Doctor Newman, I Presume?

The headline of the Zenit story caught my eye. Father Ian Ker, interviewee, the good:

Newman is more than simply a very learned and clever thinker. Indeed, it has been said that he took over where St Bernard left off. Anyone reading his writings cannot but be aware that reading Newman is like reading the great Church Fathers. In his writings we encounter a writer of profound faith.

But don’t the progressives and the campus ministers adopt Newman as their own? The bad on it:

Cardinal Newman is most obviously misunderstood because of the common misinterpretation of his account of the relation of conscience to Church authority. Newman never envisaged so-called conscientious dissent from Church teachings.

What he did envisage was the possibility of a person conscientiously resisting an order from higher authority. His theory of development is no longer controversial but is part of mainstream theology and indeed is actually echoed in Vatican II’s Constitution on Divine Revelation.

Oh well.

Then we have the ugly:

In his own day, Newman was indeed a radical in his thinking because he was ahead of his times … But he was never a liberal in the sense in which we use the word today, but was always deeply loyal to the tradition and the teachings of the Church.

Ouch. But I think Father Ker has things a little off. People who are loyal to the tradition and the teachings of the Church may be liberal or traditionalist–just as people who set aside teachings may also be either. I might say that many conservative Catholics are loyal to authority in a non-orthodox way, perhaps similar to the way many liberals are loyal to certain non-authoritative aspects.

I’d say Cardinal Newman as a doctor of the Church is a good idea.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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