Tue 21st Oct 2014 | Last updated: Mon 20th Oct 2014 at 22:34pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics

Comment & Blogs

The National Catholic Reporter ‘quotes’ Newman in support of an anti-papal campaign. Why is it that liberals think that Newman was one of them?

Catholics, said Newman, are bound by the Pope’s formal teaching. If you don’t accept that, why do you stay?

By on Thursday, 6 December 2012

Benedict XVI presides at the beatification of John Henry Newman at Cofton Park in Birmingham (Photo: CNS)

Benedict XVI presides at the beatification of John Henry Newman at Cofton Park in Birmingham (Photo: CNS)

What is it about today’s theological liberals that they are so keen on quoting John Henry Newman in support of their own disobedience? I had forgotten how utterly contemptible the National Catholic Reporter (aka, says Father Z, the “fishwrap”, ie wet and stinking) really was; I suppose, since the only time one normally reads it is in the often admirable articles of John L Allen, that one sometimes takes away the impression that if they publish him they can’t be all that grossly subversive of Catholic values and teaching. But they really are, as we see exemplified by an editorial on women’s ordination this week which is really an excuse for yet another incitement to rejection of papal authority.

But why are they so keen on recruiting Newman of all people in their crypto-protestant revolt? Either they quote him out of context or just make it up. In this case, I think it’s almost certainly the latter, since Newman just didn’t think what they say he did: “Blessed John Henry Newman,” according to the NCR’s “editorial staff”, “said [just where exactly?] that there are three magisteria in the church: the bishops, the theologians and the people.” This little pseudo-Newmanian gem is called in aid for an incitement to an anti-papal political campaign: “On the issue of women’s ordination, two of the three voices have been silenced, which is why the third voice must now make itself heard. We must speak up in every forum available to us: in parish council meetings, faith-sharing groups, diocesan convocations and academic seminars. We should write letters to our bishops, to the editors of our local papers and television news channels.” And so on.

It’s not particularly interesting to be told that the Fishwrap is viscerally opposed to papal authority and wants to stir up lay disobedience to it, we all knew that. But to have Newman constantly invoked in this anti-Catholic cause is becoming increasingly irritating. “The pope,” said Newman “has for centuries upon centuries had and used that authority, which the Definition [of infallibility] now declares ever to have belonged to him … It may be objected that a representation such as this, is negatived by the universal [anti-papal] sentiment, which testifies to the formidable effectiveness of the Vatican decrees, and to the Pope’s intention that they should be effective; that it is the boast of some Catholics and the reproach levelled against us by all Protestants, that the Catholic Church has now become beyond mistake a despotic aggressive Papacy, in which freedom of thought and action is utterly extinguished. But I do not allow that this alleged unanimous testimony exists… I say there is only one Oracle of God, the Holy Catholic Church and the Pope as her head. To her teaching I have ever desired all my thoughts, all my words to be conformed; to her judgment I submit what I have now written, what I have ever written, not only as regards its truth, but as to its prudence, its suitableness, and its expedience. (Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, 10)”

How about them apples, “NCR editorial staff”? How on earth did you ever come to believe that Newman could with any integrity be used in support of your anti-papal campaign? You, too, like the protestant and liberal Catholic opinion of Newman’s own day, really do believe that, like the great and Blessed Pio Nono, the present Pope has established “a despotic aggressive Papacy”: and now as then, Newman would have been utterly dismissive of your disobedience: “On the law of conscience and its sacredness,” he wrote (Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, 5) are founded both his authority in theory and his power in fact … I am considering here the papacy in its office and its duties … [Catholics] are not bound by the Pope’s personal character or private acts, but by his formal teaching.”

And the Pope’s formal teaching on the question of women’s ordination is absolutely clear, and you are bound by it. If, that is, you wish to continue in full communion with the Catholic Church. In 1994, Pope John Paul II declared the question closed in his letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: “in order that all doubt may be removed,” he pronounced, “regarding a matter of great importance… I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” In 1995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, though “itself not infallible, witnesses to the infallibility of the teaching of a doctrine already possessed by the Church… This doctrine belongs to the deposit of the faith of the Church. The definitive and infallible nature of this teaching of the Church did not arise with the publication of the Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis”. Rather, it was “founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium”, and for these reasons it “requires definitive assent”.

Clear? Got it? That is what the magisterium of the Church says. Oh, and let’s hear no more about these fictional “three magisteria” of bishops, theologians and people: apart from anything else, the very idea that Newman would ever have said that the Church’s theologians constitute one of three “magisteria” beggars belief, less that he would ever have said it than that anyone could ever have remotely imagined such a thing: are you sure, NCR “editorial staff” that you weren’t thinking of Hans Küng? That would explain it; they’ve obviously got it into their heads, these theological liberals (the Tablet are always claiming Newman for themselves in just the same way) that Newman was a kind of Victorian version of Hans Küng. Well, sorry; it just ain’t so. Hands off.

  • NewMeena

    John Chapter 7.40

    Others said, this is the Christ. But some said, shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said , That Christ cometh of the seed of David, And out of the town of Bethlehem where David was?

    King James Version:  http://christiananswers.net/bible/john7.html

    Douay-Rheims BibleDoth not the scripture say: That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and from Bethlehem the town where David was?

    (The “people” are presumably puzzled [as "John" records] that the man Jesus was born in Nazareth).

    Matthew and Luke BEGIN by assuming that Jesus MUST have been born in Bethlehem and tell different stories as how Joseph & Mary (J & M) get to Bethlehem for the birth.
    Matthew have them in Bethlehem all the time.
    Luke has J & M in Nazareth and creates, out of thin air, the fiction of the taxation census – getting his names and dates confused.
    (If David ever existed, and much recent archaeology suggest not, he would have been dead 1,000 years before Jesus’ birth.)

  • NewMeena

    There is no mystery: I made no comment about them until I was asked to by jaykay.

    Your insulting, sexist and vulgar comment does you no credit.

  • NewMeena

    Nor is it any credit to the CH, for allowing it to remain.

  • NewMeena

    So for the first five centuries of Christianity it was permitted for women to be priests?

  • Jon Brownridge

    “I thought that you feministy atheisticky types were supposed to have
    burnt all of that icky sexism at the same time as your bras?”

    Jabba – really!!

  • Jon Brownridge

    The message seems to be loud and clear. Stick to Rule Number One: No Thinking!

  • LongIslandMichael

    The National Catholic Reporter is as Father Z describes a “fishwrap.” Several years ago at my parish some liberal parish member kept bringing this rag into the Church vestibule
    and leaving them there for distribution. And every week I promptly
    disposed of them in the proper place – the trash. After a while whoever
    this dissenter was he or she got the message that their filth had no
    place in a Catholic Church. Its best used as liner for a birdcage. 

  • LongIslandMichael

     Rest assured Holy Mother Church will always adhere to the Truth. Remember Christ said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church despite all the filth and heretics that are now trying to undermine the Truth. Their efforts are futile but sadly in the process will lead many into error and away from God.

  • JabbaPapa

    No, I reject your personal interpretation of it.

  • JabbaPapa

    Your usual brand of rubbish then ?

    John, does NOT in fact state at any point that the Christ was born in Nazareth, you are just making that up.

    Instead, he just records the fact that some people were denouncing the Christ as being *from* Nazareth, which is not really the same thing as a birth certificate is it ?

    getting his names and dates confused

    The latest evidence I’ve seen suggests that there is not a single case where the New Testament is verifiable against historical events recorded in contemporary documents where the NT is wrong.

    You’re just showing your bias again.

    Oh, and — “If David ever existed, and much recent archaeology suggest not

    More rubbish, the more recent archaeology is suggesting the precise opposite, that the history in the Old Testament is fairly solidly grounded (at least as well as any other such ancient documents). It is particularly hard to imagine that the author of a book of poetry never existed…

  • JabbaPapa

    Your negative attitude towards “males” is not exactly dripping in milk and honey towards the non-female sex.

  • JabbaPapa

    No, virtually all Bishops and local church authorities had permanently forbidden the ordination of women as priests locally anyway — Pope Gelasius I simply made the general rule universal.

    Some very small number of Eastern Bishops had ordained some women as what would be considered “sub-priests” between about 3rd and 5th centuries (mostly in North Africa) — they were never ordained to the priesthood in the ordinary sense of the word, and they were forbidden from celebrating any sacraments in the presence of a regular priest — in fact, they had to place themselves with the Laity in the congregation when attending Mass provided by such a priest. They were also under some extremely strong taboos relating to sex — just being found alone with a man who was not a member of the family or etc was cause for immediate excommunication for heresy and apostasy.

    They were a VERY marginal phenomenon.

    The ordination of women as deacons has never been so strongly forbidden, though there have been none since the 15th century — though the role of the women deacons was very very different to that of the men, and the basic role is in any case being carried out to this very day by thousands and thousands of women, consecrated widows or religious very often, who are engaged in helping the community life in thousands and thousands of parishes worldwide. Women deacons played almost no part at all in the liturgies of the Mass.

  • JabbaPapa

    There is a difference between the opinions of characters within a narrative and declarations by the narrator.

    The narrator (John) does not declare that Jesus was born in Nazareth, not at any single point in his Gospel — instead, he tells us that some people claimed that he was from Galilee ; NOT the same thing as a birth certificate.

    I am also surprised as to why you think that the author of a book of Jewish religious poetry didn’t really exist.

  • W Oddie

    If you are seriously suggesting that either “consulting the faithful” or that Newman’s ideas on the development of doctrine support the liberal case, then you are just as ignorant as all the other liberals who like the idea of Newman as a sentimental secularist. But he wasn’t: and he hated everything you stand for.

  • W Oddie

    see above

  • Nicolas Bellord

    JabbaPapa has answered you.  No way can you say that the report of differing views by people in the crowd shows that St John did not believe that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

    As for King David what is it that you would expect archaeologists to find to prove his existence?  If he lived 3,000 years he is surely in good company if he left no archaeological trace.

    But be careful! Everyone thought that Troy was mythical until some German dug it up in the 19th century.

    What point are you making anyway about the 1,000 years between David and Christ?  Matthew gives 28 generations between the two which gives an average of 35 years for each generation. Luke has 42 generations so an average of 23 years.  My great-grandfather was born in 1805 and I in 1938 which is an average of 44 years over 3 generations.  So 1,000 years does not seem implausible.

  • W Oddie

    But they can’t both be right

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Newman’s whole life was a battle against liberalism. Funny how he has been subverted. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Well done Michael! I have adopted the same approach with The Tablet and could almost hear the choirs of angels singing a Te Deum in celebration and support. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    I believe it. And “simple-minded”, to you a perjorative, may well be a great compliment. 

  • Alexander VI

    The interpretation I give is reasonable and consonant with the rest of the  Church’s past  teaching on original sin and the views of many classical theologians eg Aquinas.
    Game, set and match, I think.

  • Jon Brownridge

    Your way of dealing with an opposing point of view is closed-minded in the extreme – “…every week I promptly disposed of them in the proper place – the trash”.

    But what if you happen to be wrong in your beliefs? How will you ever know? I came across the following quote from someone seeking the truth:
    “Those with the right attitude toward the truth are always
    willing to test what they believe. They invite those of
    opposite views to work with them for truth and unity. They appreciate
    when those who differ with them point out where they think they are
    wrong. They examine arguments both
    for and against, looking at both sides of a question.”

    As Catholics, we have made lots of mistakes, and we have got a lot of things dead wrong. Perhaps we need to listen to some opposing points od view, rather than simply dumping them in “the trash”.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Dear Mr Brownridge,

    You again repeat yourself: “As Catholics, we have made lots of mistakes”.  However you made it clear it in the post about the Virgin Birth that you think Tom Harpur provided overwhelming evidence that Jesus was either fictional or mythical but not a real person and that the Virgin Birth was not a real event but just a story with significance.  It is clear therefore that in calling yourself a Catholic you are not what most of us would regard as a Catholic obedient to the teaching of the Church but merely someone using the term rather inappropriately.

    I am all for dialogue but I await your answer to my question as to where St Augustine specifically denies the virgin birth when there seem to be texts where he affirms it.

  • NewMeena

    It is true that nothing in either of the Bible’s books can be taken as reliable information about anything – although the Church does this as and when it suits its narrative.
    Orthodox Catholics will freely quote Biblical texts (which may often be hearsay, quoting others who may be part of the crowd) to support their story, but then dismiss the quoted words when it suits – as you have done in this case. Since before the founding of the modern state of Israel, zealous religious archaeologists have sought to prove the God-given right of the Jewish people to the lands of Palestinians. This endeavour has included the story of David. They have not succeeded and are now somewhat subdued.  

    The point about the 1,000 year gap relates to Luke’s totally fictitious tale about the tax census and the journey of J & M to Bethlehem. My reference has Matthew tracing 28 generations and Luke 41 generations from Joseph to David. The link is so massively tenuous.
    But in any case, Joseph was not the father of the newborn Jesus – was he?

    Matthew wished to fulfill the messianic prophesies (decent from David and birth in Bethlehem) for the benefit and uptake of Jewish readers. 
    Luke seems much more concerned in adapting Christianity for the Gentiles, and goes as far as using the tales of the Hellenistic religions: virgin birth, the star, worship by three Kings  …etc. in writing his narrative.

  • NewMeena

    Agreed, we can’t know what John thought. Although he does take the trouble of recording the opinion that Jesus was of Nazareth and not of Bethlehem.

    All this indicates to me that Jesus WAS an actual person. I mean, if he was “made up” why not simply have him born in Bethlehem to begin with?

  • JabbaPapa

    Indeed Ben, the amount of disinformation that Catholics have been subjected to since the 1950s is quite simply flabbergasting …

  • JabbaPapa

    How will you ever know?

    Via divine Revelation from God.

  • JabbaPapa

    It is true that nothing in either of the Bible’s books can be taken as reliable information about anything

    Absolute pole-dancing rubbish.

    Your personal opinions do not define the nature of History — this is decided by the reality of contemporary documentation.

  • JabbaPapa

    Your personal interpretation is your personal interpretation.

    Don’t try and foist it upon others.

    Simply typing “Aquinas” will not automatically cause me to agree with whichever odd interpretations that you might have concerning Thomist theology.

  • NewMeena

    “Absolute pole-dancing rubbish.”

    I have studied your criticism, but can find little of value within it.

    You pole-dance if you wish; this lady’s not for pole-dancing.

  • NewMeena

    “No, virtually all Bishops……….”

    “virtually all” means “not all” or “not quite all”.

    Therefore some DID!

  • NewMeena

    “Your personal interpretation is your personal interpretation.”

    So is yoursJabba!

  • Dr. Jon Brownridge

     Tom Harpur does not specifically claim that Jesus is merely a fictional character. The overwhelming evidence he uncovers in ‘The Pagan Christ’ makes it hard to deny that the Jesus story was told many times over several millenia before the birth of Jesus – a virgin impregnated by a God, a Man-God son who performs miracles and is eventually put to death, only to rise again after three days. The name of the ‘Christos’ changes with each new narration – at least 23 names in all. Harpur rightly wonders out loud if Jesus could possibly be number 24 in this series. His only claim is that it gives Christians something to think about. I make no apology for thinking.

    As for Augustine, he understood religious language in a way that literalists don’t. The astonishing quotation I gave affirms that he believed it was better for the uneducated to believe the truths of sacred scripture literally rather than not at all. He certainly did believe in the Virgin Birth and the implications of that mystery of Faith, but not in the simplistic, literal way that too many of our fellow Catholics do.

    No one can tell me I am not a Catholic. I have spent more than 40 years as a Catholic educator, I am a leading Catholic in my parish, and I spend a great deal of my time in Catholic action caring for homeless men, as a volunteer with the Brothers of the Good Shepherd.

  • NewMeena

    “..the Jesus story was told many times over several millenia before the birth of Jesus – a virgin impregnated by a God, a Man-God son who performs miracles and is eventually put to death, only to rise again after three days..”

    I wrote earlier in a similar vein and as an agnostic (virtually an atheist) I have put these facts to a few Catholics in the past.  

    The most interesting response I received (in my view) was that of course the TRUE Christ/Son of God WOULD OF COURSE present himself to the world in this “well-known” way. It would be expected!

    I saw what my Catholic friend was getting at, and remember the occasion after some 30 years.

  • JabbaPapa

    The “overwhelming” [sic] evidence he uncovers in ‘The Pagan Christ’ makes it
    hard to deny that the Jesus story was told many times over several
    millenia before the birth of Jesus

    No it doesn’t — the fact that some superficial similarities can be found in these or those earlier stories does nothing to eliminate the unique qualities of the Nativity story — which is, anyway, only a tiny section of the Gospels overall.

    I have never seen anybody make a formally convincing argument that the story of the Nativity existed prior to 1st century.

    The only sorts of suggestions that it did that I’m aware of are based on a very outdated methodology created in the 19th century, and which had its heyday in the soviet-inspired left-wing intelligentsia of the 1970s, which had a vested interest in spreading such anti-Catholic propaganda as this — or on some of the approach found in the first edition of The Golden Bough that Fraser himself denounced as being unreliable after some fairly scathing peer-review of the first edition.

  • JabbaPapa

    No women have ever been ordained as priests in the ordinary sense of the word “priest” — though some extremely tiny numbers of women were ordained by some small numbers of Eastern Bishops for the task of leading worship ceremonies in some tiny communities out in the sticks with no priest of their own.

  • Dorotheus

    What a wonderful thing is selective quotation. You can use it to demonstrate whatever you want to demonstrate. Newman wrote so much on such a variety of subjects and his thinking changed (or, if you will, developed) so much over the years that it is not surprising that anyone can find support for his own pet ideology somewhere in Newman, all the way from ultramontane papal dictatorship to liberal progressivism. We all do it, you as much as any, Mr. Oddie. Perhaps all this means is that thanks to his personal attractiveness Newman enjoys rather more prestige as a theologian than he perhaps merits. He is as inconsistent and self-contradictory as most of us. Could it be that his poetry is a better guide to his religious temperament than his theological writings?

  • Alexander VI

    “I believe it.”

  • Jon Brownridge

     Jabba, you have mentioned the 19th century methodology and knowledge base several times now in relation to studies on Egyptology. Yet the Rosetta Stone was only discovered in 1895, a discovery which had an enormous impact on our ability to decipher hieroglyphics. Indeed it has taken more than 100 years to assemble a workable collection of translated texts, some of which were finished as recently as 2008. I think highly educated men such as yourself are called upon to help explain some potentially troublesome phenomena like the following:

    The raising of Lazarus is described only in John’s Gospel. It seems that Matthew, Mark and Luke had never heard of this ground-shaking miracle. But there is a good reason for that. The story was lifted directly from the story of the Egyptian ‘Christos’, Horus, some 2000 BC who raised a family member by the name of Lazarus from the dead. Strangely enough, this Lazarus also had two sisters named Martha and Mary. Harpur brings attention to about 200 more plagiarized items.

    The Church evidently took these similarities seriously and explained them by saying the Egyptian writers were obviously inspired by the Devil in order to confuse Christians some 2000 years later. I don’t think that is a good explanation. How do you explain them? I don’t think any of this should affect our Christian values. The Gospel message is there, regardless of where it comes from.

  • Simon Platt

     Oh dear.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    Dear Dr Brownridge,

    So St Augustine did believe in the Virgin Birth but not in a literalist way according to you.  By this I take you mean that he believed that the Virgin Mary was not impregnated by the Holy Spirit  but presumably by a man.  Presumably you see the idea of the Virgin Birth as having great significance but no reality.  What evidence can you produce that Augustine really thought that other than the generalised statement you have produced?  

     You do good works but without faith….?  I pray that those you educate are not led astray.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    You say I have dismissed “quoted words”.  You asserted that St John did not believe that Christ was born in Bethlehem.  You produce “quoted words” which are about what some people in a crowd were saying.  The rhetorical question asked by a member of the crowd was “Has not the scripture told us that Christ is to come from the family of David, and from the village of Bethlehem where David lived?”
    St John does not say he was right or wrong but merely reports it.  It is in fact a correct statement of what scripture says at Michaeas 5.2.  So where does St John deny that Christ was born in Bethlehem?

    You then say the mention of the tax census was “totally fictitious”.  What solid evidence do you have that there was no tax census that makes you say that with such certainty?

    Lack of archaeological as to the existence of David is not surprising.  He lived 3,000 years ago and I think you are expecting too much from archaeology.  However I think the archaeology, such as it is, goes to show that the biblical account of David is not inherently improbable or impossible and I think that that is all one can expect of archaeology.

    The Bible is a remarkable book.  To say nothing in it cannot be relied upon unless there is extrinsic evidence seems an extreme position to me.  

  • Tridentinus

    “Whosever saith that those baptised as infants are to be asked when they have grown up,
    whether they wish to ratify what their sponsors had promised for them at
    their baptism, and if they reply that they do not wish to do so, they
    are to be left to their own will in the matter and not to be forced by penalties to lead a Christian life, except to be deprived of the reception of the Eucharist and of the other sacraments until they reform; let him be anathema.”

    This Canon of the Council of Trent would seem to contradict your opinion. I have never heard Infant Baptism described as conditional. Many years ago I baptised my first child shortly after his birth as one evening he became ill and I, a new father, was genuinely frightened he might die. At that time I firmly believed and still do that had he died he would be deprived for eternity of the Beatific Vision

    When the time came for him to be baptised in Church I declared that he was already baptised by myself and I was given to understand that his later Baptism in Church by a priest would therefore, be ‘sub conditione’.

  • scary goat

     Me too.  And I see simple minded as not a bad thing as well.  Simplicity is not the same thing as stupidity.

  • Tybourne

    Bit strong, as a response to a ‘guest’?

  • Jon Brownridge

     Nicolas, I can only suggest that read a little more, perhaps about the differences between Religious Language and ordinary parlance.

  • Jon Brownridge


    “The Garden of Eden
    story has more in it than your interpretation thereof.”

    But you do admit that it is a “story”? Please tell me you don’t believe Adam and Eve were real people.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    You have not answered my question.  Is not your view that the Gospel account is not true in reality but has significance as a kind of allegory?  Where does St Augustine specifically support such a view as regards the Virgin Birth?

  • JabbaPapa

    1) I’ve said nothing of the kind, because not only would that be heretical, but I would vehemently disagree with anyone who did

    2) CCC 1285 Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the “sacraments of Christian initiation,” whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace.

    This does NOT mean that infant baptisms are not fully valid (they ARE), nor that they are not efficacious (they ARE). They are conditional *only* in the sense that they require the seal of Confirmation to be fully realised, with the willing and conscious assent of the baptised persons themselves, and (with First Communion) for the completion of the Catholic initiation.

    You yourself describe the other case where a baptism can be conditionally provided, as in the instance of your child, where an earlier baptism can possibly be considered as doubtful for whatever reason, or where the catechumen may genuinely not know whether he or she has been baptised or not :-)

  • JabbaPapa

    19th century methodology survived through Marxist and other left wing attitudes towards History and Culture well into the 1970s in the mainstream, and it sadly continues to have some adherents to this very day.

    This ideology falsely claims that similarities between two narratives necessarily require that the later must have been copied from the first — very little evidence is provided in support of this theory, but those who use this methodology simply take it for granted, as an intellectual dogma.

    The method exaggerates the importance of such similarities, whilst diminishing or even just plainly ignoring that of the differences, sometimes even when those differences are blatantly obvious.

    The Egyptian stories of their agricultural gods dying and returning to life have virtually nothing in common with the stories of either Lazarus or Christ.