Although the kindly light had long ago led John Henry Newman home by the time seminarian Joseph Ratzinger began studying his works, the future pope’s resonance with Newman’s teachings on conscience was immediate and lasting.
It was 1946 – deep within the wake of Hitler’s devastating impact upon Germany and the world. The after effects of stomping out individual conscience were everywhere to be seen. Years later, within a 1990 address marking the first centenary of Cardinal Newman’s death, Cardinal Ratzinger remembered that one Nazi leader had gone so far as to proclaim: I have no conscience. My conscience is Adolf Hitler.
Newman’s emphasis upon conscience within the Church must have therefore been a like a life raft to the budding pope. As Cardinal Ratzinger stated within this same address: So it was liberating and essential for us to know that the ‘we’ of the Church does not rest on a cancellation of conscience, but that, exactly the opposite, it can only develop from conscience.
Cardinal Ratzinger was then quick to point out that the Roman Catholic sense of individual conscience rests
upon the relationship between God and the soul – which in turn includes a “bedrock of Papal authority.” He explained that the power of Papal authority comes from revelation that enlightens the otherwise imperfect
wisdom of natural human conscience.
He then described Cardinal John Henry Newman as being a “man of conscience” – and attributed Newman’s
conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism to that. He asserted that Newman’s path of conscience was not “a way of self-sufficient subjectivity” – but rather “a way of obedience to objective truth.”
Some are saying that Pope Benedict’s beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman is politically motivated. If so, it is a politics that can hardly be separated from devotion to a mentor he has long cherished as saintly.
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Did you know…
Four days after his 81th birthday, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated mass at Yankee Stadium in New York City.
According to the NY Daily News, that same New York papal visit included an address at the United Nations, a
Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and a prayer service at a Yonkers seminary.