More on the protean, complicated, soon-to-be-Blessed John Henry Newman in the newly rescued Boston Globe.
"Because of his protean mind and voluminous writings, then, he is beloved by groups that are often at loggerheads. More traditional Catholics admire Newman's elegant apologias for Catholicism. Progressives embrace his work on conscience and the "development of doctrine," the idea that church belief on some matters can change over time - for the better. And ironically, many Catholics suspicious of clericalism often quote this prince of the church, who once quipped about the laity, "[T]he church would look foolish without them." Indeed, one of his most famous articles was called "On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine."
The greatest controversy over the soon-to-be-saint, however, may be his intense relationship with his long-time friend Ambrose St. John. "As far as this world was concerned, I was his first and last . . . he was my earthly light," wrote Newman. Before his death in 1890, Newman made an unusual and strongly worded request. "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. As a result, he is beloved among some in the gay community, who often claim him as one of their own.
Last year, church officials announced that they would unearth Newman's remains from a small rural cemetery in Worcestershire in order to transfer them to a marble sarcophagus in the Birmingham Oratory church. But diggers found little left of the cardinal. Some charged that the church wanted to move Newman to whitewash his friendship with St. John. Church officials replied, accurately, that the remains of many saints are often moved to sites that are more appropriate for "public veneration."
Admired by conservatives and liberals, cradle Catholics and converts, as well as anti-clericalists and gays, Cardinal John Henry Newman is destined to be a popular but controverted saint. Who is the "real" Newman? It's a bit like the popular quest for the "historical Jesus." Which one you find depends a great deal on which one you're searching for.