Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cardinal Newman's Legacy Under Attack by One Purporting to Defend it

I recently came upon two articles, one written by John Cornwell where he insinuates that John Henry Newman’s philosophy, theology, and world view would be in line with the liberalism of today and the other is written by Fr. Barron who refutes that implication. In one of his distorted views Cornwell states that John Henry Newman “does not enjoy a grassroots international cult following, unlike Saint Francis of Assisi” but then ironically goes on to contradict his own nonsensical statement. First he tries to limit the scope of Newman’s following to British intellectuals in universities. But admits also to millions of followers in America. And Australia. And New Zealand. And Ireland, too! (There is more than that, but that is all Cornwell will admit to - international enough for you? Large enough for you?) Cornwell’s article only gets worse from there.

Cornwell’s only evidence that Newman was a “liberal” is that he was not a conservative, which Fr. Barron admits. Fr. Barron states that John Henry Newman was neither a conservative or a liberal. I agree. He was a defender of both Catholicism and of Christianity in general. Fr. Barron points out that Newman stated this: "I consider my entire life's work, both as an Anglican and a Catholic, to have been a battle against liberalism in matters of religion!" This doesn’t seem to be in sync with Cornwell’s implied claim.

Cornwell supports his position that Newman’s legacy is being hijacked by His Holiness by rightly pointing out that Newman is beloved by Catholic liberals. But he seems neither concerned nor unacquainted with the thought of Newman himself. Cornwell is treating Newman as if his own words or stated positions throughout his life are not very important to his legacy, at least not nearly as important as what liberals today make of him, apparently with little consideration of the relevant content in Newman’s works.

In closing, Fr. Barron states “Given the complexity and nuance of Newman's thought, it is not surprising that he is claimed by both "liberals" and "conservatives" today, but I think that a disciplined reading of the whole of Newman reveals that he cannot be caught in either of these simplistic categories. What should especially give Cornwell pause is the fact that Benedict XVI -- one of the most theologically astute popes in history and someone who has read Newman for many years -- is presiding with enthusiasm over the great man's beatification. This in itself should cause Cornwell to question his interpretation of both John Henry Newman and Joseph Ratzinger himself.”

I agree with and applaud Fr. Barron’s assessment and proper characterization of John Henry Newman.


Marco said...


Teresa said...

Amen! God Bless, Marco! Have a great weekend :)

Teresa said...

For some reason Sanchez's response didn't post but landed in my email. Here is his response:

Isn’t it a little bit inconsistent that the church beatifies a man who was most probably gay and yet doesn’t allow people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” to become priests? I found an interesting comment on this:

Teresa said...

Here is my response to Sanchez:

I read the article and didn't see any plausible truth to Cardinal Newman being gay. That seems to be a wish and a supposition among Catholic liberals.

Here is a counter article by Newman's biographer: