In her column on Tuesday, Is the Church Suppressing God’s Will?, Elizabeth Scalia took on the latest effort by the editors of the National Catholic Reporter to argue for one of what seem to be their two favorite innovations, the ordination of women (the other being the goodness of homosexual relationships). Writing in the English weekly the Catholic Herald, William Oddie takes up one particularly egregious part of their argument: their invocation of Newman in their favor.
“Either they quote him out of context or just make it up,” he writes.
In this case, I think it’s almost certainly the latter, since Newman just didn’t think what they say he did: “Blessed John Henry Newman,” according to the NCR’s “editorial staff”, “said [just where exactly?] that there are three magisteria in the church: the bishops, the theologians and the people.” This little pseudo-Newmanian gem is called in aid for an incitement to an anti-papal political campaign: “On the issue of women’s ordination, two of the three voices have been silenced, which is why the third voice must now make itself heard. We must speak up in every forum available to us: in parish council meetings, faith-sharing groups, diocesan convocations and academic seminars. We should write letters to our bishops, to the editors of our local papers and television news channels.” And so on.
Oddie goes on to explain, with useful quotations, what Newman actually thought. It is very common for Catholic liberals to invoke Newman in support a cause not within a million miles of a cause he would have supported. Oddie thinks they’re just lying, but even if one doesn’t want to accuse them of lying, they are certainly unscrupulous in the strict meaning of the term.