June 20, 2010

Portsmouth Institute Conference on Newman: Fr. Richard Duffield

Justin Katz

The after-dinner speech of the Portsmouth Institute's Friday, June 11, session centered around Cardinal John Henry Newman's residence, the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, in Birmingham, England, and efforts to collect and preserve his writings. With a video about the effort, Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly introduced the Oratory's current provost, Fr. Richard Duffield, who gave the lecture.

(The remainder of Fr. Duffield's speech is available in the extended entry of this post.)

I've quite a number of one-line quotations jotted in my notes, but they're much more profound in the context of Fr. Duffield's presentation. One that stands out, though, is his description of Cardinal Newman's "prophetic stand against 'compromises of the spirit of the age": "People don't like to have the consequences of their compromises pointed out to them."

Of more thematic significance, given the threads that I've been tracing throughout the Portsmouth Institute's conference, is Fr. Duffield's suggestion that the Oratory's project allows Newman scholars to conduct their research in harmony with the environment in which the Cardinal did his work. The conference itself presents a parallel, with its religious services and evening vespers on the grounds of a school-monastery.

Indeed, it further illustrates the cohesive whole of the Catholic tradition, in which it is possible to investigate the writings of a great intellect not only within the building that he inhabited, but very nearly within the lifestyle from which he drew his experience.