Saturday 12 October 2019

Newman was my kind of Catholic

A guest contribution from Christopher Lambchop of the Tablet.

There is little doubt that celebrity saint John Henry Newman would have been an ardent Remainer. So says Fr Ignatius Harrison of the Birmingham Oratory, and his wise words are backed by Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, who is still recovering in hospital from the removal of his spine.

Of course we cannot be sure exactly how Newman would have resolved the current crisis. Would he have campaigned for a second referendum? A simple dropping of Article 50? Or perhaps he would have asked for another 20-year extension? We can never be entirely certain, although scholars who have read his writings are sure that he was crying out to be ruled by such giants as Juncker, Verhofstadt, Von der Leyen, and Barnier.

Lambchop and Shari Lewis

Christopher Lambchop with an unknown lady (probably Tina Beattie)

Likewise, we can tell from his Apologia pro Greta sua, that Newman would have supported the Extinction Rebellion's current campaign to shut down the world's cities. It is known that he never flew in an aeroplane, and there are accounts of his gluing himself to hot air balloons in an attempt to bring people closer to God. As he said in 1895 "We have only 12 years in which to save the world," and his words are as true now as they ever were. When we see our heroes engage in interpretive dance moves in order to help our planet survive, we know that John Henry Newman is looking down and wishing he was there.

Vestments worn by St John Henry Newman.

Moving on to Catholic issues, a subject we tend to avoid in the Tablet, we know that Newman would have enjoyed the current Amazonis Laetitia summit. Not just for the opportunity to stick feathers in his hair and worship pagan fertility idols, but also for the new doctrine that it promotes - notably the ordination of women as deacons (sha-women joining the sha-men). A pioneer in every way, Newman records in his writings how he used to confess his sins to the trees in Oxford, and listen to the wisdom of the wisteria.

On the wider scene, Newman was a keen feminist, a promoter of LGBT issues (history records that he never married), and in short, a typical Tablet reader. Modernism was his creed, as we know from his famous letter to Pope Pius IX, which begins "Get with the programme, baby-oh. This infallibility wheeze is a great opportunity for you to rewrite Catholic doctrine."

Pope Pius IX

"Newman made me a modernist."

Yes, Newman was definitely my type of Catholic.

Will this do? Actually, he seems to have been a bit of a old fogey, and rather a stuffed shirt, but we'd better not say that. Chris.


  1. Mr. Lambchop's article originally appeared in the Ur-Tablet, the oldest Catholic newspaper in the English-speaking world - originally etched in cuneiform on small clay tablets before there were any Catholics or English-speakers.

  2. The Pope's grandparents will have been born while Newman was still alive. Hours from now, England and English will be recognised, not only as a land and a language of people who died for the Faith a long time, but as a land and a language in which the Faith is written in the modern age. We did it. We have lived to see this.

    Praise to the Holiest in the height,
    And in the depth be praise;
    In all His words most wonderful,
    Most sure in all His ways.

  3. I concur with your evaluation of Cardinal Newman as a saint for our days but, with further investigation of your reference to feathers, it becomes even more clearly so. In 1843 while he was "transitioning" a little reported incident ocurred concerning his "acompanying" of some Southeast Asian avifauna at the recently founded Whipsnade Zoo. The Bedfordshire constabulary were unconvinced and only the intervention of Sir Stamford Raffles who had "acompanied" the birds himself to England had the charges dismissed. Newman never after hankered for feathers, though his choice of a Saturno was perhaps unwise in today's ecclesiastical climate

  4. I'm sure many unhappy people who are 'gay' would like to imagine that Newman was. However having a best friend of the same sex does not mean that you are same sex attracted any more than having a best friend of the opposite sex means that you are having or even want to have a sexual relationship with them.

    Posted by Fr. John Hunwicke on his blog
    20 September 2019
    Newman's sexuality
    There is, I fear, more than a risk that the ill-disposed will take advantage of the canonisation of Blessed John Henry to try to conscript him posthumously into the homosexualist cause. A surviving letter from the teenage Newman referring to 'temptations' from girls at parties is enough to put paid to such offensive nonsense.

    I think it was Henry Chadwick who once dropped the hint that anybody genuinely interested in the sexuality of Blessed John Henry Newman should have a look at his relationship with Maria Giberne. There is certainly evidence in his letters that Newman regarded the love which St John had for him, and that of Maria, as of the same nature; and felt the same response to the affection of each. He records his deep sorrow that he had never disclosed to St John before his death his appreciation for St John's devotion to him: which proves that not only was the relationship not physically intimate; it was not even emotionally intimate. Newman, that is, was too shy even to say to his closest friend ...

    There is a long history in the Christian tradition of thinking about such friendships. S Aelred wrote about them. Byzantine sources, notoriously, provided liturgical rites for sanctifying such friendships, which even included rituals borrowed from the liturgies of matrimony. Notoriously, these analogues have been used to support 'gay marriage'. But in an age when legal codes commonly provided severe penalties, not excluding death, for sodomy, the assumption enthusiastically made, that those composing and celebrating such rites were cheerfully and consciously providing publicly sanctified occasions for genital relationships, is nothing less than plain dippy.

    A person who could believe that, could believe anything; there is probably little point in reasoning with people who have stationed themselves so far apart from the world of reality and from what is historically probable.

    But the question of Friendship does require re-examination simply because it is a part of our Tradition which is suffering something of an eclipse.

  5. Newman died in 1890, so he never said anything in 1895. This causes me to question some of your other "facts."