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NEWMAN-TATCHELL (SECOND UPDATE) Sep-4-2008 (620 words) xxxi

Newman biographer criticizes gays for objections to moving tomb

By John Thavis and Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Writing in the Vatican newspaper, a biographer of Cardinal John Henry Newman criticized what he called the "homosexual lobby" for its objections to moving the cardinal's tomb ahead of his possible beatification.

The article argued that Cardinal Newman, who is buried in the same grave but in a separate coffin above his most cherished friend, should not be presumed to have been homosexual.

In fact, the article said, Cardinal Newman considered celibacy a necessary sacrifice from a heterosexual point of view. When he wrote about the burden of celibacy, he was "naturally speaking of marriage with a woman," the article said.

"The only reason for which celibacy could be a sacrifice was that Newman, as every normal man, wanted to get married," it said.

The article, written by Father Ian Ker was published Sept. 2 in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican daily. Father Ker is the author of the definitive biography of Cardinal Newman as well as more than 20 other books about him.

The issue has caused a controversy in England, where the 19th-century cardinal is buried. Peter Tatchell of the homosexual lobby group Outrage said the exhumation of Cardinal Newman's body would be an "act of grave-robbing, sacrilege and desecration."

Tatchell has claimed repeatedly that the cardinal's 30-year friendship with Father Ambrose St. John, with whom he lived, suggests he was a celibate homosexual.

He said the exhumation was "contrary to (Cardinal) Newman's own repeatedly expressed wishes to remain buried in the same grave as the man he loved."

"Allowing the Catholic Church to override (Cardinal) Newman's explicit instructions to his executors is truly shameful," he said. "The pope does not have the right to violate the cardinal's wishes."

In an August interview with Catholic News Service, Father Ker called the claims that the cardinal was gay "absolute rubbish."

"Nowadays there is no concept of friendship. In those days they had a concept of a loving friendship we have lost today," he said.

"You no longer can say you love your friend," he said. "But in those days people spoke quite openly of their love for their friends. Is this going to get to the point when fathers no longer can say they love their daughters? It is quite horrendous the implications of this nonsense."

Permission for the exhumation was granted in early August by Britain's Ministry of Justice.

The date of the exhumation has been kept secret but is expected to be in the fall. The body will be transferred from a cemetery on the outskirts of Birmingham, England, to a marble sarcophagus in the city's oratory church, where it can be venerated more easily by pilgrims.

Father Paul Chavasse, provost of the Birmingham Oratory and postulator of Cardinal Newman's cause, said he believed that the cardinal would have accepted the will of the Vatican that his body be moved elsewhere.

"As a great man of the church and devoted to the saints himself, Cardinal Newman would have been the first to insist on obeying a request of the Holy See and the last to insist that his own personal wishes be regarded as immutable," Father Chavasse said in a statement.

Cardinal Newman's cause took a step forward in April when Vatican medical consultants ruled that an inexplicable healing in August 2001 was a result of his intercession.

The cause is now being studied by a committee of theological consultors. If they decide that the healing was a miracle it will mean that Cardinal Newman can be beatified and declared "blessed." A second miracle is needed for his cause to progress to canonization.

- - -

Caldwell reported from London.


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