RUMOR ALERT: New Archbishop of Westminster to be named soon?

According to Damian Thompson the name of the the next Archbishop of Westminster might be be announced on January 2

I am sure you will join me in wishing His Hermeneuticalness well.  The odds are long… but hey!


Posted By: Damian Thompson at Dec 6, 2008 at 12:36:00

The name of the next Archbishop of Westminster will be announced on January 2, according to a senior aide to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.

I can’t guarantee that he’s right; I’m just passing on a piece of information from someone who ought to know. Alas, there was no hint as to who the Cardinal’s successor will be.

The assumption in clergy circles is that the choice will be between Archbishop Nichols of Birmingham and Archbishop Smith of Cardiff. But – and I can hardly believe I am saying this – don’t rule out a former champion figure skater who has plenty of admirers in Rome.

That’ll be an interesting dilemma for me, won’t it? +Arthur at Westminster. Common sense tells me that, whoever gets the job, I should be drawing a line under the past. But the goings-on in Leeds were truly disturbing: the dispossessed elderly people of suppressed parishes – whose requests for an interview with Bishop Roche went unacknowledged – are certainly finding it difficult drawing a line under them.

What we shouldn’t expect, alas, is an outsider, an appointment that will mark a decisive break with the mediocrity of the past. The Pope is not a free agent; all but a few of his decisions are effectively made for him by institutional machinery operated by friends and allies of the Magic Circle. Senior clergy have been working overtime (and notching up air miles) to make sure that it will be business as usual after +Cormac steps down. And, crucially, they have the ear of the Nuncio.

But, as I was saying the other day, the culture of the Catholic Church is beginning to change. So, however unimaginative the appointment to Westminster, the new Archbishop will have to deal with younger laity and clergy who, while not rejecting Vatican II, look to the preconciliar Church for inspiration. Also, the consecration of England’s first truly conservative (or radically orthodox) bishop can only be a matter of time. So, believe it or not, things will eventually get better.


Meanwhile… back at paddy power.


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  1. Thomas says:

    No offense to Fr. Finigan who would be a great choice, but I’m particularly intrigued by the name of Fr. Aidan Nichols. Maybe his call for the re-conversion of England has caught the Holy Father’s ear? Also, sharing a last name with the “frontrunner” could play to his advantage as a clerical error (pun intended) could land him the job. :)

  2. miss book says:

    Fr.Aidan Nichols shares a family name with the front runner. As a possible candidate for Westminster, he would appear to bring some very distinctive gifts and talents, not immediately apparent in his brother Fr. Vincent Nichols.

  3. Thomas says:

    Oh. they’re brothers? Didn’t know that.

  4. miss book says:

    I don’t know why my comment got chopped off, (probably my fault) but here is the rest:
    I’m still hoping and praying for Fr. Finigan, if not this time perhaps the next?God’s will be done, He knows the importance of this appointment at this time, may the Holy Spirit guide the Holy Father

  5. Cerimoniere says:

    Archbishop Nichols and Fr. Aidan, OP, are not brothers! (At least, no more so than all men, or all priests, are.)

    I was very struck by a recent post on “Whispers” relating to the succession in New York and Westminster, in which the late Pope was quoted as saying that he wanted “a man like me in New York.” It’s certainly true that no plausible candidate is more like the present Holy Father than Fr. Aidan. I had always been sceptical that Fr. Aidan would become a bishop, because his primary service to the Church is clearly as a theologian, and then as a teacher. However, we have seen on a grand scale with this pontificate how the old model of the theologian-bishop can work. And if indeed the Pope wants a man after his own heart, and whom he knows and trusts personally…

  6. Tim Ferguson says:

    Fr. Finigan’s in the same position as Cardinal Pell. Not bad company, that.

  7. Kenjiro Shoda says:

    Doesn’t this Pope pretty much do as he’s told, without initiative regarding appointments? At least I read that basically he rubber stamps other words Levada when he was called to Rome wanted an old friend to succeed him in San Francisco and got it, and there’s one or two other examples. Regardless of how qualified or not the person is. [Okay… that’s enough negativity and Pope bashing from you. You’re gone.]


  8. RichR says:

    Are people actually placing bets on this? LOL!! This must be off-season for Cricket in the UK if these bets are getting attention.

  9. B. says:

    On that paddy power site there’s the category “God” on the left site.
    Currently bets are 4-1 that god exists and his omnipresence will be scientifically proven by 31st Dec 2009.
    Chances are 500 – 1 that a certain Russel Brand is God, though.

  10. Johnny Domer says:

    I thought Archbishop Nichols wasn’t that bad…hasn’t he been supportive of some Tridentine initiatives?

  11. Paul, Bedfordshire says:

    I think those looking for a radical departure are looking for the wrong see. As I see it the Archbishop of Westminster gets dragged into all sorts of secular & internal political issues as the senior representative of the Catholic church in England. As a result there are several suffragen bishops who do much of the running of the diocese. Therefore someone very experienced, usually with extensive previous episcopal experience has to get the job.

    For radical departures it is IMHO far more likley that a youngish orthodox priest will be appointed to one of the smaller dioceses in the UK (and far fairer on that priest). Right now we need a Lincoln Nebraska, not a top down imposition. There are several English priests, some in the UK, and some based in Rome, who could be approaching the experience needed for such an appointment. We only need one such person to galvanise a diocese and fill a seminary and the rest will follow er.. brick by brick…

  12. Pater, OSB says:

    Radcliffe!? Spare us, O Lord!

  13. Sarsfield says:

    Remember that Henry Edward Manning was on nobody’s short list. But Pio Nono had a dream about Manning in which his Holiness heard a voice saying “put him there.” Perhaps someone could arrange for a serenade beneath BXVI’s apartment with a band playing “Finnegan’s Wake,” a song whose title character shares both Christian and surnames (albeit with spelling variation) with Fr. Finigan. “Tim Finnegan lived in Walkin Street, a gentleman Irish mighty odd . . . “

  14. Jayna says:

    I don’t know about you guys, but I’m all in for Bono.

  15. Why would you purposely wish such a thing as episcopal consecration on Fr. Finigan?


  16. Calleva says:

    Father, at the risk of offending you as well, shouldn’t we wait to see who is appointed to Westminster before banning people who sound cynical? [No. This is not an isolated incident.]

    I was filled with elation at the election of Pope Benedict and I believe he is wonderful – but I’m surprised that so far the recent episcopal appointments in England and Wales have not been exactly what we would wish (putting it mildly). Speaking from England, I am as anxious about this as you were about the SSPX returning. I prayed and fasted for that, please could you find it in your heart to pray most earnestly about the next episcopal appointments in England and Wales?

    His Hermaneuticalness would make a splendid bishop but something tells me his time is not yet (alas…)

  17. John Enright says:

    Bono is on the list? I didn’t know that he is Catholic!

  18. Matt says:

    Paddy Power, Love it! LOL

  19. Matt of South kent says:

    I hope the Pope picks someone who is really up to the challenge. My prays are for a certain Sri Lanken Cardinal.

    If he goes with any of the current favorites, the Pope is risking a second schism in Great Britan.

    The forces of darkness are really gathering with the Obama election (there is potential for greatness and great evil), the Jesuits pushing liberation theology again, and the church in England. I used the small C because I mean all of Christ followers, not just Catholics. The whole lot are in deep trouble and need strong leadership from a youthful and strong leader.

    I have been very impressed with the actions of a material group of American Bishops, its time for their British cousins to join the party.

  20. Symeon says:

    I’m personally worried about b. Kenney’s presence on the list. Despite his positive appearances in traditional liturgy associated posts on NLM recently, he was, during his period as auxiliary bishop of Stockholm (Sweden), known for holding far from traditional (some would even say unorthodox) views on several issues. It is of course possible that he has changed since then, but as long as that is unclear I wouldn’t want him as bishop of any important see.

  21. BlackFriar says:

    Why is Bishop Anthony Fisher (Sydney WYD Coordinator) listed without title as “Anthony Fisher”?

  22. Graham says:

    If our Holy Father could appoint the Rt Rev Peter Elliott, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne as the next Archbishop of Westminster that would be excellent.

    Sadly, I don’t think this will happen, in which case I would go for the Most Rev Vincent Nicholls, Archbishop of Birmingham.

    Better the devil you know than you don’t!

  23. RBrown says:

    No offense to Fr. Finigan who would be a great choice, but I’m particularly intrigued by the name of Fr. Aidan Nichols. Maybe his call for the re-conversion of England has caught the Holy Father’s ear? Also, sharing a last name with the “frontrunner” could play to his advantage as a clerical error (pun intended) could land him the job. :)
    Comment by Thomas

    Fr Aidan Nichols has known JRatzinger for some time.

  24. RBrown says:

    The odds for TRadcliffe are way too low–he should be somewhere around Bono (who is not a Catholic).

  25. John Enright says:

    Thanks, RBrown.

  26. Michael UK says:

    Fr. Leo Boyle. Dash! He is SSPX and a Six Counties man to boot!!!!

  27. PNP, OP says:

    I have to agree with RBrown on my brother Timothy Radcliffe’s chances of being named. Timothy is a wonderful brother, but he is simply far too outspokenly liberal. Malcolm McMahon, OP (the bishop who ordained me a deacon), is not a likely pick either given his recent outspoken support of optional clerical celibacy. I have said before that Aidan Nichols, OP, would be a good pick in terms of solid theology and teaching, but I’m not sure Aidan would easily part from his library and writing schedule to take on the administrative duties of an archbishop. Not listed but an interesting choice would be twice-elected English provincial Alan White, OP. Alan is currently serving as socius to the Master of the Order for Northern Europe and Canada here in Rome. Fr. Philip, OP

  28. Warren says:

    Rome will do right. Exciting stuff, all this holy speculation.
    And, New York, too! :-)

  29. Limbo says:

    I can’t believe the three Aussie’s listed. Bishops Fisher, Elliot and Cardinal Pell. Not bad odds too.

  30. Thomas Wolsey says:

    Not three Aussies, four.

    Dom Christopher Jamieson is Australian.

  31. Recidite Plebes says:

    Looking at Paddy Power’s list:

    John Rawsthorne has only ever been an Aux Bp in Liverpool and is something like 73 years old, so far too close to retirement (if he hasn’t already).

    PO’D: great man who takes a real interest in people. Former Administrator of Westminster Cathedral and Aux under Card Hume. Retires this year.

    Ignatious Harrison: Never been in charge of anything bigger than the Brompton Oratory and would not, IMO, have the necessary skills to communicate with people who do not see tyhe world as he sees it. Neither do I think he would obtain the support of many of his clergy because of his aloof and (some would say pompous) manner.

    “Diamond Jim” Curry: Personally speaking a great guy to get on with, but too close to Card Hume for Murphy-O’Conmnor’s liking for elevation to the episcopate. A new ArchBp may feel differently but he’s now too far removed from the politics of the Cathedral to be highly visible. If Vincent Nichols gets the job (and I wouldn’t die of shock if he did as odds-on favourite) he may come back on the radar.

    My money would be on Vincent Nichols. The real power play would be who manouvres for Birmingham:

    John Arnold is ambitious and would be looking to break out of Westminster, as would George Stack. Both of whom would be disasterous, Arnold because he is ruthlessly ambitious and Stack because he makes the most liberal bishop look like a reactionary (as Administrator of Westm inster Cathedral he once sneered at me that the people saying the Rosary after the 7pm Sunday mass were following a “dead religion” and he was renound in his support for some of Youth 2000’s wackier practices and making life hard for the LMS).

    I’d also expect Mark Langham to be brought back from his Curial post in the Vatican after a year or so if any of the Westminster Auxilliaries are translated to a diocese to be the replacement.

  32. Prayers that Fr. Aidan Nichols is the choice…I believe that he would be a truly inspirational Archbishop.

    And what an amazing opportunity to consecrate and appoint an archbishop who is a theologian of some note, and not simply an ecclesiastical politician.

  33. Andrew says:

    Ahh, remember when Paddy Power put out his odds for the different candidates before the papal conclave of 2005?

    The Vatican issued a statement that it was not right for people to place bets on who should be the next pope.

    I would think, following that logic, this would also apply to the next Archbishop of Westminster.

    So I hope that whoever has to make the choice (and based on some of the episcopal appointments around the world I have strong doubts the pope is even involved!) will not look at Paddy’s reckoning.

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