London, England, Jul 13, 2011 / 10:45 am
There are calls from all sides in British politics for Rupert Murdoch to hand back – or be stripped of – his papal knighthood if he is found culpable in any way for the recent phone hacking scandal involving his British tabloid newspaper, The News of the World.
“I think we need to see the extent of what happened and who knew what and when before we rush to judgment. But if it transpires that Rupert Murdoch was aware of these goings on then, yes, he ought to hand the papal knighthood back,” said former Conservative government minister and Catholic convert Ann Widdecombe on July 13.
Rupert Murdoch was made a Knight Commander of St. Gregory in 1998. Although not a Catholic, he had apparently been recommended for the honor by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles after giving money to a Church education fund. A year later he also donated $10 million to help build Los Angeles’ new Catholic cathedral.
“Like most of us in 1998, the Holy Father would not have been aware of the terrible depths Mr. Murdoch’s media empire would go to for profit,” said Jim McGovern, Labour M.P. for Dundee West and treasurer of the All-Party Group on the Holy See.
“However, if these allegations are proven to be true then either Mr. Murdoch should return his Knighthood, or the Holy See should look to have it removed from him,” McGovern said on July 13.
Murdoch’s U.K. newspaper group – News International – stands accused of illegally hacking the phones of thousands of people, including celebrities, royals and families of crime victims to garner stories. The groups is also alleged to have bribed serving police officers for information.
Today saw the U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron set up a judge-led inquiry to investigate the claims. A police investigation is already underway.
In response, Murdoch has closed down the News of the World and withdrawn a bid to buy U.K. satellite television station BSkyB. His company has also admitted that illegal hacking was used by journalists within the company. Two have already served time in prison for other crimes.