Tag Archives: Cardinal Newman

Cardinal Newman

Not yet a saint, but on the way:  Newman is due to be beatified in 2010, with canonization to follow after confirmation of the required “Third Miracle”. He does not yet have a feast day in the usual sense.  However, his “die natalis“, or “day of (new) birth” (i.e. the anniversary of his death) is remembered today, Aug 11th.

Newman is not classed as “gay” on the basis of sexual practice:  it is generally acknowledged that he practiced  sexual abstinence.  Still, he had a clear homosexual sensibility, and was renowned for a remarkable devotion to his friend Ambrose St John, with whom he insisted on being buried:

Ambrose St John, left, and Cardinal Newman (picture taken from "Nihil Obstat")

Ambrose St John, left, and Cardinal Newman (picture taken from “Nihil Obstat”)

“John Henry Newman, the most prominent 19th century-convert to Roman Catholicism, is best known for his writings, especially his superb spiritual biography, Apologia Pro Vita Sua. It is certain that Newman was sexually abstinent throughout his life, nevertheless he spent most of his life with his closest friend, Fr. Ambrose St. John. Some reports [see Hillard ref. below for rebuttal] state that he lay all night on Ambrose St. John’s bed after Ambrose’s death, and, certainly, stipulated in his will that he wished to be buried in the same grave as Fr. St. John at Rednal in the English midlands ”
–  LGBT Catholic Handbook, Calendar of Lesbian Gay and Transgendered Saints.

(For more on Newman’s sexuality, see Geffrey Faber’s “The Oxford Apostles”, which , says the LGBT Handbook,was:

“The first book to take seriously the homoeroticism of the Catholic movement in the 19th century – pp. 32-35 presents Newman as a sublimated homosexual.”)

For the story of Newman’s dying wish to be buried with St John, and the Vatican’s shameful disregard of this desire, see “Nihil Obstat”:

“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,” he wrote, later adding: “This I confirm and insist on.”

Newman wrote after the death of St John in 1875: “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 anyone’s sorrow greater, than mine.”

Ambrose had also become a Roman Catholic around the same time as John Newman, and the two men have a joint memorial stone, inscribed with the words Newman had chosen:

“Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem”, which translates as “Out of shadows and phantasms into the truth”.

Ironically, when the time came to attempt the disinterment against Newman’s clear wishes, the grave was found to be quite empty.

Some have seen this as as the third miracle required for full canonization.