Leading Article: Expect Few Changes in the Roman Catholic Church
WHY DID the wife of the Prime Minister, the leaders of the Opposition and assorted duchesses, dukes and lords attend the enthronement of Cormac Murphy-O'Connor as the 10th Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster? Was it because of the importance of the occasion, or because it was a society event, akin to a royal wedding, Ascot or the state opening of Parliament?
The answer is something of both. Roman Catholicism, like the other mainstream Christian churches, is suffering from declining congregations and a paucity of priests. There is nothing in the appointment of the Most Rev Murphy- O'Connor - a bishop chosen for his ability to get on with the English establishment and smooth over the differences within his own church - that would suggest that this will reverse.
As an institution, however, the Roman Catholic Church does wield surprising influence, especially since Cardinal Hume brought it back so firmly into the centre of British social and political life after centuries of political distance. Witness the unhelpful intervention of senior church figures into the Section 28 debate.
The new Archbishop is a natural conciliator, a promoter of the final shabby government guidelines on sex education that ended the debate. But on the hard moral issues such as abortion, divorce and women priests on which the Pope has chosen to stand so firm, we can expect little change from the new man. …