Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor celebrated a Requiem Mass for Sir Michael Quinlan, former Permanent Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, on 18 June 2009 at Westminster Cathedral.
The Mass was attended by Sir Michael’s close family and friends. Those present included his widow Mary, the former Prime Minister Sir John Major, Head of the Cabinet Sir Gus O’Donnell, Lord Butler, Lord Roberts, Lord Armstrong and Lord Guthrie. The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, concelebrated the Mass.
Fr Michael Holman SJ, Provincial of the British Jesuits, gave the Homily, in which he emphasised Sir Michael’s lifelong Catholic faith, which was greatly influenced by the Jesuits who taught him at Wimbledon College. Describing Sir Michael, he said: “He spoke of the opportunities which participation in public life gives the convinced Catholic. He wrote that our faith and its moral standards equip us to bring to bear in public service a sense of values to run through all we do. Values like straight dealing, committed effort with the gifts God has given, fairness too all, obedience to the law, proper stewardship of the natural world and the special concern for the poor, both at home and abroad, or those otherwise disadvantaged.”
“He regarded it as essential for the Christian to get involved with society and its problems, to make them his own, and then to make use, alongside all men and women of goodwill, of the highest gift that God has given, our reason and intelligence to improve the state of things, the state of things as they were, not as they might have been, and respecting the choices people in our democratic society have made.”
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said, “Many tributes have been made to Sir Michael Quinlan. For me, he epitomised a model of a fine Catholic lay man, deeply devoted to the Church, as also to his public life as a senior civil servant. He won the admiration of all and his Christian life was an example to everyone who knew him. May he rest in peace.”
Educated at Wimbledon College and later at Merton College, Oxford, Sir Michael Quinlan went on to become a civil servant, becoming Permanent Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Defence whilst Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. He became an expert in just war theory and co-wrote, with General the Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, Just War: The Just War Tradition: Ethics in Modern Warfare in 2007.He married Mary Finlay in 1965, and they had four children. Sir Michael Quinlan died on 26 February 2009, aged 78.