Monday, July 19, 2010

Cardinal Newman was much more than a 'reluctant saint'

From The London Telegraph-

Announcing the details of the Pope's forthcoming visit to Britain a couple of weeks ago, the BBC said that Benedict XVI would be beatifying "a 19th-century cardinal". The description was accurate, but misleading, rather like referring to Alfred Tennyson as "a 19th-century peer". The man in question was never a bishop and only became a Cardinal in his late seventies. His interest lies elsewhere.

But one can see the BBC's difficulty. How could one quickly describe John Henry Newman? The most important Catholic convert in the history of the English-speaking world? The best Romantic writer of the Victorian age? The most influential spiritual leader in England since John Wesley? All these, perhaps, and more. In the subtitle of this book, John Cornwell calls Newman "the reluctant saint", which is not a terribly useful epithet, since no one who was not reluctant could possibly qualify for sainthood.

There is a bit of an "agenda" behind this book, I suspect. Cornwell is clearly on the reforming wing of the Catholic Church, and he wishes to enlist Newman as a prophet of that cause. Newman's belief in the primacy of conscience, says Cornwell, can be used to uphold attacks on Vatican teaching on contraception. His liberal idea of a university is taken to imply that he might have favoured student protest against the Vietnam war.

More here-

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