Pope Francis accepts the resignation of English Cardinal Nichols

Pope Francis accepts the resignation of English Cardinal Nichols.

This story is rather confusing. Cardinal Nichols’s letter is dated 9 November. However, a BBC article dated 10 November states:

Cardinal Nichols told the BBC he had offered to resign on Sunday upon turning 75, as is church law when bishops reach this age, but this was rejected by the Vatican.

He said: "I offered my resignation to Pope Francis. His answer has come back very clear, very unambiguous. He wants me to stay in post, so I will stay because that’s where my orders come from, that’s where my mandate comes from.

“He wants me to stay - I’m going to stay and continue to work wholeheartedly at these matters.”

The cardinal is saying that the pope has accepted his resignation but wishes for him to remain in post “until … other provision is made”. The BBC is saying that his resignation was rejected. Given that the BBC has spoken to the cardinal directly, it seems unlikely that they are misinformed. Perhaps their interpretation of this is that anything short of resignation with immediate effect is not really resignation.

More from the Liverpool Echo:

Cardinal Nichols, from Crosby, said he refused to resign, with the Holy Father encouraging him to stay.

He told the PA news agency: “I do what I’m told. The Holy Father put me here and he tells me to stay here - that’s enough for me.”

The question I imagine most people will be asking is exactly how long he will remain in post. What does “other provision” mean? Will he remain in post until a new archbishop is appointed, which could be a long time, or could “other provision” mean one of the auxiliary bishops stepping up for the time being, which could be arranged by the end of the week? Sympathy for Cardinal Nichols certainly appears to be thin on the ground among Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Egan, in keeping with the Code of Canon Law, offered his resignation as archbishop of New York to Pope Benedict XVI on April 2, 2007, when he reached 75 years of age. His resignation became official on February 23, 2009, when Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Timothy Dolan as his successor

This is not unusual, particularly with Cardinals who head a diocese. Above is a Wikipedia description for the former abp of NY. In those 2 years, he welcomed the Pope to NY, celebrated the 200th anniversary of the diocese, and accepted appointment to another Vatican Congregation. Largely business as usual that allowed him to wrap up some projects he had begun.

The Pope likely wants Nichols to handle any fallout from the report, instead of forcing his replacement to start while a major controversy is erupting.

Looks rather similar to the case of Cardinal Wuerl

Meaning that Nichols could effectively remain in post until next summer?

From what I have read and from the opinions I have heard, I fear that it may be too late for that. Nichols has been an archbishop for over 20 years, first in Birmingham and now in Westminster. We now know that he was responsible for serious failures in both roles. It is hard to see how somebody with such a legacy of failure can now be expected to solve problems which he has spent 20 years creating.

Just reading through the report:

  • According to the IICSA report, it has taken Nichols 13 years to implement the recommendations of the Cumberlege Commission report (2007) and six years to commence the Safe Spaces joint project with the Church of England.
  • He told the Inquiry that the Church’s own safeguarding policy was “difficult to implement”.
  • It is said that he refuses to take personal responsibility and shows no compassion towards victims.
  • It took the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission over a year to draft the terms of reference for a review by Ian Elliott. Nichols told the Inquiry that he could not provide an explanation for this.
  • Asked why he had not even acknowledged receipt of emails from an abuse survivor, he told the Inquiry, “Well I didn’t, I’m sorry.” He also refused to meet the victim until the case was publicised in the media. In another case, it took him over a year to meet with another victim.
  • Nichols told the Inquiry that he had not spoken to Peter Houghton, chair of the archdiocesan safeguarding commission, about an email which described an abuse victim in “cynical and hostile” language that was “lacking … empathy and compassion”. The Inquiry has subsequently been informed that Nichols and Houghton did discuss the email. This is tantamount to an accusation of perjury.
  • “… the primary focus of Cardinal Nichols’ concern was the impact … on the reputation of the Church and the Pope.” The report also speaks of “his misplaced desire to give priority to the protection of the reputation of the Church, the Pope and Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor.”
  • Nichols failed to request a Vatican investigation into leaking of information about an abuse victim to media.

In light of this, surely a fresh start is what is needed.

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I’m sorry but what a jerk.

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The report is scathing about Nichols, basically accusing him of empty words.

I’m not sure that you even have to be sorry about calling Cardinal Nichols a jerk. I think people are calling him worse.

It is perhaps worth reminding people that this is not the first IICSA report to have criticised Nichols in the strongest possible terms. In June 2019, the Inquiry published a report into the Archdiocese of Birmingham. Thus, the more recent report primarily deals with Nichols’s period as archbishop of Westminster and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, whereas the earlier report deals with his period as archbishop of Birmingham, during which he seems to have made just as many mistakes.

And, while stopping short of saying that he lied under oath, the report does say that he made a statement that was directly contradicted by evidence that subsequently came to light.


Good to see him gone, because what he has done to the world-renowned Westminster Cathedral Choir is inexcusable.

Yes, but these days Im slow to rejoice, because just when you think you couldn’t possibly get a worse bishop, you get one.


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