NEWS:  August 25, 2010

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

DRAWING RABBITS FROM THE HAT IN BRITAIN  -  As Benedict XVI’s Mass in Birmingham, England, approaches on September 19 and, with it, the beatification of Cardinal Newman, one might ask if there are surprises in store for us on that occasion. Yes, it seems that some rabbits will be drawn from the hat.

Altar girls in St. Peters Square

Altar girls gathering in August 2010 at St. Peter's Square
The first one - now it is official - is that Pope Ratzinger will have altar girls serving at his Mass. He has been preparing to do this for some time in order to fulfill the agenda of Progressivism, whose most important promoter he is. As a cardinal he promoted feminism in the Church; after he was elected Pope, the presence of women on the altar continued, although in a less scandalous way than under John Paul II. In 2005, for instance, six months after he was elected Pope, he had girls on the altar at a public Eucharistic adoration ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. Earlier this month, he received some 30,000 altar girls, who were included among the 50,000 altar servers gathering at that same Vatican square in Woodstock style. Having taken those steps, he advances to the next: he will now have altar girls serving at his Mass.

The Tablet of London tells us: “Altar girls will assist Pope Benedict in at least one of the Masses he is celebrating during his visit to Britain next month. This marks a break with tradition as it has been customary until now for only men and boys to serve at papal Masses. Several girls will be among the altar servers at the beatification Mass of John Henry Newman in Birmingham. There will be altar girls at Benediction in Hyde Park and also assisting priests who are distributing Communion during Mass in Glasgow” (August 14, 2010, p. 32).

Newman, a Doctor of the Church?

The second surprise that may occur is that Benedict XVI may very well take the opportunity during Newman’s beatification to declare him a Doctor of the Church. I raise this possibility based on words spoken by Card. Ratzinger himself in 1990 at the centenary of Newman’s death. Indeed, after having qualified Newman as “the man of the consciousness,” he affirmed:

John Henry Newman & Ambrose St. John

A depiction of Newman, right, with his beloved companion Fr. Ambrose St. John
“The characteristic sign of that great doctor of the Church seems to be that he teaches not only with his thinking and speeches, but also with his life, since in him thinking and life intermingle and define each other reciprocally. If this is true, then Newman actually belongs to the corps of the great Doctors of the Church, because he simultaneously touches our heart while enlightening our minds” (Adista, Rome, September 6, 2008, p.8).

During the Council it was Paul VI that evoked Newman as a modern Doctor of the Church. “He was a secure guide,” Pope Montini declared, “for all those who are looking for precise orientation and direction amidst the uncertainties of the modern world” (ibid).

John Paul II honored Newman on several occasions. In 1991 he declared Newman Venerable; in 2001, he recalled the bicentennial anniversary of his birth. As early as 1979, celebrating the one hundred years since his elevation to the body of Cardinals, JPII praised Newman as having “a profound intellectual honesty and fidelity to the conscience and grace” (ibid).

With these precedents, there is a good chance that Benedict XVI will exploit the mise-en-scène of Newman’s beatification to proclaim him a Doctor of the Church. It would not be the first strike against this venerable title.

It was Paul VI in 1970 who struck the first blow against the Doctors when he declared St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena Church Doctors. It was a feminist initiative introducing two women into that group of 30 supreme teachers of the Church. It was also in frontal disobedience to the precept to St. Paul: “mulier taceat in Ecclesia” (let women be silent in the Church - 1 Cor 14:34). The same agenda was followed by John Paul II when in 1997 he introduced St. Therese of Lisieux into that select group. As in almost everything JPII did, here also a note of theatrical extravagance is present. St. Therese of Lisieux did not leave written works that could justify her being named a Church Doctor.

Now the possibility exists for Newman to become a Doctor.

Newman teaching on the conscience

Let us take a quick look at what Newman has to teach to the Church.

He has many points in common with the Modernists and Progressivsts who followed after him: adaptation to the modern world in science (evolution) and philosophy (German Idealism); ecumenism with Anglicans rather than calling for their conversion, the idea that every well-intentioned man can be saved no matter what religion he professes, positions against Papal Infallibility, the Petrine Primacy, the Papal Territories and the temporal power of the Popes, stances against the immutability of dogma, devotion to Our Lady having a central place in the Church and the Immaculate Conception.

John Henry Newman

Precursor of Modernism, Progressivism & Vatican II
But the central point of his teaching, the one that is most cheered by the Progressivists, is his notion of consciousness. He imagines a mysterious immanence of God in the consciousness of the simple people that would explain their Catholic sense. This notion also preceded the Modernist concept of a divine revelation in each soul that would be the source of religion.

Let us leave scholars H. Tristan and F. Bacchus to explain: “The aim of Newman in his Grammar of Assent is not to prove the existence and attributes of God. If he had wished to do so, he tells us, he would have begun by insisting ‘on the means by which I have shown that we comprehend God not only as a notion, but as a reality.’ This is properly the argument drawn from the consciousness presented as a form characteristic of Newman; a form that, rightly or not, is most susceptible to criticism. Newman says: ‘The fear that in final analysis should reveal itself as fear of God and the corresponding idea of divine favor are both inexplicable unless one presupposes the existence of a knowledge of God, however rudimentary it may be, in the person’s spirit.’” (Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, Vacant & Mangenot, vol. 11, col 387)

This “reality” of God living in one’s consciousness is what St. Pius X condemned in Modernism as one of the most dangerous deviations of doctrine. In Pascendi we find this notion of consciousness condemned:

“In presence of this unknowable, whether it is outside man and beyond the visible world of nature, or lies hidden within in the sub-consciousness, the need of the divine … excites in a soul with a propensity towards religion a certain special sentiment, without any previous action of the intelligence: and this sentiment, either as an object or as an internal cause, has involved in itself the reality of the divine, and in a way unites man with God. It is this sentiment that Modernists call faith, and consider the beginning of religion.” (n. 7)

Returning to the Card. Ratzinger’s eulogy mentioned above, we see that it was precisely Newman’s notion of consciousness that he was praising. Now that Ratzinger has become Pope, we run the serious risk of having that liberal-modernist notion of consciousness be presented as genuine Catholic doctrine.

If this happens, not only the illustrious body of Doctors of the Church will be polluted by the unworthy presence of an intruder, but Benedict will be abrogating the Syllabus of Pius IX and Pascendi of Pius X.


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