The Rise and Rise of Cardinal Vincent Nichols

What a week it has been, as my wife said; "you can sure tell it's Lent!", always a time when Catholics are attacked and this year is no exception with numerous stories in the media, but also, direct attacks my family & I have recognised. A sure sign you are getting on the devil's nerves I would say.

One of the most interesting developments this week was faithful priests breaking ranks (to a minor extent) with silent bishops and standing up for Church teaching. Subsequently, the Cardinal attacked these priests in a most hypocritical way, revealing that a). Claims pressure was put on loyal clergy were accurate, and b). Cardinal Nichol's retains the same agenda he always has; an agenda which seems to endorse a fairly generous interpretation of the Magisterium!

Of course, he is not alone. We find ourselves in the unfathomable position where Cardinals of the Catholic Church openly espouse heterodox positions and are (thankfully) openly opposed by Cardinals faithful to the Magisterium. Just this week, his Eminence Paul Josef Cardinal Cordes has made a striking response to heterodox remarks made by the President of the German Bishops’ Conference, Reinhard Cardinal Marx stating (emphasis mine):
“The head of the German bishop’s conference [i.e. Marx] certainly has some competence when it comes to a second edition of the hymnal or the changing of the pilgrim route to Altötting.” But, he continued “the president argues something entirely different.”
“The president argues about the drama of the divorced and remarried! This matter reaches far beyond regional particularities of a pragmatic nature, of a given mentality and cultural background. This matter is bound to the very center of theology. In this field not even a cardinal can loosen such a complex Gordian knot in a single swordstroke. He has the sacramental theology of the Council of Trent. He has also the words of Benedict XVI, who only recently (January 21, 2012) told the Roman Rota, the ordinary court of the Apostolic See, that no-one can simply brush over binding legislation of the Church when it comes to pastoral matters. A responsible shepherd cannot be guided by a blurred ‘mercy.’ And while the president repeats that regarding the Magisterium, he wants to ‘stay within the community of the Church,’ he either ignores the limits that this Magisterium gives to pastoral care, or he is carefree in making a statement to make himself sound good.” 
“if he wanted to express that Germany is an example in leading the faithful to a giving oneself up to Christ, then I think the bishop is fooled by wishful thinking. The existing German ecclesial apparatus is completely unfit to work against growing secularism.
I think we might agree that this is not only the case in Germany. 

Similarly, Cardinal Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when asked whether certain doctrinal or disciplinary decisions on marriage and family might be delegated to the episcopal conferences, responded:
It is an absolutely anti-Catholic idea that does not respect the Catholicity of the Church. Episcopal conferences have authority on certain matters, but they are not a magisterium beside the Magisterium, without the Pope and without communion with all bishops.
When questioned about Cardinal Marx's comments that the episcopal conference that he chairs is not a “branch of Rome”, his eminence responded in unequivocal terms:
An episcopal conference is not a particular council, even less so an ecumenical council. The president of an episcopal conference is nothing more than a technical moderator, and he does not have any particular magisterial authority due to this title. Hearing that an episcopal conference is not a “branch of Rome” gives me the occasion to recall that dioceses are not the branches of the secretariat of a bishops’ conference either, nor of the diocese whose bishop presides over the episcopal conference. This kind of attitude risks in fact the reawakening of a certain polarization between the local Churches and the Church universal, out of date since the Vatican I and Vatican II councils. The Church is not a sum of national churches, whose presidents would vote to elect their chief on the universal level.
To summarise, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (what we used to recognise as The Inquisition) recognises Cardinal Marx's views as, and I quote: “an absolutely anti-Catholic idea”.

Just yesterday, The Archbishop Emeritus of Manila, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, has spoken out strongly against divorce after a poll showed that 60% of Filipinos thought that the practice should be made legal.

The Cardinal said that divorce is contrary to divine law and that those asking the Church to change her teaching are asking her to overrule God and ignore the Bible. “It’s in the Bible,” he said “unless you don’t believe in the Bible,” in this he is clear and correct!

The Cardinal went on to state: “Even if it is 99 percent surveyed [who] favor divorce,” he said, “what is wrong is wrong.”

The trustworthy Catholic source Voice of the Family reports that the faithful Cardinal speaks in the context of comments made by the current Archbishop of Manila, Luiz Cardinal Tagle, who has emerged as a supporter of the radical agenda being advocated at the Synod on the Family. He has expressed himself “open” to the admission of the divorced and “remarried” to Holy Communion.

He recently spoke at the “Flame 2″ youth event, held at Wembley stadium in London, along with leading dissenters such as Fr Timothy Radcliffe. During the conference he told The Telegraph that the Church was undergoing a “growth of mercy” and that “what constituted in the past an acceptable way of showing mercy… now, given our contemporary mindset, may not be any more viewed as that.”

In particular he drew attention to the language used to speak about moral issues; such undermining of the Church’s traditional terminology was a key aspect of the progressive party’s strategy at the Synod.

Cardinal Tagle said:
“I think even the language has changed already, the harsh words that were used in the past to refer to gays and divorced and separated people, the unwed mothers etc, in the past they were quite severe. 
“Many people who belonged to those groups were branded and that led to their isolation from the wider society."
Oh dear oh dear. I have long been an admirer of Cardinal Tagle and now I feel betrayed by this statement which reveals him as a man seduced by the spirit of the moment. Politics over conviction, is a poor recipe for leadership, especially, it seems to me, in a vocational position such a Cardinal; such a recipe is not one that I can follow because it lacks substance and it lacks integrity. Who knows what it will change to in the future, where such a man might try and lead one? Thankfully, such views are not representative of all bishops in the Philippines. Mt Rev. Oscar Cruz, the Archbishop Emeritus of Lingayen-Dagupan also commented on the Filipino poll: 
“...the Bible says what God has joined together let no man put asunder. The Church is duty bound to observe and to promote the teachings of Her founder, and Her founder teaches that marriage is sacred”
The Church’s mission, he asserted, is 
“to speak when things are wrong and to affirm when things are right.”
This is a simple but essential point I think. If bishops and Cardinal's (Popes?) fail to be absolutely clear and consistent on this issue, if we end up divided, with a progressive majority contradicting established dogma, repeated in numerous definitive councils (e.g.. Trent) as well as explicit in Scripture (and not in the epistles, but in the Gospel itself) we, as a Church, lose all credibility to speak definitively in objective truth. Point of fact we are defining truth as relative, a grave error:
“It would be a very serious error to conclude… that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man, according to a “balancing of the goods in question”…..An attitude of this sort .. encourages doubt about the objectivity of the moral law in general and a rejection of the absoluteness of moral prohibitions regarding specific human acts, and it ends up by confusing all judgments about values.” Veritatis Splendor 103-104
So our own Cardinal seems now to be undoubtedly in the camp which is seeking to abandon the very words of Christ in Scripture and engineer a circumnavigation. He has revealed himself to be a man of limited conviction, with political ambition, willing to publicly chastise loyal priests who put the conviction of faith above obedience to a questionable agenda. Priests who have no choice but to break ranks as their seniors head for error, an error that may lead thousands away from the Barque of Peter.

My son asked me how intelligent men could get it so wrong. I explained how a lack of humility before God's revelation; a Cartesian turning to self; a developing sense of self-importance, often develops hubris. I explained a little in my last blog, the history of Cardinal Nichols' history and education which gives clues to his direction and conviction. Today I am going to provide some more information about where the Cardinal comes from. Please bear in mind that Cardinal Nichols has been appointed to the Congregation for Bishops now.

As anyone who knows the history of the decline of the Church in this country knows, everything can be largely traced back to one man; Derek Worlock, appointed Archbishop of Liverpool in 1976. By Christmas, Worlock had produced a master-plan for the Archdiocese which was not well received by many of the senior clergy, so Worlock launched a charm offensive on the younger clergy—and Fr. Vincent Nichols became his young protege alongside Fr. John Furnival who was ordained in 1976 and became his private secretary right up until his death in 1996.  

Like his mentor Archbishop Worlock, Cardinal Nichols spent very little time working full time in a parish. His Wikipedia entry gives another impression: "Father Nichols spent a total of 14 years in the Liverpool archdiocese". In fact he spent just 3 or 4 years of this time in a parish.

8 November 1945:       Born in Crosby, Lancashire

1956 - 1963:                St Mary's College, Crosby

1963 - 1970:                Venerable English College, Rome

21 December 1969:     Ordained priest in Rome

1970 - 1971:                MA (Theology) University of Manchester . Dissertation on St John Fisher

1971 - 1973:                Curate St Mary's, Wigan

1973-1974:                  MEd Loyola University Chicago

1975:                           Curate St. Anne's Edge Hill

February 1976:            Derek Worlock appointed Archbishop of Liverpool

1976:                           Upholland Northern Institute (UNI) opens with Fr Kevin Kelly as its first Director. Fr Vincent Nichols was Assistant Director.

The UNI was established in order to implement Vatican II—or rather Archbishop Worlock's own interpretation of Vatican II.

The key event is in May 1980 when the infamous National Pastoral Congress (NPC) takes place in Liverpool - swiftly followed by the report "The Easter People" (August 1980). The NPC petitioned for women priests, artificial contraception and Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. Worlock had been thwarted in his ambition to become Archbishop of Westminster, but his ambitions still spread beyond the confines of Liverpool. So the NPC was his brain child which he intended to spread his version of Vatican II throughout England and Wales. Ultimately the recommendations of the NPC on contraception and divorce and remarriage were rejected by Pope St. John Paul II, Archbishop Worlock continued to push his own agenda, with Fr. Kevin Kelly, Fr. Timothy Buckley, Fr. Charles Curran and UNI as his agents.

Sept - Oct 1980:       Synod of Bishops: the Christian Family

Autumn 1980:       Fr Kevin Kelly was sent to St Edmunds House, Cambridge to do research on    divorce and remarriage.

Autumn 1980:          Fr Vincent Nichols replaces Fr Kelly as head of UNI

March 1981:             Fr Charles Curran is invited by Fr Vincent Nichols to give a series of talks at UNI in August 1981

August 1981:           Fr Charles Curran's talks at UNI are HERE.

December 1981:      Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio 

1982:                        "Divorce and Second Marriage: Facing the Challenge" published by Fr Kelly

1984 - 1993:          Mgr Vincent Nichols is General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales

25 July 1986:            Letter to Fr Charles Curran from Cardinal Ratzinger of the CDF.

In this letter Fr Charles Curran is notified that he was no longer to be regarded as a teacher of Catholic Theology because of his dissent from the teachings of the Church on many moral issues - especially the indissolubility of marriage.
"it is clear that you have not taken into adequate account, for example, that the church’s position on the indissolubility of sacramental and consummated marriage, which you claim ought to be changed, was in fact defined at the Council of Trent and so belongs to the patrimony of the faith."
If marriage is indissoluble, it seems totally logical for Our Lord to describe marital relations with a third party as adultery.  

early 1990's:               Catholic Bishops of England & Wales commission Fr Timothy J Buckley to write a report on divorce & remarriage.

5 Nov 1991:                Mgr Vincent Nichols was appointed Auxiliary bishop of Westminster

1997:                        "What Binds Marriage. Roman Catholic Theology and Practice" published by Fr Timothy J Buckley CSsR.

In this book Buckley argued that the Catholic Church has been wrong for 2000 years and Jesus did not really intend that marriage should be a lifelong commitment.

1999-2000:                  Bishop Vincent Nichols is Apostolic Administrator of Westminster after the death of Cardinal Hume

15 February 2000:         Bishop Vincent Nichols appointed 8th Archbishop of Birmingham

3 April 2009:                   Archbishop Vincent Nichols appointed 11th Archbishop of Westminster

22 February 2014:         Archbishop Vincent Nichols formally elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals

I hope this timeline helps demonstrate how and why we are still facing the same heterodox positions we have been dealing with since the sixties in the Church in England and Wales. The subject of the Synod in October is the latest climax of this attack on the Church, an attack which has already been fended off and dealt with numerous times before. It does seem however, we are destined to continue to fight this same, illogical, counter-productive battle until this generation of prelates have passed away. One of my main concerns is that, while they are in power, they will ensure that those with similar views are promoted to positions of prominence. We rely on the courage of Bishops like Philip Egan in Portsmouth, Mark Davies in Shrewsbury, and Alan Hopes in East Anglia, to show us what it could be like, if we had bishops who were prepared to speak courageously for Christ and His Church.

Today my own Bishop, Alan Williams SM, spoke at a presentation of Catechetical certificates in my Deanery and encouraged us to speak out boldly in defence of the faith. With respect to this issue of divorced and remarked Catholics for example, God has communicated the same moral requirements both as natural law, by giving human persons understanding of what is right and wrong, and as revealed truth. Since grace perfects human nature, Christian morality, while going beyond natural law, always includes it. Indeed Jesus' 'way of acting, His words, His deeds and His precepts constitute the moral rule of Christian life" Veritatis Splendor 20. That is why the requirements of natural law are included in the Gospel, so that "the Gospel is 'the source of all saving truth and moral teaching'" Veritatis Splendor 28. Attempts to limit Christian morality's requirements to generalities such as love and respect are "contrary to the teaching of Scripture and Tradition"  Veritatis Splendor 49.

If you seek to better understand this history, I would highly recommend you spend some time at The Muniment Room. Here are some relevant titbits:

"Worlock had a dual role after the Congress: he was responsible for writing its official report, and was also responsible for arranging the drafting of the Bishops’ response to it.  
(I write sentences, sometimes, and have to stop myself, reread what I have written, and confirm to myself that what I have written was really what happened.)  It is probably no surprise that both the official report, and the draft response, which sailed through the Bishops’ Conference, with barely an amendment, and was published as The Easter People, accorded so well with Worlock’s vision."

You might think that the story ends here but there is one last story to tell.  One of the promises made to the members of the NPC by the Cardinal in his final sermon was that “in loyalty and obedience we shall lay before him our hopes and anxieties” – “him” in this case, meant the Holy Father, Pope John Paul.  The opportunity to do same came shortly afterwards: Archbishops Hume and Worlock were elected by the Bishops’ Conference to be their representatives at the European Synod of Bishops, and off they went, with Father “Vin” Nichols, who had chaired one of the NPC groups, as Worlock’s assistant.

The Archbishops presented a copy of the conclusions of the NPC to Pope John Paul II either open on the page demanding access to contraception or not, depending on who was telling the story to whom, only for it to be completely ignored by the Pope (whether contemptuously or not again depends on who was telling the story to whom).  The two Archbishops then tried to sell both the NPC view on contraception and its view on the admittance of divorced Catholics to the sacraments to the Synod: they were heard politely and ignored: the 1980 Synod marked the point at which John Paul II’s putting an end to the “spirit of Vatican II” began to become Church policy again after a decade of doctrinal anarchy. 


  1. That would be theFr Kelly and Fr Curran mentioned here?

  2. Is the whole of your para. beginning "Today my own bishop ..." his own words in reported speech or is some of it your gloss? I am trying to assess (as a member of his diocese) whose side he is on.

    1. This bit "Today my own Bishop, Alan Williams SM, spoke at a presentation of Catechetical certificates in my Deanery and encouraged us to speak out boldly in defence of the faith." is my report of what he said. The rest is mine. I do believe he is on the side of the Angels, he quoted Hebrews in his homily and encouraged us to speak out boldly for the faith. His homily and my prayer & meditation on it is what led me to post this yesterday.

  3. Thanks for this Mark, an excellent summary of Cardinal Nichols's career.

    One positive thing to take from all of this is we no longer have to try and assume the best. Cardinal Nichols has made his position on things abundantly clear and we now know exactly where he stands.

  4. Nichols has a long list of form. He was Worlock's choice in his will to succeed him in Liverpool. He once issued a covert sacking threat to a Universe Editor when they printed an article criticising Weaving The Web when it was owned by the bishops. I once heard him at the National Conference of Priests make quite a few snide references to Rome.

  5. Mark: I wonder if they are gearing up for another go


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Pope Francis: we planned it all before the conclave

Pope Francis: Dismantling Marriage

Establishing a New Object of Worship