Hijacking Newman

John Cornwell's essay in the Financial Times, The papal hijacking of Cardinal Newman, is creating quite a stir. Cornwell's biography of Newman, Newman’s Unquiet Grave: The Reluctant Saint, is the book of choice this week in the NCR Book Club, with a review by Jesuit Fr. Peter L’Estrange.

Cornwell's thesis in his essay is that "John Henry Newman has always been a source of inspiration to Catholic liberals for his tendency to see both sides of every question and to follow conscience wherever it may lead," and this makes his imminent beatification "paradoxical."

Cornwell says that the case for Newman's beatification was "dragging on fitfully" until Pope Benedict XVI put it on the fast-track two years ago.

But why had Benedict, a rigid conservative, seen fit to hasten the beatification of a man who has an iconic stature for liberal Catholic intellectuals throughout the English-speaking world? All becomes clear with Benedict’s revision of John Henry Newman’s legacy. Pope Benedict and Catholic officialdom are presenting Newman as an exemplar of unquestioning papal allegiance. The Cardinal has been pontifically hijacked.

... Addressing the bishops of England and Wales in Rome this February, [Benedict] declared that Newman was an example to the world of opposition to "dissent." It was like saying that Churchill had been a Trotskyite all along.

Read the full essay here: The papal hijacking of Cardinal Newman.

We say: Charlottesville reveals the weeping wound of racism. What do we, the American Catholic faith community, do next? Read the editorial.

John Allen will be filing reports throughout the Papal visit to the U.K. Sept. 16-19. Stay tuned to NCR Today for updates.

Stories in this series on the papal visit to Scotland and England:

All this week in his Distinctly Catholic blog, Michael Sean Winters is interviewing a variety of Newman scholars:

Related items in Distinctly Catholic:

Support independent reporting on important issues.

 One family graphic_2016_250x103.jpg

Show comments

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

Commenting is available during business hours, Central time, USA. Commenting is not available in the evenings, over weekends and on holidays. More details are available here. Comments are open on NCR's Facebook page.