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John Henry Newman: Becoming Rome’s first ecumenical saint

By Richard Bennett and Michael de Semlyen
September 2010 | Review by Erroll Hulse
  • Publisher: Dorchester House Publications
  • Pages: 24
  • Price: £2
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Book Review

The German-born Pope Benedict XVI is due to carry out a state visit to the UK from 16-19 September. The climax of this visit is a Mass in Coventry at which the Pope will beatify John Henry Newman (1801-1890).

Newman believed in baptismal regeneration and turned away from his Anglican ministry. He joined the Roman Catholic Church, in which he became a cardinal. On his way to Romanism he became an advocate of Anglo-Catholicism, the idea that the Church of England is a half-way house between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. This booklet explains how capital is likely to be made out of the move to exalt Newman to sainthood.

The New Testament teaches that all those united to Christ are by that very fact saints. They are set apart ‘in Christ’ and belong to him. Where otherwise does the New Testament suggest that there is a higher order of ‘saints’?

Newman abandoned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone and embraced the idea that justification is by infused righteousness, which results in good works which justify. But Paul makes it clear that justification before God is a legal (forensic) matter. ‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness’ (Romans 4:3). The Greek verb logizomai means to ‘put to one’s account’ or to ‘reckon’ or ‘count’. Abraham was not ‘infused’ by God’s righteousness, but had God’s righteousness imputed to him.

Twelve pages are devoted to the story of Newman’s journey to Rome and twelve to his belief in transubstantiation. It is sad to think that Rome claims to turn the communion bread into the literal body of Christ and then requires participants to worship ‘the host’ – God in the wafer! The second commandment is that we must not make any likeness of God whatsoever; we must not bow down to any idol of our own making.

The second and fourth commandments are the most detailed of the ten, yet in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Geoffrey Chapman, 1994, p. 453ff), the second commandment is subsumed into the first commandment and the tenth turned into two commandments. Thus the impact of the second commandment is blunted. The Catholic commentary makes feeble excuses for image worship (p. 463).

The authors of this valuable booklet inform us why we should never kneel to receive communion. The practice originates from the Mass and its worship of the wafer. Yet the Lord’s Table is a table of communion in which we sit down to partake of both bread and wine. The Roman Church, however, withholds the wine from its communicants.

The main point of issue for the English martyrs of Reformation times was their refusal to accept transubstantiation. Examples are described, including that of 19-year-old William Hunter who refused an edict to attend Mass. He died in the fire at Smithfield in March 1555.

On the back cover of this booklet we are reminded that the Queen solemnly promised to be a faithful Protestant. We should pray for her that she will not be manipulated by politicians, who have their own agenda and many of whom are biblically illiterate.

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John Newman

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