Ian Ker, an expert biographer of English convert Cardinal John Henry Newman, answered the calumnies leveled against the Servant of God in recent weeks by the homosexual lobby, saying he was buried in the tomb of the Father Ambrose St. John because that was his desire and that the two enjoyed a close friendship.
In an article entitled, “John Henry Newman and the sacrifice of celibacy,” published in L’Osservatore Romano, Ker comments that “the decision to exhume the body of venerable John Henry Newman has provoked reactions, in particular on the part of the homosexual lobby,” whose leaders are attempting to manipulate the image of the cardinal in order to promote their agenda.
According to Ker, this “protest” carries an ill-intentioned implication because it spreads the idea that “Newman wanted to be buried with his friend because he had some kind of bond with him or something more than just a simple friendship.”
Ker refutes these claims with historical examples such as the case of C.S. Lewis and his brother Warnie, who both desired to be buried in the same tomb and who nobody accuses of having incestuous sentiments.
Likewise, he mentioned the case of Dorothy Collins, the devoted secretary of G.K. Chesterton, who with his wife treated her as a daughter. Collins desired that her remains be cremated and buried in the tomb of the Chestertons as an expression of her love for them.
Ker, author of the book “John Henry Newman: A Biography,” pointed out that Father Ambrose accompanied Cardinal Newman “during the difficult period of the founding of the St. Philip Neri Oratory in England and during all the subsequent trials and tribulations of Newman as a Catholic.”
The Oxford professor noted that Newman decided to embrace celibacy at the age of 15, long before his conversion to Catholicism, and he wrote in his “Apologia pro vita sua” how “during the subsequent 14 years, with only a few months of interruption and later continuing, he explained that his vocation ‘demanded such a sacrifice’.”
“Naturally, Newman spoke of marriage with a woman and of the ‘sacrifice’ that celibacy carried with it. The only reason why celibacy could be a sacrifice was because Newman, as with any normal man, desired to get married. However, while he did not belong to a church in which celibacy was a rule or an ideal, Newman, profoundly immersed in the Scriptures, knew the Lord’s words: ‘some renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven’,” Ker explained.
He cited some of Newman’s writings in which the Servant of God, while still an Anglican minister able to marry, showed his “total effort” to persevere in the celibate life, “to which he unequivocally felt called.”
In response to those who demand that Newman’s last wishes to be buried in the tomb of his friend be respected, Ker recalls that “during his life as a Catholic, Newman always insisted that his writings could be corrected by Holy Mother Church. That was his constant thinking.”
For this reason, “If Church authorities decide to transfer his body to a church, Newman’s answer without a doubt would be that his last will, as with everything else he wrote, was subject to correction from a higher authority. If this authority decides his body should be transferred, while that of his friend is not, Newman would have undoubtedly said, ‘Amen’.”