Thursday, September 4, 2008

Catholic Church's plan to move Cardinal's body is "homophobia"

The process started by the Catholic Church to create the first new English saint in over forty years have recently hit controversy. Canonisation is a complex and lengthy process with involve many hurdles and stages. One of them is the exhumation of the body of the intended saint for the collection of relics.

John Henry Cardinal Newman, an influencial figure of the 19th century who died in 1890, is apparently set to be exhumed and reburied in a different location before the end of the year. The problem lies in the fact that Newman has explicitly and in several occasions expressed the wish to remain buried alongside Father Ambrose St John, the man he shared the last years of his life.

The exact nature of the relationship between the two men is not completely clear, although Newman's biography indicates a strong interest in male frienships. The headstone of the two men bear a latin expression meaning "out of shadows and phantasms into the truth", which many consider as a coming out.

The fact that the bodies of the two men are to be separated has been highlighted by campaigner like Peter Tatchell as another example of the Catholic Church's aggressive stance against LGBT people and calls for the exhumation not to take place come for all sides of the argument.

Peter Tatchell told The Independent: "The Vatican's decision to move Cardinal Newman's body from its resting place is an act of grave robbery and religious desecration. It violates Newman's repeated wish to be buried for eternity with his life-long partner Ambrose St John.

"They have been together for more than 100 years and the Vatican wants to disturb that peace to cover up the fact that Cardinal Newman loved a man. It's shameful, dishonourable betrayal of Newman by the gay-hating Catholic Church."

At the same time an online poll on the Church Times' website revealed that (at the time of writing) 83 per cent of the 507 people who responded were opposed to the Vatican's decision to move Newman's body.

In response to Tatchell's attack, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, told BBC's Radio 4 Sunday programme: 'I don't think anyone disputes that Cardinal Newman loved Ambrose St John... But it is simply wrong to read back from today's categories into the Victorian periods when these very intense, passionate, but totally celibate relationships among the Anglo-Catholic community were very common,' adding that gay rights campaigners were using the issue to advance their own agenda against the Church.

Find out more:
* Plan to exhume cardinal is 'homophobic', The Independent
* Anger at removal of Newman’s remains, The Church Times
* Buried secrets: Cardinal Newman is set to become Britain's newest saint. First he must be exhumed from the grave he shares with another man - the greatest love of his life, The Daily Mail
* John Henry Cardinal Newman, Wikipedia

Image shows Newman aged 23 at the time of his first sermon

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