Posts Tagged ‘Oxford Movement’

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman: Why Is He Important Today?

In 04 Fr. John McCloskey on 2012/09/20 at 9:11 AM

by Father John McCloskey

Newman is important today for so many reasons. It would take a very long article to number and develop them all. However, I would say that Newman’s revolutionary emphasis on the role of the layperson in the Church is his most important contribution. He abhorred clericalism and insisted on the need of a well-educated and active lay faithful, insisting that holiness and evangelization are the goals of all in the Church, and not power plays for dominance or redefining Church teaching. He was quoted in the preliminary documents in the preparation for the Second Vatican Council more than any other theologian. How did he come to these history-making insights?

Newman was a profoundly religious man by temperament. This much is quite clear from his autobiographical account. However, he did not come from a long line of clergymen, as did a goodly number of his contemporaries in the Oxford movement. During his university years he clearly felt a call to the clerical life and indeed even to celibacy, which was not all that common at that time. Yet in many other ways he was a man of the world. He drank deeply of the classics and history during his undergraduate years, formed many deep friendships, and had a keen interest in the world of music, literature, and politics. He chose the wine for his college. He played the violin, a hobby to which he returned in later life. He exercised vigorously with frighteningly long walks, enjoyed the fresh air of the sea by sailing (his close friend Hurrell Froude was to die of a chill caught as a result of one of those excursions). He was a poet, a novelist, a Latinist of the highest order. (Vatican curial officials were astonished at the level of his classical Latin in their correspondence with him. He was able to express in a paragraph what took them a page!) And he was arguably the greatest master of English prose style. All of this simply serves to emphasize that while Newman was eminently religious, he was not at all monastic.

His choice of the Birmingham Oratory as the best setting for himself and his followers to live their priesthood was predicated in part on the idea that the life of the Oratory was most suited for men from university backgrounds who chose to live their dedication more clearly in the world. Any follower of St. Philip Neri, the great Roman saint of the Baroque and the Catholic reformation, would clearly have a deep appreciation for the secular. In short, Newman was in the world, but not of it. As such, his views on the role of the laity were not simply theoretical, but based on experience and observation.

For Newman, the enemy was the world, the flesh, and the devil in its classical formulation. Certainly he waged a life-long struggle against liberalism in its religious sense, which he defined simply as religious indifferentism. Indeed he tells us at the end of his life, upon receiving the Cardinal’s hat:

And I rejoice to say; to one great mischief I have from the first opposed myself. For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! It is an error over spreading, as a snare, the whole earth. Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another…it is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion as true… 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’s call for a devout, educated Catholic laity was not set in a vacuum. He realized, in a truly prophetic way, the absolute necessity of holy lay people in the world–not only as a good in itself, but also in order not to let the world fall completely under the sway of liberalism. How at home he would feel waging the battles of the early 21st century as we approach the millennium! After all, he had clearly foreseen them all.

As Russell Shaw, a well known Washingtonian Catholic journalist put it:

Clericalism assumes that clerics not only are but are also meant to be the active, dominate elite in the Church, and laymen the passive, subservient mass. As a result, the laity is discouraged from taking seriously their responsibility for the Church’s mission, and evangelization is neglected. So are efforts to influence the structures of secular society on behalf of the values of the gospel–the evangelization of culture as it is called…Clericalism deepens the confusion about lay and clerical identity…perhaps as the most serious of all, clericalism tends to discourage laymen from cultivating a spirituality that arises above a rather low level of fervor and intensity. As the clerical mentality sees it, the serious pursuit of sanctity is the business of priests and religious. Minimalistic religious practice and legalistic morality are all that are asked of laymen and all many ask of themselves…”

As an example of his defense of the laity, in a notorious incident following the failure of Newman’s attempt to found an Oratory in Oxford as a sort of Catholic chaplaincy for the students, ultramontanists both in Rome and in England attacked Newman. He was supported in an open letter signed by 200 leading British Catholics, including all the Catholic members of Parliament, and nearly all the Catholic peers. This famed cleric was backed by a totally lay group of Catholics, whose defense reflected their appreciation for his teaching.

It was this incident that provoked the attacks of Msgr. George Talbot, an English curial official in Rome and enemy of Newman, to say in an hysterical outburst that “if a check be not placed on the laity of England they will be the rulers of the Catholic Church in England instead of the Holy See and the Episcopate…Laymen are beginning to show the cloven hoof.” Talbot then delivered his most famous lines:

What is the province of the laity? To hunt, to shoot, to entertain? These matters they understand, but to meddle with ecclesiastical matters they have no right at all…Dr. Newman is the most dangerous man in England, and you will see that he will make use of the laity against your Grace.”

Of course, Newman did not see the laity interfering in “ecclesiastical” matters, but certainly his conception of the role of the laity in the Church as well as in the world was on another level from that of Msgr. Talbot (who finished his days sadly in an insane asylum). At an earlier time, as a result of a controversy at The Rambler, Newman confronted his ordinary, Bishop Ullathorne of Birmingham. According to Newman, “[the bishop] said something like ‘Who are the laity?’ I [Newman] answered (not these words) that the Church would look foolish without them.”

Newman was not only a holy man, as now recognized officially by the Church, but also a revolutionary prophet as regards the laity. He looked backward to the primitive Christianity of the early centuries to recover a new paradigm for the 21st.

Would you like to pay him a visit? The Catholic Information Center at 15th and K Street, NW in Washington, DC has the only statue in town.

First appeared in Washington Post in the September 18, 2010 issue.  

©CatholiCity Service http://www.catholicity.com  Re-published with permission.

Videos by Fr. John McCloskey


John Henry Newman 1801-1890

In 13 History on 2011/09/29 at 1:11 AM


John Henry Newman, the most illustrious of Anglican converts was constantly quoted in the writing of the theological documents of Vatican II (a continuation of Vatican I , which Newman had attended as a Cardinal). Perhaps, in our lifetime we will see him named a Doctor of the Church.

In an attempt to lead the Anglican divines to deeper commitment to God, he sought a “Via Media” in Anglicanism (a middle point between Catholicism and extreme Protestantism) for he believed Anglicanism lay at equidistant from Catholic Rome and Calvinist Geneva.  He sought to restore the primitive Church to England.

Believing that Anglicanism stood for the Fathers, whose teachings the Book of Common Prayer handed down, Newman went to the primary sources, the Early Church Fathers.

In his APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA, he wrote: “I looked into the mirror, and saw myself an Arian.”  Suddenly the Via Media disappeared.  Shocked, Oxford’s leading divine, began his journey home to the Catholic Church. Consequently, a great religious revival know as the Oxford movement began; he was its guide, philosopher, and martyr.

As a young man, Newman was the only one in his family that really believed the doctrine of the Trinity.  He could support each verse of the Athanasian Creed with texts from Scripture, despite his mother’s being a Calvinist, the indifference of his father and the Deism and Atheism of his brothers.

In 1824 he was ordained and became the Vicar of St. Mary’s, the Oxford University’s church.  From its pulpit he delivered his famous “Parochial Sermons.” They were not controversial, and there is little in them to which Catholic theologians would object.

He and some friends lived together at Littlemore in monastic seclusion. He was the one Englishman of that era who upheld the ancient creed with a knowledge that only theologians possess, a Shakespearean force of style and a saintly fervor.

With immense dedication he composed the “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine,” in which he explained the apparent variations of Catholic Church dogma to which he formerly objected.

When Newman was received into the Church, his life, which would span almost ninety years, was divided in half: the more dramatic first half as an Anglican divine; and the second half he would spend under suspicion from one side or another, having his plans thwarted and his motives misconstrued.

In 1846, Newman was ordained.  Pope Leo XIII approved his establishing in England the Oratory of St. Philip Neri.  Eventually, he was made a Cardinal, and this unique elevation was hailed by the entire English nation and Catholics worldwide.

Three landmark items are worth noting:
1. His famous sermon, “The Second Spring” has a rare an delicate beauty. His “Dream of Gerontius” is Dante-like.
2. His becoming the Catholic apologist in a time of Agnosticism.
3. His immense correspondence, much of which is yet to be published.

See The Spirit of the Oxford Movement by Christopher Dawson in Book Corner category.

The Spirit of the Oxford Movement

In 14 Book Corner on 2011/09/29 at 1:11 AM

The Spirit of the Oxford Movement

Excerpt from book review. 

Historian Christopher Dawson’s brief overview of the OM’s first seven or eight years is masterly. It rewards repeated reading. First written a hundred years after the Oxford Movement began, THE SPIRIT OF THE OXFORD MOVEMENT was almost unique in its day for flagging three facts.

The first fact is that the driving, almost demonic, force behind the Movement was the young Richard Hurrell Froude. Froude was the most gifted person whom John Henry Newman had ever met. Froude’s unceasing nagging had the effect, over time, of removing every last one of John Henry Newman’s inherited Protestant detestation of the Papacy. Without Froude, said Dawson, one could not have predicted that Newman would become a Roman Catholic Cardinal.

The second fact which Dawson convincingly and virtually uniquely among historians sketches is the impact of Calvinist theology on the young Newman. This theology John Henry imbibed from his Low Church Evangelistic parents and later at school from one or more teachers and from his reading in church history. Till the end of his days Newman, undisputed leader of the OM, firmly embraced Catholic views first learned under Calvinist auspices: the Majesty of God, the Incarnation and Predestination of the saints. As today’s Baptists and Presbyterians become aware of Newman’s abiding albeit critical Calvinism, they may join those Anglican/Episcopalians and Roman Catholics who see in the writings of Cardinal Newman a way to stitch up shattered Christian dogmatic unity.

Thirdly, Dawson illustrates at work within the microcosm of the soul and conscience of Newman an evolution which Newman presented in THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE. There Newman argued that the one true form of orthodox Christianity, led by the Holy Spirit, will absorb all that is good in the world and cultures around it: Platonism, Aristotelianism, Protestantism, while rejecting what is untrue or harmful. Newman also believed that God gives each human person from birth the wherewithal to find Him, to transcend the limitations of his or her particular family or time in history, to respond to God’s voice echoing in conscience and to find the true religion or at least move in its direction under guidance from the Holy Spirit.


Fr. Charles Connor – Historic Catholic Converts

In 15 Audio on 2011/09/27 at 9:25 PM

Historic Catholic Converts

Host – Fr. Charles Connor, Ph.D

Fr. Charles Connor, Ph.D. brings to life historic Catholic converts with an in-depth, scholarly approach to biography. See what attracted them to Rome, who helped them over their doctrinal objections, and the price many paid for their conversion. Fr. Connor places these converts into their historical context, explaining what was going on in Christianity that made them want to become Catholic.

Please click on this link for access programshttp://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/seriessearchprog.asp?seriesID=7110&T1=Connor

Historic Catholic Converts

1.Elizabeth Bayley Seton was the first native born American saint. After the untimely death of her husband William, she befriended some Catholic neighbors. She converted to Catholicism after witnessing these friends devotion while receiving the Holy Eucharist. After converting to Catholicism, she went on to found the American Sisters of Charity and began the first Parochial school in the United States.

2.The Oxford Movement  began in the 1830ʼs and was championed by John Henry Cardinal Newman. The Movement was begun by Anglican theologians who attempted to trace the Apostolic succession from St. Peter to the existing Anglican High Church. The more they studied, the more these theologians realized that they were unable to do this. These people began to examine the Anglican faith and found that it lacked the full deposit of faith found only in the Catholic Church.

3. John Henry Cardinal Newman saw in the Oxford movement the opportunity to fight against “liberalism” in religion. This liberal thought was teaching that there was no truth, that we are not more acceptable to God by believing this or that, that our merit lies in seeking not in possessing, that belief belongs only to the intellect and not to the heart as well. As Newman studied the early church fathers he came to understand that the Catholic Church was the only church that contained the complete deposit of faith that had been passed down from Christ to the apostles and their successors.

4. Rose Hawthorne Lathrop Daughter of famous American author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop converted to Catholicism and began the “Hawthorne Dominican” sisters. Her order was the first to provide hospice care and spiritual ministry for those diagnosed with terminal cancer.

5. Cornelia Peacock Connelly After their conversion to Catholicism, Cornelia Peacock Connelly and her husband separated. While he went on to join the priesthood and then leave it and the Catholic Church, she became and remained a nun and founded the order of the Sisters of the Holy Child.

6.Ignatius Spenser and Fidelis Kent Stone Two Passionist priests.

7.Orestes Brownson and Isaac Hecker

8. Robert Benson and C.C. Martindale

9. G. K. Chesterton

10. Jacques Maritain

11. Karl Sterne

12. Converts from British and French Literature

13. Msgr. Ronald Knox

14. Dorothy Day

15. Converts of Archbishop Fulton Sheen

16. Malcolm Muggeridge

17.Edith Stein: Part I

18. Edith Stein: Part II

19. American and European Converts of Note

Please click on this link for access programshttp://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/seriessearchprog.asp?seriesID=7110&T1=Connor