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Monday, 6 October 2008

Dem bones, dem bones, dem gone bones

“Nature has thwarted the Vatican’s heartless plot to violate Cardinal Newman’s request to be buried with the man he loved, Father Ambrose St John,” according to the gay- and human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell (see our earlier post, “Dem bones, dem bones, dem gay bones”.

Tatchell was commenting on the revelation that Newman’s body has decomposed to nothing, leaving an empty grave and frustrating plans by the Catholic Church to dismember his body and display his bones as holy relics.

“The Vatican wanted to rebury the Cardinal’s remains in a marble tomb, separate from St John, to dampen speculation that he might have been gay.

“Newman’s and St John’s bodies have decomposed together, uniting them for ever in the same soil. They cannot now be separated, as the Catholic Church planned. Cardinal Newman’s wishes have triumphed over the Vatican’s homophobia,” says Tatchell.

Only last week, says Tatchell, the Catholic MP and Justice Minister Bridget Prentice wrote to him reiterating and justifying the government’s decision to grant an exceptional exhumation and reburial licence to the Catholic Church. She wrote:

I was aware of Cardinal Newman’s own recorded views regarding his place of burial. I took these views into consideration when deciding to grant the licence but did not consider them to be the overriding consideration in this case.

Tatchell had previously queried “whether it was appropriate for a Catholic minister to make the decision to accede to the Vatican’s request for Newman’s reburial and whether the minister’s Catholic faith may have influenced her ruling in favour of the church”.

Just a thought? Doesn’t Cardinal Newman look like Albert Steptoe?*

* For the benefit of non-British readers, Albert Steptoe is a fictional character in an old and excellent sitcom called Steptoe and Son, which was about a father-and-son rag-and-bone business. Albert, played by the late Wilfrid Brambell, was the father.

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