The Ambiguous Legacy of John Henry Newman:
Reflections on the Papal Visit 2010
Fulcrum Newsletter October 2010
by Graham Kings, Bishop of Sherborne
Beguiling and virulent, holy and vituperative, quicksilver and splenetic, charming and cantankerous: there are many sides to the character of John Henry Newman, brought out variously and vicariously in their biographies by Ian Ker (Oxford, 1988 – Catholic, scholarly and positive) and Frank M Turner (New Haven, 2002 – Protestant, scholarly and iconoclastic).
The severely critical review by Ker of Turner’s book in the Times Literary Supplement (6 Dec 2002), and consequent response from Turner, who noted that Ker was active in the campaign for Newman’s sainthood (20 Dec 2002), and then the answer of Ker, who complained of Turner ‘impugning [his] integrity’ (3 Jan 2003), intriguingly echo aspects of Newman’s own polemical interaction with Charles Kingsley, which produced his Apologia Pro Vita Sua (London, 1864). Ian Ker did not include Frank M Turner as an author in the book he edited recently, Cambridge Companion to John Henry Newman (Cambridge, 2009) but John Cornwell does draw carefully on both Turner and Ker in his Newman’s Unquiet Grave: the Reluctant Saint (London, 2010).
Newman’s beatification was the centrepiece, culmination and raison d’être of the papal visit to Britain in September 2010. His attraction and trajectory to Rome were the key part of the planning of the visit. But how would the visit be followed up? In parish or university missions, the follow up of people who come to a commitment of faith is vital and keenly arranged. What of the papal visit? Let us consider first John Henry Newman, second some aspects of the papal visit and finally the follow up to the visit.
1. John Henry Newman: Not Afraid of Inferences
If Thomas Aquinas was granted sainthood on account of his writings, why could not this method have been followed with Cardinal Newman? It seems to me that it would have been much more dignified than trying to dredge up a miracle or two. It is the writings which are miraculous in depth, wisdom and literary sparkle, even if some are mercurial and misguided.
A few years ago, in a second hand bookshop, I managed to buy a first edition of Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua (London, 1864). In rereading it since the Papal visit, I have been astonished by the white heat of its argument, even though parts of it sound conversationally calm. It feels like Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, written quickly (in about 10-12 weeks - on one day, 20 May, he worked on the manuscript for 22 hours running), in a feverish fury at the attack of Charles Kingsley on his integrity. Kingsley (author of The Water Babies and pioneering Christian socialist) had implied that Newman was a secret Catholic all along, even in his days in the Church of England, and that his parochial sermons and other writings at Oxford were a deliberate front. Kingsley was arguing that there was no development in the thinking of Newman:
...that I was a “Romanist” in Protestant livery and service; that I was doing the work of a hostile Church in the bosom of the English Establishment, and knew it, or ought to have known it. (p 41)
He counters Kingsley’s attack on him neatly using Kingsley’s own word about him, ‘unmanly’ – which was a coy way of saying ‘effeminate’:
...this unmanly attempt of his, in his concluding pages, to cut the ground from under my feet; - to poison by anticipation the public mind against me, John Henry Newman, and to infuse into the imagination of my readers, suspicion and mistrust of everything that I may say in reply to him. This is what I call poisoning the wells. (p 22)
Kingsley’s negative criticism – even calling Newman a liar (p 46) – was the grit which produced this pearl of autobiographical analysis. It is reflection out of dejection out of rejection: ‘I will draw out, as far as may be, the history of my mind’ (p 48). John Maynard, in his Victorian Discourses on Sexuality and Religion (Cambridge, 1993), states: ‘Kingsley exists...as the too-bold, too-busy Protestant parsonical fly gone down to history embedded in the clear amber of Newman’s Apologia.’ (p 88) He also suggests that a key part of Kingsley’s angst against Newman was his severe disagreement with Newman’s elevation of celibacy above marriage (pp 100-106).
Newman begins with the central influence on his youth of the essays and Bible Commentary of the Evangelical Anglican Thomas Scott of Aston Sandford, who was secretary of the Church Missionary Society, ‘...to whom (humanly speaking) I almost owe my soul’ (p 60). According to Ker (p 548) Apologia’s model may have been Scott’s autobiographical Force of Truth. Newman adds:
And for years I used almost as proverbs what I considered to be the scope and issue of his doctrine, “Holiness before peace”, and “Growth is the only evidence of life.” (p 61)
Now that last proverb has become famous and is usually cited as Newman’s own thought, but the context is ambiguous. Does ‘what I considered’ mean this is Newman’s summary and proverb or are they Scott’s proverbs he is quoting, which Newman thinks form a summary of Scott’s thought? Either way, the Evangelical Scott was crucial in the ‘history of Newman’s mind’.
Later there is a comment which needs to be heeded today by Evangelical Anglicans:
And the Evangelical party itself seemed, with their late successes, to have lost that simplicity and unworldliness which I admired in [Joseph] Milner and Scott. (p 94)
Turner summarises his biography with the following comment:
The restlessness of Newman’s mind, the inability of his spirit to find a steady spiritual refuge, his family conflicts, his resentment of authority, his frustrated personal ambitions, and his determination to dwell with other celibate males had led him to challenge evangelicalism and all its works. (p 641)
Newman describes his debt to John Keble concerning the significance of the ‘Sacramental system’ which is elucidated as:
the doctrine that material phenomena are both the types and the instruments of real things unseen – a doctrine which embraces, not only what Anglicans, as well as Catholics believe about Sacraments properly so called; but also about the article of “the Communion of Saints” in its fullness; and likewise the Mysteries of the faith. (p 78)
This is a key insight concerning the Communion of Saints: saints here on earth are physical examples of saints in heaven - that is their importance.
Froude was a bold rider, as on horseback, so also in his speculations. After a long conversation with him on the logical bearing of his principles Mr. Rose said of him with quiet humour, that ‘he did not seem to be afraid of inferences’ (p 106).
It seems to me that Newman was similar in that respect, which eventually led to his move to Roman Catholicism. Newman says of this change:
My change of opinion arose not from foreign influences, but from the workings of my own mind, and the accidents around me. (p 153)
In the Long Vacation of 1839 Newman read in detail the history of the Monophysites which set him on the road to Rome: ‘I saw my face in that mirror and I was a Monophysite’. He, as an Anglican, was the Monophysite of the fifth century and Rome was Rome. (p 208). He quoted from his account in 1850 of his reasonings and feelings in 1839:
It was difficult to make out how the Eutychians or Monophysites were heretics, unless the Protestants and Anglicans were heretics also...The principles and proceedings of the Church now, were those of the Church then; the principles and proceedings of heretics then, were those of Protestants now. I found it so, - almost fearfully; there was an awful similitude, more awful, because so silent and unimpassioned, between the dead records of the past and the feverish chronicle of the present. (p 210)
In his controversial Tract 90, which attempted to initiate a new interpretation of the 39 Articles of Religion, the first principle enunciated by Newman was:
It is the duty which we owe both to the Catholic Church, and to our own, to take our reformed confessions in the most Catholic sense they will admit: we have no duty towards their framers. (cited on p 233)
With that last phrase, Newman sows the seeds of our current postmodern approval of reader response: the intention of the authors is not paramount...
It surprised me to read that Newman states categorically ‘Protestants hold justification by faith only, though there is no text in St. Paul which enunciates it’ (p 170). What of the key passages of Romans chapters 1 to 8, Galatians chapters 2 and 3 and Philippians chapter 3? No wonder that Alister McGrath, in his Iustitia Dei (Cambridge, 1996) sums up Newman’s discussion of the Reformers thus:
It is therefore of the utmost importance to appreciate that in every case, and supremely in the case of Luther himself, Newman’s historic-theological analysis appears to be seriously and irredeemably inaccurate. (p 309)
Another Oxford historian and theologian, Rowan Williams, in his Arius: Heresy and Tradition (London, 1987 and 2001) commented on Newman’s book, The Arians of the Fourth Century:
One must charitably say that Newman is not at his best here: a brilliant argument, linking in all sorts of diverse phenomena, is built up on a foundation of complacent bigotry and historical fantasy. However, setting aside for the moment the distasteful rhetoric of his exposition, it should be possible to see something of what his polemical agenda really is. The Arians of the Fourth Century is, in large part, a tract in defence of what the early Oxford Movement thought of as spiritual religion and spiritual authority. (pp 4-5).
In his method of rhetorical argument, Newman described in his Apologia how he had been almost playful:
I was not unwilling to draw an opponent on step by step to the brink of some intellectual absurdity, and to leave him to get back as he could. (p 115)
What of his polemical methods of intrigue? G R Balleine, in his A History of the Evangelical Party in the Church of England (London, 1908), has an intriguing footnote (p 170) concerning Newman and the Church Missionary Society:
Later he formed an ingenious plan for capturing this Society. In 1830 he wrote and privately circulated a pamphlet, Suggestions on Behalf of the Church Missionary Society, by a Master of Arts, urging High Churchmen to take advantage of the rule by which all clergy who subscribe are members of the Committee, and in this way to obtain control of the Society, and “annex it to the Christian Knowledge and Propagation Societies [SPCK and SPG]”. Five hundred copies of the pamphlet were distributed, but the scheme did not commend itself to his friends. “Very few,” wrote Mozley, “approve of the plan or think it practicable.” See Newman’s Letters, Vol. I, and The Via Media, Vol. II.
What held Newman back from converting to Rome earlier? Interestingly, he mentions devotions to Mary, which he admits still held difficulties for him as he wrote:
Such devotional manifestations in honour of our Lady had been my great crux as regards Catholicism: I say frankly, and I do not fully enter into them now; I trust I do not love her the less, because I cannot enter into them. They may be fully explained and defended; but sentiment and taste do not run with logic: they are suitable for Italy, but they are not suitable for England. (p 318)
He also states that he did not believe in ‘transubstantiation’ till he became a Catholic (p 374).
By 1841, Newman had come to the extreme position that the Church of England had never been a Church all along. A key factor was the setting up of a Jerusalem Bishopric by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which would include ministry to non-Anglican Protestant congregations and missionary work amongst orthodox Greeks and ‘schismatical Oriental bodies’:
...such acts as were in progress led me to the gravest suspicion, not that [the Church of England] would soon cease to be a Church, but that it had never been a Church all along. (p 248)
Newman thought through the issues of his conversion through writing a book. The very act of writing clarified his mind and he was not indeed ‘afraid of inferences’:
So, I determined to write an Essay on Doctrinal Development; and then, if, at the end of it, my convictions in favour of the Roman Church were not weaker, to make up my mind to seek admission into her fold. I acted upon this resolution in the beginning of 1845, and worked at my Essay steadily into the autumn. (p 360)
In the end, for Newman it was a question of personal salvation that led him to Rome:
The simple question is, Can I (it is personal, not whether another, but can I) be saved in the English Church? Am I in safety, were I to die tonight? Is it a mortal sin in me, not joining another communion? (p 363)
On October 8, 1845 he wrote to a number of his friends from Littlemore, just outside of Oxford:
I am this night expecting Father Dominic...He does not know of my intention; but I mean to ask of him admission into the one Fold of Christ. (p 367)
His conversion was to do, in essence, with his personal salvation and there was only one Fold of Christ. In the context of the discussion of infallibility, he professes his own absolute submission (a word used three times on one page, p 389) to the Church, her dogmas and traditions. Later he adds an interesting elucidation:
It is to the Pope in Ecumenical Council that we look, as to the normal seat of Infallibility. (p 396)
Owen Chadwick, in his book The Victorian Church: Part Two (London, 1970) describes Newman’s opinions a few years after writing Apologia in 1864 during the First Vatican Council discussion, at which he was not present, on the infallibility of the Pope (1870):
Bishop Ullathorne of Birmingham was prominent among the minority who believed the doctrine but thought its definition inopportune. Newman was marked for the same opinion, since a fierce private letter to Ullathorne during the council was published to his embarrassment. Newman also believed in infallibility, but did not see what good purpose was served by narrowing the liberty of opinion.’ (p 418).
Newman ends his Apologia with a tender coda of thanks to his six loyal friends surrounding him in Birmingham, first and foremost Ambrose St John, with whom he was later buried.
At the First Vatican Council Newman lost out, concerning the wisdom of defining infallibility, to the influence of his archrival Cardinal Henry Manning, who had also followed a similar trajectory of moving from Evangelical Anglicanism to Tractarianism and then to Roman Catholicism. Newman’s time, however, came nearly a century later, where the influence of his writings on the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) was immense. Perhaps it is worth asking a question in the light of this, and of the papal visit. In the economy of God, which was more important: Newman converting to Rome or Rome converting to Newman?
2. Papal Visit: Perspectives on Locations
Location is important not only in buying houses but also in planning and assessing visits. Her Majesty the Queen saw Pope Benedict XVI in Scotland because she was staying at her private residence, Balmoral Castle, during that period and welcomed him to mid-morning tea on Thursday 16 September 2010 at her official residence in Edinburgh, the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
In his speech the Pope warned against ‘aggressive forms of secularism’ and generally during the visit the aggressive atheists, led by Richard Dawkins, seem to have come off worse. Ironically they came out as ‘protestant’ atheists...and lost the support of their moderate colleagues.
Afterwards, he had a private lunch in Edinburgh with the Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O’Brien. That evening the Pope celebrated an open-air mass at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow and preached a homily.
It is an interesting question to consider whether it may be appropriate to designate Her Majesty the Queen as biecclesial. Location is significant. When in Scotland, she attends the Established Church, the Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian and of which she is not the ‘Supreme Governor’. The Oath of Accession includes a promise ‘to maintain and preserve the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government’ in Scotland (which goes back to the Act of Settlement 1700, section 3). In England, she attends the Established Church, the Church of England, of which she is the ‘Supreme Governor’. So when Pope Benedict XVI met Her Majesty the Queen in Edinburgh, did he meet a Presbyterian or the Supreme Governor of the Church of England or both?
On Friday 17 September, the Pope addressed leaders of other faiths at St Mary’s College, Twickenham, London, as well as meeting members of religious communities and schoolchildren.
In the afternoon he was welcomed to Lambeth Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He addressed a joint meeting of the diocesan bishops from the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. He then had a private meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury. What may have been discussed? Well, both are theologians, so are more likely to have considered theology than ecclesiastical policies or politics. The Pope has a high regard for Henri de Lubac, a key French theologian who, like him, was a theological resource person (peritus) at Vatican II. Perhaps they discussed de Lubac?
Paul McPartlan, a young British Catholic theologian currently a Professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC, has written intriguingly on two key Catholic and Orthodox ecclesiologists, The Eucharist Makes the Church: Henri de Lubac and John Zizioulas in Dialogue (Edinburgh, 1993). Miroslav Wolf, a Croatian theologian at Yale, with origins in Pentecostalism, paired Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) in a conversation with Zizioulas After Our Likeness: The Church in the Image of the Trinity (Grand Rapids, 1998). Who will add a third partner of Rowan Williams? Or perhaps a key consequence of the whole visit would be a joint book by the Pope and the Archbishop on the Church drawing on de Lubac, Richard Hooker and Zizioulas?
Westminster Hall, built in 1099, has the largest medieval timber roof in northern Europe, dating from 1393. The location of the trial and condemnation of both Sir Thomas More (1535) and King Charles I (1649), it provided a unique setting for the Pope to address British society in front of about 2000 politicians, diplomats, academics and business leaders.
I was present at, and very moved by, the next event which was the ecumenical service of Evening Prayer at Westminster Abbey. The Archbishop welcomed the Pope, who responded warmly. They both reverenced the Canterbury Gospels with a kiss. These were sent by Pope Gregory with Augustine who came to Britain in 597 AD and are kept at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. They also had a prominent place, on St Augustine’s Chair, during Pope John Paul II’s visit to Canterbury Cathedral in 1982.
What was not planned, but happened spontaneously and significantly, was that the Pope kissed the altar and the Archbishop of Canterbury followed his lead. The Archbishop was wearing the pectoral cross given him by Pope John Paul II and the Episcopal ring given to Michael Ramsey by Pope Paul VI.
A key subtle, mostly missed, feature of the location at Westminster Abbey was that neither the Archbishop nor the Pope, nor the other ecumenical leaders present, had technical jurisdiction. The Abbey’s foundation was Catholic, reformation was Anglican and legal status is as a Royal Peculiar, directly under the jurisdiction of the monarch, rather than under a bishop. Thus the location was a leveller.
On Saturday 18 September, the Pope celebrated mass at Westminster Cathedral and was present at an open air vigil in Hyde Park. The beatification of John Henry Newman took place on Sunday 19 September at Cofton Park, Birmingham and the Pope’s homily was the climax of his visit. Later he addressed the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales at Oscott College, the seminary for the Archdiocese of Birmingham. He returned to Rome the following day.
Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, and Chris Patten, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, are to be congratulated on rescuing the visit when it looked as if the plans were too ambitious and expensive. Cuts were made and were effective. Christopher Hill, Anglican Bishop of Guildford, and for years secretary of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) also played a key role behind the scenes.
It was a very successful visit and seems to have changed not only the attitude of people in Britain to the Pope but also the attitude of the Pope towards the depth of Christianity in Britain. After a foreign trip, the tradition is that the Pope makes a very brief mention of it at the following Wednesday’s general audience in St Peter’s Square, Rome. On this occasion, 22 September, he was more effusive and stated that the visit had enabled him ‘to see how much the Christian legacy is still strong and still active at every level of society.’
Pope Benedict XVI did indeed ‘surprise us with blessing’: perhaps John Henry Newman, in the communion of saints, was surprised at his own beatification?
3. Follow up to the Papal Visit: Ordinariate and Two New Anglican Societies
The Ordinariate (Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus) was published on 4 November 2009, 10 months in advance of the visit for those Anglicans who wished to convert to Rome en bloc. ‘Don’t mention the war’ was a catch phrase in the sixth episode of the BBC comedy ‘Fawlty Towers’, entitled ‘The Germans’. ‘Don’t mention the Ordinariate’ became a hidden catch phrase of the visit. It seemed to have been put on the backburner and only surfaced when Pope Benedict XVI addressed his own Catholic bishops at Oscott College. Vincent Nichols was very conscious of playing down any suggestion that the Pope was fishing in Anglican waters.
After the visit, however, the Ordinariate has surfaced again in three modes: one Roman Catholic and two Anglican. John Broadhurst, who is 68, is chair of Forward in Faith, Suffragan Bishop of Fulham in the Diocese of London, without a geographical area but with pastoral care of some Forward in Faith parishes in London, Southwark and Rochester dioceses, At the Forward in Faith conference, 15-16 October 2010, he announced that he would be resigning as Bishop of Fulham at the end of this year and would join the Ordinariate when it is set up.
It is expected that it will be set up in January 2011, which will be four months after the papal visit. The clear implication for John Broadhurst is that he is in fact, in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, a layman, even now. He will need first to be confirmed, before he can made deacon and then ordained priest. He cannot be consecrated bishop, because he is married. He will, however, be able to wear his Episcopal ring, pectoral cross and mitre and carry his crosier, since there is a precedent for Roman Catholic priests called ‘mitred prelates’ who are not bishops, to wear and carry such symbols: abbots of monasteries.
John Broadhurst is not technically a Provincial Episcopal Visitor (PEV, sometimes referred to colloquially as ‘Flying Bishop’) who are suffragan bishops of Canterbury or York, but a Regional Episcopal Visitor. Of the three official PEVs, the two in the southern Province of Canterbury are on ‘study leave’ till the end of the year and are considered by many to be contemplating following the trajectory of John Broadhurst then.
They are Andrew Burnham, who is 62 and Bishop of Ebbsfleet, and Keith Newton, who is 58 and Bishop of Richborough. They also would have to be confirmed, ordained deacon and priest but not bishop. It may be that Keith Newton would be considered to be made the ‘Ordinary’ of the Ordinariate, and lead it: the ‘Ordinary’ does not have to be in episcopal orders.
The third PEV, Martyn Jarrett, who is 66 and Bishop of Beverley, a suffragan of the Diocese of York, has announced that he is staying in the Church of England and is backing one of the two Anglican echoes of the Ordinariate, the Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda (which has already attracted the nickname of Swish).
Echoing the Roman ordinariate, where people can retain Anglican patrimony while being Roman Catholics, it seems that in this society people will be able to retain their current Roman patrimony, while still being Anglicans...The spokesperson bishop is John Ford, Suffragan Bishop of Plymouth in the Diocese of Exeter. Behind him are the longer serving Diocesan Bishops of Chichester (John Hind), Gibraltar in Europe (Geoffrey Rowell), and Blackburn (Nicolas Reade) and the Suffragan Bishops of Beverley (Martyn Jarrett), Burnley (John Goddard), Edmonton (Peter Wheatley), Horsham (Mark Sowerby) Pontefract (Anthony William) and Bishop Lindsay Irwin (Administrator of the Anglican Shrine of Walsingham).
If Anglican Catholics who are against the ordination of women can have their own new enclave and society, why can’t conservative evangelicals? Well, they can and have formed their very own St Augustine Society (which has attracted the nickname of SAS, with the motto ‘who dares wins’...). This was mentioned at the Forward in Faith conference and confirmed at the Reform Conference, 19-20 October 2010, by the chair of Reform, Rod Thomas, vicar of St Matthew’s Elburton, Plymouth, though the name was not actually used. The only Church of England bishop involved in Reform is Wallace Benn, who is 63 and Bishop of Lewes, in the Diocese of Chichester.
The website, registered by Chris Sugden, Executive Secretary of Anglican Mainstream and formerly a member of General Synod, only has a holding home page at the moment (with a photo of a stained glass window of Augustine of Hippo, rather than of Canterbury, wearing a chasuble).
What should be made of these two new Anglican societies? First, they show that the original aim of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans UK (FCA UK), to hold Anglican Catholic and conservative Evangelical opponents of women bishops together, has not been fulfilled. They have gone their separate ways, as seemed likely. FCA UK is now, in effect, what it always seemed to be, a conservative Evangelical group.
Second, not many are likely to join the Ordinariate when it is launched in January 2011. Newman admitted in a memorably wry phrase: ‘It is not at all easy (human speaking) to wind up an Englishman to a dogmatic level.’ (Apologia, p 329). Most traditionalist Anglican Catholics, according to the Catholic Group on General Synod, seem to prefer the Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda: ten Church of England bishops for the Society as opposed to three for the Ordinariate (one, so far declared, and two others likely to declare).
Third, the new societies aim to put pressure on General Synod to adapt the legislation for women in the episcopate to allow for the society model. This is described in the glossary of the Rochester Report as follows:
Society Model: Under this, parishes could opt to come under bishops and priests who were part of a religious society, and diocesan bishops could invite a particular society to care for particular parishes for the time being. Such a Society would be in communion with the Church of England, but could be affiliated to different traditions / churchmanships within it, as a means of preserving particular traditions within the Church. The adherents of such a model argue that such Societies could pursue ecumenical objectives with other Christian denominations.
Following the results of the elections to General Synod this month, Forward in Faith and Reform claim to have the numbers (just) to block the current legislation when it returns from the Dioceses to General Synod in 2012.
Fourth, the question of jurisdiction is crucial. Both societies will only work for their members if real statutory jurisdiction is given to them by the Church of England. This seems to be unlikely at the moment, for the General Synod has consistently voted against a transfer of jurisdiction. This, in effect, would limit the jurisdiction of a woman bishop.
Fifth, the consecration of further bishops for the societies seem to be envisioned by the societies themselves, rather than by the Church of England. These consecrations would be open to the charges of illegality and schism.
Jam tandem Italiae fugientis prendimus oras.
“In our reach at last, Italy’s ever-receding shore.” Vergil, Aeneid vi.61.
This is quoted by Ronald Knox, the most notable theological convert to Rome since Newman, at the end of his own conversion narrative, written after his reception and before his ordination as a priest, A Spiritual Aeneid (London, 1918), p 216.
Although those who may take advantage of the Ordinariate are not likely to be in the league of Newman or Knox, they are important children of God and need our prayers. I doubt if for them it will be a question of their own personal salvation or the belief that the Church of England has never actually ever been a Church.
Vincent Nichols took care to avoid any hint of triumphalism in the arrangements and press conferences of the Papal visit. In the light of the acute crisis of low numbers of those training for the Catholic priesthood in England and Wales, it will be interesting to see how he responds to this temptation in January 2011, when he comes out of Westminster Cathedral after the ordination to the priesthood of the first three members of the Ordinariate - former Church of England bishops, now Roman Catholic priests.
We may note two key ironies from Newman’s legacy and the Papal visit. First, that Pope Benedict XVI holds strongly to the importance of the definition of the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope, while Newman thought the definition at the First Vatican Council to be inopportune. Second, the traditionalist Anglican Catholics who are staying in the Church of England (following John Keble and Edward Bouverie Pusey), may join in the surge of the celebration of Newman, but will not follow his ultimate journey.
The legacy of John Henry Newman does seem to be ambiguous. Who, then, is the modern successor of this patristic scholar and philosophical theologian, this poet and prominent leader? Is it, perhaps, without a shadow of Newman’s petulant polemic and without his change of allegiance, the one who walked alongside Pope Benedict XVI up the aisle of Westminster Abbey, helped him with a gentle hand under the elbow up the steps to the chancel, and with him kissed the altar?
The Rt Revd Dr Graham Kings is Hon Assistant Bishop, Diocese of Southwark, Parish Priest, St Matthew’s at Elephant and Castle and SCR Member, St Chad’s College, Durham. He has been theological secretary of Fulcrum since its founding.