One of our pet peeves here at CMR is absentee Bishops. Damian Thompson of the Telegraph has a biting piece on Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster. I am sorry to say, as scathing as it may seem, I suspect Mr. Thompson is mostly on target. Perhaps some of our readers in the U.K. can let us know if Mr. Thompson has the right take on the Cardinal. Read on. (P.S. The last line of this piece is worth the price of admission, but resist the urge to skip ahead.)
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is one of those people who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Today, for example, saw the world premiere of a stunningly beautiful choral work by Stephen Hough at Westminster Cathedral’s main Sunday Mass. And His Eminence was nowhere to be seen.
Although he was apparently in the building, he made no appearance at the 10.30 Mass and so has not even heard Hough’s Missa Mirabilis, commissioned and written for his own cathedral. Instead, he officiated at the more low-key midday Mass – and this on one of the great feast days of the Church, Corpus Christi.
Hough’s Mass was a triumph: fresh, joyous and glowing with subtle colours. My newspaper, the Catholic Herald, was proud to have sponsored the premiere and delighted by the performance of the choir and its Master of Music, Martin Baker. This was a spiritual and musical event of the first importance – and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster missed it. Indeed, he has not offered support for the project in any shape or form.
He did, it is true, write a “pastoral letter” on the subject of the Eucharist to be read out in place of today’s sermon. But – and this goes almost without saying – its contents were utterly banal.
I’m sometimes accused of having it in for the Cardinal. On this occasion, however, I am speaking for others: not, I hasten to add, the Catholic Herald, but for a great many people in and around Westminster Cathedral.
Still, at least the choir now has a splendid new Mass in its repertoire. I hope it will commission more pieces from Hough. How about a celebratory Te Deum for the day Cormac announces his retirement?