Jack Straw Blocks Cardinal Newman Information – Collusion with Catholic Church – Media Plan to Deflect Criticism – Catholic Minister Approved Vatican Request
Jack Straw blocks Cardinal Newman information
Collusion with Catholic Church
Media plan to deflect criticism
Catholic Minister approved Vatican request
London – 31 October 2008 – By Peter Tatchell
The Catholic Church put the government under sustained pressure to grant it a licence to exhume and rebury Cardinal Newman in Birmingham Oratory Church, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
This revelation comes on the eve of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor conducting a special service for Newman at Birmingham Oratory – a ceremonial first step on the road to making Newman a saint. This service will take place tomorrow, Saturday 1 November.
Newman’s casket will contain no exhumed bodily remains, as none was found when his grave was dug up last month.
“The documents show that the Ministry of Justice worked in close cooperation with the Catholic Church to deflect criticism of the reburial plans, which violated Cardinal Newman’s expressed wish to remain buried with the man he loved for over 30 years, Father Ambrose St John,” said Mr Tatchell.
“They reveal high level collusion between the government and the Catholic Church, including devising a ‘Media Plan’ to rebut criticisms.
“It is now apparent that the Ministry of Justice was initially slow and hesitant about granting the licence and delayed a decision until July this year. It took repeated emails from Peter Jennings of the Catholic Church, and reference to the concerns of the Vatican, to get ministerial authorisation.
“The licence application was approved by Catholic Justice Minister, Bridget Prentice MP, which raises conflict of interest issues. Did she show unwarranted favouritism towards the Vatican-backed request for the reburial of Newman?
“Most of the FOI documents are heavily censored, with whole pages blacked out. This suggests the Ministry of Justice has something hide.
“Nevertheless, we can see that the Catholic Church subjected the government to constant and strenuous lobbying to get its way.
“Fifty-five documents concerning legal advice have been withheld. Other documents have been suppressed by the Justice Minister under section 36 of the FOI, which concerns ‘Prejudice to effective conduct
of public affairs’. The government has declined to state the content of the suppressed documents.
“Answers to my FOI application to the Ministry of Justice took much longer than the 20-day rule. I had to make repeated reminders to get them released.
Regarding Newman’s sexuality and relationship with Ambrose St John, Mr Tatchell said:
“All the evidence from the letters and diaries suggests that Newman and St John had a passionate long-term same-sex relationship. No one can know for certain whether their relationship included sexual intimacy and affection; possibly not.
“They were mentally and spiritually in love; sharing a deep bond and intense relationship. They were inseparable; living together for over 30 years, like a married husband and wife. At Newman’s explicit request, he was buried in the same grave as St John.
“The Christian historian Alan Bray has done major research on the relationship between Newman and St John, sifting through the Cardinal’s diary, letters and notes. His findings are published in his book, The Friend (2003):
They include the following admission that Newman wrote in his diary about Ambrose’s love for him: “From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable.” He later added: “As far as this world was concerned, I was his first and last….he was my earthly light.'”
Newman stated that St John was “fair and Saxon-looking, my Angel Guardian,” who, he said, had come to him as Ruth came to Naomi and as the angel Raphael came to Tobias.
Reflecting on St John’s death in 1875, Newman compared their love to that of a married couple: “I have always thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband’s or a wife’s, but I feel it difficult to believe that anyone’s sorrow can be greater than mine….This is the greatest affliction I have had in my life.”
“There were allegations during his lifetime about his circle of young homosexual friends. Close relations with women did not feature at all in his life,” said Mr Tatchell.
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