Yesterday, 22 December, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme by John Humphries. The discussion included questions about his invitation to Sandringham, the Act of Settlement, Faith Schools and the present state of the Church. John Humphries: The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, will preach at a family service for the Queen at her home in Sandringham next month. That's pretty unusual. The Queen is, of course, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The Constitution says that no Catholic may ascend to the throne. There is growing pressure to change things these days. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor is on the line - good morning to you. I am intrigued to know whether you will take the Queen to one side and have a little chat and say, "Look, Ma'am, isn't it about time we stopped this nonsense about not having Catholics as monarchs?" Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor: I have been invited to Sandringham by the Queen to spend the weekend and to preach the service on the Sunday. I think we'll leave it like that. (laughs) JH: You're not even going to touch on it, do you think? CARDINAL: Well, I think that everything that goes on between the Queen and one of her subjects is 'nicely private'. JH: (laughs) Is it an important issue for you? CARDINAL: I think in due time, when it is right, the issue about whether one of the Royal Family can marry a Roman Catholic is something that should be addressed, certainly. It's rather odd that a member of the Royal Family can marry perhaps anybody - a Buddhist - or anybody you like really except for a Roman Catholic so I think there are some anomalies there. But it does touch on issues I think that have further implications with regard to matters of the Establishment and all those need careful thought. And for my part, I'd need to consult with other church leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, on this matter. JH: So the Roman Catholic Church doesn't have an official position, as it were, on this? CARDINAL: If you were to say, 'Have I got a position on this?' my position is quite clear, namely that in due time, when it is right, maybe this ought to be looked at. JH: And when you talk about 'due time', are you thinking in terms of days, weeks, months or years - or centuries? CARDINAL: I'm not thinking of centuries. I'm thinking of 'in the near future'. JH: So, you'd have been on the side perhaps of The Guardian because The Guardian newspaper, as I recall, tried to get a court case going on this, didn't they - a sort of discrimination case? CARDINAL: Is that right? Well, I hadn't realised... (laughs) JH: (joins in laughter) ...you were obviously not the instigator of that? CARDINAL: I certainly wasn't - no. I think that here there is something which does involve matters of importance regarding the monarchy, the Established Church, the Free Churches, the Roman Catholic Church. There are delicate matters at stake and therefore I think one shouldn't be rash about saying 'this is going to happen and should happen tomorrow'. I think when the time is ripe - and I won't say here exactly when it will be - I think it should be addressed because I think a lot of people in this country would think that this is an unnecessary bar and an anomaly which should be removed. JH: Of course we have had a Labour MP, Kevin McNamara, proposing a bill that would abolish the Act of Settlement. CARDINAL: Yes, well, he has the right to put that forward and I think that the Britain, from when those acts were passed, is a very different one. It is the job of politicians to look at this and see what would be right for all its citizens, in the light of present day conditions. JH: Can I turn to another subject that is exercising many people and that is faith-based schools, or single faith schools, or sometimes mono-cultural schools? There is concern, clearly, that they lead to problems with race relations. As somebody who has many Catholic schools under his purview, do you share any of those concerns? CARDINAL: Not at all. I mean I think that's quite ridiculous. There are, certainly, Church of England schools, Roman Catholic schools - I would have said that the boys and girls who come and are formed and taught in those schools are certainly not formed in any kind of racist attitude. JH: No, but it is the effect that they have on the community around them. It may make other people feel excluded, may it not? Certainly that was the view that the study looking into race riots in Britain in the summer took. CARDINAL: Well, yes, I think you have to see that parents do have a choice, and it has been clear from the Christian schools that there are in this country that these in fact make an enormous contribution to good race relations in this country, precisely because the children are taught to respect everyone, irrespective of their... JH: Final, very quick thought, is the Church in good heart? CARDINAL: In very good heart, because the Church is a body of people who can never lose heart, because it knows that in its heart that God, in Christ, is with the people of the Church, the communion of Churches. He said; "I'll never leave you, I'll always be there, " and therefore we are full especially at this time, of expectation and of hope. JH: Cardinal, many thanks.
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