Archdiocese of Liverpool - A New Pastoral Council?

Anyone who knows the history of the decline of the Church in this country knows much of the genesis of the present situation can be traced back to one man: Derek Worlock.

Worlock was appointed private secretary to Cardinal Griffin, and assisted successive cardinal-archbishops of Westminster for almost two decades. He attended every session of the Second Vatican Council between 1962 and 1965 when he was appointed Bishop of Portsmouth on 18 October.

He was eventually appointed Archbishop of Liverpool in 1976 and 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 acted as his private secretary right up until his death in 1996. 

Worlock instigated what became known as "The Magic Circle", a largely self-selecting small pool of like-minded “insiders” who come through lines of patronage that can be traced back to one man. Worlock. 

The CBEW’s vision has remained steadfast to Archbishop Worlock's legacy, aimed at “liberating” Catholics from their past and helping them to embrace the values of secular society. This legacy has led to considerable tension within the CBEW which appears to undercut the individual bishop’s teaching role in favour of presenting a united or common front on every issue they comment on which - let's face it - is as few as possible.

Some have criticised the CBEW as having mimicked the anachronistic power structures of the traditional British trade unions with a rigid bureaucratic structure centred on the idea of the central committee and employing a huge array of professional lay and clerical sub-committees, all paid for by the ordinary Catholics it claims to represent. As Damian Thompson put it in 2016:
The Bishops’ Conference had no problem with the soft-left political agenda of the congress (which included much genuflection to the trade unions in the name of Catholic social teaching). Likewise, they were happy with the implication that the liturgy must become ever more “inclusive”.
The deeply ironic reality today is that in pursuing this agenda has been detrimental in the extreme to the Catholic Church in the UK, the numbers are undeniable, and, instead of halting the decline of the very working-class, “grass-roots” Catholicism that once gave the bishops a legitimate voice on issues of real social concern this “grass-roots” Catholicism has seen a collapse in religious practice among the indigenous Catholic population, which, if it were not being buoyed up by massive levels of immigration from Eastern Europe and the developing world, would have already signalled the end for many parishes and even dioceses.

The CBEW may claim success in opening up the doors of the Church to the world, but instead of the world walking in, Catholics have walked out, especially those who have grown up in the post-conciliar era never knowing the safety of the “ghetto” Church and who prefer to take their worldliness from the world itself rather than from a self-consciously worldly Catholicism.

The CBEW still appears to be totally focused on watering down Catholic teaching to make it somehow "fit-in" with a secular world which is clearly in increasing turmoil. Despite all their best efforts, the world continues to despise them, but ignorance is bliss, and in their privileged and sheltered existence, they appear completely oblivious to the realities that surround them and continue to appease the secular majority and silence any Catholic voices of orthodoxy and true evangelisation in the country.

For a vast majority of Catholics the Church now exists only to “hatch, match, and dispatch” and retains the nominal membership that it does largely because it runs some of the best free schools in the country (although this too is increasingly under pressure). Just ask any Parish Catechist involved with sacramental programmes and you will hear the same story time and time again. The bishops aren't interested and they aren't listening.

Any dissenting voices in the CBEW are immediately quashed. Where an English bishop has dared to step out of line and question the liberal agenda, the result has been criticism and ostracism by colleagues. In 2008, the outgoing bishop of Lancaster, Patrick O’Donoghue, presented reports (titled “Fit for Mission, Church?”, “Fit for Mission, Schools?”, and “Fit for Mission, Marriage?”) which lambasted the CBEW policies that had accelerated the decline of the faith in England. The reports also proposed a series of radical recommendations for recovery. Those documents were warmly welcomed in Rome. O’Donoghue was received in personal audience by the Pope and received commendations from three curial congregations and two pontifical councils. But the reaction to these reports in England was the complete opposite. Instead of forming the blueprint for diocesan policies throughout England and Wales, they were ignored, and some bishops even actively spoke against them.

In an interview with Oremus, the Westminster Cathedral magazine in 2015, Bishop O’Donoghue said: 
“I was disappointed that none of my bishops publicly defended me … I’m still baffled as to why my brother bishops didn’t support me."
The CBEW is presently led by Worlock's favourite protege: Cardinal Nichols. Like his mentor Archbishop Worlock, Cardinal Nichols spent very little time working full time in a parish despite the fact that 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 and the spent the rest of his time in more politically expedient positions (there's a full time line here).

The key event in Worlock's legacy comes in May 1980 when the infamous National Pastoral Congress (NPC) takes place in Liverpool - swiftly followed by the report "The Easter People" (August 1980). 

You might be shocked to find that the focus of the NPC was petitioning for women priests, artificial contraception and Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. The same tired agenda that is constantly pushed by the "progressives" in the Church today.

Although the highly ambitious Worlock had been thwarted in his attempts to become Archbishop of Westminster, his ambitions still spread beyond the confines of Liverpool. So he came up with the NPC 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 (Upholland Northern Institute) as his agents.

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. 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.

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 II. 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 many considered Pope John Paul II had put an end to the “Spirit of Vatican II” after a decade of doctrinal anarchy.


Later this year the Archdiocese of Liverpool will convene a synod. Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP will allow his synod to debate the 'ordination' of women as deacons and priests as clearly stated in this document:

Liverpool appears to be continuing to follow Worlock's legacy, following the path of German heresy and rebellion in a model which states that the fact they have no vocations is reason for them to further implement the action that got them to this point, namely:

1. Diminish the importance of the priesthood
2. Reduce formation whilst blurring the nature of the priesthood
3. Attempt to destroy the priesthood
4. Use the internet to communicate
5. Form committees

Let's face it, it's worked up to this point - if you consider its' goal is to destroy the Catholic Church!

On the positive side, if one considers that the Archdiocese of Liverpool has fewer than 10% of baptised Catholics attending Mass and those 50,000 souls are mostly over 50 years of age, then this Synod could be considered as somewhat of an irrelevance. 

For me it shows what we can expect from Archbishop McMahon, who serves as the Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Department of Education and Formation and the Catholic Education Service (CES). Archbishop McMahon made it clear that he cannot be trusted in this position in May 2017.


  1. Thank God for The Traditional Movements here in England!I live in Shropshire and attend The Institute of Christ The King Church in Shrewsbury.Thank God for Bishop Brian Davies for inviting them.For me-i am 68yrs old-they are the future of the Church.Young families,veiled women-young and older-and strong Traditional Sermons.Great stuff.Let the Hippies,both clergy and pew sitters,grow old,die ,and let us get on with supporting The Mystical Body of Christ!Good post!!Also i attend The Latin Mass in other places locally-i am very fortunate!

  2. Its well know the CBCEW is an old boys club. One only has to look at the former ordinary of Arundel and Brighton - they all knew what was going on but no one did anything. Well done for faithful shepherds such as Bishop Philip Egan. Society is a challenging and damaged place, the needs to be something in the middle. On one hand we have the right wing latin mass brigade and young Catholics more concerned with what others are doing in the bedroom. On the other hand liberal wishy washy people who make a mockery of the sacraments and sacred priesthood.

    Who was really the power behind the throne in Warlocks day?

  3. I should be interested to know what Alice Thomas Ellis said to Warlock. It must have touched a nerve as he had the Catholic Herald sack her.

  4. ‘Worlock” ‘Magic Circle’—in your face, right?


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