Out With 'Im?
One senior figure in the Westminster diocese noted: "The main frustration is the lack of any real communication with the cardinal. Virtually everything he does is done without consultation."...Among potential successors named in the piece is Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, the chairman of ICEL. Before being named an auxiliary to Murphy-O'Connor in 2001, Roche was general secretary of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, an institution traditionally headed by the archbishop of Westminster.
Many believe Pope Benedict XVI will ask the cardinal to step down next August. Although canon law requires all cardinals to offer their resignations at 75, those in the Vatican's favour are asked to remain in office. Senior Catholics believe the Pope will be keen to replace Cardinal Murphy O'Connor with someone who shares his more orthodox approach.
Ian Ker, a Church historian, said: "There is a perception at the Vatican that the English Catholic Church has become too detached from Rome in recent years. They'll be looking for someone who will steer the Church away from the liberal course it has been pursuing, which Rome believes has been a major factor in the decline of Catholicism here."
Attendance at Mass in 1991 was recorded as 1.3 million, representing a drop of 40 per cent since 1963, but it fell further to 960,000 in 2004. The number of priests in England and Wales has slumped by nearly a quarter in 20 years, from 4,545 in 1985 to 3,643 in 2005.
In a recent book, The Future of the Catholic Church in Britain, Tom Horwood said: "The Church in Britain is suffering from a terminal decline in membership, irregular commitment among the remnant, and, in the wake of persistent child abuse scandals, a leadership that has toppled from its pedestal with a mighty crash."