By Hilary White

LONDON, September 3, 2008 ( – A biographer of John Henry Cardinal Newman has refuted the claims of an English homosexualist activist that Newman was a closeted homosexual.

Fr. Ian Ker, a priest and biographer of Cardinal Newman, told the Weekend Australian yesterday that homosexualists were using Newman’s close friendship with another priest as a political ploy. “Clearly” Fr. Kerr said, Newman “did love his dear friend” but he called it “ridiculous” to claim, a century after the fact, that they were homosexuals who lived “as husband and wife.”

“There is no evidence for that whatsoever, and everything he wrote and said suggests he would have thought homosexuality was immoral, not to mention that it was illegal at the time. Theirs was a close friendship that some people are now trying to misrepresent and use for their own purposes.”

British Catholics were outraged last month and accused several major news outlets of collaborating with the homosexual movement in libelling one of the greatest Catholic intellectuals of the modern age by claiming he was a homosexual. The BBC, the Independent and the Daily Mail all carried, without significant editorial distancing, the assertions of Peter Tatchell, a notorious homosexual activist, who claimed that John Henry Cardinal Newman was in a “same-sex relationship” with his great friend Fr. Ambrose St John.

Newman, known as one of the greatest English Christian intellectuals and defenders of Christianity both as an Anglican minister and, later, as a Catholic priest, died in 1890 after decades as one of the world’s most eloquent and prolific writers and preachers on Christianity. Cardinal Newman and Fr. St John share a memorial stone and are buried side by side in the same grave in Rednal, Worcestershire.

Following a trend to appropriate well known figures of the past to further the homosexualist movement’s goals, Tatchell claimed that the Vatican was attempting to cover up Newman’s homosexuality in the process of his beatification, a step towards being declared a saint.

The Vatican’s office of the Causes of Sainthood commissioned Fr. Ker, a theologian at Oxford University and the world’s leading Newman scholar, to write an article for the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Father Ker wrote, “If wanting to be buried in the same grave as someone else indicates some kind of sexual feelings for the other person, then C. S. Lewis’s brother Warnie, who is buried in the same grave in accordance with both brothers’ wishes, must have had incestuous feelings for his brother which were mutual.”

The Church has plans, as part of the beatification process, to exhume Newman’s remains and transfer them, a process formally called “translation”, to a sarcophagus in the church of the Birmingham Oratory, the community founded by Newman. Candidates for beatification are always exhumed to allow officials to examine the body and to remove it to a place for the veneration of the faithful.

Even though he was forced to admit that the two men were unlikely to have been acting improperly, Tatchell’s assertion that they were “almost certainly gay by orientation” set off a media firestorm. He claimed that the exhumation was an act of “moral vandalism” by the “gay hating” Church, which was violating Newman’s final wishes to be buried with Fr. St John.

The Independent newspaper and later the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme, published the comments, saying that Cardinal Newman and Fr. St John had lived as “husband and wife.” The Daily Mail followed with a headline that called St John “the greatest love” of Newman’s life.

“For more than three decades, the two men were inseparable – living almost as a married couple – in what many now believe to have been a homosexual relationship,” the Mail’s Geoffrey Wansell wrote. Wansell did not include Tatchell’s name until the 12th paragraph of the story.

The Radio 4 website introduced the issue with the words, “Is the Roman Catholic Church trying to cover up the homosexuality of Cardinal John Henry Newman, now on the fast track to sainthood?”

News outlets around the world carried the story with headlines in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Bolivia, Italy, Australia, Spain, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, Mexico and France headlining Tatchell’s assertion that the Vatican was attempting to cover up Newman’s homosexuality.

After repeating Tatchell’s claims, the Independent included comments from Austen Ivereigh, former advisor to the Archbishop of Westminster, saying it “is simply wrong to read back from today’s categories into the Victorian periods when these very intense, passionate, but totally celibate relationships in Oxford and among the Anglo-Catholic community were very common.”

But before any statements became available from officials or experts on Newman, Britain’s Catholic bloggers, many of whom write under pseudonyms, expressed their outrage that Cardinal Newman’s memory was being used as a hostage in the homosexualist political agenda.

“Melancholicus”, the author of the ‘blog “Infelix Ego”, wrote, “Slander is always an evil thing, but how much more so to slander one who is dead and hence unable either to defend himself or to exact redress for the harm done to his reputation.” He charges the BBC with pro-homosexual bias, taking Tatchell’s assertion “as though it were a matter of hard fact.”