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Fr. Feeney on Cardinal Newman


A reader of TIA website, Mr. J.M., sent us the following interview given by Fr. Leonard Feeney to The Point magazine, published in December 1954. We believe its content can be informative to many of our readers so we are posting it here.   TIA correspondence desk

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The Present Position of Cardinal Newman


Question by The Point: What is it about John Henry Newman, English convert and Cardinal, that Catholics chiefly remember?
Answer by Fr. Leonard Feeney: His mastery of English prose.

Q. What is it about John Henry Newman that Catholics of our day generally forget?
A. They forget, or never have been told of, his Jewish descent.

Q. If we Catholics were to bear in mind Newman’s real ancestry when we are appraising his literary ability, could we not then boast that we have had in our fold the greatest Jewish writer in the English language?
A. We could, except for the fact that there have been in the English language other Jewish writers, like Robert Browning, Max Beerbohm, and Philip Guedalla, who never once thought of joining the Catholic Church.

Q. Apart from his literary abilities, did not Newman make a good conversion to the Catholic Church?
A. He made a nostalgic conversion.

Q. What sort of conversion is that?
A. It is a conversion effected in a typical Old Testament manner, in which one is always sighing after the “flesh-pots” of things one has abandoned, and which in Newman’s case required an Apologia Pro Vita Sua, an apology for his own life, to justify.

Q. After his conversion, and his ordination to the priesthood, is it really true that Newman used often to forego theological studies and pastoral pursuits in order to devote more time to reading from the pagan Greeks?
A. Biographers disagree. Newman’s only comment in the matter was his repeated remark, “I shall never be a saint, for I love the pagan classics too intensely.”

Q. Did not the blood which he inherited, from the Jewish moneylender who was his father, allow Newman to bring to the Faith some of those same racial qualities possessed by the very earliest Christians, by Our Lord’s own Apostles and disciples?
A. The Jewish qualities which Newman brought to the Faith have been very tidily set in order by Canon William Barry, STD, the eminent English authority on Newman. Canon Barry reports that to Newman’s “Hebrew affinities” the following qualities are attributed: “ … his cast of features, his remarkable skill in music and mathematics, his dislike of metaphysical speculations, his grasp of the concrete, and his nervous temperament.”

Q. What was it that Newman called those fellow Catholics of his who, at the time of the Vatican Council, were in favor of having the Pope’s personal infallibility defined?
A. Newman nervously called them, “an aggressive and insolent faction.”

Q. Was this attitude toward the definition of Papal infallibility the reason why Pope Pius IX so totally mistrusted Newman?
A. It was one of the reasons.

Q. If Pope Pius IX so frowned upon him, why was Newman made a Cardinal?
A. Newman was made a Cardinal after Pope Pius IX died, when the Catholic Duke of Norfolk prevailed upon the newly installed Leo XIII to brighten the aged Newman’s final years with a red hat.

Q. Is it in England that Cardinal Newman’s spirit best survives today?
A. It is not. Modern Catholic Englishmen, without analyzing it, sense that Cardinal Newman was, religiously, the kind of interloper in their midst that Prime Minister Disraeli was politically.

Q. Where then have Newman’s name and fame been most perpetuated?
A. In America, in the form of clubs. Newman Clubs, they are called.

Q. What is a Newman Club?
A. It is an organized excuse for the presence, the sinful presence, of Catholic students at secular universities founded and fostered by Masons and, lately, indoctrinated by Jews.

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