Cardinal Newman: Doctor of the Church?

Biographer Says Beatification Was Just 1st Step

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ROME, SEPT. 23, 2010 ( Benedict XVI called Blessed John Henry Newman a figure of a doctor of the Church. The newly beatified Englishman’s biographer affirmed that an official declaration in this regard could take place soon.

ZENIT spoke with Father Keith Beaumont, Australian priest of the Oratory of France, who said, «On this subject I received a confidence about which I cannot be explicit; but it seems that, in Newman’s case, his canonization and declaration as a doctor could take place in a very short time.»

The priest, who wrote the official biography of the cardinal beatified Sunday by Benedict XVI, noted that «all the Popes since Pius XII hoped to see Newman canonized and declared a doctor of the Church.»

«It is also Benedict XVI’s fervent wish,» Father Beaumont stated. «He has also expressed it, discreetly, in his conversation with journalists in the plane and in his homily during the beatification.»

In the conversation with journalists on board the papal plane en route to the United Kingdom, Benedict XVI said of Blessed John Henry Newman, «He is a figure of a doctor of the Church for us and for all, and a bridge between Anglicans and Catholics.»

Father Beaumont explained that «on declaring certain saints ‘Doctors of the Church,’ the Church acknowledges in their teaching […] a particular authority for all the faithful.»

He expressed confidence that «Newman will one day join the small group of 30 men and three women who have that status.»

Furthermore, the priest told ZENIT that «it was clear that for the Holy Father, Newman’s beatification was but a stage to something else.»

Spiritual depth

Father Beaumont spoke briefly about the fact that this beatification was the first presided over by Benedict XVI.

«The two men are close by their learning — profound knowledge of the Fathers of the Church; their artistic tastes — love of music, one as a pianist, the other as a violinist; by the keenness of their intelligence, and above all by the depth of their spiritual life,» he said.

The priest added that besides these elements, «Newman’s thought — in particular his teaching on conscience and on doctrinal ‘development’ — profoundly marked young Joseph Ratzinger during his seminary years.»

He continued: «But on beatifying Newman in view of his eventual canonization, it isn’t only Newman’s life that the Pope presents as a ‘norm’ — to ‘canonize’ means literally to present as a ‘norm’ or a ‘model’ of sanctity — it’s his work and his thought.

«He stressed in his homily at the beatification the importance of [Newman’s] preaching, his teachings and his written work.»

To the people of today, Blessed John Henry Newman proposes «the model of a penetrating, vast learning, willingness to engage with all the currents of thought of his time, of profound respect of the ‘real’ — his thought is worlds apart from any form of ideology, and of great openness of spirit, all allied to a profound and intimate sense of God, to a constant search for God, to a profound love of God,» the biographer said.

The priest continued, «He is at the same time — as Benedict XVI himself is — a great intellectual and — to borrow the title of a book of Cardinal Honore — ‘a man of God.'»

[With the contribution of Anita S. Bourdin]
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