Desmond Connell

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His Eminence
Desmond Connell
Cardinal, Archbishop Emeritus of Dublin
Primate Emeritus of Ireland
Archdiocese Dublin
Installed 21 January 1988 (appointed)
Term ended 26 April 2004 (retired)
Predecessor Kevin McNamara
Successor Diarmuid Martin
Ordination 19 May 1951 (Priest)
Consecration 6 March 1988 (Archbishop)
Created Cardinal 21 February 2001
Rank Cardinal priest of S. Silvestri in Capite
Personal details
Born (1926-03-24) 24 March 1926 (age 89)
Phibsboro, Dublin, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Denomination Roman Catholic
Alma mater Clonliffe College
University College Dublin
Maynooth College
University of Leuven
Coat of arms

Desmond Connell (born 24 March 1926) is a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. He is a former Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland. He was born in Dublin.[1]

Connell is one of a number of senior clergy to have been heavily criticised for inaction and for making misleading statements in connection with clerical sex abuse in Dublin.

Early life and education[edit]

Educated at St. Peter's National School, Phibsboro and the Jesuit Fathers' second level school, Belvedere College, Desmond Connell studied for the priesthood at Holy Cross College, Clonliffe. He studied Arts at University College Dublin (UCD) and graduated with a BA in 1946; he was awarded an MA the following year. Between 1947 and 1951, he studied theology at St Patrick's College, Maynooth. This led to the award of a Bachelor of Divinity degree.

Ordination and early work[edit]

Desmond Connell was ordained priest by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid on 19 May 1951 and continued his studies at the Pontifical University of Leuven, Belgium, where he was awarded a doctorate in Philosophy in 1953.

He then returned to Ireland, and took up a teaching post at the Department of Metaphysics in University College Dublin, where he was to enjoy a distinguished career. He was appointed Professor of General Metaphysics in 1972 and in 1983 became the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Sociology. In 1981 he was awarded a D.Litt. by the National University of Ireland. The College's Department of Metaphysics was abolished after Connell left it and merged into other departments.

Archbishop of Dublin[edit]

Connell was unexpectedly appointed Archbishop of Dublin by the Holy See in early 1988. He was consecrated in the Pro-Cathedral, Dublin on 6 March 1988. He was created Cardinal-Priest by Pope John Paul II at the Consistory in Rome on 21 February 2001 with the Titulus S. Silvestri in Capite. Archbishops of Armagh, who hold the higher title of Primate of All Ireland, are more frequently appointed Cardinal than Archbishops of Dublin. The last Archbishop of Dublin to have been a cardinal was Cardinal Edward MacCabe, who was appointed in 1882.

Tenure tarnished by clerical sex abuse[edit]

It was Connell's failure, when Archbishop of Dublin in 1988–2004, to address adequately[2] the abuse scandals in Dublin that led the Vatican to assign Archbishop Martin as his replacement in the country's largest diocese.[3] The Murphy Report found that Connell had handled the affair "badly" as he was "slow to recognise the seriousness of the situation.[4] It did praise him for making the archdiocesan records available to the authorities in 2002 and for his 1995 actions in giving the authorities the names of 17 priests who had been accused of abuse, although it said the list was incomplete as complaints were made against at least 28 priests in the Archdiocese.[5] He was criticised[6] for being economical with the truth in his use[7] of the concept of mental reservation to inadequately answer questions truthfully[8] about his knowledge of the abusive activities of priests under his control.

From 1988 Connell had also continued to insure his archdiocese against liability from complainants, while claiming to the Murphy Commission that the archdiocese was "on a learning curve" in regard to child abuse.[9] He arranged for compensation payments to be made from a "Stewardship Trust" that was kept secret from the archdiocese's parishioners until 2003.[10]

In 1996 Connell refused to help a victim of Paul McGennis and did not pass on what he knew about McGennis to her, or to the police. He apologised for this in 2002.

In 2005 the prospect of Connell giving evidence to the Murphy Commission was notable in itself, according to the National Catholic Reporter: "The 79-year-old cardinal will be rigorously questioned on his handling of complaints when he was archbishop of Dublin from 1998 until his retirement last year. Never before has an Irish prince of the Roman Catholic church found himself hauled before a state inquiry into the management of the country's largest diocese."[11]

Retirement as archbishop[edit]

On 26 April 2004, Connell retired as archbishop, handing the diocese to the co-adjutor, Diarmuid Martin. All bishops submit their resignation to the Pope on their 75th birthday. Connell's was accepted shortly after he turned 78. He attended the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June 2012 and concelebrated at the Statio Orbis Mass in Croke Park Stadium.

Connell and Benedict XVI[edit]

Connell was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. Desmond Connell is considered quite close to Pope Benedict, both theologically and personally, both having served together on a number of congregations.[citation needed]

Connell had been a supporter of the Holy Office's declaration Dominus Iesus in 2000, applauding its opposition to relativism.[12]

Published works[edit]

Connell has had a number of works published on philosophical or pastoral issues. These include:

  • Essays in metaphysics, Four Court Press, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, 1996 ISBN 1-85182-228-3
  • Christian integrity: does it matter? : pastoral letter for Lent 1992, Veritas, Dublin, 1992 ISBN 1-85390-205-5
  • Christ our life: pastoral letter 1993, Veritas Publications, 1993 ISBN 1-85390-286-1
  • Christ our life: pastoral letters, 1988–95, Four Courts Press, Blackrock, Co. Dublin ISBN 1-85182-207-0

There was also one work published in his honour:

  • At the heart of the real: philosophical essays in honour of Dr Desmond Connell, Archbishop of Dublin edited by Fran O'Rourke, Irish Academic Press, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, 1992 ISBN 0-7165-2464-3 .

Episcopal motto[edit]

His episcopal motto, Secundum Verbum Tuum (According to Thy Word) is taken from Mary's response to God's call at the Annunciation, "Be it done unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "Desmond Connell". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  2. ^ Murphy Report Part 1, Page 12
  3. ^ Cooney, John (24 December 2008). "The arrogrance of a prelate in denial". The Irish Independent. Retrieved 23 June 2009. 
  4. ^ "Irish Catholic Church covered up child abuse, report says -". CNN. 26 November 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  5. ^ "Irish Catholic Church covered up child abuse, report says -". CNN. 26 November 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  6. ^ The lies that Connell claims he never told
  7. ^ Murphy Report, Page 643
  8. ^ Cardinal Connell explained the concept of mental reservation to the Commission in the following way: Well, the general teaching about mental reservation is that you are not permitted to tell a lie. On the other hand, you may be put in a position where you have to answer, and there may be circumstances in which you can use an ambiguous expression realising that the person who you are talking to will accept an untrue version of whatever it may be – permitting that to happen, not willing that it happened, that would be lying. It really is a matter of trying to deal with extraordinarily difficult matters that may arise in social relations where people may ask questions that you simply cannot answer. Everybody knows that this kind of thing is liable to happen. So, mental reservation is, in a sense, a way of answering without lying.
  9. ^ Murphy Report, section 1.21
  10. ^ Murphy Report, section 8.9
  11. ^ National Catholic Reporter, 18 Nov 2005
  12. ^ Dominus Iesus: An Ecclesiological Critique

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Basil Hume
Cardinal Priest of S. Silvestro in Capite
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Kevin McNamara
Archbishop of Dublin
6 March 1988 – 26 April 2004
Succeeded by
Diarmuid Martin