Letters reveal Newman loved Father Ambrose St. John
"He was my earthy light...I was his first and last," wrote Newman
London - 16 September 2010
This Sunday, Pope Benedict will make a saint of the nineteenth century English theologian, Cardinal John Henry Newman, while denying the strong evidence that Newman was gay and loved Father Ambrose St John.
The Pope's sainting of Newman will take place near Birmingham, England, on Sunday, during his current Papal tour of Britain.
"Newman and St John were mentally and spiritually in love; sharing a long-term same-sex relationship. They were inseparable. They lived together for over 30 years, like a married husband and wife," said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who has studied the evidence of Newman's homosexual orientation.
"Newman wrote in his diary about Ambrose's love for him: 'From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable.' He later added: 'As far as this world was concerned, I was his first and last,'" added Mr Tatchell.
"Newman also stated that St John had come to him as the angel Raphael came to Tobias, as Ruth to Naomi.
"Reflecting on St John's death, Newman stated: 'This is the greatest affliction I have had in my life....he was my earthly light.'
"Newman and St John were buried side-by-side in the same grave when Newman died in 1890. It was what Newman wanted. He wrote to his executors shortly before his death stating emphatically: 'I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Father Ambrose St John's grave - and I give this as my last, my imperative will.'
"It is impossible to know whether the relationship between Newman and St John involved a sexual dimension. Equally, it is impossible to be certain that it did not. There is no proof that Newman was heterosexual or that he abstained from sex. The Pope cannot substantiate these claims.
"To err on the side of caution, it is likely that both men had a gay orientation but chose to abstain from sex. Sexual abstinence does not, however, alter a person's orientation. A person can be gay and sublimate their gayness into spiritual and other non-sexual relations and pursuits.
"Ahead of making Newman a saint, the Vatican has sought to suppress knowledge of Newman's relationship with St John. Last year, against Newman's wishes, it ordered that his grave be dug up, in order to separate the two men and to turn Newman's bones into holy relics. However, the grave was empty. His remains had fully decomposed. The Vatican's heartless plans were thwarted by nature.
"This homophobic desecration of Newman's grave and the denial of Newman's gayness is entirely consistent with the Vatican's long-standing cover up of its many past and present gay priests, bishops, cardinals and popes. Pope Benedict has a well-known anti-gay agenda. He is too bigoted to concede that Newman loved a man.
"Newman was, of course, unaware that he might one day achieve sainthood. But he was mindful that the church might, after his death, seek to intervene in determining the placement of his remains. Although a modest man, he was conscious of his international status as a Cardinal and an esteemed Catholic theologian. He feared there might be attempts after he died to transfer his body to a mausoleum. That is why Newman three times added notes to his instructions to his executors which, according to the scholarship of the Christian historian Alan Bray, variously "confirm", "insist" and "command" that he be buried with St John.
"Nothing could be clearer. Newman was absolutely insistent that should be buried forever alongside the man with whom he shared his life, home and love.
"The Pope's spin doctors have gone out of their way to rubbish claims that Newman was gay. He was a cardinal and deeply devout, they say; claiming that such a person would never have a gay relationship. This is nonsense. Thousands of Catholic priests, and even some bishops and cardinals, are gay and have active same-sex relationships.
"The Catholic hierarchy denies the Newman's homosexuality in the same way that it denies the existence of thousands of gay clerics and in the same way that it has lied about sex abusing priests and has covered up their crimes against children.
"The Vatican is well known for lying and suppressing the truth. It lied, for example, in its anti-safe sex propaganda which claimed that condoms have tiny holes through which the HIV virus can pass.
"The lies and denials about Newman should be treated with the same contempt.
"Although we cannot know for certain, it is not unreasonable to believe that Cardinal Newman might have had a loving, stable, long-term same-sex relationship. The passion of his letters and writings about Ambrose suggest this possibility.
"Down the ages, lots of clergy have had gay relationships. Indeed, at least a quarter of the current Catholic priesthood is estimated to be gay. Many are in long-term gay relationships. Why should anyone be surprised by the suggestion that Cardinal Newman might have had a same-sex relationship? It would not be extraordinary. It is fairly normal in the priesthood.
"Newman was not exactly macho. His soft, gentle, effeminate demeanour is typical of what we often associate with some gay men (and some straight men too). There were allegations during his lifetime about his circle of young homosexual friends. Platonic relations and close friendships with women did not feature at all in his life," said Mr Tatchell.
Perhaps we should look to Newman's memorial stone at Birmingham Oratory for clues. It has an inscription that could be read as a posthumous coming out concerning their relationship:
"Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem" (from shadow and images into truth)
Some people say that Newman's body lying in a grave with the body of Father Ambrose reveals the truth about their love and relationship.