Rumors of war against the Apostolic Nuncio in Great Britain

In the next year or so, a large percentage of the dioceses in England and Wales will be opening up as their bishops retire.   That means the role of the Apostolic Nuncio in Great Britain is of critical importance.

The present Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, has played his role in the appointment of excellent bishops so far, such as Bp. Mark Davies of Shrewsbury and Bp. Philip Egan of Portsmouth.

Now I read on the blog of Damian Thompson, this interesting entry. Keep in mind that this has unattributed information.  Nevertheless, this is Damian’s story, he believes it, and we can give it some attention.  You decide what to think about it.

The plot against the Nuncio

Enemies of Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the newish – and very impressive – Papal Nuncio to Great Britain, are plotting to have him removed from his job. Why? Because he’s doing it too effectively. It’s his responsibility to put forward names of suitable bishops to the relevant Congregation in Rome, which submits a name to the Pope. Recently, Archbishop Mennini secured the appointment of Mgr Philip Egan as Bishop of Portsmouth. This was a historic moment: Bishop Egan is not a slippery, platitude-spouting liberal of the sort traditionally promoted under Cardinal Hume, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor and Archbishop Nichols. He’s taking an axe to the Left-leaning bureaucracy of Portsmouth. (Read this fascinating Catholic Herald blog post by William Oddie for background.) The word from allies of Cardinal Cormac and Archbishop Vincent is: we must not allow this to happen again. And what better opportunity to plot against the Nuncio than a change of Pope? I just hope that Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, knows this is happening. If not, perhaps some well-connected priest who reads this blog might let him know.

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  1. Patrick-K says:

    Although you mention only England and Wales, I assume “Apostolic Nuncio in Great Britain” applies also to Scotland (and Cornwall, Jersey, etc. and perhaps N. Ireland?). Disturbing news out of Scotland:

  2. JARay says:

    I have just read that link which Patrick-K gives above!
    It is horrific and I do believe that what is said is true.
    Certainly, Archbishop Mennini is needed as Nuncio in Great Britain.
    One has to wonder why Archbishop Nichols has not been elevated to the Cardinalate!

  3. Scott W. says:

    If not, perhaps some well-connected priest who reads this blog might let him know.

    Why a well-connected priest? I thought anyone could write the nuncio.

  4. Animadversor says:

    Scott W., I believe Father meant that someone ought to let Cardinal Ouellet know, not Archbishop Mennini, who, no doubt, does not need to be informed of this.

  5. Animadversor says:

    Oops! I ought to have said that Mr Thompson thinks that someone should let Cardinal Ouellet know….

  6. Phil_NL says:

    To be honest, I would wager that a nuncio is too far down the priority-list of the new pope to deal with before those sees become vacant. Especially since Mennini isn’t Nucio for that long yet, and it would look strange to replace him so soon (without grave cause, but I would trust there isn’t any to be found or even fabricated).

    I’m more worried about the position of Card. Ouellet himself. He has done an excellent job the last couple of years with new episcopal appointments. A job however, that isn’t done yet – not by a long shot. I would be much more at ease would the Card. be permanently confirmed in his function (and Pell at the same congregation). As said, I don’t think Britain’s lefties will have enough time to succeed, assuming Dr. Thompson’s info is correct. But a return to poor – or even average – bishops under a new leadership at that congregation would have global ramifcations, and for a very long time too.

  7. kbf says:

    I’m sorry, and I know Fr Z exhorts us to charity, but Damien Thompson just irritates me.

    Almost every blog post is a bit of a queeny hissy fit of “ooooooh I’ll just let slip this little tit-bit of what I’ve heard from an un-named source and tell it as if it were a dirty little secret shared between the two oif us in the parlour. Now wouldn’t it be good if you did my dirty work for me and let that slip to someone in power…..?

    Damien Thompson needs to man up. If his source is so credible and he has any sort of proof of a conspiracy, how about HE gets in touch with Card Oullet and tells him what he knows?

    Thompson has had a beef with just about every prelate in the Diocese of Westminster on account of the way he conducts himself, and he always makes it personal and his attacks are always ad hominem. He can’t just make a point or write a story, he always has to be snide about it. He is absolutely the worst form of “queenie traddie” (and I know, I’ve met him often enough to have seen his MO first hand).

    If you were to look at his pieces objectively, and remove the rose tinted glasses that come with him having a traditionalist mindest that sits comfortably with the point of view of this blog, you’d see where I’m coming from. Of course the Nuncio is going to be subject to behind the scenes manouvering, it’s probably contained somewhere in the Job Description.

    When Thompson bangs on about the “magic circle” he kind of has a point, but the objectivity he misses is this: many of the bishops he criticses he does so on matters of taste. My own Bp, Peter Doyle, is architypal of the “magic circle”. I don’t like his sense of liturgy but he has been quietly supportive of the EF. One of his own Canons and area Dean (Benny Noonan) tours the Diocese to offer the EF mass with the Bp’s full support. His former Cathedral Rector is now the Spiritual Dir of Oscott (Can John Udris) and he used to preach at the Bp’s masses in the Cathedral with a stunning amount of authority and profundity on Our Lady, the Rosary, authentic Catholic spirituality and identity, and orthodoxy. When you get to know Bp Peter you realise what a kind, spiritual and caring pastor to the Diocese he is. OK, so he doesn’t vest in acres of man-lace and fiddle-fronts, but when you read Thompson’s one-dimensional characterisations there is a real danger that you do many of the bishops a grave injustice. Worse still, there is the danger of gleefully buying into the vitriol.

  8. jaykay says:

    Patrick-K: “I assume “Apostolic Nuncio in Great Britain” applies also to Scotland (and Cornwall, Jersey, etc. and perhaps N. Ireland?).”

    Abp. Mennini is Nuncio to Great Britain and he does cover Scotland, even though it has a separate Bishops’ conference. However all of Ireland is one in Church terms so the Nuncio in Dublin covers Northern Ireland. The current Nuncio is an American, in fact, Abp. Charles Brown, and he’s a good ‘un… as witness his sermon reported in the Irish Times (blech) in front of some of the Great and Good, including our atheist (and small-s) socialist President:

  9. Athelstan says:

    I’m more worried about the position of Card. Ouellet himself. He has done an excellent job the last couple of years with new episcopal appointments.

    Fortunately, Ouellet is good friends with Pope Francis, and that makes it unlikely that we’ll see any significant change at the Congregation for Bishops for the time being.

    But it does point out one aspect of the new pontificate that is too quickly overlooked: what kind of bishops he appoints. How much attention he gives to those appointments. This is one respect in which we were so blessed to have Pope Benedict. Not all of Pope Benedict’s picks were home runs or even base clearing doubles (if I may use a baseball metaphor), but in the Anglophone conferences, his picks were clearly a big step up from what went before.

    Progressives realize this, which is the real reason why they bang on and on about the need for more collegiality and autonomy of conferences in running their affairs and picking their replacements. Since most conferences have been more liberal – sometimes much, much more liberal – than Rome over the last five decades, even during the salad days of Paul VI, the best way to ensure that they stay that way is to allow them to replace themselves. One of the chief resentments of the last two pontificates (especially Benedict’s) is that their episcopal nominations have tended to push them back in a more conservative direction. Nowhere is this more vivid than with the Conference of England and Wales, long packed with notoriously liberal Magic Circle bishops, resentful of new young orthodox picks like Egan and Davies, fearful that there will be more and more such selections to swamp their numbers and change the character of the English and Welsh episcopate.

    Pope Francis is far less knowledgeable about the Anglophone episcopates than Pope Benedict was, and as such, we can hope that this is one state of affairs that he will make a low priority to alter. If so, we can hope that Archbp. Mennini and Cardinal Ouellet stay in place, and continue to put in place better bishops in the Sceptred Isle.

  10. Both articles seem to warrant reading with a good deal of caution (if not skepticism), but Mr. Thompson’s rumors (if reliable) might be seen as an illustration of the following pessimistic speculation from today’s Crisis Magazine:

    “Francis’s papacy may not so much move the Church into the future as back to the recent past, circa 1970. Quarrels over the proper interpretation of Vatican II are more likely to explode than end. Emboldened liberal bishops under him may seek a reform of the “reform of the reform,” and they may push for a revisiting of settled moral, theological, and disciplinary stances. None of this repositioning will take place at the level of official teaching but at the murkier levels of tone, emphasis, and appointment.”

    It might be noted that Thompson’s sources are anonymous, and Neumayr’s are the usual suspects.

  11. Rob22 says:

    I think the Pope will be more conciliar but that is not a bad thing IMO.

    There is one nun in her 70s at the Catholic church near me. I see her at Starbucks. She told me the other day that she has not been so optimistic about the church since the early years after V2.

    Crisis and others might be pessimistic but as many are optimistic.

  12. boko fittleworth says:

    Remember when the new generation of JPII bishops were going to save us? That was three popes ago. Now we’re counting the days until they retire. The biological solution doesn’t work if we keep getting lousy NEW bishops.

  13. Moro says:

    KBF – one of the best comments ever! I’m tired of people just swallowing the story of someone they agree with just because he or she said such and such. I’ve known trads who bad mouth novus ordo parishes for stuff they don’t even do. One example is a traddy woman who accused a parish of doing general absolution. I go to the parish website and it mentions communal penance services, as in the kind where you have Liturgy of the Word followed by confessions, not general absolution. Not to mention, even if it is true they often use it in a way for personal gain or to promote their viewpoint and not in the interest of truth and justice. That was refreshing to read. And yes the nuncio will be subject to maneuverings, everywhere you go in every sphere of life this happens especially in a diplomatic office.

  14. pmullane says:

    Can I also associate myself with kbf’s comments, Damien Thompson was one of the most important figures in the Catholic Blogosphere but I afraid that he has lost a great deal of credibility since then. Often I read what he writes and the venom with which he writes makes me feel sorry for the victim of his bile. I wonder sometimes if he thinks what he is doing is building Christs kingdom or if he just wants to embarrass those he dislikes. As for this story, I’m afraid I take it with a pinch of salt, the bishops here I know of love our Holy Father and loved Pope Benedict. They have taken a strong stand against ‘gay marriage’ even though many Catholic Commentators have been silent. They support SP, have EF masses when there is demand and the ability to have them, even when they are not particularly interested in the older form of the rite. They worry about lack of vocations and pray and are interested in their people. In general they are good men who love Christ and try and do what they think is for the best to build the kingdom of God. They are sometimes wrong, but who are we to sit in judgement on them?

  15. MikeM says:

    I don’t put much stock in stories from anonymous sources. The way I see it, I would cry foul if someone ran with such a story when I disagreed with it (or when it wasn’t from “my side”) so, I feel a little ridiculous not holding myself to the same standard.

    This is, however, an issue that I will be watching closely. Not so much whether there’s intrigue surrounding a nuncio (people play politics, so I assume that there’s always some level of intrigue surrounding a nuncio), but what Pope Francis does with the nuncios, with Cardinal Oullet, and ultimately, who winds up appointed as bishops. That, to me, is much more significant than what the man wears or his tone of voice with Muslims. It might be the most important thing that he does.

  16. Supertradmum says:

    I am sorry but Damian Thompson is a reputable source for information. We cannot always give sources as sometimes these are people, including priests in vulnerable positions.

    As to the war against the Nuncio, I am not surprised. We have been waiting for years for a good man, we got him, and now he is under attack.

    There is a HUGE leadership crisis in Great Britain. The old guard (Cormac Murphy O’Connor priests and bishops) are not keen on the TLM and there will be five more seats of bishops coming up empty within two years.

    Of course, those of us waiting for excellent hermeneutic of continuity leadership wanted the same type of Bishops as recently appointed. I am sorry, but spiritual warfare is real and the Church is divided here. So sad, so very sad…

  17. Jack Regan says:

    kbf’s post is spot on, including those things that he/ she gently hints at but which seemingly nobody on the web is allowed to say out loud!

    Also, while I would agree with some of the points made by those who use it most often, the phrase ‘magic circle’ is ultimately a nasty and unhelpful one. It was coined by Fr. Michael Seed, who is, let’s say, a rather colourful character. Just Google him. Then Google him again adding the word ‘nuns’!

  18. Supertradmum says:

    Jack Regan, I know many priests and excellent laity who use the term magic circle….

    Sorry, but we need prayer here big time and Henry Edwards is spot on.

  19. Phil_NL says:


    Thanks for that insight – personal friendship is no guarantee, but every little bit helps.

    boko fittleworth,
    Your comments says at least as much about the predecessors of the ‘JPII bishops’ as about that class. But the main point is absolutely right: we need a continued – and preferably accelerated – improvement in the episcopate, otherwise we’re going nowhere for the next decades.

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