Saturday, 10 July 2010

"Fighting for the real Cardinal Newman"

Catholic and Loving It - James Preece on 7.6.2010

Fighting for the real Cardinal Newman

Ever played capture the flag? It's a great game. Two teams attempt to capture the opposing team's flag while trying not to lose their own. There's a lot of running, dodging and sneaking. If you play too defensively then you have no chance of catching the other team's flag, but if you all go running after the other team's flag then you will probably lose your own. The key to winning is good teamwork, strategy, a bit of misdirection and somebody who can run really fast.

The Catholic Church in England and Wales is currently engaged in an international game of capture the flag of epic proportions.

Cardinal John Henry Newman is the flag.

For one side, Cardinal Newman is the champion of Catholic tradition. His view of the development of Christian doctrine stands hand in hand with Pope Benedict's vision of a Hermeneutic of Continuity. A single continuous Church the past. For this side, the Beatification of Newman is a rallying cry, a call to arms, an opportunity for renewal and evangelisation. The visit of Pope Benedict to the United Kingdom will show young Catholics a world beyond the stodgy Bishops Conference of England and Wales and give the Catholic population the confidence to fight encroaching secularism.

For the other side, Cardinal Newman is the first gay saint. He is a champion of conscience and doing your own thing. His views on the development of Christian doctrine show that the Church can and should change with the times. For this side, the beatification of Newman is an opportunity to promote the idea that religious dogma is transient and to highlight the hypocrisy of those who would call homosexual acts sinful while beatifying a man who was gay himself. It is a victory for modern progressive thought, for compromise and inclusivity, it is another stride towards an open all inclusive Church where anybody can join and nobody has to believe anything (except inclusivity).

It is not difficult to know which side is right. Newman was no more a homosexual because he loved his close friend than I am a pedophile because I love my daughter. It may surprise some of you to discover this, but it is actually possible to love somebody very dearly without wanting to have sex with them. Newman's vision of the development of Christian doctrine wasn't one of a Church jumping around from one view to the next with the spirit of the age, it was one of a Church developing like a building develops - each layer of bricks on top of and supported by the one below.
Unfortunately, unless you have been in a cave for the last few years you will not have much difficulty guessing who is on which side.

When the head of Marriage Care said that it made no difference to Children whether their parents were married or not he got no opposition from Archbishop Nichols because Archbishop Nichols is quite obviously on the let's have an open Church where anybody can join and nobody has to believe anything side. So is Cardinal Cormac. It's not just people inside the Church, there are plenty of other people keen for a Catholic Church which is compatible with all the latest New Labour ideals. Like Tony Blair who joined the Church so that he could, like his wife, work to change it from the inside...

Most of you will know that this is not an isolated incident, it is merely the latest skirmish in a war that has raged down the centuries.
In this particular skirmish we are vastly outnumbered and the other side are playing dirty.

Three of our guys just got put out of the game.

You see, while the Bishop's Conference were very carefully not saying anything because that's pretty much all they had to do in order to let the whole thing get taken over by secularists, an obstacle lay in their path. At some point in the visit all eyes were going to be laid on the Birmingham Oratory. The religious community that Newman himself founded. The men of that Oratory were going to have an opportunity to speak quite publicly and they were on our side.

I even got an email from one of them last year - Brother Lewis Berry, asking me to help him promote the Newman Cause website. He spoke quite frankly saying "we'll appreciate whenever you can post on our things, as it's important to promote an authentic interpretation of Newman, especially when there are other interpretations about".

Unfortunately, when you are three humble holy men standing in the path of Archbishop Nichols and his plan for an all encompassing Church where anybody and everybody can believe whatever they like (Terry Prendergast for example) then you tend to get squashed. I have a strong suspicion that the people who said "James Preece? Don't let him near Catholic Voices" are the same people as said "We need to do something about those people at the Birmingham Oratory".

So there was a visitation. The Oratory were leaned on internationally and a guy from Vienna was sent over with instructions to clear out anybody who might rock the boat and three holy men were "ordered to go on retreat – to monasteries hundreds of miles apart – and pray". Jack Valero was sent in by the Bishop's Conference to take over as media spokesman. He's now operating for the Bishops and controlling the public narrative on the Papal visit via Catholic Voices and the Oratory. I like Jack and I think he's a good guy but I also think he's incredibly loyal and would think it the right think to support the Bishop's Conference, even if he thought they were wrong on this one.

So that leaves us with two things we must do. First, we need to keep hammering on about the three exiled brothers until they are returned. They are good and holy men and sending them away to pray indefinitely with no explanation is a terribly slight on their characters. It's the ecclesiastical equivalent of accusing them of rape. Jack Valero told me by email that "the reason no further explanation has been given is that the matters involved are private and do not involve any wrong-doing" yet one has to wonder, if there is no wrong-doing, why send three men away to separate monasteries and instruct them to maintain secrecy?

Of course, we know that there was wrong doing. What these men did wrong was to stand up for an authentic interpretation of Newman which is why the second thing we need to do is this: We need to promote the authentic interpretation as much as possible. We need to tell anybody and everybody who will listen that Newman is not the first gay saint and a champion of progressive thought but a man who believed that the Christian beliefs of today must be firmly rooted in the Christian beliefs of yesterday.

Oh, and pray. Because this is going to get dirtier and at some point they are going to make their play against Pope Benedict himself.