The Cardinal Newman Society has certainly set a new standard for unintentional irony. Let me explain how…
The mission of The Cardinal Newman Society, according to its website, “is to help renew and strengthen Catholic identity in Catholic higher education.” On the surface, that sounds fairly innocuous. But what does it mean in practice? One can get a fair idea of the Society’s concerns from their news updates: the Society regularly issues statements in which it condemns homosexuality, opposes same-sex marriage laws, opposes abortion, opposes stem-cell research, opposes the ordination of women, and opposes “vulgar” or “immoral” art and performances such as the stage-play “The Vagina Monologues” (or V-Monologues, as they prefer to call it on their website). The Society also regularly denounces and harasses academic staff at Catholic universities who are not, in their estimation, “faithful to the teaching and tradition of the Catholic Church.” This, in practice, applies to almost anybody to the left of Glenn Beck. Furthermore, The Cardinal Newman Society is also a prodigious organizer of letter-writing campaigns and petitions, opposing any outbreak of scandalous liberalism at Catholic universities. But lest you take from these examples that the activities of The Cardinal Newman Society are entirely confined to right-wing witch hunts, reactionary protests, and modern day inquisitions, then think again. The Society also produces an abundance of very positive, glowing, even obsequious news reports – all of which, however, are about the current Pope.
In 2009, The Cardinal Newman Society organized a widely reported protest against The University of Notre Dame for awarding the President of the United States with an honorary doctorate of laws. A website was set up to oppose Barack Obama’s presence at the University, citing his support of stem-cell research and the limited legality of abortion. The Society collected some 367,000 signatures, presenting them to Notre Dame President, John I. Jenkins, and urged him “to halt this travesty immediately.” The presentation went ahead as planned, with President Obama delivering the graduation speech. However, The Cardinal Newman Society got its revenge by posting out a nice certificate (or “Spiritual Bouquet”) to each of the Catholic priests who signed its petition:
And what is the unintentional irony in all this? The Cardinal Newman Society named its organization after a gay man: John Henry Cardinal Newman.
It is hardly surprising, therefore that The Cardinal Newman Society is in denial concerning the homophilia of its saintly namesake. Yet at the same time, its members have undoubtedly raised the bar for unintentional irony, and their efforts will be very hard to beat.