John Heenan (cardinal)

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His Eminence
John Carmel Heenan
Cardinal, Archbishop of Westminster
John Heenan.jpg
Cardinal John Heenan
Province Westminster
Diocese Westminster
Appointed 2 September 1963
Term ended 7 November 1975
Predecessor William Godfrey
Successor Basil Hume
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of San Silvestro in Capite
Ordination 6 July 1930
Consecration 27 January 1951
by William Godfrey
Created cardinal 22 February 1965
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Born (1905-01-26)26 January 1905
Ilford, Essex
Died 7 November 1975(1975-11-07) (aged 70)
London, England
Buried Westminster Cathedral
Nationality British
Denomination Roman Catholic
Parents James Carmel Heenan and Anne Pilkington
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John Carmel Heenan (26 January 1905 – 7 November 1975) was an English prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Westminster from 1963 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1965.[1]


Early life and ordination[edit]

John Heenan was born in Ilford, Essex, the youngest of four children of Irish parents John and Anne Heenan (née Pilkington). He auditioned for Westminster Cathedral Choir School at age 9, but Sir Richard Terry rejected him for his "metallic voice".[2] Heenan studied at St. Ignatius College in Stamford Hill, Ushaw College in Durham, and the Venerable English College in Rome before being ordained to the priesthood on 6 July 1930. He then did pastoral work in Brentwood until 1947, at which time he became Superior of the Catholic Missionary Society of England and Wales. In this position, Heenan criticized the United States for being too concerned about communism, and not enough about spiritual matters.[3] By this time he had published a biography (1943) of Cardinal Hinsley, Archbishop of Westminster, who had recently died.


On 27 January 1951, Heenan was appointed the fifth Bishop of Leeds by Pope Pius XII. He received his episcopal consecration on the following 12 March from Archbishop William Godfrey, Apostolic Delegate to Great Britain, with Joseph McCormack, Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, and John Petit, Bishop of Menevia, serving as co-consecrators. Named the sixth Archbishop of Liverpool on 2 May 1957, Heenan was later appointed the eighth Archbishop of Westminster on 2 September 1963. As Archbishop of Westminster, he served as the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. In 1968, Heenan was elected President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

Positions during the Second Vatican Council[edit]

A participant of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), Heenan showed himself to be of a conservative mind. He opposed Gaudium et spes, the Council's constitution on the Church in the modern world, saying that it had been "written by clerics with no knowledge of the world".[4] He also condemned the periti, or theological experts, who sought to change the Church's doctrine on birth control.[4] Moreover, despite the risks to ecumenism, Heenan later supported the canonization of the forty martyrs.[5]


He was created Cardinal-Priest of S. Silvestro in Capite by Pope Paul VI in the consistory of 22 February 1965.

He died from a heart attack in London[6] at age 70, and is buried in Westminster Cathedral, under the twelfth Station of the Cross ("Jesus dies on the Cross").

Cardinal Heenan shared a lengthy correspondence with author Evelyn Waugh regarding the Second Vatican Council. A compilation of their letters, A Bitter Trial: Evelyn Waugh and John Carmel Cardinal Heenan on the Liturgical Changes, was first published in 1996 and reprinted in an expanded edition in 2011.[7]


  • "A church that is half empty is half full."[8]
  • "At home it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday in the Sistine Chapel we would soon be left with a congregation mostly of women and children."[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "John Carmel Heenan". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  2. ^ Diocese of Westminster. Cardinal John Carmel Heenan 11 January 2005
  3. ^ Time Magazine. Dominant Theme 12 June 1950
  4. ^ a b Time Magazine. The Bravest Schema 30 October 1964
  5. ^ Time Magazine. Furor over Forty 19 January 1970
  6. ^ Time Magazine. [1] 17 November 1975
  7. ^ Blosser, Philip (June 2012). "Undone by the "Permanent Workshop"". New Oxford Review. 79 (5). Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  8. ^ Time Magazine. Revival in England 9 May 1949
  9. ^ Liturgical Shipwreck TAN Books and Pub. March 1997

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Henry Poskitt
Bishop of Leeds
Succeeded by
George Patrick Dwyer
Preceded by
William Godfrey
Archbishop of Liverpool
Succeeded by
George Andrew Beck
Archbishop of Westminster
Succeeded by
Basil Hume
Preceded by
Valerio Valeri
Cardinal Priest of S. Silvestro in Capite