Expert shares relevance of saint’s writings to understanding truth today


Photo by: Rachael Alexander

A visiting professor shared with students and faculty how the writings of Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Henry Newman are important to modern Christians at the academic lecture Friday afternoon in the Gentile Gallery. 

Donald Graham, professor of systemic and pastoral theology at St. Augustine Seminary in Toronto, Ontariocompared Newman and Benedict, saying that although Benedict may not be a Newman specialist, he was influenced greatly by the life and thought of Newman. 

“Though Ratzinger rarely develops an argument by detailed … (explanation) of Newman’s writings,” said Graham, he employs Newman’s insights to address contemporary concerns in ways that reveal that he knows the Englishman’s mind better than any specialists. 

Benedict used the writings of Newman to form his own relationship with the Church, Graham said.  

His own wide-ranging references to 15 different works of Newman’s … all in the same year,” he said, lead one to suggest that intimate knowledge and personal consultation of Newman’s writings were at work rather than any sort of cursory … (plagiarism).” 

“While Ratzinger lists other great minds to whom he is indebted, no one else is mentioned like Newman as ‘always present to us,’” Graham said.  

Graham said that the doctrine of conscience laid out by Newman was of particular influence on Benedict. It came from personal friendship between the two men.  

“Unlike those who distort Newman’s ideas of the development of doctrine to accommodate their trimming of real truths … so that the true becomes whatever serves progress,” Graham said, “(Benedict) speaks oppositely of the oneness of truth in the multiplicity of its historical manifestations.”  

The truth which Benedict preached, built on the inspiration of Newman, can be seen as an example for Christians today, Graham said. 

“His insistence upon the oneness of truth,” said Graham, is timely considering how, inside and outside the Church today, we are deluged by highly problematic pronouncements of ‘your truth and my truth’ as opposed to the oneness of truth which savors of the soil in which it is sprouted.” 

Elizabeth Williams, a freshman, said the talk was enlightening. 

“I was able to get a different perspective on conscience and truth through the writings of Pope Benedict and John Henry Newman,” she said.