The Times of London reported today that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster will be offered a seat in Britain’s House of Lords.
If that should come to pass, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor would become the first Catholic bishop to sit in Britain’s upper house of Parliament since the Reformation.
Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, who at the age of 76 is more than a year beyond the Church’s mandatory retirement age for bishops, is expected to retire as Archbishop of Westminster in the near future when Pope Benedict XVI appoints a new archbishop.
The Times reports that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown discussed the possibility of offering the peerage to the cardinal during his meeting last week in Rome with the Pope.
The appointment of another bishop to the House of Lords would not be any kind of novelty; currently, no less than 26 Church of England bishops sit in the chamber as “lords spiritual” (a title that applies to all members of the chamber, not just clerical ones). But the addition of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor would require a special dispensation from the Pope because the Church bans clergy holding political office, the Times article notes.
It did not report on whether the Holy Father had indicated whether such a dispensation might be possible.
Brown spoke about Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s possible appointment to the House of Lords in an interview with the British Catholic newspaper The Tablet.
Reported the Times, “The Prime Minister said during an interview with The Tablet, the Roman Catholic weekly, that the Cardinal’s leadership qualities had gained him public respect and confirmed that discussions of his elevation to the Lords would ‘be discussed at a later stage.’”