1. When Newman Left Oxford, By Grazie Pozo Christie, First Things, October 3, 2023, Opinion The ancient city of Oxford is a picturesque but cluttered little town of narrow cobblestoned streets lined with gothic stone buildings and souvenir shops. When I was there in September, just before the start of Michaelmas term, tourists were thick on the ground, hurrying from the Ashmolean Museum to the Bodleian Library, some waving wands on what were plainly Harry Potter walking tours. It is easy for the casual visitor to miss the real beauties of Oxford, which are mostly inside the walls, hidden like pearls in elaborate stone shells. Happily for me, on my recent visit I stayed in Magdalen College, built as a Catholic college in the fifteenth century. I was on pilgrimage, prayerfully visiting places related to the Catholic history of England, and in Oxford we feasted on the works and sites of St. John Henry Newman. The flowered fields of Magdalen College, one of the university’s largest colleges, extend along a stretch of the Thames on which the punts go slowly by. On its meadows, bucks with giant antlers amble through the grass. An arched and ornately decorated cloister encloses one of Magdalen’s five vast, blooming quadrangles, and “chapel” is too homely a name for the sumptuous building where Evensong is sung daily. While I was there, I tried to enter into the spirit of the place as it must have been experienced by St. John Henry Newman in 1842. He was then Oxford’s most influential intellectual, an Anglican priest, and a fellow of Trinity College. Far from the hustle and din of commerce and manufacturing, Oxford was a training ground in the art of thinking. The university sought to produce fine minds in morally healthy bodies, graduates who could follow the logic and rhetoric of argument, who could reason well, who could stretch out a hand for truth and even grasp it. The peaceful and lovely colleges were built as proper settings for the life of the mind, their beauty conducive to contemplation and an elevated perspective. They were also set apart—from squalor and dirt, from Victorian poverty and the “madding crowd.” The cream of society taught and learned there, and the sermons and intellectual musings of giants like Newman were followed breathlessly by the general public in a way that we can’t conceive of today.   Oxford in 1848 was, in short, as high and elite a space as an intellectual could inhabit. It was also entirely closed to Catholics, whether student or professor. They were not admitted until 1871, and then by act of Parliament. In fact, admittance to the universities was the last act of legal relief for Catholics from brutal penal laws enacted under Elizabeth I, designed to rid England of any trace of “popery.” In the wider English society of Newman’s time, Catholics were generally considered idolaters, and suspected of giving their highest allegiance to the pope instead of the British sovereign. It was in this climate that Newman, in his own restless search for truth, finally found himself unable to accept the Via Media, which he had long championed as a reasonable Anglican middle ground between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. It was while reading St. Augustine, he writes in his autobiographical Apologia, that, for him, “the theology of the Via Media was absolutely pulverized”—and, with it, his Anglicanism. There was nothing to do but the unthinkable: leave idyllic Oxford, and in that leaving, lose the fragrant meadow-walks at dawn, the esteem of the public, the prestige of his position, the affection of his friends, the regard of his family. Newman withdrew to Littlemore, an impoverished village three miles from Oxford, to a modest converted stagecoach station with no expansive meadows or gothic chapels, and no wide space between his little prayer room and the bustling inn across the way. It was there he was received into the Catholic Church. From Littlemore one can see, in the distance, the spires of Oxford. How it must have made his heart ache to see them. He well knew that until his death, he would be in a kind of exile from all the comforts and habits of his pleasant and congenial former life. His conversion to Catholicism was nothing short of a personal cataclysm, a white martyrdom. In my pilgrimage through England I was inspired by the lives of Catholic spiritual giants like St. Thomas More, a monument of integrity, and St. Edmund Campion, a tower of courage. I stood in awe and wondered, like all the faithful do when contemplating the lives of martyrs, if I could possibly stand the test of faith in similar extreme circumstances. But I was no less affected by the quiet renunciation of St. John Henry Newman and his retreat to Littlemore. Do I stand ready to quit the pretty places and comfortable settings of my life? Am I prepared to lose the esteem of others? We must hold the comforts of our lives lightly. And we certainly can’t let them hold us. We are meant to seek truth, and when we find it, follow it wherever it leads. Grazie Pozo Christie is a senior fellow for The Catholic Association. https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2023/10/when-newman-left-oxford__________________________________________________________ 2. The withering of the family, Basic unit of human relationships is worth saving, By The Washington Times, October 3, 2023, Editorial Those closest of blood ties are meant to inscribe indelible lines in the book of every family’s life, but seldom have people been more inclined to write themselves out of their familial story. With jarring social trends designed to scatter their households in different directions, Americans can do no better than to shield their families from those withering forces. A Pew Research Center survey last month lays bare the “shifting social norms” that leave many Americans pessimistic about the condition of the family. Asked to peer into the future, 40% express pessimism about the institution of marriage and the family. And 29% are lukewarm — neither pessimistic nor optimistic. Only 26% say they’re optimistic.  Sadly, the United States is creeping along the path of inhumane movements that believe destroying the family — the fundamental unit of human relationships since time immemorial — is the key to enacting radical social upheaval.  Undergirding American culture has been a religious belief that each individual is made in the image of the Creator. Marriage, which allows man and woman to participate in an act of creation with the birth of a child, has no equal in filling life with dignity and purpose. Today’s Americans should guard the door against invasive forces that contribute to the withering of familial relationships, imperfect though they may be. There is no downside to upholding the family. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2023/oct/2/editorial-withering-of-family/__________________________________________________________ 3. Armenia and Israel, the Middle East’s last Judeo-Christian nations, On opposite ends of the geopolitical playing field, By Sam Brownback, The Washington Times, October 3, 2023, Opinion Many American Christians have probably never heard of the small nation of Armenia, but this country of 3 million people holds tremendous spiritual significance for the global church. In A.D. 301, Armenia became the first nation to embrace Christianity (even before the Roman Empire). The gospel was originally brought to the Armenian people by the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew in the first century. In addition, Mount Ararat, the focal point of Armenian culture and spirituality, is the place where Noah’s Ark landed after the flood in Genesis. Apart from Israel, it is probably the most biblically significant nation in the world.  The sad reality is that the region’s only two Judeo-Christian nations have developed a horrible relationship, driven by the need to survive in a region dominated by hostile Muslim states. But there is hope. Because of the two nations’ shared values and history, the gap can be overcome given the proper security structure in the region. If Armenia had the security backing of the world’s greatest power, the United States, it could begin to wean itself off its dependence on Iran. Similarly, the United States is the only nation influential enough to persuade Israel to lessen its dependence on Azerbaijan. It is a tragedy to see these two nations, sister nations, divided and torn apart by the existential threats of the region. The United States is the only nation capable of uniting the Middle East’s last two democratic Judeo-Christian nations. Former Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, is a former U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom and co-chair of the IRF Summit. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2023/oct/2/armenia-and-israel-middle-easts-last-judeo-christi/__________________________________________________________ 4. Pope suggests blessings for same-sex unions possible in response to 5 conservative cardinals, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, October 2, 2023, 3:59 PM Pope Francis has suggested there could be ways to bless same-sex unions, responding to five conservative cardinals who challenged him to affirm church teaching on homosexuality ahead of a big meeting where LGBTQ+ Catholics are on the agenda. The Vatican on Monday published a letter Francis wrote to the cardinals on July 11 after receiving a list of five questions, or “dubia,” from them a day earlier. In it, Francis suggests that such blessings could be studied if they didn’t confuse the blessing with sacramental marriage.  Francis’ response to the cardinals, however, marks a reversal from the Vatican’s current official position. In an explanatory note in 2021, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said flat-out that the church couldn’t bless gay unions because “God cannot bless sin.” In his new letter, Francis reiterated that matrimony is a union between a man and a woman. But responding to the cardinals’ question about homosexual unions and blessings, he said “pastoral charity” requires patience and understanding and that regardless, priests cannot become judges “who only deny, reject and exclude.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/10/02/vatican-conservatives-synod-lgbtq/28fc5f04-60ea-11ee-b406-3ea724995806_story.html__________________________________________________________ 5. Clergy abuse survivors propose new ‘zero tolerance’ law following outcry over Vatican appointment, By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, October 2, 2023, 10:48 AM Clergy sexual abuse survivors on Monday unveiled a proposed new church law calling for the permanent removal of abusive priests and superiors who covered for them, as they stepped up their outrage over Pope Francis’ choice to head the Vatican office that investigates sex crimes.  Specifically, the survivors have expressed astonishment at Francis’ nomination of an old friend and theologian, Cardinal Victor Fernandez, to take over as prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, given Fernandez’s record handling cases as bishop in his native Argentina.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/10/02/vatican-abuse-pope-fernandez-clergy-bishop-argentina/b68123f8-6132-11ee-b406-3ea724995806_story.html__________________________________________________________

TCA Media Monitoring provides a snapshot from national newspapers and major Catholic press outlets of coverage regarding significant Catholic Church news and current issues with which the Catholic Church is traditionally or prominently engaged. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Association.
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