The Times Online reports that on February 21 Catholics in England celebrated the 207th birthday of John Henry Cardinal Newman, a prominent clergyman whose conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism shocked Victorian society.
Archbishop of Birmingham Vincent Nichols quoted Cardinal Newman during a homily celebrating both the anniversary of the cardinal’s birth in 1801 and the 40th anniversary of the founding of Newman University College, Birmingham.
At a Mass at the college chapel, Archbishop Nichols commemorated Cardinal Newman’s pursuit of truth. “Two of the great figures of Catholic education, Augustine of Hippo and Cardinal John Henry Newman, both engaged in a great quest for truth and for freedom,” the archbishop said.
“Throughout his long life, he consistently followed this inner search for the truth of God as the foundation of all his decisions,” the archbishop continued.
Archbishop Nichols said that some of Cardinal Newman’s writings bore directly on contemporary issues. Newman, the archbishop said, foresaw the challenge of “living in an age which proclaims that really there is no such thing as truth.”
The archbishop quoted an 1879 lecture of Newman, in which he summarized the attitudes of an emerging religious indifferentism: “there is no positive truth in religion; one creed is as good as another; all are to be tolerated for all are matters of opinion. Rather it is the right of each individual to make religion say just what strikes his fancy.”
Cardinal Newman vigorously protested this culture, the archbishop said, because he believed that freedom was founded in truth.
“Only an understanding of the fundamental unchanging truth about what it is to be a human person can be the foundation of our true freedom. Only with such freedom can we follow the pathway of this search for truth,” said Archbishop Nichols.
The idea that faith undermines education, Archbishop Nichols said, “is a blinkered and often prejudiced point of view. It certainly betrays an ignorance of the true nature of faith, because it casts faith as no more than superstition; and it also betrays an ignorance of what education truly is, because it casts education as no more than the acquiring of competence and skills to serve a technological age.”
The archbishop also thanked God for guiding the college and asked Him to bless the college’s future.