Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Hijacking of John Henry Newman

With Cardinal Newman's beatification just a day away, we are being treated to a wild assortment of views on the saintly Churchman. John Cornwell (he of "Hitler's Pope") takes it upon himself to declare that Newman has been "pontifically hijacked" by a "backward-looking" Pope. In other words, "Hands off, Pope! Newman belongs to 'us' " ("us" being the broad-minded who "see both sides of every question and to follow conscience wherever it may lead" as opposed to...?). The National Catholic Reporter named Cornwell's biography of Newman its book club pick of the week.
So is the Pope just pulling a fast one, beatifying the much-admired Cardinal in order to co-opt his intellectual heritage? 
In steps Father Robert Barron. Cornwell, he says, is guilty of using "tired and unhelpful categories to characterize the thought of serious people."
"Cornwell presents the great cardinal as something of a 19th century romantic, uninterested in "clever arguments" and seeing religion as "falling in love." Any other approach (defending objective truth, for example) would just be small-minded. But, Barron says, "it is glaringly obvious that this sort of approach to religion -- privatized, subjective, feeling-based, and relativistic -- is prevalent today. And this helps to explain why Joseph Ratzinger, who has identified the "dictatorship of relativism" as the chief spiritual problem of the present day, is happy to make common cause with John Henry Newman."
Read all about it. Special thanks to for bringing the genial Barron on board: what a refreshing change from the commentators of the past! Be sure to add your own comments to the Barron post.

By Sunday we'll be able to pray: Blessed John Henry Newman, Pray for us!

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