Cardinal Newman’s reburial illegal?
Jack Straw urged to revoke reburial license
Peter Tatchell – London – 9 September 2008

Justice Secretary, Jack Straw MP, is being urged to rescind the license granted to the Catholic Church for the exhumation and reburial of Cardinal John Henry Newman, on the grounds that it is “certainly unethical and probably illegal.”

“It is morally wrong and arguably unlawful for the Ministry of Justice to grant a reburial license that violates Newman’s instructions to his executors and that gives a non-relative third party control over his remains,” according to human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

“Newman insisted that he should be buried with the man he loved, Father Ambrose St John. The two men would be separated under Vatican plans to rebury him in Birmingham Oratory church.

“The Justice Secretary has caved in to Vatican demands and given the Catholic Church disposal rights over Newman’s body.

“It not only plans to move his remains to a church tomb, it also intends to break up his body and distribute his bones as holy relics.

“The Vatican’s bid to rebury Cardinal Newman comes ahead of him being made a saint. The Catholic hierarchy is embarrassed by Newman’s love for Father St John and the fact that they are buried together in a shared grave. It wants to rebury Newman separately, in the hope of squashing suggestions that the Cardinal might have been gay,” said Mr Tatchell.

In his letter to Jack Straw, Mr Tatchell writes:

“Could you please explain the Ministry of Justice’s justification for making a decision that goes against Cardinal Newman’s clear, unambiguous and emphatic instructions to his executors that he should be buried with Father Ambrose St John?

“Did the Ministry of Justice have full information about all Cardinal Newman’s repeated instructions to his executors when it made the decision to grant a licence for his exhumation and reburial?

“Could you please explain the Ministry of Justice’s legal and moral authority for granting a reburial license to a non-relative and non-descendant third party that is intent on violating Cardinal Newman’s explicit and repeated requests concerning his burial?

“I would respectfully request that in light of the overwhelming evidence that Cardinal Newman wished to be buried with Ambrose St John that you either revoke the licence in its entirety or amend it to stipulate that the Cardinal’s remains can only be exhumed and reburied on condition that Ambrose St John is also moved and reburied with him.

“I urge you to ensure that Cardinal Newman’s wishes are adhered to and respected.” concluded Mr Tatchell’s letter to the Justice Secretary.

For additional background about Cardinal Newman see:

Was Cardinal Newman gay?
http://www.petertatchell.net/religion/wascardinalnewmangay.htm

Violating Cardinal Newman’s wishes
http://www.petertatchell.net/religion/cardinalnewmanslove.htm

Cardinal’s body to be dismembered
http://www.petertatchell.net/religion/cardinalnewmanscorpse.htm

Further information:

Copy of Peter Tatchell’s letter to Justice Secretary, Jacks Straw MP:

4 September 2008

Dear Jack Straw

The exhumation and reburial of Cardinal Newman

I understand that in July the Ministry of Justice gave the Catholic Church a license permitting it to exhume and rebury Cardinal John Henry Newman.

Did you personally agree and approve this license? If not, which Minister did?

Could you please explain the Ministry of Justice’s justification for making a decision that goes against Cardinal Newman’s clear, unambiguous and emphatic instructions to his executors that he should be buried with Father Ambrose St John?

These instructions – and their sources – are set out in my attached Guardian article.

Did the Ministry of Justice have full information about all Cardinal Newman’s repeated instructions to his executors when it made the decision to grant a licence for his exhumation and reburial?

Could you please explain the Ministry of Justice’s legal and moral authority for granting a reburial license to a non-relative and non-descendant third party that is intent on violating Cardinal Newman’s explicit and repeated requests concerning his burial?

I would respectfully request that in light of the overwhelming evidence that Cardinal Newman wished to be buried with Ambrose St John that you either revoke the licence in its entirety or amend it to stipulate that the Cardinal’s remains can only be exhumed and reburied on condition that Ambrose St John is also moved and reburied with him.

Moreover, it would be entirely justified and reasonable for the Ministry of Justice to revoke or amend the license if it was not fully aware of all Cardinal Newman’s various instructions to his executors when it granted the license in July.

I urge you to ensure that Cardinal Newman’s wishes are adhered to and respected.

Since this matter is of some urgency, given the reburial plans, I look forward to your reply at your earliest convenience.

Yours with appreciation and best wishes,

Peter Tatchell
Human rights campaigner
OutRage!


  1. I read that the church did go ahead and try to unearth and separate him but as both Cardinal Newman and Fr Ambrose St John were buried in wooden caskets there was nothing actually in the grave that they were able to separate.




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