Monday, December 20, 2010

John Henry Newman

If you're interested in such things (that's becoming a catchphrase of mine, isn't it?), I recommend to you a review by Eamon Duffy of John Cornwell's new biography of John Henry Newman.  The occasion of the biography is the recent move by Pope Benedict XVI towards the beatification of Newman.  I haven't read the biography itself, and probably won't, but the review is very well-written and highlights much, if you're sensitive to it, about the history of the church, the important differences between Protestantism and Catholicism, and how Newman was acutely aware of each's shortcomings.
Cornwell is of course the author as well of the controversial Hitler's Pope in which he argues that Pope Pius XII, in effect, aided and abetted the Nazis.  I realize that conservative Catholics may stop right there, but, according to Duffy anyway, Cornwell, while still hostile to the Church--according to him, Newman's  beatification is itself a move by the Church to tame him--is mostly sympathetic to the Victorian theologian and thinker. 

I should warn you that the first few paragraphs of the review are about the charge that Newman was (what else?) a closet homosexual.  But Duffy (and Cornwell) dismisses the charge as at best anachronistic and then quickly moves on to much more interesting matters.  Give it a read.    

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