Friday, February 27, 2009

One Small Step for Rome

One giant step for Lord's reform.

The news that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor is to take a seat with the Lords Spiritual on the red benches of the House of Lords should hardly be ground breaking news in our days of equal opportunity. After all Chief Rabbis have already had a seat (though not as a matter of course). However, the Cardinal will be treading where no Cardinal has trod since reformation times.

The ban on Catholics sitting in the Lords was finally lifted in 1829, at the same time as that on Jews and others was also lifted. But never has a senior Catholic Churchman been given a life peerage to add to the spiritual content of the upper chamber in those 180 years. There have been prominent lay Roman Catholics of course but none of equal standing to the 26 Anglican Bishops who earn their seat on appointment to their Diocese.

The 76 year old Archbishop of Westminster is setting another post-reformation precedent. He will be the first to retire that position, the rest have died in office. A move that is expected in the next couple of weeks after which it is expected he will be elevated (at least in the secular sense) to the Lords. He will therefore be the first member of the College of Cardinals to also be a member of the House of Lords since the 16th Century.

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