Sunday, April 17, 2011

Acclaimed Church Historian Marvin O'Connell to Discuss Cardinal Newman

Fr. Marvin O'Connell, Professor emeritus of history at the University of Notre Dame, will deliver the Archbishop Ireland Memorial Lecture at the O'Shaughnessy Educational Center Auditorium, University of St. Thomas at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 18, 2011.

Regular readers of The Progressive Catholic Voice may recall that we recently shared one of O'Connell's Catholic Bulletin columns from 1969. This particular column highlighted the belief held by John Henry Newman (1801-1890) that the consensus of the faithful is the voice of the infallible Church. Last fall, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed Newman’s beatification, a milestone on the path to sainthood.

On April 18 O'Connell will discuss the “drama surrounding Newman's elevation to the College of Cardinals” in a lecture entitled “A Red Hat For Newman.” This lecture is free and open to all, and is part of the biannual Archbishop Ireland Memorial Lecture Series sponsored by the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas.

Following is more of what O'Connell wrote in the pages of the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis about the need to consider the views of the faithful on serious issue. This particular excerpt is from his September 26, 1969 column in The Catholic Bulletin (now known as The Catholic Spirit).

. . . It was Newman's contention that if the teaching church saw it as a necessity to take account of the faithful's consensus even in a dogmatic definition, all the more should authority "really desire to know the opinion of the laity on subjects in which the laity are especially concerned." It does not seem to me that it stretches Newman's principle in the least to apply it to the birth control controversy.

Crucial to Newman's argument is the idea that the "consultation" process is designed to uncover a fact: what in fact do the people believe about this or that matter at it relates to their faith? This does not mean a vote in the sense of expressing a preference; it means rather a serious procedure aimed toward finding out what in fact the consensus of the faithful is. In Newman's words, a "definition is not made without reference to what the faithful will think of it and say of it."

To consult the faithful, then, is a very important way to discover what the teaching of the church really is. That teaching is something given by Christ, not something invented. It is perfectly true that the truths of revelation do not emerge from the body of the faithful. But it is just as true that they are not concocted by authority. The genuine Cristian tradition expresses itself in many ways: through Scripture, the ordinary magisterium of popes and bishops, the decisions of ecumenical councils, the accumulated wisdom of theologians and last – but most assuredly not least – through the living faith of the Catholic people. For the Holy Spirit is with them too.

– Excerpted from "Consider Views of Faithful on Serious Matters"
by the Rev. Marvin R. O'Connell
The Catholic Bulletin
September 26, 1969

See also the previous PCV posts:
The Consensus of the Faithful as the Voice of the Infallible Church
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission
Richard Gaillardetz on the Need to “Wrestle with the Tradition”
Church Teaching and the Individual Conscience
St. Paul-Minneapolis Catholic Archdiocese Releases New Strategic Plan: Who Was Consulted?
Communicating with Leadership
Let Our Voices Be Heard!
It’s Critical That Catholics Find Their Voice
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 1)
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 2)
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 3)
Catholicism: A Changing Church – Despite Itself
A Return to the Spirit

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