FAITH Magazine July-August 2010
Newman was not ultra-montane. Nor did he believe that Church and Papal authority was a stick with which to beat people about the head - see our Truth Will Set You Free (TF) column. In this regard he was very like Pope Benedict in his recent, balanced appeal to Portuguese culture-formers to pull back from the anti-family precipice towards which, in fulfilment of Newman's prophecies (see our editorial), they are speeding (see Road from Regensburg, RR, last entry). But Benedict also follows Newman in recognising that divine revelation given through the Church in clear-cut words, though not without the obvious need of interpretation, is the most fundamental need of man and characteristic of true religion (see RR, 1st entry, editorial and TF). Thus, as Fr Tolhurst brings out in this issue,Newman could write in his most influential work of theology "The supremacy of conscience is the essence of natural religion; the supremacy of the Apostle, or Pope, or Church, or Bishop is the essence of revealed religion." It is this supreme capacity and vocation of words which has been so thoroughly undermined in post-enlightenment culture, seeping relentlessly, it seems, into the Church.
Kenneth Kavanagh suggests an example of the latter phenomenon in his letter in this issue, whilst other letters deepen the theme. In the light of Mgr Joao Cla Dias's survey of the morality of pagan culture Mr Kavanagh's survey of recent decades raises the spectre of a return to hedonistic libertarianism. Humanae Vitae predicted this. The relentless protest against the encyclical is an example of the dangerous nature of "wild, living intellect" which, as our editorial shows, Newman prophesied would build a radically new and aggressively agnostic society, an important contemporary dimension of which William Oddie meditates upon in this issue. For many years we have been aware that this protest is, in effect, in favour of abortion, due to the discovery of the largely abortifacientnature of the version of the Pill that has become most widely used. Vicki Thorn uses some of the latest scientific discoveries to vindicate further the prophetic nature of Humanae Vitae and of the papal magisterium as affirmed by Newman (see fourth entry in TF).
As often in these pages our Cutting Edge and Letters columns highlight approaches to science and religion which we think are at the heart of the modern crisis given the fundamental role of human observation of the physical realm to human thought. Professor Ayala illustrates the very fashionable Catholic diffidence about the import of recent discoveries about the nature of the universe, whilst Clive Copus, who helpfully flags up the dominance of Ayala's school of thought at the Rome evolution conference last year, proposes the "Intelligent Design" (ID) argument that some parts of the universe point to God, and by implication that some don't do so nearly so well. In our opinion both positions, especially Ayala's, undermine the rationalityof theism because they both lend some credence to the atheistic interpretation of matter, in the ID case with regard to aspects of the physical realm. Therefore we agree with the gist of Dom Aldhelm's letter.