Cormac Murphy-O'Connor (24 August 1932 – 1 September 2017) was a
cardinal of the
Roman Catholic Church,
Archbishop of Westminster
Archbishop of Westminster and
President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. He
was made cardinal by
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II in 2001. He submitted his
resignation as archbishop on reaching his 75th birthday in 2007; Pope
Benedict XVI accepted it on 3 April 2009.
By virtue of his position as Archbishop of Westminster,
Murphy-O'Connor was sometimes referred to as the Catholic Primate of
England and Wales. However, though the holders within the Church of
England of the posts of
Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of
York are called the "Primate of All England" and "Primate of England"
respectively, the title of primate has never been used by the de facto
leaders of the
Catholic Church in England and Wales.
1 Early life
2 Church career
2.1 Parish priest
2.3 Archbishop and cardinal
3.1 Abuse scandal
3.2 Response to Summorum Pontificum
3.3 AIDS prevention
3.4 Status of immigrants
3.5 Adoption by same-sex couples
3.6 Family planning
3.7 Embryo bill
6 External links
Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was born on 24 August 1932 in Reading,
Berkshire, the fifth son of George Murphy-O'Connor, a G.P., and
Ellen (née Cuddigan; died 1971), who emigrated from
County Cork in
Ireland before the
First World War
First World War and married in 1921. The
Murphy-O'Connor family was middle class, with the men becoming doctors
or priests, and one in each generation taking over the family business
as wine merchants 'to the clergy and gentry of Southern Ireland'. A
forebear, Daniel Murphy, became the first Archbishop of Hobart,
Tasmania, in 1888, having served as a bishop there since 1865. Two
of his uncles, one aunt, two cousins and two of his brothers, Brian
(1930–2012) and Patrick, were also ordained or members of
religious orders. His youngest brother, John, was a regular officer in
Royal Artillery who died of renal cell carcinoma; he had two
other siblings, James (a doctor and rugby player) and Catherine. His
cousin, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, was a Dominican priest and expert on
St Paul who served as Professor of
New Testament at the École
Jerusalem from 1967 to his death in 2013. After
attending Presentation College in Reading and
Prior Park College
Prior Park College in
Bath, in 1950 Murphy-O'Connor followed his brother Brian to the
Venerable English College in Rome and began his studies for the
priesthood, where he received a degree in theology. Thereafter, he
earned a licentiate in philosophy and a Licentiate of Sacred Theology
degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained on 28
October 1956, by Cardinal Valerio Valeri. For the next decade he was
engaged in pastoral ministry in
Portsmouth and Fareham.
In 1966, Murphy-O'Connor became the private secretary to Bishop Derek
Worlock of Portsmouth. In September 1970, he was appointed parish
priest of the Immaculate Conception church in Portswood,
Southampton. Soon afterwards, in late 1971, he was appointed rector
of the Venerable English College, his alma mater. As rector he
hosted the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Donald Coggan, on his
historic visit to
Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI in 1977.
On 17 November 1977, Murphy-O'Connor was named Bishop of Arundel and
Brighton by Pope Paul VI. He received his episcopal consecration on
the following 21 December from Bishop Michael Bowen, with
George Dwyer and Bishop Anthony Emery serving as
co-consecrators. He held important positions among the bishops of
Europe and has also been consistently influential in ecumenical work;
from 1982 to 2000 he was Co-Chairman of the Anglican–Roman Catholic
International Commission. In 2000 he was awarded the Lambeth
Doctor of Divinity
Doctor of Divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury, George
Carey, in recognition of his work for Christian unity.
Archbishop and cardinal
Your Eminence or My Lord Cardinal
Murphy-O'Connor was appointed the tenth Archbishop of Westminster, and
thus head of the
Catholic Church in England and Wales, on 15 February
2000; in November of that year he was elected President of the
Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.
In the consistory of 21 February 2001 he was created Cardinal-Priest
Santa Maria sopra Minerva
Santa Maria sopra Minerva by Pope John Paul II.
He was appointed to four curial organisations: the Congregation for
Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the
Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, the Pontifical
Council for the Study of Organisational and Economic Problems of the
Holy See, and the Pontifical Council for the Family. He also served on
the Pontifical Councils for Culture and for Laity, and was secretary
of the Vox Clara commission which oversees the translating of
liturgical texts from Latin into English.
Murphy-O'Connor belonged to a group of approximately a dozen
like-minded cardinals and bishops – all Europeans – who
met annually from 1995 to 2006 in St. Gallen, Switzerland, to discuss
reforms with respect to the appointment of bishops, collegiality,
bishops' conferences, the primacy of the papacy and sexual morality;
they differed among themselves, but shared the view that Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger was not the sort of candidate they hoped to see
elected at the next conclave.
In August 2001, Murphy-O'Connor was created a Freeman of the City of
In January 2002, he preached during the Anglican morning service at
Sandringham, the first time a
Roman Catholic prelate delivered a
sermon to an English monarch since 1680. In 2002, in Westminster
Abbey, he was the first cardinal to read prayers at an English Royal
Funeral Service (for the Queen Mother) since 1509. In 2002 he had
his portrait painted for Westminster Cathedral by the artist Christian
Furr. In advance of the 2005 papal conclave, where Murphy-O'Conner
served as a cardinal elector, Cardinal
Achille Silvestrini told
reporters to watch for Murphy-O'Connor to emerge as a possible new
pope. He was ineligible to participate in the 2013 conclave due to
being aged over 80.
On 28 October 2006, Murphy-O'Connor celebrated 50 years of ordination
with a Jubilee Mass in Westminster Cathedral.
Shortly before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75,
Murphy-O'Connor submitted his resignation as Archbishop of Westminster
to Pope Benedict XVI, who asked that Murphy-O'Connor remain in his
position "until he chooses otherwise". On 3 April 2009 Benedict
Vincent Nichols as Murphy-O'Connor's replacement. All Murphy
O'Connor's predecessors died in office, so he was the first Archbishop
Emeritus of Westminster. He lived the remainder of his life in
semi-retirement in Duke's Avenue, Chiswick, London.
On 30 October 2009, Pope Benedict appointed Murphy-O'Connor a member
of the Congregation for Bishops, a post he held until his 80th
birthday. It was unusual to receive such an appointment after
In June 2010, after the
Ryan Report and
Murphy Report on the abuses by
Catholic Church in Ireland, Murphy-O'Connor was named along with
others to oversee the apostolic visitation of certain dioceses and
seminaries. Murphy-O'Connor was named as the Visitor to the Diocese of
Armagh and its suffragan sees.
Murphy-O'Connor, in a speech delivered on 17 May 2012 in Leicester's
Anglican cathedral, said, "In the name of tolerance it seems to me
tolerance is being abolished." He said:
Our danger in Britain today is that so-called Western reason claims
that it alone has recognized what is right and thus claims a totality
that is inimical to freedom ...
No one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to
live according to the new secular religion as if it alone were
definitive and obligatory for all humankind ...
The propaganda of secularism and its high priests wants us to believe
that religion is dangerous for our health. It suits them to have no
opposition to their vision of a brave new world, the world which they
see as somehow governed only by people like themselves.
He died of cancer on 1 September 2017 after an extended hospital
Main article: Sexual abuse scandal in Arundel and Brighton diocese
Murphy-O'Connor found himself subject to public scrutiny regarding a
priest in his diocese when he was Bishop of Arundel and Brighton.
During this time it was brought to his attention that a priest,
Michael Hill, was a sexual abuser of children. In 2000, when Murphy
O'Connor became Archbishop of Westminster, the case became known to
the general public.
Response to Summorum Pontificum
In July 2007, Murphy-O'Connor welcomed Pope Benedict XVI's relaxation
of restrictions on the use of the 1962 Roman Missal. He said:
I welcome the Holy Father's call for unity within the Church and
especially toward those who are very attached to celebrating the Mass
according to the Missal of 1962. We are confident that the provisions
already made throughout England and Wales under the indult granted
back in 1971 go a significant way toward meeting the requirements of
the new norms.
When he issued a letter implementing the pope's rules to the clergy of
his diocese in November, he was criticized in some quarters for
requiring parish priests to request permission before Mass could be
celebrated in that traditional form.
Catholic Church and HIV/AIDS
On 3 December 2006, Murphy-O'Connor issued a response to a statement
made by Prime Minister
Tony Blair on
World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day (1 December 2006)
in which Blair said, "The danger is if we have a sort of blanket ban
from religious hierarchy saying it's wrong to do it, then you
discourage people from doing it in circumstances where they need to
protect their lives." In response to this Murphy-O'Connor said,
I think what I would like to say to the prime minister is that it
would be much better if he used that money to provide more
antiretroviral drugs – medicines – for the millions of children,
women who are affected. I speak to bishops in Africa and they tell me
that their dioceses are flooded with condoms and I said, "Well, has it
affected?" They said, "Well, sad to say it has meant more promiscuity
and more AIDS".
Status of immigrants
On 7 May 2007 Murphy-O'Connor addressed a crowd of undocumented aliens
Trafalgar Square in support of the Strangers into Citizens
campaign, which advocates a path to citizenship for undocumented
workers. Previously he had commissioned major research on the pastoral
challenges migrants present in his parishes, which received widespread
press coverage when published as The Ground of Justice.
Adoption by same-sex couples
In early 2007, Murphy-O'Connor sent a letter to Blair opposing pending
regulations extending to same-sex couples the right to adopt on the
same basis as different-sex couples. He said that the law would force
people to "act against the teaching of the Church and their own
consciences" with regard to Catholic adoption agencies and requested
an exemption from the law. He continued:
We believe it would be unreasonable, unnecessary and unjust
discrimination against Catholics for the government to insist that if
they wish to continue to work with local authorities, Catholic
adoption agencies must act against the teaching of the Church and
their own consciences by being obliged in law to provide such a
Murphy-O'Connor denounced contraception and abortion many times. In
February 2008 he ordered the board of St John and St Elizabeth's
Hospital, a Catholic hospital partly funded by the NHS, to resign
because its general practice prescribed the morning-after pill and
issued abortion referrals.
In February 2013 Murphy-O'Connor said that, while a radical departure
from previous teaching was not likely, it would be "wise" to focus on
"what's good and what's true" about marriage and family life instead.
I think that every Pope will face what needs to be faced and with
regard to contraception I think the Pope won't say the Church has been
wrong the whole time. He'll be saying there are ways ... I think
the Pope will be as every other Pope has, particularly Pope Benedict,
understanding that the fundamental teaching on sexuality is
concentrated on marriage, on family life. I think that the Church
would be wise actually to focus on that in her teaching, rather than
saying "we condemn this, we condemn that, or the other". No –
focus on what's good and what's true.
In March 2008 Murphy-O'Connor joined Cardinal
Keith O'Brien of
Scotland in opposing the government's proposed embryology bill. The
government had instructed its MPs to vote for the bill, which angered
some Catholic MPs. Murphy-O'Connor said "Certainly, there are some
aspects of this bill on which I believe there ought to be a free vote,
because Catholics and others will want to vote according to their
conscience." The government gave in to the pressure and promised to
allow MPs a free vote.
In 2008 Murphy-O'Connor urged Christians to treat atheists and
agnostics with deep esteem, "because the hidden God is active in their
lives as well as in the lives of those who believe". However, in
2009, speaking after Archbishop Vincent Nichols' installation, he said
that a lack of faith is "the greatest of evils."
House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies:
Grand Cross of Justice of the
Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George
^ a b c Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor: recession may be jolt that
selfish Britain needs. The Times. (8 September 2013).
^ Stanford, Peter (1 September 2017). "Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
^ Compass – ABC TV Religion Stories. Australian Broadcasting
Corporation.au (15 October 2006).
^ a b c Heren, Patrick (June 2015). "Unturbulent Priest". Standpoint.
Retrieved 1 September 2017.
^ "Canon Brian Murphy-O'Connor" (PDF). Diocese of Portsmouth. 20 June
2012. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
^ Association, Catholic. (11 June 2012) Catholic Association
Pilgrimage News: Canon Brian Murphy-O’Connor.
^ Death certificate ref:1960-Dec-Westminster-05c-379
^ a b c d e "Obituary:Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor". BBC. Retrieved
2 September 2017.
^ a b c d "Obituary: Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor". Independent
Catholic News. 1 September 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
^ a b c d "Cardinal
Cormac Murphy-O'Connor dies aged 85". Catholic
Herald. 1 September 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
^ Pentin, Edward (24 September 2015). "Cardinal Danneels Admits to
Being Part of 'Mafia' Club Opposed to Benedict XVI". National Catholic
Register. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
^ Pentin, Edward (26 September 2015). "Cardinal Danneels' Biographers
Retract Comments on
St. Gallen Group". National Catholic Register.
Retrieved 15 August 2017.
^ "Previous Archbishops Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor". Diocese of
Westminster. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
^ "CARDINAL CORMAC MURPHY-O'CONNOR DIES PEACEFULLY SURROUNDED BY
FAMILY AND FRIENDS". The Tablet. 1 September 2017. Retrieved 1
^ "Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor Westminster Cathedral by Christian
Furr". 7 August 2007. Archived from the original on 7 August 2007.
Retrieved 2 September 2017.
^ Kaiser, Robert Blair (2006). A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict
XVI and the Battle for the Future. Knopf. Retrieved 27 August
^ "Obituary - Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor". The Times. 1 September
2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017. At 80, he was no longer eligible to
enter the conclave, but, thought by some to be a king-maker, he was
spied eating risotto with the future Pope.
^ "50 Years of Priesthood".
Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster. 30
October 2006. Retrieved 31 October 2009.
^ The Holy Father invites Cardinal
Cormac Murphy-O'Connor to continue
in his present pastoral ministry. Rcdow.org.uk (9 July 2007).
^ "Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's new appointments in Rome". Roman
Catholic Diocese of Westminster. 30 October 2009. Retrieved 31 October
^ "Rinunce e Nomine". Press Office of the Holy See (Press release) (in
Italian). Press Office of the Holy See. 30 October 2009. Retrieved 1
^ "UK Prelate Warns 'Tolerance Is Being Abolished'". ZENIT. 24
Cormac Murphy-O'Connor dies at 85". BBC News. 1 September
2017. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
^ BBC Radio 4 Today programme. BBC.
^ "Bishops Welcome Summorum Pontificum". ZENIT. 8 July 2007. Retrieved
1 September 2017.
^ "Resistance to Latin Mass liberalization is disobedient and proud,
says bishop". Catholic News Agency. 23 November 2007. Retrieved 1
^ "Church head makes Aids cash call". BBC News. 3 December 2006.
Retrieved 2 September 2017.
^ Francis Davis and Jolanta Stankeviciute, The Ground of Justice
^ Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford Archived 9 July 2013 at the
Wayback Machine. page
^ Tempest, Matthew (23 January 2007). "No 10 mulls Catholic opt-out
from gay rights law". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 April
^ Butt, Riazat (22 February 2008). "Archbishop orders Catholic
hospital board to resign in ethics dispute". The Guardian. Retrieved
29 August 2017.
^ Ford Rojas, John-Paul (12 February 2013). "New Pope should not
condemn contraception, says cardinal". The Telegraph. Retrieved 29
^ "Cardinal adds to pressure for free vote over embryo bill".
politics.co.uk. 23 March 2007. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
^ "'Respect atheists', says cardinal". BBC News. 9 May 2008. Retrieved
2 September 2017.
^ ''The Times'', 21 May 2009 (behind paywall). Thetimes.co.uk.
^ "Atheism 'is the greatest of all evils', says outgoing Archbishop of
Westminster". The Freethinker. 21 May 2009. Retrieved 2 September
His Eminence Cardinal
Cormac Murphy-O'Connor invested into the
Royal Order of Francis I". Constantinian.org.uk. Retrieved 3 September
Biography, Holy See Press Office
Catholic Church titles
Bishop of Arundel and Brighton
Archbishop of Westminster
Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
Roman Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton
Roman Catholic Bishops of Arundel and Brighton
I: David Cashman
II: Michael Bowen
III: Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
IV: Kieran Conry
V: Richard Moth
Arundel Cathedral - Cathedral Church of Our Lady and St Philip Howard
St John the Baptist's Church, Brighton
St Mary Magdalen's Church, Brighton
St Joseph's Church, Brighton
Church of the Sacred Heart, Hove
St Peter's Church, Aldrington
St Mary's Church, Preston Park
Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Bognor Regis
St Richard of Chichester Church, Slindon
St Anthony of Viareggio Church, Rose Green
St Richard of Chichester Church, Chichester
Sacred Heart Church, Petworth
Church of the Divine Motherhood and St Francis of Assisi, Midhurst
St Anthony and St George Church, Duncton
Our Lady of England Church, Storrington
Friary Church of St Francis and St Anthony, Crawley
Our Lady and St Peter's Church, East Grinstead
St Bernard's Church, Lingfield
Shrine Church of Our Lady of Consolation and St Francis, West
Corpus Christi Church, Henfield
Our Lady of Ransom Church, Eastbourne
Church of St Thomas More, Seaford
St Joseph's Church, Dorking
Church of Our Lady and St Peter, Leatherhead
St Joan of Arc's Church, Farnham
St Edmund Church, Godalming
St Teresa of Avila Church, Chiddingfold
Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Haslemere
St Anselm Church, Hindhead
St Edward the Confessor Church, Sutton Park
St Wilfrid's Church, Burgess Hill
St John the Evangelist Church, Heron's Ghyll
Our Lady Immaculate and St Philip Neri Church, Uckfield
Sacred Heart Church, Caterham
All Saints Church, Oxted
St Ambrose Church, Warlington
Church of St Thomas of Canterbury and English Martyrs, St
St Mary Magdalene's Church, Bexhill-on-Sea
St Mary Star of the Sea Church, Hastings
St Anthony of Padua Church, Rye
Church of St Thomas of Canterbury and English Martyrs, St
Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Englefield Green
St John of Rochester Church, Egham
St Dunstan's Church, Woking
St Tarcisius Church, Camberley
St Mary of the Angels, Worthing
St Peter's Church, Shoreham-by-Sea
St Catherine's Church, Littlehampton
St Joseph Church, Rustington
Patronal Feasts of the Diocese
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (15 August)
St Philip Howard (19 October)
Cardinal Newman Catholic School, Hove
Chatsmore Catholic High School
Mayfield School, Mayfield
Notre Dame School, Surrey
Our Lady of Sion School
Rydes Hill Preparatory School
St Andrew's Catholic School
St Bede's School
St Dominic's School
St George's College, Weybridge
St John's Beaumont School
St John the Baptist School, Woking
St Paul's Catholic College, Burgess Hill
St Peter's Catholic School
St Philip Howard Catholic High School
St Richard's Catholic College
St Teresa's School
St Wilfrid's Catholic School, Crawley
Salesian School, Chertsey
Towers Convent School
St John's Seminary, Wonersh
Our Lady of England Priory, Storrington
St Augustine's Abbey, Chilworth
St. Hugh's Charterhouse, Parkminster
Hierarchy of the
Catholic Church in England and Wales
Province of Westminster
Alan Williams (Brentwood)
Alan Hopes (East Anglia)
Peter Doyle (Northampton)
Patrick McKinney (Nottingham)
Vincent Nichols (Westminster)
Province of Birmingham
Bernard Longley (Birmingham)
Declan Lang (Clifton)
Mark Davies (Shrewsbury)
Province of Liverpool
Ralph Heskett (Hallam)
Michael Campbell (Lancaster)
Marcus Stock (Leeds)
Malcolm McMahon (Liverpool)
Terry Drainey (Middlesbrough)
Séamus Cunningham (Hexham and Newcastle)
John Arnold (Salford)
Province of Southwark
Richard Moth (Arundel and Brighton)
Mark O'Toole (Plymouth)
Philip Egan (Portsmouth)
Archbishop Peter Smith (Southwark)
Province of Cardiff
George Stack (Cardiff)
Tom Burns (Menevia)
Peter Brignall (Wrexham)
Sede vacante (Bishopric of the Forces)
Keith Newton (Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham)
Hlib Lonchyna (Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Holy Family of London)
Bishop of Beverley
Pre-Restoration of the Hierarchy Apostolic Vicariates: London
District, Midland District, Northern District, Western District
ISNI: 0000 0001 1511 9811