Monday, September 13, 2010

John Henry Newman receives his due at last

John Henry Newman is to be beatified by Pope Benedict this weekend during his visit to England. Newman was a model of sound sense and intellectual strength. In books such as The Idea of the University and as well as his collected sermons, Newman manned the barricades of Western civilization in its defense against the cultural barbarians.

And Apologia Pro Vita Sua, his impassioned defense of his conversion to Catholicism that was a response to the overly harsh criticisms of those he left behind in the Anglican Church, was a classic of intellectual apologetics.

You wonder why it took so long.


Joe_Agnost said...

Is he the first gay man to be beautified?

Martin Cothran said...


Your question, of course, assumes he was gay. It would be interesting to know how you come to this conclusion. It also assumes some sort of definition of "gay." I'd love to know what that definition is.

Joe_Agnost said...

I meant "gay" in the homosexual sense. 'He was a homosexual' would be a better (more accurate) choice of words.

I don't know if he ~was~ gay or not. He certainly fits the bill though! His relationship with Ambrose St John looks pretty darn gay to me!

I know you're aware of the evidence that he was gay - it's all over the place:

Here's a site that I'm sure you respect:

Of course lifesitenews denies that he was a homosexual - but they certainly discuss the topic there.

He may have been gay, maybe not... if he was gay though - does he deserve to be beautified?

Joe_Agnost said...

I just realized what you meant be "define gay".

I think you're wondering if I would consider a man gay if he were to live his life celibate. The answer is yes.

If a person is attracted to members of their own sex I consider them gay whether they act on those feelings or not.

Martin Cothran said...


Thanks for the clarification. I don't know the exact criteria for beatification, but I imagine that, if he were a homosexual ("gay" in your terminology--having homosexual feelings) there is only two cases in which he would be disqualified.

The first is if he taught that homosexual behavior was morally acceptable. We know he didn't do this. The second would be if he were a homosexual and engaged in homosexuality and never repented for it and it were known. Which, were it the case, we don't.

In all other cases, it would be irrelevant. If he were a homosexual and engaged in homosexuality and repented of it, he is no different from any other sinner who repents of their sins. If he had homosexual desires and did not engage in homosexual activity, then he's no different from anyone else who resists temptation.

But I don't think there is any compelling evidence that he was homosexual--or "gay," to use your words. The evidence seems to be that a) He had some effeminate mannerisms; b) he was buried beside his best friend; c) he had close relationships with other males; and c) a few of his biographers suspect it on the basis of a), b), and c).

Any one of the first three reasons are not anywhere close to being dispositive on the issue, and even all of them put together don't amount to much. That a celibate minister would have close relations with other males without anything about it is quite common. There are also plenty of heterosexual males who have effeminate mannerisms. And the fact that, being celibate, he was buried next to his best friend isn't remarkable.

I think the main problem here is that modern gays just can't seem to imagine how two males can be intimate without sex being involved. I think this is why so many of the gays I have met are gay: they had a messed up relationship with their fathers so that they simply don't know how to be intimate with another male without it being sexual.

I feel sorry for them.

Joe_Agnost said...

Martin wrote: "And the fact that, being celibate, he was buried next to his best friend isn't remarkable."

Not just "best friend"... they lived together for the final 32 years of Newmans life!

But it's all circumstantial - I agree.

Martin Cothran said...


I think we agree on the status of the evidence. Again, I don't think the fact that he lived with St. John for 32 years is remarkable either. I think we are so far removed from the kind of society of which Newman was a part (close, intimate society of males in a fairly cloistered environment the vast majority of which was entirely non-sexual) that we automatically map on to the facts our own cultural perceptions of what it must have been like.

Andrew said...

Maybe it took this long because he had to get out of purgatory. Also, do you know of any earlier miracles he performed?

On his being "gay" or inclined to it, perhaps he could be named the patron saint of converted homosexuals the way, say, Mary Magdelene is the "patron" saint of repentent adulterers.

The idea that his relationship with this other fellow "looked pretty darn gay to me," seems a bit presumptuous to me. Does that mean it fit the stereotype or that you saw them engaging in morbid sexual acts?