Newman (left): ”Conscience first, Pope afterwards.”
Yesterday I joined the anti-Pope protesters at Cofton Park, Birmingham. I last visited this place about thirty years ago when us Longbridge shop stewards put it to rather better use.
The anti-Pope protest was very, very tiny: little more than a dozen of us; but then( as we asked the left-footers in the course of our generally good-humoured exchanges), how many did Jesus start out with?. To be honest, I hadn’t intended to stay very long, but because we were so few in number I felt obliged to stick around. I’m glad I did. Not since the miners’ strike have I felt so comfortable on a demo: so sure I was on the right side and glad – proud – to be there. Our emphasis was on human rights – especially those of women, gays, lesbians and transgender people. We also raised the issue of the Church’s cover-up of child abuse, and the effective genocide in Africa caused by the Church’s lies about condoms. We said, and chanted, nothing that could possibly be interpreted as bigoted anti-Catholicism. We made the point that a pastoral visit (as in 1982) would be unobjectionable. But a “state” visit, subsidised by British workers at a time of cuts, is outrageous.
I knew I was on the right side here. This was despite (or maybe because of ) the fact that no-one else from the organised “left” was there. ‘Shiraz’ has already given ample coverage to the extent to which the SWP/Respect -influenced “left” has sold the pass to organised religion, betraying and misrepresenting at least one hundred and sixty years of Marxist opposition to religious superstition.
From Cofton Park, the old bigot went on to Birmingham Oratory to beatify Cardinal Newman. Newman is on record as rejecting sainthood in advance, and also being (shall we say) somewhat non-committal on the question of papal infalibility: “I shall drink – to the Pope, if you please, – still, to Conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards”, he said.
In fact, there is a delicious postscript to Newman’s story. He was virtually “married” to the Reverend Father Ambrose St. John (1815 – 24 May 1875) and when his own time came, insisted upon being buried with him. Whether the two were actually what we’d today call “gay” in a physical sense, cannot of course, be known. What is beyond doubt is that the two loved each other, and that Newman wished to be buried with his friend/companion – which he was.
But here’s a strange thing: when the whole “beatification” business started back in 2008, the left-footers decided to “transfer” Newman’s remains away from the grave he shared with Ambrose in Rednal, Birmingham. Well, they opened the grave and found…nothing. No corpse, no bones: nothing.
According to the official pamphlet I was given at the Cofton Park gig, the explanation for this is that “the coffin was wooden and the burial took place at a damp site.”
But that is not the true explanation; this is:
“On a wet October day in 2008, an assortment of priests and grave-diggers arrived at the cemetery in Rednal, armed with shovels and a mechanical digger. They planned to transfer Newman’s remains to a tomb back at his church in Birmingham. Nothing was found except the brass name-plate and a few bits of rotten wood. A solution to the mystery was discovered in the archives of the Birmingham Post. A journalist at the burial reported that, on Newman’s orders, the grave was filled with compost to hasten decomposition.”