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Vatican newspaper features Tony Blair's homage to Cardinal Newman

September 15, 2010

Former British prime minister Tony Blair paid homage to Cardinal John Henry Newman—and said that he should be named a doctor of the Church—in a front-page article appearing today in L’Osservatore Romano.

On the eve of the Pope’s visit to Great Britain, which will climax with Cardinal Newman’s beatification, the Vatican newspaper top placement to the piece by the former British leader, who entered the Catholic Church in 2007 shortly after he stepped down from his government leadership post.

Blair praised the “intellectual courage” of Cardinal Newman, noting that Pope Benedict XVI has the same quality. Regarding the famous 19th-century convert, Blair wrote:

While he prepared himself to formally join the Catholic Church, he wrote: "No one more than me could have a more unfavorable vision of the current status of Catholics." Surely, not the most diplomatic affirmation. But to him it didn't matter, as he would have usually done that which he saw right, however uncomfortable or unpopular.

Blair said that Cardinal Newman was responsible for popularizing the idea of “development.” While Cardinal Newman used that term in reference to doctrine, the former British leader suggested that Newman would also look favorably on projects such as his own Faith Foundation, and its support for development projects in needy countries. In the course of his article, Blair managed twice to refer to the “Millennium Development Goals.”

Blair—who has often been criticized by orthodox Catholics because of his political support for legal abortion and same-sex unions—appeared to criticize conservative Catholics at one point in his article. But he took pains to exclude Pope Benedict from that criticism:

The tendency of some religious leaders to insert a great number of differing ideas in one big package with the label of "secularism" and then consider it as something of the Left creates divisions in pluralist societies. This precludes the Church from possibilities of new developments of thought. The dialogues of the Popes with important secular thinkers are, by contrast, a very different example.


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  • Posted by: frjpharrington3912 - Sep. 17, 2010 12:03 AM ET USA

    In view of the Church's teaching of the intrinsic evil of abortion and homosexuality, Mr. Blair's support of these behaviors raises a red flag when he exhorts the Church to take more seriously the "consensus of the whole 'body of the faithful'" in matters of moral questions. That in judging these behaviors immoral the Church shows little respect for "pluralistic societies" and impedes "new developments in thinking" suggest he views the Church as a parliament and not a divine institution.

  • Posted by: Chestertonian - Sep. 15, 2010 11:25 PM ET USA

    When Blair is so wrong on the intrinsic evil of abortion, we can hardly hope he'll be persuaded to change his opinion on that issue when he's 'reinforced' by being given top billing in such a prominent publication. It's quite similar to Obama speaking at Notre Dame; the Church acting as an enabler of bad behavior, undoubtedly will later be puzzled by the confusion in the pews. A politician pontificates on religion, but will the Pontiff be given the same courtesy?