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Michael Cox (independent bishop)

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Michael Patrick O'Connor Cox (born c. 1945) is an Irish independent bishop. He is the best known member of the Traditionalist Catholic "Tridentine" movement in Ireland[1] and is also known for ordaining the singer Sinéad O'Connor.[2] He is the founder and bishop superior of the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church.[2]


Early lifeEdit

Cox was an Irish soldier and a Dún Laoghaire harbour policeman.[2][3]


Cox was consecrated as a bishop in 1978 by Ciarán Broadbery,[4][5][a][b] who in turn was consecrated in 1977 by Clemente Domínguez y Gómez of the independent Palmarian Catholic Church.[4][5] Domínguez was consecrated in January 1976 by Archbishop Ngô Đình Thục of the Roman Catholic Church.[8] In September 1976, Thục, and those he had ordained, were excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.[9][10]

Cox offered Tridentine Masses at Monkstown, County Dublin, in the mid-1980s.[2]

Cox's church is St Coleman's, in the townland of Cree near Birr, County Offaly.[1][2][c]

In May 1998, Cox consecrated a Roman Catholic priest, Patrick Buckley, as a bishop. According to a British journal, The Tablet, it was said at the time that Buckley's consecration was "valid but illicit" but that the Catholic Media Office of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales "has now said that it doubts that the bishop's episcopal consecration is valid".[12] Irish issues within the Roman Catholic Church, however, fall under the jurisdiction of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference;[13] in June 1998, Jim Cantwell, director of the Irish Catholic Press and Information Office, said that Cox's consecration of Buckley was valid but illicit.[14]

In April 1999, Cox ordained female rock singer Sinéad O'Connor as a priest. Her ordination ceremony, after six weeks of theological study, was held in a Lourdes hotel bedroom. O'Connor then assumed the religious name of "Mother Bernadette Mary".[15]

In 2001, Cox planned to convert his 75-foot (23 m) commercial fishing trawler, called The Little Bishop, into "a mobile floating church, offering on-board marriages and baptisms to people around the British Isles."[16] Cox planned to protest against the ship being sailed into Ireland by the pro-choice feminist group Women on Waves.[16] In 2004, Cox's 84-foot (26 m) trawler, called The Patriarch, caught fire while underway and sank.[3][17] Cox also planned to use The Patriarch as a church.

In 2011, Cox was a candidate in the general election for the Laois–Offaly constituency, coming last with 60 votes.[18][19]

In 2013, a District Court judge requested that the Garda Síochána investigate a marriage conducted by Cox for a 17-year-old Traveller youth and his partner.[20] Civil marriages in Ireland require that the participants are over 18, or have a Court Exemption Order if this is not the case.[21] Cox states that such weddings conducted by him are religious, not civil, so there is no religious reason why somebody 16 years old should not get married.[22]

I recognise their [Traveller] customs and appreciate them. Anyone who asks why I do what I do- I tell them that I make it clear the wedding ceremony is purely religious. I do not register marriage with the state.

— Michael Cox, [22]

Cox insists on parental consent and parents being present at the ceremony.[22]


  1. ^ This 1978 date is contradicted by Joe Humphreys, on, who wrote that Cox was consecrated a bishop in 1992.[2]
  2. ^ In 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), replied to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster, about a request by Broadbery for declaration on the nullity of his ordination. Ratzinger wrote that the CDF decreed in the 1983 notification on "the illicit ordinations of El Palmar de Troya" and does not address "the particulars of individual ordinations". [6] Ratzinger requested that Murphy-O'Connor communicate a prescript to Broadbery from the 1983 notification.[6] The CDF prescript "as regards those who have already received ordination in this illicit manner, or who will perhaps receive ordination from them, whatever about the validity of the orders, the Church does not nor shall it recognize their ordination, and as regards all juridical effects, it considers them in the state which each one had previously, and the above-mentioned penal sanctions remain in force until repentance."[6][7]
  3. ^ Cox's church is a former Church of Ireland church building 53°03′46″N 7°51′39″W / 53.0627°N 7.8608°W / 53.0627; -7.8608[11].[1]


  1. ^ a b c Pogatchnik, Shawn (16 February 1997). "Rogue bishop offers pay-by-the-call phone confessions". Seattle Times Company Network. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Humphreys, Joe (1999-04-27). "Ordination conducted by Tridentine bishop once of harbour police". Dublin: The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 2016-03-27. Retrieved 2016-03-28.
  3. ^ a b "Irish floating church sinks in flames". Sydney Morning Herald. Associated Press. 2004-09-02. Archived from the original on 2016-03-29. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  4. ^ a b Buckley, Patrick (2005). A sexual life, a spiritual life: a painful journey to inner peace (autobiography). Dublin: Liffey Press. pp. 186–187. ISBN 9781904148685. Here Ciarán Broadbery is spelled "Kieran Broadberry".
  5. ^ a b Jones, Rob Angus (2012). Independent sacramental bishops: ordination, authority, lineage, and validity (Kindle ed.). Berkley: Apocryphile Press. Kindle locations 1583–1588. ISBN 9781937002237.
  6. ^ a b c Ratzinger, Joseph (2004-01-28). "[Reply about request by Ciarán Broadbery for declaration on the nullity of his ordination]" (Letter). Letter to Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. Vatican City. Prot. N. 83/82-18350. Archived from the original on 2016-03-27. Retrieved 2016-03-29 – via Here Ciarán Broadbery is spelled "Kieran Broadberry".
  7. ^ Catholic Church. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1983-03-12). "Notification". L'Osservatore Romano (English ed.). Vatican City (published 1983-04-18). p. 12. Archived from the original on 2012-01-04. Retrieved 2016-03-29 – via
  8. ^ Howse, Christopher (2006-02-18). "Sacred mysteries". Personal view. The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2016-03-26. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  9. ^ Twomey, Vincent (1999-04-27). "Difficult theological questions raised by O'Connor 'ordination'". Dublin: The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 2016-03-27. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  10. ^ Catholic Church. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1976-09-17). "Decree concerning certain unlawful priestly and episcopal ordinations". L'Osservatore Romano (English ed.). Vatican City (published 1976-09-30). p. 1. Archived from the original on 2012-01-04. Retrieved 2016-03-29 – via
  11. ^ Government of Ireland. National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. "Saint Colman's Church of Ireland Church, County Offaly". (database record). Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Archived from the original on 2016-03-31. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  12. ^ "Home news". The Tablet. London. 1998-09-05. p. 29. ISSN 0039-8837. Archived from the original on 2016-03-19. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
  13. ^ "About Us". Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  14. ^ O'Sullivan, Roddy (1998-06-15). "Excommunication follows after priest is made a bishop". Dublin: The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 28 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  15. ^ "O'Connor becomes a 'priest'", BBC, 4 May 1999.
  16. ^ a b "Bishop pledges to sail from Fenit to block 'abortion boat'". Cork, IE: Thomas Crosbie Media Archives. The Kingdom. 2001-06-12. Archived from the original on 2005-01-01.
  17. ^ "Sinking of 'holy ship' halts bishop's protest plan". Dublin. 2004-09-02. Archived from the original on 2016-04-02. Retrieved 2016-04-02.
  18. ^ Laois-Offaly - 2011 Candidates Archived 2011-02-28 at the Wayback Machine, RTÉ News, 25 February 2011.
  19. ^ "Rebel bishop runs in Laois–Offaly". Leinster Express. 9 February 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  20. ^ Deegan, Gordon (19 December 2013). "Judge directs that 'renegade' bishop be investigated for marriage he allegedly performed involving a 17-year-old". Irish Independent. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  21. ^ "Legal prerequisites for marriage". Citizens Information Board. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  22. ^ a b c Doorley, Julienne; Lynch, David (10 November 2008). "The Happy Couple" (PDF). Voice of Travellers. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 March 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2016.

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