The Lord Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor – ‘The Times has learnt...’
Sorry, Times, but Cranmer
His elevation to the House of Lords would require papal dispensation, but Cranmer noted that also. For according to Canon 285 §3. ‘Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power.’
Since Lord Murphy-O’Connor would constitutionally be required to be styled a Lord Temporal (the Lords Spiritual being limited to 26 Anglicans), his elevation would ‘entail a participation in the exercise of civil power’. Unless Pope Benedict is minded to waive Canon Law, it is difficult to see how this may be circumvented. If his becoming a Lord Temporal might present His Eminence or His Holiness with difficulties, they would be no less significant than those for the British State to recognise a Roman Catholic as a Lord Spiritual. Indeed, it would be easier for the Pope to waive Canon Law than for Gordon Brown to try to amend this aspect of the Constitution.
Not, of course, that the time might not be ripe for such a development.
But the timing of all this is most convenient for the Prime Minister. Along with the proposed repeal/reform of the Act of Settlement 1701, the elevation of Cardinal Cormac to the Lords is simply a crass attempt to re-acquire all of those Roman Catholic ‘traditional Labour’ voters who have seen the light and switched to the Conservative Party en masse, largely in protest against the most anti-Christian government in modern British history. Labour has been no friend of the Catholic Church, or even of any church or ‘ecclesial community’.
By accepting a peerage from a Labour prime minister, there is a sense in which it may be perceived as a mutual affirmation. Yet His Eminence has questioned whether Roman Catholics can any longer be loyal to this Labour Government. He has objected to the imposition of 'a different version of our democracy' - one in which 'diversity and equality are held to be at odds with religion'.
Before he accepts (or before the Pope grants him the necessary dispensation), he might reflect on what Labour has done to this country and its people over the past decade: the anti-Christian legislation on the statute books; its intolerant secularism; its refusal to re-examine abortion legislation; the enforced closure of Catholic adoption agencies; and what they have attempted to do to Catholic schools.
The enduring presence of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor on the religio-political scene will not overly please the more ‘robust’ Catholics, but he will certainly put to shame 25 of the Anglican bishops. And that cannot be a bad thing.
If his religio-political agenda accords with his preaching, his voice may well be sought before that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and even before that of his successor at Westminister. He would become England’s Cardinal Emeritus, and with no constitutional precedent, he could carve out the role to suit himself.
Enlightened progress indeed.