Archbishop: I’d go to jail over confessional seal

What happened?

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the former Archbishop of Westminster, died on September 1 at the age of 85, after being admitted to hospital a fortnight before.

In a message transmitted via his successor Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor had said: “At this time, the words I pray every night are never far from my thoughts: ‘Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.’ ” He said he had had “many blessings in my life, especially from my family and friends”, and asked for their prayers.

Murphy-O’Connor was born in 1932 in Reading to Irish parents. He was ordained in 1956 and 10 years later became private secretary to Bishop Derek Worlock. He served as Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, and was heavily involved in ecumenical work; it was a personal setback when the Church of England introduced women priests. Shortly after becoming Archbishop of Westminster in 2000, he was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II.

What the secular media said

Obituaries focused particularly on two things: the controversy over a sexual abuse case, and his friendship with the then Cardinal Bergoglio. As the BBC obituary said, the cardinal’s “greatest public challenge” was over a priest of his Arundel and Brighton diocese, Michael Hill, who was accused of child sexual abuse. “Murphy-O’Connor sought advice from a psychotherapist and a counsellor who suggested that Hill should be given a job that did not involve children. The bishop agreed and Hill was made a chaplain at Gatwick Airport. He went on to abuse more children and was subsequently jailed in 1997.” Murphy-O’Connor did not resign but, as Archbishop of Westminster, led reforms to safeguarding.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection