If there are points of tension it’s good that we are able to talk, like when so many Anglicans became Catholics in 1994 after the ordination of women. Bishop [David] Konstant and I were sent over to talk to a group of Anglican bishops about issues that might have been sensitive. That was very good.

Cardinal Basil Hume thought that because there were a lot of High Church Anglicans who wanted to be received in London that that was the same all over the country. Well, it wasn’t really. In the end over 300 Anglican clergy entered full communion with the Catholic Church.

Four of us – Cardinal Hume, Bishop [Alan] Clark, Bishop [Vincent] Nichols and myself ­– went to Rome and there were four on Rome’s side: Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Cassidy, Archbishop Dupré and Archbishop Bertone. We discussed the whole situation, including what we were going to do about the married men.

You studied at the English College in the 1950s. Do you think the English influence in Rome was stronger then than now?

Well, it was just a different time. It was the last years of Pope Pius XII. When I was there, from 1950 to 1957, there were about 80 students from all over the country. We were quite a strong presence in Rome, but there were thousands of other clergy.

The Queen came to visit the Pope when she was a princess. It must have been 1951. She came with Prince Philip. And we went to the Vatican. We were told we weren’t to cheer. So there we were in our cassocks. She looked absolutely lovely and when she came out after the audience we said: “Blow that!” So we gave her a great cheer. I once talked to her about it and she said: “Oh, I remember it so well. I was quite nervous.” The English presence in Rome is still important. The Beda is doing well. The English College is too. It’s better than it was in terms of numbers. In the ecclesiastical sphere Britain is quite important. Why? Because of language, because of history, because of its relationship to the large English-speaking world – Australia, North America, Africa and India. Even though the Catholic Church isn’t huge here, at the same time the Church in England, Scotland and Wales is regarded as having great significance. We punch above our weight now. Less so in the 1950s somehow.

You became personal secretary to Derek Worlock in 1966. He was then the Bishop of Portsmouth. What was he like?

He was an extraordinary man. He came from a convert family. His father was a Conservative agent in Winchester. Derek was determined to be a priest. His father was disappointed that he didn’t join the Army during the War. He was at seminary then. He was very, very talented, an extraordinary organiser.

Soon after his ordination Cardinal Griffin asked him to be his secretary. He was secretary to successive archbishops of Westminster for 18 years: to Cardinal Griffin, to Cardinal Godfrey and for the first year or so to Cardinal Heenan. After a while Cardinal Griffin became very ill and Derek had to do a lot of the work.

By the time Godfrey got there he was also leaving a lot to Mgr Worlock. Derek worked all hours. Even at night he would think about what he was going to be doing the next day.

How did he shape the Church?

Derek arranged things. The National Pastoral Congress in 1980: no one could have put that on apart from Bishop Worlock. Rome were not very happy about it. They don’t like these things.

Then when the British Council of Churches stopped he and the then Archbishop of York, John Habgood, organised all the new ecumenical instruments. Then he gave a great example in the way he cooperated with Bishop David Sheppard in Liverpool.

Although he was disappointed not to have become Archbishop of Westminster – there was no doubt about that – in a way he was better being a big fish in the smaller pond of Liverpool than a smaller fish in the big pool of Westminster. Cardinal Hume, of course, was a great blessing for the Church.

Derek was very comfortable with the structures of the Church because he had made them. There are pluses and minuses to that. At the time he was organising the instruments for unity – Churches Together in England, the Council of Churches of Britain and Ireland – I said it would be much better to start small and build, rather than have all this. I think it would still have been better to have kept the old British Council of Churches.

Do you think the Church became over-bureaucratised?

I think the ecumenical instruments weren’t very effective. And they’re still not. I thought the British Council of Churches should have been the general link with Government and so on. And then the rest should have been done at diocesan level. I’m not a great fan of the ecumenical instruments. Ecumenism really happens at the parish and diocesan level.

Did the bureaucracy of the bishops’ conference become too large?

No, I think they did – and do – good work. Everything develops as you go along. The structures that we have help the bishops to play their part at the national level.

A bishop has got to be a bishop. You can be so wound up with the things to do that you forget you are there to give a witness to the Gospel. Cardinal Hume was wise not to speak too much.

Where were you when you found out you were going to be his successor?

Well, it was very awkward. I was down in Arundel and Brighton and I got a phone call on a Sunday night from [the then Mgr] Kieran Conry, who was the man in charge of the media. This was about 11 o’clock. He said: “You never told me!” I said: “What are you talking about?” He said: “There’s a headline in the Sunday Times saying that you are going to be appointed Archbishop of Westminster.” I said: “Well, I haven’t been.” And he said: “Come on! You must tell me.” So I said: “Well, it’s true. I haven’t heard a thing. You can tell them I haven’t been appointed.”

I went to bed that night thinking: “What’s happening?” I then got a phone call from the nuncio asking me to go to see him. He said something, in rather bad English, about the elephant being out of the bottle. He told me I’d been appointed. And then it wasn’t announced for another 10 days. So I came back to A and B and had a lot to think about.

Did you say yes immediately?

I did. I’d had time to think about it. In fact, I had asked one or two priests whom I trusted, elder statesmen, what they thought I should say if I was asked. But at 67 I thought my age ruled me out. Basil Hume had been only 53. There were a few archbishops appointed at my age, but not many.

Did you see the hand of providence immediately in your appointment or did you have to wait until you retired to see why you were chosen?

I always see the hand of providence. The good Lord has his ways. Was I scared or alarmed? No, I wasn’t. I was apprehensive. But I didn’t go into a decline. I thought I could do the job. Everything started off fine for a few months, and then catastrophe: the Michael Hill case, which was very difficult.

Had you seen that coming?

No. I just woke up one morning and heard it on the radio.

It was interesting that the Michael Hill case re-emerged in 2000, because The Catholic Herald first reported on it in 1997.

And I had written a reply to it, saying I would have handled it differently now. I made serious mistakes in dealing with Michael Hill, but I think that judgments made in the 1980s would be different from the perceptions of the year 2000.

The story of Michael Hill is a big one. I sent him away when I found out that allegations had been made against him. But then when he begged me on his knees a year later to find something for him, I looked up the recommendations.

The recommendation was that he shouldn’t be sent back to a parish but he could go to a place where there weren’t any children. Unfortunately for me, Gatwick was vacant. I think that most of the mistakes that bishops have made have been through being too kind.

Towards priests?

Yes, the priest is meant to be your brother. Clearly, it was a bad mistake and I should have taken counsel. I should have handed him over to the police. But you are talking about the early 1980s. No bishop would have handed over a priest to the police in those days. That didn’t occur until 1994. After that, the bishops did begin to report priests to the police if serious allegations of abuse had been made to them.

After the story emerged again there was a lot of pressure on you.

Yes, there was. On that first day I gave an interview – people said I shouldn’t have done – to News at One. They asked if I would resign. Obviously, if all the other bishops had said I should resign I would have thought about it. But I never did.

It was relentless over the summer. Then I was very fortunate. Talk about providence. Lord Nolan rang me and asked if there was anything he could do to help. I thought about it, rang him back and said: “Yes, this is what I think I’d like to do.”

So he came in and saw me and we organised the Nolan Commission. I persuaded the bishops that this was the right thing to do and then asked if he could have the report out in six months. He came and addressed the bishops. And the bishops, God bless them, all adopted the recommendations. It was going to cost a lot of money, a lot of trouble and take years to fully implement.

So in some ways my mistake was what they call a felix culpa. It was a “happy fault” because I’m not sure I would have asked for Nolan. What we do in England is regarded now in Rome as the best safeguarding anywhere.

So the idea for Nolan came to you during that crisis?

Yes. We had already agreed to do reporting. It wasn’t as if we were completely off the back foot. But I realised there had to be something public. An independent commission: that was the key. Nolan had such a good reputation in Parliament. So I was fairly fortunate that he was there.

It was very difficult for bishops. They had to go through all the files, haul priests out of the parishes and say: “You’ve got to go away.” It was very, very difficult. It was a very dark time and for the first two or three years it did make my position very difficult in terms of the other things I wanted to do.

Was it the most difficult period of your life?

It was certainly the most difficult period as a bishop. You can’t make any excuses because child abuse is such a terrible thing. The damage that is done to children is absolutely awful. We are on a learning curve. Bishops thought – at least I did – that it was a one-off offence. We didn’t know about the addictive nature of paedophilia.

It wasn’t just that I suffered. My family, the whole Church in England and Wales, suffered really because of the shame of it all. That was hard.

There had been a lot of optimism towards the end of Cardinal Hume’s reign. It really seemed to dent that new-found confidence quite a bit.

It was a real dent. One has to live through these things. In life trials come in ways you don’t expect. I never expected this one.

What was your greatest satisfaction at Westminster?

It was [the renewal programme] At Your Word, Lord. I was convinced, and I had been ever since I was a curate, that small communities were absolutely crucial. You can’t be a Catholic today unless you belong to some kind of group, some kind of cell. All right, you could say the cell is family, then the parish and the diocese. But beyond that the cell is fellow Catholics who you meet with, read the Gospel with.

Renewal in the Church always comes about through small cells of men and women. St Francis had his companions. So did St Dominic and St Teresa. I started these small groups as a curate in Portsmouth and I saw the effect it had on those who took part.

Where did you get the idea from?

Yves Congar. A book called Lay People in the Church. In it, he speaks about the cells. I remember reading it and thinking: he’s right. Then I wrote an article for the Clergy Review about small communities. That was well before I became a bishop. So then I started it in Arundel and Brighton. When I began it in Westminster we had 20,000 people at Wembley Arena. That gave me a lot of satisfaction. Obviously not everyone joined. But people keep saying to me: “That started me off on a new way.”

Did you sit in on a group?

In Arundel and Brighton I joined a group in Storrington, where I lived. Just to show the priests that I was in for it as well.

So that gave me quite a lot of satisfaction. And then, of course, the conclave. Most cardinals lived and died because John Paul was there for so long. They never had a chance. So at least I had that privilege.

There were lots of other good things: preaching to the Queen at Sandringham and staying two nights. I’ve met her a lot and she came to lunch before I left at Archbishop’s House, Westminster. I met Prime Ministers quite a lot, both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

You had a special relationship with Tony Blair.

Yes. There’s no doubt he’s a very believing man. Every time I went to see him I wanted to talk about policy and he wanted to talk about theology.

I always got on very well with Gordon Brown – not everybody’s cup of tea – chiefly because he was very keen on help for the poorest in Africa. I brought him out to Rome when he was Chancellor to talk to a meeting of cardinals and bishops. I thought his heart was in the right place.

Then of course I had my troubles with Tony Blair with the adoption agencies. I felt very bad about that.

Do you see that as his fault?

Well, I think he was bullied. He was under pressure from the homosexual lobby, which is terribly powerful, to pass a law which was totally unnecessary. Homosexual couples can adopt from any agency. Why pass this law? So by the time I wrote my letter to him the law had been passed and I said I wanted a dispensation. That was near the end of his time, so all he could do was say: “Well, I’ll give you 18 months.” He did think we would be able to sort it out. But we weren’t.

Do you think the Church could have done anything to save the agencies? For example, if you hadn’t written the letter everyone might have ignored it and the agencies might not have been challenged.

Oh, I think we would have been challenged by homosexual couples. That’s what I thought, which is why I wrote the letter. I thought that if we had just let it pass then at some time a homosexual couple would have come and we would have had to say no. Then the whole thing would have then gone to the courts and we would have lost. That’s why I decided to confront him.

What was it like to be made a cardinal?

To be made a cardinal is very significant because you become very close to the Pope. And, of course, the main thing is that you take part in the conclave.

Is it slightly terrifying to be made a cardinal? After all, the ceremony mentions shedding your blood for the faith.

I felt very privileged to belong to the body of cardinals. I never thought that when I was a curate down in Portsmouth that one day I would be a cardinal. I wasn’t an intellectual. I was happy to be a parish priest. But then providence intervened.

When I was made a cardinal I didn’t feel superior. But I felt I had a part to play in the international Church. Obviously, it helps here in London if you are made a cardinal. Please God, Archbishop Vincent will be a cardinal before very long. It helps on the national scene because there are a few archbishops around but there is only one cardinal. And then you’re able to do something in Rome as well. I’ve been to Africa as a cardinal. I’ve represented the Pope in India. I’ve done all sorts of things.

You’ve said voting in the conclave was one of the highlights. What was it like?

The most enjoyable thing is the 10 days before, going to meetings and attending dinners with other cardinals in utter secrecy, where you talked together. But then when you actually go into the conclave you’re allotted your room and you aren’t allowed to bring a phone. If you smuggled a mobile phone in they had blocked out the airspace overhead. A hundred and fifteen of us went into the Sistine Chapel. There were prayers and then the senior cardinal deacon said: “Exeunt omnes.” Everyone who was there except the cardinals went out. The doors were closed – oomph! We all looked at each other. It was quite moving.

During the two days of the conclave each of us one by one placed our votes standing before Michelangelo’s Last Judgment. When you vote you say: “This is the man before God I think should be Pope.” And then you wait. The three scrutineers then read out the result.

You must have thought about the possibility of being elected yourself. After all, it could be any of the cardinals present.

I never seriously thought it would be me. But it was funny at the end when Cardinal Ratzinger was getting near the number of votes he needed. Then, when the voting had finished, the senior cardinal went up to him and said: “Your Eminence, you’ve been elected as the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. Do you accept?” And the Pope – or rather Ratzinger – said: “I accept as the will of God.” The cardinal said: “What name do you take?” Immediately he said: “Benedict.” I think every cardinal had a name up his sleeve just in case!

What would yours have been?

I had three in my mind. Adrian, because Adrian IV was the English one. Then I thought of Gregory. And I thought of Benedict.

  • teigitur

    Well thank God it was not to be!

  • Basil Loftus

    Its better than some of the other names he gets called!

  • paulpriest

    I’m not sure if His Eminence offends more with his being ‘economical with the truth’ to the point of grand larceny when describing the authentic nature and aims of the One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church…

    …or with the bare-faced effrontery in which he candidly [and somewhat proudly/contemptuously] admits the systematically engineered dismantling, disenfranchising and destruction of Holy Mother Church in this country by its enemies within?

    “Cormac’s an oecumaniac,
    He’s doing everything he can,
    To turn each Catholic in the land,
    into a Roman Anglican”

    I propose we pray a Million Rosaries to Our Lady – to save her Dowry with another Apostle in the manner of her servant ++Manning

  • 12Maria34

    “I thought that at least we could have a recognition of Anglican orders. Even if there wouldn’t be absolutely full unity we could recognise their orders. Therefore, they would be able to receive Communion from us and we from them. That was my hope when I started with ARCIC.” -  I hope he read Pope Leo XIII’s Apostolic Curae.  Even Pope John Paul II & Pope Benedict XVI were consistent with Pope Leo XIII.

  • JabbaPapa

    Anglicans believe that the source of our faith is Scripture, tradition and reason. We say that it is Scripture, tradition and teaching authority. It’s that third source that is a crucial difference.

    This is rather insightful, anyway.

    Otherwise, he does seem to be a rather decent fellow !!

  • Nat_ons

    Thank God, then, that the Holy Ghost actually gave us the awesome Benedict we so sorely needed.

  • Hamish Redux

    Well, if he had been elected Pope, they could have sung “God moves in a mysterious way” at his inauguration.

  • Basil Loftus

    Interviwed on Radio 4 he deflected attention away from the clergy by reminding listeners that parents were far more likely to commit child abuse than were priests. As though parents don’t have enough mud thrown at them!

  • Apostolic

    Vanity in inverse proportion to ability and insight. The election of someone with hare-brained ideas on such matters as Anglican orders and much else would have presented the Church with the greatest crisis since the Great Schism. The Holy Spirit would surely have prevented such an infliction, had it ever been possible.

  • Patrickhowes

    ” I had troubles with Tony Blair over the Adoption Agency”,But Your Eminence at least those babies had made it into the world!And did you discuss Mr Blairs staunch support for the other A word Abortion?This should have made you provoke a public “Mea Culpa” from  Mr Balir before his conversion

  • Alan

    Apostolicae Curae was not an infallible doctrine, it was a ruling (which should be respected) based on historical investigation.  It is perfectly OK to believe that it could be amended at some time (for example by adopting “conditional ordination”, like conditional baptism, or by fresh historical research coming to light).  What is totally unacceptable is when so-called “Catholics” on this website and elsewhere roundly abuse and insult our hierarchy, even if we disagree with them on something.

  • andreagregorio

    The man was (and remains) a complete Liberal with extraordinary ideas – such as the validity of Anglican Orders.  All sentiment and politics and no substance or intellect (which, with regard to the last, he himself admits in the interview).  Thank God he wasn’t elected and that one of Vincent’s first acts was to destroy the ‘Lord’s Table’ in Westminster and resume the offering of the Sacrifice at the High Altar.  Yes, Please God that Nichols is made a Cardinal soon now that Cormac can no longer vote or hold curial office.

  • teigitur

    Please do not tell me that we must suffer you on here now. Just when we had breathed a sigh of relief that you no longer write in the “Catholic” weekly papers.

  • paulpriest

    Whoaaaaahhhh Boy!!!

    Apostolicae Curae speaks on two grounds for nullity – the extrinsic & intrinsic.

    The extrinsic are debatable – the intrinsic aren’t!

    The intrinsic aren’t merely infallible – they’re impeccable – one can’t get ordained into something which DOESN’T EXIST!

    There is no such thing as Anglican orders – irrespective of some ‘miraculous discovery of recombined apostolic succession’ – it’s an irrelevance – you can’t get ordained into that which does not exist. End of Story.

    Now yet again, irrespective of Cardinal Hume’s confused and ludicrous speculations regarding conditional ordination…

    …when it comes to ordination into a provisional ‘Catholic priesthood’  with combined intentions of the ordinand and ordainer…

    i.e. if e.g. Graham Leonard intended to be ordained into a quasi-Catholic priesthood in communion with the Latin Rite & NOT merely Anglican orders
    AND the ‘Old Catholic’ Archbishop  intended to ordain NOT into Anglican orders nor into the Old Catholic faith but into some quasi-Catholic priesthood of the Roman Rite in affiance with Peter…

    ..irrespective of how Canonically illegal & invalid it is within the Roman Rite – we’re not referring to the Roman Rite here…but how an Old Catholic and a Baptised man appeal to that Rite

    so there is an albeit tenuous appeal to a Dubium and tenable grounds for a ‘conditional ordination’ in order to placate papal concerns…NOT anyone else’s embarrassing metaphysical contortionisms

    NOW…before you jump any guns…

    One needs to be able to understand the very nature of Ordination into the Priesthood and the Diachronicity of Grace in order to understand what’s happening.

    A conditional ordination doesn’t really exist – for once the ordination occurs time is rewritten and the priest is and was always a priest – there’s an ontological transformation within the priest’s soul which is never separated from eternity – there was not a time when the priest was not a priest.

    In other words a sacramental radical sanation occurs whereby any concerns over past dubia – no longer exist – as after the event – it always was as it is a manifestation of the eternal now!

    Now make sure you have this clear in your head – Conditional Ordinations have NOTHING to do with any potential/provisional validity within Anglican orders – they do not exist…

    When an ex-Anglican ‘cleric’ appeals to their previous ministry – that only now exists in light of their Catholic Priesthood and is only efficacious when integral to and congruent with it…

    Now in regard to your claim of our abusing and insulting our hierarchy

    We’re publicly condemning, complaining and appealing to the man IN the office – out of respect to the dignity and authenticity of that office – when the bearer of that office is grossly negligent and morally culpable for dereliction of their duty and abrogation of the Apostolic mandate in their delegates.
    ..and repeatedly acts, speaks, teaches or actuates that which is contrary to Church teachings or praxis?

    We are obliged by the Apostolic duty to defend and uphold that office…

    …or have you forgotten that a Bishop is the Servant of his flock?

  • Apostolic

    It cannot be amended, not only because Leo XIII pronounced judgement on Anglican Orders over a century ago, but because the circumstances of the original defect, both in form and in substance, stemming from the Elizabethan succession (not the original schism), cannot be changed. No pope can change the known circumstances of the past and certainly no pope – this pope, or any other pope who might follow – will not be able to act outside of tradition regarding this, even if he were so minded. In fact, the grounds for Leo XIII’s judgement have if anything become more manifest, as the reformed traditions of the Anglicans, based on the Reformation principle of private judgement, lead to ever greater fragmentation and schisms among Anglicans. 

    Recognition of Anglican orders is quite impossible, and Anglicans of a more Catholic outlook have long recognised this, frequently travelling to the Continent for additional validation from Catholic schismatics such as the Old Catholics – the so-called “Dutch Touch”. They know that their communion is not only diverse but contradictory on issues such as the priesthood, as well as much else. Anglican orders are a problem for Anglicans rather than for Catholics. These are fairly basic facts of the case, but clearly beyond the Cardinal, who has never been noted for even mildly sophisticated thought. 

  • Apostolic

    He would have made a great school rugby coach.

  • nytor

    I don’t think elevating Nichols to the purple will please many people other than Nichols himself.

  • paulpriest


  • Cjkeeffe

    But what Cormac said is factually correct, where is youir objection to teh truth. Its also true that according to American Insurence companiioes taht Protestant churches (in america) have a higher rate of abuse.

  • Stephen

    Do you not think that God normally moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform?

  • chiaramonti

    The statistics support what the cardinal says. Most child abuse (and it is not only sexual) does take place within the child’s home environment. Criminal trials in England and Wales rarely concern the activities of a priest or religious – grave as such allegations are. Most involve children abused within the extended family, often by transient male partners of the mother.

  • CNCatholic

    I believe that Anglican Orders can eventually and hopefully one day will be valid within the Catholic Church but first methods of communication need to arise. Even if it means looking into reviewing the CofE ordination rite to make sure it is universally correct. 

    Even though the developments of women priests have come about it must be possible that a scheme in co-ordination with Rome and the CofE could be brought about for people to opt into

  • Parasum

    “…the joy of choosing a pope”

    ## …because when he pops off – as he will very soon, if he is old – any given elector can look forward to being elected. Though why anyone in his right mind would want to be Pope, is anyone’s guess. 

    @ Apostolic: “Vanity in inverse proportion to ability and insight.”

    ## Yup.

  • Parasum

     Apostolicae Curae is, even so, the final word on the subject. The alternative is ludicrous – it logically requires people who hated & loathed & abominated the Mass & thought of it as a filthy & satanic blasphemy, to be ordained to offer it. They left their views of the Mass on record – one need only quote them. To try to claim that these men belong to the same Church as St. Pascal Baylon & other Saints noted for their great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, would be ludicrous. The 39 Articles make clear that their framers had no time for it at all.

    The English Reformers under Elizabeth were not stupid: quite a few had been ordained to the Catholic priesthood while they were still Catholics. Matthew Parker was ordained priest in 1527 – it beggars belief to suggest that he intended to be a ordained a Catholic bishop, when the Roman Pontifical (which contained the rite) was rejected; when books stripped of Catholic theology and containing a Protestant theology of ordination were used in its stead; given that the Catholic rites & priesthood were illegal in England; given that the Catholic bishops had been dispossessed of their sees & imprisoned.

    That’s just the beginning. Until about 60 years ago, the C of E was very largely unfriendly to the CC; it is absurd to imagine that generations of Archbishops, bishops & other Anglican clergy who spent their time writing against Rome, did not know what Rome’s doctrine of the priesthood was. They did know – and they rejected it. To call them priests in the Catholic sense is to refuse them the dignity of knowing what they meant; it’s demeaning. People like the mid-Victorian Bishop Forbes of Brechin, who was very Roman in in his eucharistic theology, are unusual, and he was controversial because his beliefs approached those of Rome; they were not typical of the Episcopalian or of the Anglican Churches. The present nonsense of Anglicans wanting to be thought of as Catholic priests in the Roman sense would have impossible without the Ritualists, and before them, some in the Oxford Movement: & both movements were very controversial in the English Church of 1833 onwards.

    Anglicans wanting to be thought of as Catholic priests in the Roman sense are denying the history of their own Church. Which is a Protestant, un-Roman, anti-Roman, anti-Papal Church. It was meant by it so-called Reformers to be those three things. That it also has a great deal in it from before the break with Rome, does not make it a Catholic Church in union with Rome. People cannot expect the C of E to have a character that its Reformers tried extremely hard to obliterate; if it wants to be Catholic in the Roman sense, it will have to disown the Reformation. Which is not going to happen. But in that case, there is no point in trying to pretend that Anglicans who are not priests in the sense intended by the CC, are priests in that sense. They are Protestant ministers, IOW laymen in the POV of the CC.

  • Parasum

    “Thank God he wasn’t elected and that one of Vincent’s first acts was to
    destroy the ‘Lord’s Table’ in Westminster and resume the offering of the
    Sacrifice at the High Altar.”

    ## He did ??? Excellent !!!! The CC is not Protestant, and should stop acting as though it were.

  • JabbaPapa

    Given that Anglicans ordain women, there is now a zero possibility that the Anglican orders could ever be considered as valid — and that’s not even considering that their theology of the Mass is so deficient that they can’t even give any valid Mass where such sacraments could be provided in the first place !!!

  • Apostolic

    Anglican orders cannot be validated for the reasons already outlined in detail above. It would be beyond the authority of a pope to do so and is therefore impossible.

  • Ronk

    “In Reading, where I lived, there were great crowds at Mass, but a lot of them just came to meet together on a Sunday.”

    What a horrible, judgmental and wicked thing for anyone, much less a Cardinal, to say about his fellow Catholics! How dare he presume to declare that people who come to Mass each Sunday do so only for profane reasons! It doesn’t even make sense on any level. If people wanted to meet up on Sunday, they could do so in a hall or a park or anywhere else but in a church whilst Mass was on.

  • Apostolic

    This is typical of someone who has been contemptuous of pre-1960s Catholicism as “insufficiently developed” Yet, this was the Faith and liturgy for which Catholics risked life and limb to attend, whether in recusant houses in the sixteenth century or concentration camps and gulags in the twentieth century. Judgmental and arrogant indeed.

  • Alan

    Leaving aside the “defect of intent” arguments of Apostolicae Curae (how can we know the real “intent” of any bishop, going back through the centuries?), I just want to address the issue of respect for our hierarchy.  I do not always agree with them (for example I think the “meatless Fridays” ruling is rather silly) but they are the people in charge in this country; for most Catholics the Vatican is remote from their lives.  When traditionalists talk about “good riddance” to Cormac, and roundly abuse Vincent Nichols, I wonder why they choose to remain in the same Church.  One good thing about the Catholic Church, as opposed to the Anglican, is that we do not go in for public rows.  It looks as if the traditionalists (if that’s the right word for them) are intent on changing that. 

  • paulpriest

    I’m sorry but we DO go in for public rows…

    If you haven’t noticed that’s your loss.

  • Alan

    Yes, now and again, but we don’t normally have the bitter public spats that Anglicans do. I’m all in favour of vigorous debates within the Church (though some seem to want to put a lid on any questioning of controversial teachings) but rows in public, particularly attacks on bishops, do the Church no good.  On the question of “conditional ordination” I see no difference in principle with conditional baptism (which I had as a convert). 

  • Rowan carstairs

    A pompous prelate who has destroyed so much of The Church in this country and totally neglected the salvation of souls. Thank God he is on his way out. Like a swarm of locusts he and his followers leave behind a barren land that a new generation of priests and bishops must re cultivate. The truly dreadful thing he cannot see that he is in error on so many matters of The Faith.  

  • CNCatholic

    It wouldn’t be beyond the authority of the Pope as the issue/idea of the validity of Anglican Orders is not Church doctrine but yet idea was brought up by the Pope.

    I am an Anglo-Catholic and love and respect the authority of the Pope but I think ways and issues can be overcome to validate Anglican orders. Who cares about women priests – their orders are not valid, so it wouldn’t even be the case

  • W Lewis513

    Always thought he suffered from delusions of grandure, this provesit. Also he at last proves that he is ann aglican, but did not have the courage to depart, he loved his red hat!

  • paulpriest

     There is plenty difference: You should not have been conditionally baptised. Water & Correct form [Father, Son & Holy Spirit - UNLESS there is a doctrinal distortion [e.g. Mormons] means you are baptised.

    If a Bishop is directly contravening Catholic teaching or praxis or is permitting/condoning that which is utterly contrary to Holy Mother Church – One has a duty to speak out – especially when told to ‘go forth and multiply’ after expressing private concerns.

    I refer especially to life issues where abortion/euthanasia are being formally and materially co-operated with.

  • nytor

    “I think the “meatless Fridays” ruling is rather silly”

    The traditional practice of fasting in commemoration of Our Lord’s crucifixion is “silly”, is it? No, what was “silly” was removing it in the first place.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    So this man thought (thinks?) that Leo XIII’s decision on Anglican “Orders” could be changed?

    “36. Wherefore, strictly adhering, in this matter, to the decrees of the pontiffs, our predecessors, and confirming them most fully, and, as it were, renewing them by our authority, of our own initiative and certain knowledge, we pronounce and declare that ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void.”

    “40. We decree that these letters and all things contained therein shall not be liable at any time to be impugned or objected to by reason of fault or any other defect whatsoever of subreption or obreption of our intention, but are and shall be always valid and in force and shall be inviolably observed both juridically and otherwise, by all of whatsoever degree and preeminence, declaring null and void anything which, in these matters, may happen to be contrariwise attempted, whether wittingly or unwittingly, by any person whatsoever, by whatsoever authority or pretext, all things to the contrary notwithstanding.”

    In 1998 Cardinal Ratzinger (then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), issued a doctrinal commentary to accompany Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem, which established penalties in Canon law for failure to accept “definitive teaching”. Despite the ongoing work of the ecumenical Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), Ratzinger’s commentary listed Leo XIII’s declaration in Apostolicae Curae that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void” as one of the teachings to which Catholics must give “firm and definitive assent”.

    The commentary went on to say that these teachings are not understood by the Church as revealed doctrines but are rather those the church’s teaching authority finds to be so closely connected to God’s revealed truth that belief in them is required to safeguard the divinely revealed truths of the Christian Faith. Those who fail to give “firm and definitive assent”, according to the commentary, would “no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church”.

    So, in the face of this, can one affirm that Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor is a Catholic?

  • paulpriest


    Thanks for that…

  • paulpriest

     Sorry but I have to repeat: They DON’T EXIST!

    You’re confusing what the Pope said about the extrinsics with the axiomatic intrinsics which are irrevocable irrespective of any personal opinion, whim or wishful thinking of a Pope – it can’t happen!

    If Cormac had become Pope there would have been no power in Heaven or Earth which could have allowed him to make that which is not real – real.

    He could universally ordain them – but he couldn’t make Anglican orders real…

  • JabbaPapa

    So, in the face of this, can one affirm that Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor is a Catholic?
    Insofar as the doctrine on the invalidity of the Anglican Orders has been declared with extremely high Authority, albeit not infallibility (the doctrine is necessarily non-infallible, because of the possibility that future developments in Anglicanism could conceivably return that church or parts of that church into a state of orthodoxy concerning the relevant doctrines), and considering that he was limiting himself to a statement of his own personal opinions concerning this question, I think that the answer is :
    Don’t pretend that you’re more Catholic than a Cardinal of the Church, please.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    Your argument is that of Murphy-O’Connor.

    What “developments in Anglicanism? Pope Leo XIII statred that his judgement was definitive and forever. Cardinal Ratzinger has stated that those who even suggest otherwise; those who fail to give “firm and definitive assent”, would “no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church”.

    Most people will draw the correct conclusion. And it’s not yours.

    This sort of dissent from a Cardinal of Holy Church?

    God help us.

    And do not tell me to “pretend” anything. Who the hell are you to say such a thing? I quoted accurately the official Magisterium’s teaching on Anglican Orders. CMOC dissents from it. That removes him from perfect communion with the Catholic Church. The Prefect of the CDF says so!

    You do this kind of thing continually Jabba.

  • JabbaPapa

    Look — for the Anglican Orders to become valid, this is what would need to happen AT MINIMUM :

    1) Declaration that all ordinations of women (with the possible exception of women deacons, though even this would be a tough sell) are annulled by virtue of their invalidity, and that such ordinations are permanently forbidden

    2) Excommunicate anyone disobeying 1)

    3) Junk any and every doctrine of the Eucharist that is incompatible with orthodox christian teaching of the nature of the Eucharist and of the Real Presence in the bread and the wine — junk any and every doctrine denying any other fundamental orthodox christian aspect of the transubstantiation/metousiosis of the essences and the worship that they receive

    4) Excommunicate anyone denying 3)

    5) Establish doctrinally orthodox liturgy for the Mass (this is the easiest to do in the whole list)

    6) Establish an orthodox theological framework to define and determine the theology of the Mass and the theology of the clergy

    7) Excommunicate anyone disobeying or denying 6)

    8) Provide an Archbishop of Canterbury with a valid and licit ordination into the priesthood and the episcopate

    Yeah, that looks  *reeeaaalllly* likely, eh ?

  • Alan

    “Meatless Fridays” are no more “fasting” than are “fishless Fridays”.  They are simply doing without one type of food, which has absolutely no effect on vegetarians and very little effect on many of us who prefer fish anyway.  I wouldn’t object to a Friday fast, as on Good Friday, but simply saying we should go without one type of food, to be replaced with another, is indeed “silly”.

  • JabbaPapa

    With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the apostolic letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations….

    You are exaggerating the degree of authority of this doctrine — the Anglican rite in question has been definitively condemned, NOT the Anglican church in toto, nor indeed any possible future Anglican rite that would be in accord with Catholic teachings.

    I don’t even AGREE with the Cardinal, but you gave absolutely no call whatsoever to declare him as outside Communion with the Church.

    CCC 2277

    You have NO IDEA about the state of his sin in regard to this matter, not just because he was essentially expressing a private opinion about a hypothetical, which is very likely not sinful in the first place, in addition to being a part of his job ; but also because you are not his confessor.

    That removes him from perfect communion with the Catholic Church. The Prefect of the CDF says so!

    Shall I suggest that you are no longer in perfect communion with the Catholic Church by reason of your public denigrations and denials of a Cardinal’s catholicity ?

    You do this kind of thing continually Jabba. You don’t know your arse from your elbow.

    What, denounce falsehoods where I see them ?

    NOBODY AT ALL has claimed that the Anglican Rites are valid !!!!

    Get that round your head before you start accusing people of whatever rubbish that they haven’t done.

  • Ælfrid the Mercian

    By declaring in this interview, CMOC (along with very, very many other Churchmen of his benighted generation who went even further) that he expected Anglican Orders to be declared valid, it would seem clear to a Norwegian Blue Parrot that he doesn’t hold to Leo XIII’s definitive judgement. The conclusion is obvious. 

    You don’t have a clue how far most Catholic Bishops around the world have departed from the Catholic Faith even as expressed by Vatican II, Jabba. You really don’t understand the depth of the Apostasy.

    And as for the journalist who failed to pick him up on this point, failed to explore WHY he holds this view is typical of the uselessness of what passes for “Catholic” journalism nowadays. A few decades ago any Catholic journalist worth his salt wouldn’t have let him get away with it. You see the point?

  • Apostolic

    Even if parts of that church were to return to orthodoxy, this would not affect the original reason for the invalidity of her orders. Such a return would be praiseworthy, but their orders, as in the recent case of the Ordinariate, would remain invalid and would have to be substituted by ordination in the Catholic Church.

  • Apostolic

    Even this would require reordination by the Catholic Church, since such changes would change the present, but not the past defects in the ordinal and succession.

  • JabbaPapa

    By declaring in this interview… that he expected Anglican Orders to be declared valid

    He *didn’t* — he said that he “thought that they could be” — I mean, he strongly hints immediately afterwards that with the ordination of women he realised he was wrong about that ; I think he’s wrong about that even *without* the ordination of women – but WHERE exactly is it stated that he thought that these orders WERE valid ???


    This is just slander on your part.

    You don’t have a clue how far most Catholic Bishops around the world have departed from the Catholic Faith even as expressed by Vatican II, Jabba

    Oh don’t I ?

    Traditionalists accuse me of beng liberal, liberals accuse me of being a “traddy catholic”.

    OK, so maybe I’m lucky enough to live in a part of Europe where fidelity of Catholics to orthodox catholicity is very strong — but don’t imagine for a SECOND that I’m unaware of the gross abuses against the Faith that have been perpetrated worldwide.

  • JabbaPapa