Doctor of the Church…. Newman?

Fr. Lombardi suggests that John Henry Newman could be made "Doctor of the Church".

Doctors of the Church must be saints and they must embody in their lives, in a significant way, something about who the Church is as teacher.

This should spark some discussion.

CNA has this.

Vatican ‘confident’ about future canonization of Newman

Doctor of the ChurchBirmingham, England, Sep 19, 2010 / 08:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to journalists less than an hour after Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s beatification, Vatican spokesman Fr. Lombardi expressed confidence in his being canonized. There is a "concrete possibility," also, that he will be made a "doctor of the Church."

The Vatican spokesman was asked if Pope Benedict had it in mind to canonize Blessed John Henry Newman considering his enthusiasm to have him beatified.

Responding frankly, he said that official procedure calls for further measures before that can happen and the Pope is "very respectful" of the rules. A papal decree verifying a second miracle has to be made for the Blessed to become a fully-fledged saint.

"But," he said, "we are confident that there will also be the canonization."

Fr. Lombardi commented that after the beatification, especially because it was presided over by the Pope himself, there will be a lot of attention and devotion to the Blessed. He thought that there would be many people who would pray for graces through Cardinal Newman’s intercession and said he was "optimistic" about the process for his canonization advancing to fulfillment.

As far as the possibility Blessed Newman being declared a "doctor of the Church," he said that on the plane on the way over to the U.K. from Rome the Pope himself used that very qualification. The Pope had made the reference on the base of the weight of Newman’s thought.

In this context, he said that the possibility would be "spontaneous" after his canonization. And, with the diffusion of the understanding of the importance of the Blessed and his work, Fr. Lombardi thought that there was "a concrete possibility that the Pope will proceed in this sense."

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Saints: Stories & Symbols. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Geoffrey says:

    What is the procedure for a canonized saint being declared a Doctor of the Church?

  2. worm says:

    I am no Newman scholar, but I have heard his names and his ideas mentioned so many times, I guess I had assumed if/when he was canonized, he would be declared a doctor of the Church.

  3. Jack Hughes says:

    well there are two miracles currently under investigation which have been attributed (by the person whose prayers were answered) to Bl. Cardinal Newman so……….. watch this space.

    This may be pride talkilng but I’m off to serve at a votive Mass of Bl. John Henry Newman right now!!

  4. Revixit says:

    How many Doctors of the Church are there at the present time?

  5. LucasC says:

    Currently, There are 33 Doctors of the Church.

  6. Prof. Basto says:


    There are 33 Doctors of the Church at present.

    The most recent proclamation of a Doctor of the Church was made in 1997 (the only such proclamation in Pope John Paul II’s Pontificate), when St. Thérèse de Lisieux was given this title.

    The 20th century saw an increase in the concession of the title, with 10 Saints proclaimed as Doctors of the Church in that century (all of them between 1920 and 1997): Pope Benedict XV made one proclamation, Pius XI four, Pius XII one, bl. John XXIII one, Paul VI two, and John Paul II one.

  7. Ed the Roman says:

    Interestingly, the visiting Msgr. at yesterday’s 0730 also predicted a Doctorate for the Blessed.

  8. Supertradmum says:

    I am not opposed to this, but I think we are still too close to his life and times to make a decision. It seems to me that most of those who have been declared such have received this title many centuries after their deaths, when the test of time has seen the use, study, and goodness of their writings.

    We all know the scope and breadth of Newman’s writings, but I think we need more time and more usage of what he wrote. I studied him as part of my doctoral thesis, and I found out that very few professors had actually studied him in great detail, or looked at his many sermons and letters. A Doctor of the Church is not merely a scholar whose writings can be recommended, but a saint whose spirituality is communicated to the whole, universal Church through his or her writings. Newman needs more publicity, as it were, and usage on a more parochial level.

    Things like this take time.

  9. stpetric says:

    I hope that the title “Blessed John Henry” takes hold, rather than “Blessed Newman”. The latter sounds to me like a character on “Seinfeld”.

  10. Gail F says:

    “Blessed John Henry”? I don’t know where you’re from, stpetric, but in this corner of the USA, John Henry was a little baby sitting on his daddy’s knee when he picked up a hammer and a little piece of steel and said, “This hammer will be the death of me!” Although the image of Cardinal Newman challenging a steam drill does have its appeal…

    I suspect that Cardinal Newman could well be a doctor of the church. I have only read a little of his writings and they have some far-ranging implications that I don’t think many have really studied. But if there is any kind of real and lasting return to the Church from England and Europe (I say lasting, because the remarkable but flowering of Catholicism in England in the late 1800s and early 1900s was shockingly short-lived), I am guessing that Cardinal Newman will have something to do with it. He came up with many new ways of understanding things that are firmly rooted in the earliest days of the Church, and these may be an untapped way to reach people whose brains seem to have been stunted when it comes to understanding sin, history, the sense of the eternal, etc.

    Either way, his being beatified in England by the Pope is amazing! I don’t think people are really appreciating how amazing it is!

  11. Jack Hughes says:

    @gail F – OH we know how wonderful it is; especially in England as we haven’t had a Beatus for 400 odd years.

    @Supertradmom – my dear I’m afraid I’m gonna have to disagree with you on that one; many converts from protestentism have appreciated Newman and I for one love his spirituality; especially as expressed in the “Dream of Geronitus”

  12. stgemma_0411 says:


    If Therese of Lisieux is a Doctor of the Church, then we are not too close to the life of Bl. John Henry Newman, to proclaim him as a Doctor as well.

  13. AnAmericanMother says:

    Well, as a convert from the Piskies, I can say that my conversion was heavily influenced by Bl. Cardinal Newman . . . in a roundabout way, after reading Charles Kingsley’s Water Babies and being quite shocked at the anti-Catholicism expressed therein (not to mention Westward Ho!), to the knock-down, drag-out controversy between Kingsley and the Cardinal (there’s your duel with the steam drill!), to Newman’s other writings.

    In other words, I’m in his corner. But there’s no need to hurry.

    When John Henry was a little baby,
    A sittin’ on his daddy’s knee,
    Said ‘the Big Bend Tunnel on the C&O Railroad
    And the hammer’s goin’ to be the death of me, Lord, Lord,
    The hammer’s goin’ to be the death of me.’

    Hadn’t thought about that one for awhile . . . used to teach folk singing at summer camp back when the hippies were young . . .

  14. Re: popularity and study

    Well, Newman got plenty of study in his day and afterward, but then he fell out of favor academically. A lot of academics and theologians continued to study him and assign him, but that didn’t mean they wrote articles about him. Also, of course his influence on writers has been huge (prose and fiction), as well as upon events and people (Catholicism in England, the Newman Clubs over here).

    I think open Newman study must have stalled for various reasons during the Seventies, probably because of people not liking his conversion or his commitment to obedience to the Pope. By the time I went to college in the late eighties, he was somebody you heard about, and that the Newman Club was named for, but you didn’t read him. Nobody talked about his influence on other writers and thinkers, either. I assumed that he was just some minor Catholic figure I didn’t need to know about, even while I was reading Chesterton and others who drew from him. (But then, earlier I’d read Lewis without even suspecting how much he drew from Chesterton. I wouldn’t have heard of Chesterton without his abiding reputation among mystery buffs.) But even when Newman was “out of favor”, he was still getting read by many of the exact people who needed to read him. Heck, Protestants at some points probably read him more than Catholics, which is a notable proof of the providence of God. :)

    Now Newman’ll be coming back with a vengeance, if the Pope gets his way. When I finally got around to reading The Development of Christian Doctrine, it was very interesting and fun (for certain values of fun, of course!), and I’ve found others of his books and sermons to be extremely moving. There’s a lot of treasure there.

    Back in 2007-8, I did a public domain audiobook of The Development of Christian Doctrine, btw. (It’s in several parts (thanks to craziness and my dilatoriness. So there’s actually two copies of Chapter 10, part 1.) If you hate it, blame me and not Newman!

  15. Actually, he could be declared a doctor of the church without being canonized. The declaration would itself be the canonization. This was done in 1931 for St. Albert the Great (beatified in 1622).

  16. JosephMary says:

    I did not know that about St. Albert!

    Iam hopeful that St. Louis de Montfort might be declared a Doctor of the Church and also another Blessed might be in the running and that would be Bl. Columba Marmion. And then my mind considers St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy.

    Yes, the Catholic Church has had so many wonderful saints and teachers.

  17. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Gail F: I think that reference to John Henry is hilarious, and you are right–better to say “Blessed Newman” from the American point of view, or no one will take the new Blessed seriously.

    Supertradmum: At the risk of getting skewered by the Teresians all around me, I don’t know that St. Therese truly made the impact upon theology and the Church as Teacher that would merit the title Doctor of the Church. But I understand how beloved she is in the realm of spiritual theology and the sons of Carmel, among whom John Paul II is to be counted.

    With Cardinal Newman, however, you have impact after impact after impact. True, he seems not to be well studied on the one hand. On the other, his ideas from the Grammar of Assent (impact on fundamental theology), the Development of Doctrine (impact on ecclesiology and dogma), and the Idea of a University (impact on Catholic epistemology and the perennial philosophy), just to name a few, are profusely and widely incorporated by most theologians who were big names in the last 100 years.

    In the documents of Vatican II, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Newman’s influence is as powerful as the influence of the Summa Theologiae of Aquinas at Trent. Whether he is declared or not, in my opinion Blessed Cardinal Newman for many years, de facto, has already been a Doctor of the Church in the practical reality of theology.

    What unfortunately happens in the case of big name theologians is that they utilize Newman without always giving him credit. But a scholar of Newman will read these theologians and know, “oh, there is another idea pulled out of Newman’s works.”

  18. Fr. Augustine: That is interesting! However, I think the procedure has changed. Still, the Roman Pontiff can do this in any way he desires.

  19. Geoffrey says:

    “I for one love his spirituality; especially as expressed in the “Dream of Geronitus…”

    Have you ever listened to the 1900 oratorio “The Dream of Gerontius”, by Sir Edward Elgar? Blessed John Henry Newman’s words, Elgar’s music… amazing!

  20. Andrew says:

    The last I heard St Louis de Montfort was being investigated by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, as to whether he could be raised to a Doctor of the Church.

    I hope this happens, because in True Devotion to Mary, he has encapsulated the correct response of a Catholic in this regard.

    One quotation. “…one makes more progress in a short time of submission and dependence on Mary than during entire years of personal initiatives, relying on oneself alone” (n. 155)

Comments are closed.