Cormac Murphy-O’Connor (1932-2017)

Illustration: Armand Jean du Plessis, Duke of Richelieu; 9 September 1585 – 4 December 1642), commonly referred to as Cardinal Richelieu.

From Wikipedia: “a British cardinal (2001-07) of the Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop of Westminster and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. By virtue of his position as Archbishop of Westminster, Murphy-O’Connor was sometimes referred to as the Catholic Primate of England and Wales. However, though the holders within the Church of England of the posts of Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of York are called the “Primate of All England” and “Primate of England” respectively, the title of primate has never been used by the de facto leaders of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.” He was the youngest of five brothers, and had a younger sister.

From: Howard, Lauren H et al. “Infants’ and young children’s imitation of linguistic in-group and out-group informants.” Child development vol. 86,1 (2015):

“Much of children’s learning is dependent on social partners. However, informants are not uniform in their ability to provide correct or relevant information, and intelligent social learners must be able to selectively consume accurate knowledge. Even young children appear to be intelligent social consumers, endorsing information tendered by those who appear accurate…

In addition to resisting information provided by unreliable informants, children also seem to resist information from people who are members of “out-group” social categories. Preschool children prefer to play with objects, eat food, and engage in activities that members of the same gender or age group previously endorsed (e.g., Shutts, Banaji, & Spelke, 2010), and they reference peers over adults when seeking information pertaining to toys (e.g., VanderBorght & Jaswal, 2009). Furthermore, older children selectively endorse actions performed by an individual with a native accent compared to an individual with a foreign accent…

A recent finding by Buttelmann, Zmyj, Daum, and Carpenter (2013) suggests that infants may also be discriminating social learners. In this study, 14-month-old infants were familiarized to a video of a model who told a story in either the infant’s native language or a foreign language. Infants then viewed the video model acting upon two objects. Infants who viewed the native-speaking model imitated significantly more of the actions than infants who viewed the foreign-speaking model, suggesting a learning preference for in-group and resistance against out-group speakers.

These findings make it tempting to assume that selective social learning is pervasive throughout early childhood. On this view, it may be presumed that children evaluate the source for socially provided information, and thus filter out much of the information that they encounter. However, several findings also indicate limits in children’s ability to modulate social learning: Preschool children have trouble ignoring incorrect or incompetent testimony when it is presented in face-to-face social interactions (e.g., Couillard & Woodward, 1999; Jaswal, 2010; Jaswal, Croft, Setia, & Cole, 2010; Palmquist, Burns, & Jaswal, 2012), even when this information comes from an overtly malevolent individual (Mascaro & Sperber, 2009), suggesting that appropriately ignoring unreliable information may be difficult early in life.

Why is it that, in some situations, children appear to resist information tendered by those who are perceptually different from themselves, while in others, children cannot ignore information that is detrimental to their learning? This could be viewed as a question concerning research methods—What are the testing conditions that reveal versus restrict children’s selectivity in learning? At a deeper level, this question is essential to understanding the processes at work in childhood social learning. Discovering the factors that affect children’s selective social learning is necessary for understanding how laboratory responses may, or may not, reflect children’s learning in real-world situations. The present research addresses these questions by testing whether children always ignore certain kinds of socially provided information, or whether children are generally open to such information, with selectivity emerging only under very specific contexts, such as in certain laboratory-based experimental paradigms.

The available evidence suggests that the mode of presentation may strongly affect children’s propensity to disregard informants…”

On 14 September 2017, Luke Coppen wrote in the Catholic Herald:

“…(Cormac Murphy-O’Connor) bore not just one but two Irish names thanks to his grandfather, who joined his surname with his half-brother’s when they went into the wine trade. Despite being born in Reading, Murphy-O’Connor spoke with an Irish lilt and had the easy charm associated with his ancestral land. Yet Clifford Longley once described him as “every inch a dog-walking, golfing, rugger- and piano-playing English country gentleman”. Though firmly middle class (his father was a doctor from County Cork), he moved comfortably in upper-class circles. He became a friend of the Duke of Norfolk during his more than two decades as Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, and England’s senior Catholic layman is said to have helped him to Westminster…”

Austen Ivereigh wrote in Crux on Sep 1, 2017:

“…He was well known in Rome, which he had grown to know and feel at home in while studying there in the 1950s and where he later returned, in the 1970s, to run the English College as rector. He spoke Italian fluently and with brio, albeit with an unmistakably English accent, and as cardinal sat on a number of significant Vatican bodies, including those in charge of finance and bishops…”

Cormac Murphy-O’Connor wrote in his memoirs, An English Spring (2015):

“…Before the war…we had quite a Victorian household…We also had, rather surprisingly, a French governess. My mother wanted her boys to learn the language, so she decided that for one meal a day we would only be permitted to speak French. The governess and my mother would start a conversation and then we boys would be encouraged to keep it going. After a long silence, one of my older brothers would say, in a funny accent, ‘voulez-vous me passer les pommes de terre’, and there would be laughter all round. Ellen did her best, but her attempt to produce five cultivated sons was not a great success.

My father gave us challenges, to collect wild flowers or to cultivate a little bit of the garden, and I became something of a gardener…”

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