If ever a Catholic organization was misnamed, it has to be the Cardinal Newman Society. It's almost as if believers in the flat earth theory decided to call themselves the Galileo Society.

In a recent NCR series, Dan Morris-Young noted that this very visible group, whose ecclesiastical adviser is Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican's supreme court, has become a driving force in critiquing Catholic college and universities and opposing the selection of speakers it considers unacceptable. For example, the society in May protested and organized opposition to commencement-related speakers, including Kathleen Sebelius at Georgetown University; Victoria Kennedy, widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy, at Anna Maria College; and Archbishop Desmond Tutu at Gonzaga University. All hold views not in strict conformity with Catholic doctrine.

I can only imagine what John Henry Newman might have to say about this group that so freely uses his name. It was he who lifted high the importance of the laity at a time in England when lay views were given scant attention. It was he who celebrated the idea of the consensus of the faithful and the consent of the faithful as of extreme importance in determining correct doctrine. He went so far as to claim it was the laity and not the hierarchy that preserved the church from falling into full-blown error during the Arian dispute in the 4th century. Newman clearly believed controversies should be settled by open discussion and dialogue, not by the muzzling of disagreeable voices. And it was Newman who famously upheld the supremacy of conscience in a hot discussion with an English nobleman who accused him as a Catholic of abject deference to the papacy. Newman responded, "I shall drink to conscience first ... and to the pope afterwards."

Spot on!

You know, I wish Anglicanism had a publication as willing to stick its neck out and question the status quo and those "in authority above us." All we have in England is the extremely timid, establishment loving "Church Times."



  1. We sort of do have that publication, in the form of the Anglican oriented blogs. What we sort of need is a web site that ties them together.

    You know, I could build the site, if anyone wanted to edit it.


    • Jim, reading NCR was instrumental in my eventual departure from the Roman Catholic Church. The newspaper intends to reform from within, but I’m sure the editors are aware that encouraging members of the RCC to think critically is a risky business.

      Tom (Grandpère) has fond memories of the dances and pretty girls at the LSU Newman Club in Baton Rouge.