From Fr George W. Rutler’s ‘Weekly Column’
In art, the Bible scholar Saint Jerome is often depicted as a cardinal, along with a lion that looks like a Cheshire cat because the artist had not seen a real lion. This portrayal alludes to the second-century legend of Androcles, who befriended a lion by extracting a thorn from its paw. Saint Jerome was not really ever a Cardinal. That title and office started in the seventh century as an honorific for what we would call pastors of major Roman parishes and in the eighth century devolved upon men whose assistance the pope wanted as his administrators and electors of his successor. Saint Jerome was symbolized as a cardinal because he was secretary to Pope Saint Damasus I who died in 384, and later on that position was given the rank of cardinal.
The Holy See has announced that John Henry Newman will be canonized a saint, and Josef Mindszenty will be declared Venerable in the prospect of his canonization. Both were cardinals: Newman was so honored by Pope Leo XIII, although he was not a bishop—that Holy Order having been blocked by jealous hierarchs. Mindszenty gave credence to the meaning of cardinalatial red symbolizing blood ready to be shed for the Sovereign Pontiff and the Faith of the Church, since he suffered persecution by both Nazis and Communists.
In his “Biglietto Address” thanking the Pope for such an honor, Newman said: “For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. . . Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy.” Newman was a prophet, and one hopes that soon he will also be declared a Doctor of the Church.
Mindszenty was not Newman’s intellectual peer, but his life was the most muscular testimony to doctrine. He was imprisoned and tortured by Nazis and Communists, by a logic easily understood once it is acknowledged that both Nazism and Communism are forms of atheistic socialism, vaunting the power of the collective state over individual dignity. In our times, these malignant social theories are being propounded by culturally illiterate politicians whose eccentricity still has a centric force of persuasion among those who are ignorant of the human experience. May English Newman and Hungarian Mindszenty rise up as specters against such moral malignancy.