Welcome to the Reading Room

Here are some news stories and articles which might be of interest to you. I've posted the opening section, and if you want to read more, you can click on "Read the whole article" to go to the original item. You'll find a variety of things here -- current news, political analysis, opinion pieces, articles about religion -- things I've happened to read and want to share with you. It's your Reading Room, so take your time. Browse. You're certain to find something you'll want to read.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

America's Forgotten Newman?

by Joseph P. Duggan

It is accepted wisdom that the newly beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890) and his associates in the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement were influences in the faith formation of members of the Episcopal Church in the United States, including some who followed Newman's path of conversion to Roman Catholicism. Less appreciated are the stories of made-in-the-USA Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholic converts, contemporary or even antecedent to Newman, and probably influential in the Cardinal's own spiritual odyssey.

Though there may not have been a "movement" in America of scope, celebrity, academic prestige and literary heft to compare with that of the Oxford divines, there were notable moves by individuals that deserve their place alongside Newman's. To give two clich├ęs some well deserved mangling, not all of the great 19th-century Crossings of the Tiber took place Across the Pond.

During the early days of the American Republic, when much of the Empire State was still frontier territory, Christian clergy of every church and denomination were pressed to emphasize pastoral duties above intellectual pursuits. John Henry Hobart (1775-1830), an Anglo-Catholic and one of the first leaders of the Episcopal Church following American Independence, was exceptional in his integration of scholarship with pastoral and charitable endeavor. As assistant minister at fashionable Trinity Church in lower Manhattan, he inspired a parishioner, a young society matron named Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, to deepen her faith and involve herself in direct care for the poor. Arguably the most startling event during his tenure at Trinity was Mrs. Seton's conversion in 1805 to the humble parish of St. Peter's, the only Roman Catholic church in New York City.

As Episcopal Bishop of New York from 1816 until his death, Hobart became founding dean of the General Theological Seminary in New York (1817). In 1822, he founded the institution in Geneva, New York, today known as Hobart College. That same year he gave his daughter Rebecca's hand in marriage to Levi Silliman Ives (1797-1867) and ordained Ives a deacon. In 1824, Bishop Hobart traveled in Europe, spending several months in England and dining and conversing with young English churchmen including the 23-year-old Newman, then preparing for his ordination as deacon... Read the whole article.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The key to the Pope's success in Great Britain

by Phil Lawler

Most of the reporters writing about the papal visit are clearly surprised by this outcome, and more than a few are betraying their disappointment. A week ago the same reporters were predicting a debacle, and some of them were relishing that prospect. The Pope would face angry protesters wherever he turned, they said. The crowds would be small and subdued. There would be empty seats at the Pope’s public appearances. The staid, jaded secular world of Great Britain would listen skeptically, perhaps nod and clap politely, and then quickly move on to other things, dismissing the old man from Rome.

But Pope Benedict didn’t follow that script.

In every particular, the predictions were wrong. The crowds were loud and enthusiastic. The protesters were there, but even their friends in the mass media had trouble locating them among the tens of thousands who lined the streets to cheer for the passing papal motorcade, or thronged around Hyde Park to join in an evening prayer vigil. Britain’s political and intellectual leaders watched and listened carefully as the Pope spoke, and his words had an obvious impact. Prime Minister David Cameron spoke for an entire nation when, at the conclusion of the papal visit, he told the departing Pontiff that he had made Britain “sit up and think.”

Now the analysts who had predicted a disaster—or perhaps, at best, a polite irrelevancy—are struggling to explain how the Pope confounded their expectations. I think I can explain.

When they predicted an unsuccessful papal visit, analysts were basing their judgment on an assumption. They took it for granted that Pope Benedict would respond to the criticism that had dominated the British media during the last few weeks before his arrival. They assumed that the Pope would be worried about the protests and nervous about the likelihood of popular rejection. Clearly he was not... Read the whole article.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Beyond the Beatification of Cardinal Newman

Pope Benedict's trip to England is an outreach for reunion, too.

by C. John McCloskey III

This month Pope Benedict XVI will travel to England for an unprecedented state visit to the United Kingdom, meeting with the Queen at Balmoral Castle and giving an address to Parliament. The occasion for this historic event, however, is not church or international politics—although political issues will doubtless be touched upon—but the beatification (the penultimate step towards sainthood) of John Henry Cardinal Newman.

Newman, whose long life spanned most of the 19th century, was perhaps the greatest religious figure of the last 200 years of British history. Converting from Anglicanism to Catholicism at the age of 44, he wrote cogently and beautifully under both religious affiliations, and was a lightning rod in the passionately argued religious controversies of his time, such as infallibility of the Pope or the legitimacy of Anglicanism as the state church.

Valuing his religious influences as a thinker and evangelizer of the highest caliber, Pope Benedict has made an exception of his thus-far universal practice of not participating in beatification ceremonies. Hence his trip to Great Britain.

En route to this honor were the standard ecclesial steps: the examination of Newman's life and writings; a declaration that he had lived a life of extraordinary virtue; and official approval by doctors and theologians of a miraculous cure after prayers that Newman would intercede with God on the sufferer's behalf.

The miracle in question holds special interest for Americans, being the recovery in 2001 from a debilitating back condition of the Massachusetts lawyer and deacon Jack Sullivan. His cure was a very modern "media miracle" provoked by a series on Newman on EWTN, Mother Angelica's Catholic broadcasting network. At the end of each episode, a prayer card for Newman was displayed on the screen. Mr. Sullivan prayed for the long-dead cardinal's intercession before God for a cure. The rest (following rigorous medical and ecclesial examination) is now history.

Although Newman was a devout and humble man of great personal warmth and sensitivity, it is difficult to think of him apart from his public career. The author of seminal books of theology and philosophy, such as "The Development of Doctrine" and "A Grammar of Assent," he also dashed off the greatest autobiography in English, "Apologia pro Vita Sua" (a media sensation in his time), in a matter of weeks after personal attacks on his honesty... Read the whole article.

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About Me

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Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.