Baltimore, MD— At their plenary meeting in Baltimore, the seat of the Catholic Church in America, Catholic Bishops of the United States of America consented unanimously to write a letter to Pope Francis in support of the proposal by their colleagues in England and Wales to declare Englishman, St John Henry Newman, as doctor of the church.
John Henry Newman was born on February 21st, 1801 in London. He grew up an Anglican and studied at the Oxford University and was later ordained an Anglican priest. In 1845 he became a Catholic and was ordained a Catholic priest on May 30th, 1847. He was made a Cardinal in 1879. He died at the age of 89 on the 11th of August 1890. Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in 2010 and Pope Francis canonized him in October 2019.
Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, TX and chairman of the U.S. bishops committee on doctrine described the saintly Englishman as “truly eminent and of great relevance for the Church today especially in the areas of development of doctrine, moral foundations of education, the primacy of conscience, the role of the laity and search for the truth among others and is worthy of this high honor.”
Five other Bishops paid glowing tribute to Newman with each offering reasons why this is right move to make.
Sean Cardinal O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston described the vote as a no brainer. He reminded his confreres that a few years ago they had taken a similar vote in support of St. Iuan(John) of Avila to be declared doctor of the Church even though he is very much unknown in the United States but Newman is a well-known, read and appreciated saint in the United States.
“I would very enthusiastically support this,” said Bishop Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester (Minnesota) adding that “given the breadth and depth of Newman’s mind, he has been legitimately claimed by both the liberal side of the spectrum and the conservative side and makes him a marvelous teaching moment. If this happens and Newman is named doctor, we should take advantage of that to study his writings deeply and it might help to heal some of the divisions of our Church.”
With the synod on synodality still fresh, Bishop emeritus William Murphy of the diocese of Rockville Centre recommended John Henry Newman as an inspiration for what Pope Francis is seeking to accomplish with this synod given Newman’s “deep understanding of the fathers and the hermeneutic that brings out the proper development of doctrine.”
A former Campus minister of the University of Maryland, Bishop Byrne pitched his voice asking for a unanimous vote given that many of university campus ministries are named after Cardinal Newman. “It will be very a great endorsement of that fundamental ministry within our church and our hope for the future that would send a message that also it is an important part of our evangelization,” said Bishop Byrne.
Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia the Cardinal revealed that “Newman is particularly respected in the East and Eastern Catholics find much inspiration in him. He would be a modern doctor. He was facing the issues that were still in development. He presaged many of them and to many of them he offered not only an intellectual response but also a personal witness.” He went on to add that “the quality of his prose and the beauty of his writings is something we really need.”
Newman is acclaimed to have written 40 books with the most famous being his book-length Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. Some other prominent works include his On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine, his spiritual autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua and his Essay on the Grammar of Assent.
It is on account of the breadth and depth of his intellectual ingenuity and contribution to the faith that he is being considered as a doctor of the Church. There are currently 37 of these esteemed doctors of the Church.
Canonized 110 years after his death, cardinal Dinardo of Galveston-Houston wondered whether Newman should be named doctor so quickly or whether any modicum of time would be afforded the Church to elucidate his profound teachings before his declaration as Doctor of the Church.
Bishop Flores noted that without this letter of support the process would be slowed down but it is up to the Holy Father to determine how soon to approve this. 240 Bishops voted to support the request and two disapproved and there were no abstentions. The Bishops of Ireland and Scotland, had already consented to send their letter of support for the same cause, said Bishop Flores.