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Debate: Will Cardinal Newman inspire the faithful?

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By on Friday, 10 September 2010

Cardinal Newman, one of the great intellectuals of the Victorian period (CNS photo/courtesy of the Catholic Church of England and Wales)

Cardinal Newman, one of the great intellectuals of the Victorian period (CNS photo/courtesy of the Catholic Church of England and Wales)

John Henry Newman is often presented as a severe and intellectual figure. But Fr Ian Ker, the world’s foremost Newman scholar, argues in The Catholic Herald this week that he was actually a deeply pastoral figure, a much-loved parish priest whose funeral was attended by many thousands of Catholics.

So, is Cardinal Newman admired by only a small minority of academics, or does he have broader appeal? Will he inspire the faithful in years to come?

  • Bwaj

    Yes – I believe he will.

  • Stephen Retout

    I think Newman would inspire the faithful if more prominence was given to his welcoming of Darwin's ideas on evolution. In his time the Catholic Church was not ready for such ideas and Newman's acceptance of Darwinism would probably have shattered his reputation – had it been better known! The decades leading to Vatican 2 saw evolution gradually gaining respectability in the Catholic Church. One suggested way this happened is that Newman's writings influenced the French Jesuits in exile at Ore Place in Hastings. For example, Teilhard de Chardin who was at Hastings (1908-12) took on Newman's evolutionary and other ideas in writings throughout the first half of the 20th Century. Although banned during his lifetime Teilhard's writings were rehabilitated, published and certainly inspired the lay faithful in the 1960s. 40+ years on, a vision of how we see the creator God and humanity in the evolutionary process is needed more than ever. Perhaps Newman might even now inspire the faithful to an outward looking evolutionary/ecological/incarnational faith relevant to the needs of humanity and the whole creation. Such a faith would be rather less obsessed with narrow sexual ethics, clericalism, legalism etc. ? It might reach out to lapsed catholics, other Christians, other faiths and even secularists. But then would this attract the faithful ?!

  • Jack B

    Cardinal Newman appears to be an inspirational exemplar of trying different religions until you find one that feels better and of making up your own mind as to what is true and what isn't. Neither position appears to fit well with Benedict XVI's.

  • Donna

    Pope Benedict XVI, who was a Newman scholar for years before he became Pope and who is performing the beatification himself partly from his own devotion to the to-be-Blessed, might disagree with you on that.

    And as for choosing a religion because it feels better… Newman chose, after a long and agonizing struggle involving fervent prayer and rigorous fasting, a religion which lost him an assured income for life, made him an outcast in his own society, and made friends and family cut him off .

  • Kevin Greenan

    Most Roman Catholics in this country could not tell you anything about Cardinal Newman, what we know of him is that he was a leading Anglican who converted to Catholicism in the Victorian era – it was this that most will know of him, so we are on a learning curve. I never heard of Cardinal Newman in my Catholic school days so it is a case of 'better late than never'. It is ironic but most Catholics in these islands look to mainland Europe for our saints and scholars, we are often too ignorant of our home grown holy people. Lets hope that the visit of Pope Benedict and his words in the service in Birmingham will start to change our outlook.