John Henry Newman: one step enough for me

Pope Benedict XVI today recognised the healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan in 2001 as a miracle resulting from the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God John Henry Newman. So with that slightly bonkers preamble, Cardinal Newman’s progress to sainthood seems assured. The former Oxford don and Anglican rector turned Roman Catholic prelate went on to found University College Dublin, a role which the college handsomely acknowledges. His idea of a university valiantly tried to reconcile the teaching of Revealed Truth with open enquiry rather than creating a narrow theological seminary. For that, Newman deserves much praise. In the mid C19, the idea of English ( but not Scottish) universities dominated by clergy was only starting to retreat, as in his beloved Oxford, so this was a seriously progressive move. It paved the way to the foundation of the great municipal universities which broke the Oxbridge duopoly. But Newman’s original ambition was just a bit more than today’s UCD acknowledges. It was to turn the Dublin college into the main place of learning for all Catholic “gentlemen” throughout the then United Kingdom. It never got to first base. This was never one of Cardinal Cullen’s aims.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

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