For Want of a Miracle, Newman's Cause Is Held Up

By Hebblethwaite, Peter | National Catholic Reporter, November 12, 1993 | Go to article overview

For Want of a Miracle, Newman's Cause Is Held Up


Hebblethwaite, Peter, National Catholic Reporter


OXFORD, England -- Pope John Paul II on Jan. 22, 1991, confirmed the judgment of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that John Henry Newman (1801-90) bad practiced the theological and moral virtues "to a heroic degree." Things looked good for the British cardinal who suffered so much from the church.

The year after his death, his rival, Cardinal Edward Manning, said to a recent convert;"I gather you are under the impression that Dr. Newman is a good Catholic."

"Such was my vague belief," the convert tentatively replied.

"Then either you are ignorant of the Catholic doctrine," retorted Manning,"or ignorant of the works of Dr. Newman." Manning then ticked off on his fingers 10 distinct heresies to be found in Newman's works.

The papal decision seemed to put a stop to that kind of nonsense. It meant that Newman was more than ordinarily holy, was entitled to be called "venerable" and was a fit subject for beatification and canonization.

Since then his process has stalled. The alleged reason is that no miracle capable of meeting the stringent demands of the congregation has been produced.

Fr. Vincent Blehl, 72, the New York Jesuit who wrote the historical positio that got Newman so far, is now appealing for "an organized and concerted attempt to secure the necessary miracle."

He doesn't really know how to "secure" a miracle, but meantime three things might help. First the sick, especially the incurably sick, must be urged to pray through Newman's intercession. Second, "from long experience, the congregation has instructed postulators to make sure that the officially approved prayer for canonization is used in these circumstances." (Copies from the Newman Secretariat, the Oratory, Hagley Road, Birmingham B16 9UE, England). Can it be that God only listens to officially approved prayers?

Third, it would be a great help if the crusade of prayer could be extended to other nations. Miracles don't have to occur in any particular place, and it's suspicious if they come from within the organization (for example, Opus Dei miracles from Opus Dei incurables).

Students at all those Newman Centers in the United States could start praying furiously for Newman's cause (using the proper words, of course). In his lifetime Newman had doubts about the miracles business. He thought the proper task of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints should be to establish holiness. …

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