Your website must be commended for being the only one I know that has the courage to show Newman as a liberal Catholic. I have been reading regularly your posts taken from Newman’s letters, and I believe that only a blind-deaf person could deny he was a precursor of Modernism.
Also regarding his alleged homosexuality, I would like to stress that the defenders of Newman “chaste” relation with young Anglican priest Richard Hurrel Froude and, after the latter’s death, with Anglican priest Ambrose St. John, are simplifying the picture enormously in order to present him as one befitting sainthood. For this purpose they are presenting homosexual activist Peter Tatchell as being the sole person who claims Newman was a homosexual. I know that Tatchell actually came out publicly with this assertion. However, many credible authors have also defended the same in serious books, and this has neither been reported nor taken into consideration. That many authors support this opinion demonstrates it is not just a biased homosexual defending this, as it has been implied almost everywhere in the Catholic milieu.
To support my point and contribute to the discussion I offer you three documents. The first is the text on Newman in Wikipedia, below, in which his homosexual tendencies are spotlighted. The second is a letter Newman wrote to one of his friends, describing the mutual love between him and Ambrose St. John and the embraces they exchanged at their last encounter. I marked in bold the parts that appear to me expressive of a homosexual relationship. The third is just one line by Wilfrid Ward, the famous biographer of Newman and his personal admirer, telling us that Newman spent the entire night lying on the bed with Ambrose St. John’s corpse after he died. It is a emotional reaction that, in my opinion, reveals the intimate closeness Newman probably experienced with Ambrose when they were alone together.
Keep up your good work under the protection of the Mother of God.
In Christ Jesus,
1. Text from Wikipedia on Newman - (footnotes omitted):
Newman was highly sensitive, self-conscious and impetuous. The motto that he adopted for use as a cardinal Cor ad cor loquitur (Heart speaks to heart), and that which he directed to be engraved on his memorial tablet at Edgbaston was Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem (Out of shadows and phantasm into truth).
Newman embraced celibacy at the age of 15, and his deepest relationships throughout his life were with the younger men who were his disciples. The first of these intense male friendships was with Richard Hurrell Froude (1803-1836); the longest friendship in his life was with Ambrose St John (1815-1875), who lived with Newman for 32 years from 1843 (when St John was 28).
Newman wrote after St John's death: "I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one's sorrow greater, than mine." Newman directed that he be buried in the same grave as St John.: "I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John's grave — and I give this as my last, my imperative will."
Biographers have interpreted Newman subsequently, over time. John Campbell Shairp, who knew Newman at Oxford, described a woman's soul in a man's body, the late Victorian definition of a male invert or homosexual. Lytton Strachey described Newman's "soft spectacled Oxford manner, with its half-effeminate diffidence". Geoffrey Faber implied in a book from the 1930s that the Oxford Movement contained a significant stream of homoeroticism. In a chapter on virginity and friendship, Faber wrote, of Newman's relations with Hurrell Froude:
Of all his (Newman's) friends Froude filled the deepest place in his heart, and I'm not the first to point out that his occasional notions of marrying definitely ceased with the beginning of his real intimacy with Froude.
In a September 2010 television documentary, "The Trouble with the Pope", gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell directed criticisms at Pope Benedict XVI's interpretations of Newman's theology. He also discussed the possibility that Newman was homosexual, citing his very close friendship with St John and entries in Newman's diaries describing their intense love for each other.
Tatchell has mentioned his view of Newman's sexual orientation before, a perspective which has been contested by Ian Ker of St Benet's Hall, Oxford. Ker's biography of Newman for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography notes the theses of the biographers Frank Leslie Cross (the "resentful Newman") and Faber ("subconsciously homosexual") and makes points about the burial with St John (lack of contemporary comment), the all-male environment of Oxford, the culture of sexless friendship, and the contrast between early Victorians who were frankly emotional, and later Victorian "public school" inhibition.
2. Letter by Newman on the last encounter he had with Ambrose St. John
The Oratory: May 31, 1875.
My dear Blachford,
I cannot use many words, but I quite understand the kind affectionateness of your letter just come. I answer it first of the large collection of letters which keen sympathy with me and deep sorrow for their loss in Ambrose St. John have caused so many friends to write to me. I cannot wonder that, after he has been given me for so long a time as 32 years, he should be taken from me. Sometimes I have thought that, like my patron saint St. John, I am destined to survive all my friends.
From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable. At Rome 28 years ago he was always so working for and relieving me of all trouble, that being young and Saxon-looking, the Romans called him my Angel Guardian. As far as this world was concerned I was his first and last. He has not intermitted this love for an hour up to his last breath. At the beginning of his illness he showed in various ways that he was thinking of and for me.
That illness which threatened permanent loss of reason, which, thank God, he has escaped, arose from his overwork in translating Fessler, which he did for me to back up my letter to the Duke of Norfolk. I had no suspicion of this overwork of course, but which reminds me that, at that time, startled at the great and unexpected success of my pamphlet, I said to him, "We shall have some great penance to balance this good fortune."
There was on April 28 a special High Mass at the Passionists two miles from this. He thought he ought to be there, and walked in a scorching sun to be there in time. He got a sort of stroke. He never was himself afterwards. A brain fever came on. After the crisis, the doctor said he was recovering he got better every day we all saw this.
On his last morning he parted with great impressiveness from an old friend, once one of our lay brothers, who had been with him through the night. The latter tells us that he had in former years watched, while with us, before the Blessed Sacrament, but he had never felt Our Lord so near him, as during that night. He says that his (Ambrose's) face was so beautiful; both William Neville and myself had noticed that at different times; and his eyes, when he looked straight at us, were brilliant as jewels.
It was the expression, which was so sweet, tender, and beseeching. When his friend left him in the morning, Ambrose smiled on him and kissed his forehead, as if he was taking leave of him. Mind, we all of us thought him getting better every day. When the doctor came, he said the improvement was far beyond his expectation. He said "From this time he knows all you say to him," though alas he could not speak. I have not time to go through that day, when we were so jubilant.
In the course of it, when he was sitting on the side of his bed, he got hold of me and threw his arm over my shoulder and brought me to him so closely, that I said in joke "He will give me a stiff neck." So, he held me for some minutes, I at length releasing myself from not understanding, as he did, why he so clung to me. Then he got hold of my hand and clasped it so tightly as really to frighten me, for he had done so once before when he was not himself. I had to get one of the others present to unlock his fingers, ah ! little thinking what he meant.
At 7 P.M. when I rose to go, and said "Good-bye, I shall find you much better to-morrow" he smiled on me with an expression which I could not and cannot understand. It was sweet and sad and perhaps perplexed, but I cannot interpret it. But it was our parting. W. N. says he called me back as I was leaving the room, but I do not recollect it.
About midnight I was awakened at the Oratory, with a loud rapping at the door, and the tidings that a great change had taken place in him. We hurried off at once, but he had died almost as soon as the messenger started. He had been placed or rather had placed himself with great deliberation and self-respect in his bed they had tucked him up, and William Neville was just going to give him some arrowroot when he rose upon his elbow, fell back and died.
I dare say Church and Copeland, and Lord Coleridge, will like to see this will you let them?
Ever yours affectionately,
John Henry Newman.
(Find the original of this letter here).
3. A text from Wilfrid Philip Ward's biography:
When Ambrose St. John died, Newman threw himself on the bed by the corpse and spent the night there. The Life of John Henry Cardinal Newman – vol. 1, pp. 21-22.
Posted September 16, 2010
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