7 November 2019

Is Newman a Saint?

Someone put to me this query: Suppose, in the future, it were to be decided by Authority that PF committed a formal act of Apostasy at the Vatican Gardens Event and thereby ceased to be pope. Would his act of canonising John Henry Newman still be valid?

Frankly, I regard this scenario as being in the very highest degree improbable. But ... what if ...

I would argue that, basically, it is what we Westerners nowadays call Beatification that really matters. (In the 'Orthodox' Churches, there has never been a two-stage ascent to Sainthood; just one stage.) In our Western Church, Beatification is the point at which the Church definitively permits a Catholic to be venerated by being given a Mass and Office in his honour; together with cultus. No longer are Masses to be offered for the repose of his soul. This change of status occurred when Pope Benedict beatified Newman at Birmingham. Canonisation simply extends the cultus from the restricted localities or communities specified in the decree of Beatification, to the Universal Church.

But even then things are not totally clear-cut. Not every newly canonised Saint is put on all the Universal Calendars as a memoria to be observed everywhere. (This is despite a hint in the writings of Pope Benedict XIV that a canonisation is not fully definitive unless acceptance of it is universally required.)

A little while ago, I accidentally came across a video made by Ann Widdecombe before Newman's Beatification. As a result of her enquiries and interviews, she expressed an opinion about why Benedict XVI was so keen for JHN to be beatified, and why, contrary to present practice, he wished to perform the rite himself rather than by delegation.

Absolutely correctly, Widdecombe focussed on the biglietto speech made by S John Henry upon receiving notification of his elevation to the Sacred College. In this, he asserted that throughout his life, both as an Anglican and as a Catholic, he had fought against what was for him the great error of the day: Liberalism. By this he meant what Benedict XVI called indifferentism and relativism: the idea that there is no absolute Truth.

Benedict beatified JHN by his own personal and direct act as a witness to the priority and certainty of the deposit of Faith handed down through the Apostles.

This theme has not been so much to the forefront of this pontificate ... before the canonisation, I did once make a jocular remark to the effect that people should pray that PF might not find out what Newman really stood for, before the scheduled date of the canonisation, lest the event be cancelled.

It is because S John Henry is not a witness to the predominant and abnormal themes of this present pontificate, but to an exactly opposite analysis, and because, unlike other modern canonizati, his elevation to the Altars of the Church is by the authority of two pontiffs, that I have confidence in the propriety of his cultus.

And, of course, God gave a very impresssive miracle as the witness to this great Saint's Sainthood.


Dan Hayes said...


Your "jocular" remark regarding PF was a remarkedly prescient remark!

Anita Moore said...

I used to think infallibility attached to the canonization of a saint, and so I was disturbed by the blatantly political canonizations of recent years, rammed through an already greatly diluted vetting process. But I have been comforted by the argument of Bishop Schneider in his book-length interview, Christus Vincit, in which he argues that canonization is not necessarily protected by a guarantee of infallibility, citing to the more or less slapdash way in which some additions were made to the Roman Martyrology.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

There are certain saints who would to my mind be saints even if the one canonising or beatifying were not a pope. Others would be iffy. Others would indicate non-papacy of the one canonising.

However, it seems the reason why most of Christendom is not having a cultus for Charlemagne is that the Pope canonising him was an Antipope from Avignon. Still, Charles A. Coulombe has no problems with celebrating him over Saint Charles Borromeo as his patron saint.

I'd appreciate John Henry Newman and Chesterton either way, but these are not two I could feel certain of, unlike St. Maria Goretti and Sor Eusebia Palomino Yenes, who twice exorcised a poltergeist before the priest could arrive simply by praying three Hail Marys. Perhaps it's my bias for the fair sex, I am counting on Cassie Bernall being a martyr even if she is probably not canonisable, since attending the services of a non-Catholic sect prior to the "she said yes" event.