John Cornwell’s attack on Cardinal Newman’s miraculous healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan (‘Why Newman is no saint’ The Sunday Times May 9) is seriously flawed.
Cornwell wants to show that Sullivan’s healing was not miraculous, but medically explicable because of the surgical treatment Sullivan received. To this end, Cornwell assembles experts who testify that such surgery is generally successful, and that improvements in Sullivan’s underlying condition can flow from purely natural influences. Cornwell’s arguments, however, are very misleading.
Sullivan’s healing consisted in instantaneous, complete and lasting freedom from debilitating pain and immobility, following a prayer to Cardinal Newman on August 15 2001, six days after his operation. Nothing in the expert testimonies adduced by Cornwell show that such a recovery, in such a time period, can be attributed to surgery, or natural causes in general.
Cornwell also suggests that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and Pope Benedict XVI conspired to suppress the truth about Sullivan’s healing to portray it as medically inexplicable. The suggestion is absurd. The Church’s procedures have been faithfully adhered to and everything is in the public domain.
An article appearing towards the end of this week will demonstrate in detail the failings of Cornwell’s arguments.
Cornwell makes clear that his agenda is discrediting Pope Benedict XVI and Papal teaching, to promote a ‘progressive’ view of Cardinal Newman as a ‘dissident’, above all concerning individual conscience in relation to the teaching of the Catholic Church in Faith and Morals. The Pope however is the leading authentic interpreter of Newman’s teaching on conscience, which Cornwell and other ‘progressive’ Catholics misunderstand and misrepresent.
Readers of Cornwell’s article should be aware that his attack on the Newman miracle is not only unfounded, but another attempt to recruit Newman to the factional cause of ‘liberal’ Catholicism. Newman’s doctrine of conscience, in fact his life-long contribution to Christianity as both an Anglican and a Catholic, are in opposition to the rejection of authority in Faith and Morals which ‘liberal’ Catholics are determined to promote.
The Birmingham Oratory
11 May 2010