I guess I ought to be used to it by now...
but I'm afraid I'm not.
What is up with the people who try to make Venerable Newman (though they seldom use that title for him) into some sort of icon of theological dissent ?
I'm saying this after reading the November issue of First Things
. The first part of the section "The Public Square" is entitled "Mr. Wills For the Prosecution". In it, a description is given of the recent book by Mr. Garry Wills entitled Why I am a Catholic
. The book is apparently supposed to be a response to those who said one of his previous books was not Catholic. Unfortunately, if this review it accurate, he is proving their point in spades.
The basic thrust of the book appears to be that the papacy has been pretty much ruining things since the beginning of the Church. Among various theological and moral bizarreness of the type which is all too familiar (abortion is OK, the Assumption of Our Lady never happened, the Virgin Birth was not a 'biological fact', etc.), Mr. Wills apparently added a new wrinkle which really floored me. He seems to have stated that the Catholic martyrs of England and Wales were really traitors and deserved what they got...beheading, hanging, drawing and quartering, and so forth. Lord, have mercy on this deceived soul. How can somebody calling himself a Catholic dishonor the witness of those who who were murdered for celebrating the Sacraments or for hiding priests from the butchers of Tyburn ?
Mr. Wills has the gall to claim that his heroes are Venerable Newman and, believe it or not, G.K. Chesterton (!). I leave the defense of Chesterton's honor for another day, but here are a few quotes from the Venerable Mr. Wills seems to have missed:
"Deeply do I feel, ever will I protest, for I can appeal to the ample testimony of history to bear me out, that, in questions of right and wrong, there is nothing really strong in the whole world, nothing decisive and operative, but the voice of him, to whom have been committed the keys of the kingdom and the oversight of Christ's flock. The voice of Peter is now, as it ever has been, a real authority, infallible when it teaches, prosperous when it commands, ever taking the lead wisely and distinctly in its own province, adding certainty to what is probable, and persuasion to what is certain. Before it speaks, the most saintly may mistake; and after it has spoken, the most gifted must obey." - Cathedra Sempiterna
"Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations. It becomes a licence to take up any or no religion, to take up this or that and let it go again, to go to church, to go to chapel, to boast of being above all religions and to be an impartial critic of each of them. Conscience is a stern monitor, but in this century it has been superseded by a counterfeit, which the eighteen centuries prior to it never heard of, and could not have mistaken for it, if they had. It is the right of self-will." - Letter to the Duke of Norfolk
Can we religiously suppose that the blood of our martyrs, three centuries ago and since, shall never receive its recompense? Those priests, secular and regular, did they suffer for no end? or rather, for an end which is not yet accomplished? The long imprisonment, the fetid dungeon, the weary suspense, the tyrannous trial, the barbarous sentence, the savage execution, the rack, the gibbet, the knife, the cauldron, the numberless tortures of those holy victims, O my God, are they to have no reward? Are Thy martyrs to cry from under Thine altar for their loving vengeance on this guilty people, and to cry in vain? Shall they lose life, and not gain a better life for the children of those who persecuted them? Is this Thy way, O my God, righteous and true? Is it according to Thy promise, O King of saints, if I may dare talk to Thee of justice? Did not Thou Thyself pray for Thine enemies upon the cross, and convert them? Did not Thy first Martyr win Thy great Apostle, then a persecutor, by his loving prayer? And in that day of trial and desolation for England, when hearts were pierced through and through with Mary's woe, at the crucifixion of Thy body mystical, was not every tear that flowed, and every drop of blood that was shed, the seeds of a future harvest, when they who sowed in sorrow were to reap in joy? " - "The Second Spring", 1852
" I rejoice to say, to one great mischief I have from the first opposed myself. For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth; and on this great occasion, when it is natural for one who is in my place to look out upon the world, and upon Holy Church as in it, and upon her future, it will not, I hope, be considered out of place, if I renew the protest against it which I have made so often." - Biglietto Speech