John Newman should be a Doctor of the Church

St John Henry Newman, who was canonised on Sunday along with four others, should be considered a Doctor of the Church.

He should rank alongside early Christianity’s great thinkers, Cardinal Marc Ouellet says.

Ouellet, who is the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and a respected theologian, told the 20,000-strong crowd at the canonistaion that Newman is eligible for the title “Doctor”.

This is because of his contribution to developing Christian teaching.

Doctors of the Church are saints who have helped deepen understanding of the faith.

Only 36 people (32 men and four women) have been granted this title in Christian history.

“It seems to me that the English master [Newman] ranks among such Doctors of the Faith as Athanasius and Augustine, whose lives were confessions of faith at the cost of great sacrifice, and who provided decisive insights on either its content or its act,” Oullet said.

“The depth of this man of God and the place he now occupies in Catholicity, make us aware of the void his absence would have left if he had not been.”

Oullet told the crowd Newman’s legacy encourages the unity of Christians, in an “ecumenical impetus towards reconciliation”.

A conversion is required “from all confessions, starting from the Roman Church, which must be open to eventual transformations that can clear the path towards unity, so desired by the Lord,” he said.

Newman spent years as an Anglican priest and theologian where he became the leader of the Oxford movement, which sought to return the Church of England to its patristic sources.

“It is not a question of using Newman’s figure to depict the return to the fold,” Oullet said.

“Rather, his life and his theology challenge us to carefully examine the internal difficulties of reconciliation.”

Newman saw faith as being an emotional “personal encounter,” as well as “a rational adherence which involves a unique certainty as well as a non-delegable responsibility,” Oullet said.

As a theeologian, scholar and poet, he was regarded as one of the most influential figures of the Victorian age.

He is still highly regarded in Rome for his prophetic theology which paved the way for the Second Vatican Council, in 1962-65.

His work on how the Church’s understanding of divine revelation deepens over time and call for greater involvement of the laity saw him run into opposition in Rome during his lifetime. Today, his ideas are part of the Church’s mainstream.

Prince Charles also spoke at the canonisation ceremony. He described Newman as a “fearless defender of the truth”.


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