Bishop Edward Thomas O’Dwyer
CARDINAL NEWMAN AND THE ENCYCLICAL PASCENDI DOMINICI GREGIS
The following article was originally a booklet, published by Bishop Edward Thomas O’Dwyer (1842-1917) of Limerick, Ireland. He was born at Holy Cross, Co. Tipperary, and educated at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, where he was ordained in June 1867. Having served as CC in Rathkeale, Bruff, St. Patrick’s Adare, Newcastle West and St. Michael’s, he was appointed bishop in May 1886. One of the most famous Irish bishops of the late nineteenth century, Bishop O’Dwyer was also one of the most controversial. He was honored by Pope Leo XIII for his part in the Plan of Campaign for the poor Irish tenant farmers. He ended his life with approval from his people for his stand against General John Maxwell in the wake of the 1916 Easter Rising. He is buried in St. John’s Cathedral.*1
Bishop O’Dwyer wrote his text in defense of Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890), who in the wake of the rise of Modernism had wrongly been adapted by some of the Modernists as their sympathizer. Among those people who really had known Cardinal Newman, there had been no doubt, that his writings were in harmony with the traditional teaching as Catholic Church had always passed it on. The following words were made by Cardinal Henry Edward Manning (1808-1892), after the death of Newman in 1890:
We have lost our greatest witness for the Faith, and we are all poorer and lower by the loss. – – I am not come to pronounce orations or panegyrics. I would not, if I could. I could not, if I would. The memories of an affectionate friendship, as I have said, of more than sixty years, and the weight of old age put it beyond my power. – – But we cannot forget that we owe to him, among other debts, one singular achievement. No one who does not intend to be laughed at will henceforward say that the Catholic religion is fit only for weak intellects and unmanly brains. This superstition of pride is over. St. Thomas Aquinas is too far off and too little known to such talkers to make them hesitate. But the author of the Grammar of Assent may make them think twice before they so expose themselves. – – His writings are in your hands. But beyond the power of all books has been the example of his humble and unworldly life; always the same, in union with God, and in manifold charity to all who sought him. He was the centre of innumerable souls, drawn to him as Teacher, Guide, and Comforter through long years, and especially in the more than forty years of his Catholic life. To them he was a spring of light and strength from a supernatural source. A noble and beautiful life is the most convincing and persuasive of all preaching, and we have all felt its power. Our Holy Father Leo XIII knew the merits and the gifts, both natural and supernatural, which were hidden in his humility, and to the joy of all he called him to the highest dignity next to his own. The history of our land will hereafter record the name of John Henry Newman among the greatest of our people, as a confessor for the faith, a great teacher of men, a preacher of justice, of piety, and of compassion.*2
It is no exaggeration to state that the Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis is one of the most important documents that have been published by the Holy See in our time, and that its consequences will be felt throughout the whole extent of the Church, and outside her pale, in every community that professes the Christian name.
One may apply to it without irreverence the words of Simeon, positus est hic in ruinam et resurrectionem multorum in Israel (”this is set unto the ruin, and unto the resurrection of many in Israel,” Luke 2:34). This Encyclical will, I believe, act as a touchstone of faith; it has been already rejected by some unhappy men, and as time goes on, will, in all probability, be rejected by many more; they pronounce their own condemnation, but, for all who believe, it will be found, in its clear, authoritative, and magisterial statement of the unquestionable doctrine of the Church, on the great fundamental truths of all religion, the power of God unto salvation.
To multitudes of good Catholics the revelation which this Encyclical makes of the terrible lengths which professing members of the Church, and, as the Pope in sadness adds, many of them priests, have gone in the denial of the first principles of Christian belief, has come with a shock of surprise and intense pain. There was a vague feeling abroad that some Catholic writers, in their anxiety to harmonise the teaching of the Church with what is called the progress of modern science, were going somewhat too far, and were making dangerous concessions, but it was assumed that, at the same time, they held unimpaired and intact, above and beyond all controversy, the defined faith of the Holy Catholic Church.
On such questions as the precise reach of the definitions of the Councils of Trent and the Vatican on the authenticity and inspiration of the sacred Scriptures, people knew that discussions were going on, and that different schools of thought were being formed amongst Catholic theologians, but few suspected that there was a movement on foot, not for dealing, with more or less independence of thought, with particular questions on which the Church had not spoken her final and definite word, but for shifting the whole foundations of religion, and substituting for the lapis angularis which God had set in the building, some theories that have had their origin in the schools of free-thought and infidelity of the modern world.
When we are told, authoritatively, by the Pope that these men formally and explicitly deny that the very existence of God is knowable by the intellect of man, that they deny that Jesus Christ our Lord was, literally, and truly, the Son of God, we cannot help a sense of horror and indignation against the impieties which have been perpetrated, and the insidious and treacherous spirit which would hide the machinations of their authors under the profession of the Catholic faith.
If a man has come to that stage of mental blindness that he believes that he cannot know, by the light of his intellect, that there is a God at all, and if he has lost, if he ever had it, the faith of the Church in the Divinity of Christ our Lord, that man is no longer a member of the Catholic Church, and if, while he is in that frame of mind, he professes to be a Catholic, he is a cheat or a hypocrite. It requires no ecclesiastical sentence, no pronouncement of authority, no infallible definition of the Church to condemn him. He stands condemned in his own person by his own deed.
”And this is life everlasting that they know thee, the only true God, and whom thou hast sent Jesus Christ.”*3 This is the faith of the Catholic Church. All religion, natural and supernatural, rests on these truths, and no matter under what form of words, or what jugglery of thought, they are denied or questioned, the person who does so, may be what you will, but he is not a Catholic.
Before I proceed to the precise view on this great Encyclical, which I desire to submit to the readers of this Review, I wish to make one or two preliminary remarks. The first is, that I presume that I am justified in accepting, for the purpose of discussion, even against those whom the Pope condemns, the substantial accuracy of his exposition of their opinions. Prima facie, this in itself is probable. Then, during the weeks that have elapsed since the publication of the Encyclical, none of these men have come forward and said: ”These are not our views; we hold, as all Catholics hold, and as the Pope teaches, that the human intellect, by its natural powers, can know God; we do not question, God forbid, nor doubt the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ; whatever our faults or errors, we are not guilty of these things”. It was open to them to take up this position, but they have not done so. They have railed against the Pope, in every mood and tense, and practically made themselves the champions of the opinions which he condemns. Nay, more, some of them, with a temerity which has its uses, have proclaimed that the Encyclical displays the work of one unusually well versed in their literature; so I take it for granted that we may regard the statement of their doctrines which the Pope makes in the Encyclical, as just and accurate, and as representing to the faithful, truly, the changes in the doctrines of the Church which these people desire to bring about.
Another preliminary remark which I have to make is this, that we have to deal, as the Pope makes perfectly clear, not with a number of individuals, working in isolation from one another, nor with fragmentary opinions, held here and there by different persons, but with a system, complete in itself, starting from fundamental principles, and carrying them to their logical consequences in religious belief and practice. The denial of the knowledge of God, and of the Divinity of Our Lord, rests on precisely the same principles as the attempts to eviscerate the Scriptures, to deform and distort the truths of Revelation, and to pervert the whole Christian Faith. It is all one, and whoever touches it has to remember that it hangs together as a whole, and consequently is one of those cases where ”it is only the first step that costs anything.”*4
I do not propose to discuss the teaching of the Encyclical, or the errors that it condemns, in themselves. As far as they are concerned, causa finita est. Indeed, encyclical or no encyclical, this cause was ended 1900 years ago.
But I observe that some of the persons who feel the severity of the Pope’s condemnation try to shield themselves under the venerable name of Newman. They would make believe that, in his writings, they can find, if not in express terms, at least in germ and embryo, the very doctrines for which they are now condemned, and they seem to hope that, in England, the name of Newman will be more authoritative on Catholic doctrine than the teaching of the Holy See.
It is an uncatholic position, in principle, but it is as untrue to fact as it is unsound in faith. There is nothing in Newman to sustain, or extenuate, or suggest a particle of their wild and absurd theories.
2. The Firm and Solid Background of Cardinal Newman
Newman was a Catholic to the tips of his fingers. Years before he thought of entering the Holy Catholic Church, he got a firm grip, by the grace of God, of some of the first principles of Catholic faith, and he never let them go, until by the same grace, they led him into the true fold. And for us, who have been reared in that fold, and have had the blessing of living in a land where the spirit of faith, like an atmosphere, like the light of heaven, as with a robe, invests the very material world around us, it has always been a source of wonder and admiration to observe the extraordinary insight of Newman into Catholic theology, and the almost preterhuman power and grasp – at the same time, prevision and caution – with which he, a convert, dealt so fully with almost every phase of Catholic life.
Manning, in his striking funeral oration, said that by Newman’s death we had lost a great witness to the faith. In a sense it was true. But yet that witness lives. It speaks in the great works which for several generations have been a help and a consolation to many; and what I propose to do now is to set his views, and opinions, on the questions involved in the errors of the Modernists, side by side with the teaching of our Holy Father, the Pope, and then I think it will appear that, as if by prophetic vision, he foresaw the evil with which we are now confronted, and bore his witness against it.
3. The Condemnation of Modernism
I begin, then, with the root error of the Modernists which the Pope proscribes, in exposing and condemning the Agnosticism, from which they derive their philosophy of religion:
According to this teaching human reason is confined entirely within the field of phenomena, that is to say, to things that appear, and in the manner in which they appear: it has neither the right nor the power to overstep these limits. Hence it is incapable of lifting itself up to God, and of recognizing His existence, even by means of visible things. From this it is inferred that God can never be the direct object of science, and that, as regards history, He must not be considered as an historical subject.*5
Now it happens that, on almost every page of Newman’s writings, we find the clear and unmistakable refutation of this shocking error. Newman held that God is the object direedy of human science, and that this human science of God, and the first truth of all, that He exists lies at the very foundation of all religion.
For those who are familiar with his writings, it is hardly necessary to adduce evidence in support of these propositions, but, as his venerable name has been dragged down, as a cover for error, it may be as well to let him vindicate himself. At the time that the Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis came into my hands, I was engaged reading for another purpose Newman’s incomparable Discourses on the Idea of a University, and I asked myself can the men who invoke his name for their Agnosticism have read the third of these discourses, and understood its argument. There he claims, as a right, a place amongst human sciences for theology, ”insisting simply on Natural Theology,” on the grounds that it is a true science, and that its exclusion from any course of studies that pretend to deal with all human knowledge contradicts that very idea. He writes:
If we would not be beguiled by dreams, if we would ascertain facts as they are, then, granting Theology is a real science, we cannot exclude it, and still call ourselves philosophers.*6
Let us see, then, how this supercilious treatment of so momentous a science, for momentous it must be, if there be a God, runs in a somewhat parallel case.*7
Then he asks ”Now what is Theology?” and his answer ought to be clear enough, even for the Modernists. He mentions some senses in which the name is used, and proceeds:
I mean none of these things by Theology, I simply mean the Science of God, or the truths we know about God put into system; just as we have a science of the stars, and call it astronomy, or of the crust of the earth, and call it geology.*8
He then develops the idea of God, as known to Natural Theology, in those well-known pages, which I believe approach to the sublime as nearly as anything in all literature and then asks about that science:
Can we drop it out of the circle of knowledge, without allowing, either that that circle is thereby mutilated, or on the other hand, that Theology is really no science? And this dilemma is the more inevitable, because Theology is so precise and consistent in its intellectual structure.*9
And he ends this marvellous discourse with this passage:
In a word, Religious Truth is not only a portion, but a condition of general knowledge. To blot it out is nothing short, if I may so speak, of unravelling the web of University Teaching.*10
If there were no other evidence of the absolute harmony of Newman’s views with the teaching of the Pope, this discourse would be decretorial on the point. Why, if it were written as a detailed argument in defence of the Pope’s actual teaching, it could hardly be more clear and explicit.
Newman’s foundation for the philosophy of Natural Religion, and indeed of all religion, is the doctrine that God is the object, directly, of human science, and, consequently, his whole system is the very logical contradictory of that which the Modernists propound.
4. Evidence of the Existence of God
As to the proofs by which Newman would establish the truth of the proposition, God exists, it is an interesting thing to note that nowhere in his writings, at least as far as I know, does he of set purpose, and formally state, and develop them, but it is no less interesting and important that he leaves no doubt as to his conviction that the proofs were there. Another point of interest is the unquestionable fact that the proof of the existence of God, drawn from the phenomenon of Conscience, was that which had the greatest hold on him, personally, and, as he vividly expresses it, warmed him. But it would be a great mistake to suppose that he either denied or undervalued the proofs which are to be drawn for the same truth from God’s visible creation. Let me just quote a short passage from one of his sermons:
Now first consider that reason teaches you there must be a God; else how was this all-wonderful universe made? It could not make itself; man could not make it, he is but a part of it; each man has a beginning, there must have been a first man, and who made him? To the thought of God then we are forced from the nature of the case; we must admit the idea of an Almighty Creator, and that Creator must have been from everlasting.*11
And again in the same sermon:
This is what you may be tempted to say, my brethren, not without impatience, while you contemplate the Almighty, as the conscience pourtrays Him, and as reason concludes about Him, and as creation witnesses of Him.*12
And again a little further on:
Lift up your eyes, I say, and look out upon the material world, and there you will see one attribute above others on its very face which will reverse your sad meditations on Him who made it. He has traced out many of His attributes upon it, His immensity, His wisdom, His power, His loving-kindness, and His skill; but more than all, its very face is illuminated with the glory and beauty of His eternal excellence.*13
In the face of these passages, to which numbers of others to the same effect could be added, one may venture to hope that we have heard the last of the misrepresentation that Newman did not recognise the validity of these reasonings, or that there was a hair’s breadth of difference between his views and the teaching of the Catholic Church, as formulated by the Vatican Council, and now reaffirmed by our Holy Father the Pope, in his condemnation of these Modernists.
This does not make it the less true, that the argument from the phenomenon of conscience appealed to Newman with a peculiar force, and was entirely congenial to his own personal temperament and the cast of his genius. But the people, who in these days set such store by this preference, really take little by it. This proof of God’s existence tells against them quite as much as any other, and Newman’s statement of it is equal to a formal refutation of their views. They do not seem to understand that proof of any kind is an appeal to the intellect, which is the one thing which it is essential to them to invalidate; and this proof from conscience has a force peculiarly its own against them.
In the Grammar of Assent, Newman discusses this question at great length and with singular acumen, and, while avoiding any formal statement of the proof for the existence of God, attempts to show how men can give a real, as distinguished from a notional assent to the proposition, God exists.
Through the intimations of conscience he holds that this is possible, and he gives us to understand that it is through them also that he looks for the proof of the proposition considered as an inference. To those who know their Newman it is unnecessary to explain his distinction between notional and real assent, or apprehension, but for others it may be useful to transcribe the following passage:
The proposition that there is One Personal and Present God may be held in either way; either as a theological truth, or as a religious fact or reality. The notion and the reality assented to are represented by one and the same proposition, but serve as distinct interpretations of it. When the proposition is apprehended for the purposes of proof, analysis, comparison, and the like intellectual exercises, it is used as the expression of a notion; when for the purposes of devotion, it is the image of a reality. Theology, properly and directly, deals with notional apprehension; religion with imaginative.*14
Before entering on Newman’s argument, I wish to premise that its direct and immediate purpose is to show that the proposition that there is One Personal God, which the intellect can infer, admits, under the form under which the phenomenon of Conscience enables us to infer it, of being also grasped, and held by the imagination. This is most important, for it is the explanation of the highly figurative and metaphorical terms in which he works out his thesis, and the key, which some Modernists seem to have lost, to his true meaning.
In itself the argument is very simple. It starts with the assumption that men have a conscience – a faculty which yields specifically distinct feelings in presence of human actions; that these feelings include a moral sense which distinguishes right from wrong by a judgment of the reason, and moreover a moral dictate which commands some actions, and forbids others, and it is in this respect that it seems to Newman to point to the existence of God. As a dictate it commands and forbids, carries a sanction in the pain which follows its violation, and these feelings, in Newman’s opinion, carry the mind forward to some Being outside itself, which ”vaguely reaches forward to something beyond self, and dimly discerns a sanction higher than self for its decisions.”*15 In this way Newman holds that the human intellect can arrive at the knowledge of God, and can even image the thought of Him in the definite impressions which conscience makes. Whether these thoughts and beliefs are in any sense innate, or come from association and other external stimuli, he does not determine, but finds it enough for his argument, while it is fatal to the Modernists who would use him, to point out that if a very young child is ”able to handle and apply them familiarly, according to the occasion, as principles of intellectual action, those beliefs at the very least must be singularly congenial to his mind, if not connatural with its initial action.”*16
In summary, that is Newman’s argument from Conscience (1) for the proposition that there is One Personal God, and (2) that we may not only hold that proposition by a notional assent in natural theology, but, through the images which it presents to the mind, by a real assent, as an act of religion. And what is most important, the two are inseparable. The notional, abstract, scientific inference which theology draws, is the condition on which religious assent is possible. Nay more, it is a cause of it Until the intellect, contemplating the mental phenomena, which we call Conscience, infers by a process of reasoning, although not always explicitly, that there is One Personal God with attributes such as our moral sense postulates, for its explanation, there can be no assent of religion to the same truth as a reality.
The case stands thus: As to our power of distinguishing right from wrong Newman asks, where does it come from? Then the human mind not only discriminates right from wrong, as the eye discriminates between different colours, but together with the difference, recognises the further note of authority. Whence, he asks, comes its sanction? These things point to the Author of the moral law, as its ultimate source and its true sanction.
That would be the theological argument. It is parallel to the argument from causation, or rather is a part of it. As the material universe leads the human intellect to seek and to find a First Cause which is adequate to account for the facts, so the moral universe which exists in the consciences of men, points to something above and beyond itself which the intellect pronounces to be the One Personal God.
Then Newman conceives that, in this process of ratiocination, the intellect presents God to the mind in a way on which the imagination can fasten and work, for it points to Him as a Person supremely good, who approves what is right and condemns what is wrong, and thus the mind is led to recognise an external Master, in the dictate of conscience, and to image the thought of Him in the definite impressions which conscience makes.
That is Newman’s argument. Looking into his own mind a man sees, not God, not religion, but the mind’s own operations, which, by their very nature, lead him to infer the existence of their Author, and that under aspects which appeal to the imagination and minister to its functions.
5. No Contradiction Between Dogma and Living Religion
The whole process is carried on, from first to last, under the direction and control of the intellect. Its suggestions and presentations feed and sustain the imagination and feelings. Sentiment, and feeling, and all such activities of the human mind are, in themselves, blind, and may lead us in any direction, the wrong as well as the right, unless they are guided and regulated by the intellect. And in reference to this let me quote a supremely important passage which is saturated with the spirit of the Encyclical Pascendi:
Here we have the solution of the common mistake of supposing that there is a contrariety and antagonism between a dogmatic creed and vital religion. People urge that salvation consists, not in believing the propositions that there is a God, that there is a Saviour, that our Lord is God, that there is a Trinity, but in believing in God, in a Saviour, in a Sanctifier. – – They [the propositions] are useful in their dogmatic aspect as ascertaining and making clear for us the truths on which the religious imagination has to rest. Knowledge must ever precede the exercise of the affections. – – We love our parents, as our parents, when we know them to be our parents; we must know of God, before we can feel love, fear, hope, or trust towards Him. – – It seems a truism to say, yet it is all that I have been saying, that in religion the imagination and affections should always be under the control of reason. Theology may stand as a substantive science, without the life of religion; but religion cannot maintain its ground without theology.*17
Now, this is, to the letter, the doctrine laid down by the Pope in this Encyclical, not merely on an incidental error of the Modernists, but on the very foundation of their whole system. He condemns them for attempting to do what Newman maintains is impossible, namely, to found true religion on the feelings, sentiments, or whatever else they call them of men without the stimulating and guiding influence of intellectual knowledge. They reverse the process. They begin with sentiment and feeling, and in them find belief They cut off the intellect of man from its rightful place in determining his highest beliefs, and send him adrift with no objective criterion to test and control the impulses of feeling. Let us contrast the following statement of the Modernists’ position, taken from the Encyclical, with all that we have seen of Newman’s views:
Now if We proceed to consider him [a Modernist] as a believer, and seek to know how the believer, according to Modernism, is marked off from the philosopher, it must be observed that, although the philosopher recognizes the reality of the divine as the object of faith, still this reality is not to be found by him but in the heart of the believer, as an object of feeling and affirmation, and therefore confined within the sphere of phenomena; but the question as to whether in itself it exists outside that feeling and affirmation is one which the philosopher passes over and neglects.*18
If this fundamental error was allowed to stand, then all the Theology of Natural Religion should go by the board, and, with it. Revelation, of which it is the indispensable foundation, but what I want to point out now, as being directly to my immediate purpose, it would run the pen through the Grammar of Assent from first to last, and the whole philosophy of religion as expounded by Newman.
When then these Modernists, having cut the ground effectually from under their own feet, are faced by the difficulty of finding a basis for religious truth, and for the belief in the Divine reality, which they allege is unknowable, they fall back upon individual experience, and affirm that:
In the religious sense one must recognize a kind of intuition of the heart which puts man in immediate contact with the reality of God, and infuses such a persuasion of God’s existence and His action both within and without man as far to exceed any scientific conviction.*19
Here is the very antithesis of Newman; here is the supremacy of pure subjectivism, with intellect put aside as incompetent. As the Pope unanswerably points out, under such a system all religious experiences of individuals would be equally valid; the contradictions of all religions might at the same time be held to be true, and there is nothing more evidently true than Newman’s saying that on these terms religion could not maintain its ground at all. For a generation, the belief in God might survive in men who thought that they had found it in their personal experience, whereas they got it in their rearing and education, but, with one generation, that force would be spent, and men would reject with contempt a religious system which had no intellectual basis, and appealed for its credentials to a sentiment, and alleged experience which is denied at least as broadly and as confidently as it is affirmed.
Moreover, Newman’s whole argument for the truth of Natural Religion, as set forth in the Grammar of Assent, is in every line, and in its general scope a further contradiction of these Modernists’ theories. His very definition of religion reveals this fundamental opposition. He writes:
By Religion I mean the knowledge of God, of His Will, and of our duties towards Him.*20
And it is most interesting in relation to the precise question which we have in hand, and in particular in its bearing on the assertion that God cannot be the subject-matter of History, to read Newman’s views as to the channels through which by the mere powers of nature, this knowledge can be acquired by men.
And there are three main channels which Nature furnishes for our acquiring this knowledge, viz. our own minds, the voice of mankind, and the course of the world, that is, of human life and human affairs.*21
According to these Modernists, nature has not supplied us with any channel by which we can acquire that knowledge, for the simple reason that God, Who is supposed to be its object, is unknowable. Whatever they mean by the belief in the Divine reality, of which they say that we have an immediate sense, or experience, it has nothing in common with Newman’s knowledge of the same, and could never be gathered by human reason from things which belonged to the order of phenomena, such as the records in History of human life and affairs.
What Newman always maintained, and what the Pope now insists on, is the recognition of the truth that the human reason, by its natural powers, can raise itself up to God, and know Him, but that truth being once established, as a first principle, he does not interfere with our freedom of view on a number of questions which arise in connection with it. There have always been different schools of Catholic Theology, and it has not been customary for the Church to define scholastic questions. Different men have adopted different arguments, and different presentations of the same argument to establish the truths of Natural Religion. Newman met all its questions with his own peculiar cast of thought. His mind was extremely subtle; it took account, in religious matters, of man’s whole concrete nature, his moral and spiritual, as well as his intellectual powers, and he recognised their mutual relations, and interactions. He was more influenced in practical matters, such as those of religion, by the certitude arising from a number of converging probabilities than by a clear-cut syllogism; he recognised that there are functions of the intellect that are sure and valid, such as our perception of beauty, although their processes cannot be set forth in words. In discussing human affairs, he dwelt on the idea of antecedent probability, as well as on that of consequential evidence, and applied all these principles, and views, and prepossessions to the study of religious problems. He may have been right or wrong in these peculiarities, but the condemnations of the Encyclical Pascendi have nothing to say to them, because they have nothing in common with the theory which, in their informations as to God, would cut them all off, as being mere ”intellectualism,” and would throw us back upon the heart, whatever that may mean, for an experience, or a sentiment, which, to any one who wants things, not words, is equally enlightening.
I should hope that it is now pretty clear that, on all the great truths of Natural Religion, Newman’s position is utterly irreconcilable with that of the Modernists’ as exposed and condemned by the Pope. The opposition between him and them is not less fundamental on the questions of Revealed Religion, into which they bring their root error that man’s intellect cannot know God, and are driven to conclusions which are simply so many impieties. Here, again, between them and Newman, as indeed all Catholic theologians, there is an impassable chasm. It is not a difference in detail, nor in point of view, but essential and total. If the system which these Modernists propound were a true representation, even in substance, of Christianity, then Newman would not have been a Christian; nay, more, the Catholic Church would have been a gigantic deception, teaching for centuries a body of doctrine that, from the first, was false and impossible.
6. Cardinal Newman in Total Disagreement with the Modernists
For both these inferences I should hope no further proof will be required than a simple collation of what Newman held as to the principal truths of revealed religion with the statement of the Modernists’ errors which the Pope has condemned.
(1) The starting point of all religion for Newman was the doctrine that the human mind could and did, by the exercise of its intellectual faculties, know the existence of One, Personal, Infinite God, who existed in Himself from eternity, and in time created all things.
This, as we have seen, the Modernists deny as an impossibility; God according to them is unknowable in this sense.
(2) Newman held that God, thus known to man, made at various times revelations ab extra, of specific truths to be believed by men, that is, assented to, on the authority of God. Revelation on the part of God meant that communication of definite truths, e.g., the truth of the Blessed Trinity which God revealed, in the sense that He made it known as truly as. if I revealed a secret of my own mind to my fellow-man, and it was in that sense only that Newman understood the doctrine of revelation.
The Modernists deny all revelation of this kind. According to them God never communicated in this way with man. According to their principles He could not do so, because man has no faculty which would enable him to recognise that it was God who spoke to him. Hence revelation with them is something purely subjective. It is some kind of religious sense, which arises in consciousness, and grows somehow or other, as a sense or a feeling of the Divine reality. It is altogether from within; it does not follow on any intellectual assent to a proposition made known by God and to be believed on His Word.
(3) Newman held that the Christian revelation was made by Christ our Lord to His Apostles; that He, in human language, conveyed His teaching to them; that the definite body of doctrines which He thus taught to the Apostles is the total and complete Christian revelation which was then made, once for all.
The Modernists deny all this; no such thing as a full revelation was ever made in any sense; it is a thing of growth; it is going on always; between our Lord, and Mohammed, and Buddha it was only a difference of degree; and, for the matter of that, it is the same with all men.
(4) Newman held that Jesus Christ was the Second Person of the Adorable Trinity, made man; that He was consubstantial with His Father, by whom He was sent into this world to redeem mankind; that He wrought miracles as evidences of His mission, and of His claims to be recognised as the Incarnate God; that the records of His life, which are contained in the Gospels, are true and veracious history, and that we now, by a genuine and legitimate act of our intellects, can know Him to be our Lord and our God.
The Modernists deny, and that by the force of their principles, every line of this. They deny the true Divinity of our Lord; they blot out His miracles from the records, and consequently they are driven to deny that His words were the words of God, and the revelation of any truths to men.
(5) Newman held that the assent which the minds of the Apostles gave to the truths which our Lord made known to them was, simply on the grounds that it was given in reliance on His authority as God, an act of faith; and that, for all time, these are the essential conditions of Divine faith.
This, too, all goes by the board in the system of the Modernists. Faith with them, as an act, is not an assent of the mind to an external revelation. It is the growth of a religious sense. In their desperate irreligion, Christ our Lord was a man in whom the Apostles might have felt, through their religious sense, that there was something of the Divine, whatever they mean by this, but looking at Him, with their intelligence, they saw in Him a mere man, albeit a very great one.
(6) Newman held that Christ our Lord sent the Apostles into the world to teach men the precise doctrines which He had taught themselves, and invested them with the gift of infallibility, to protect them from error in the discharge of that duty. The Modernists hold that Christ, not being God, made no revelation of Divine truth to the Apostles; gave them no definite message to men; nor could He give them the gift of infallibility in teaching.
(7) Newman held, with the Apostles, fides ex auditu, that the Church as a teacher held a Divine commission; that the body of doctrine which Christ revealed to the Apostles, and which, in Catholic theology, is called the depositum fidei, was the subjectmatter of the Church’s teaching.
All of this is rejected by these Modernists; with them fides is not ex auditu; its matter is not ab extra; it grows in the heart under the influence of various stimuli.
(8) Newman means by dogma a proposition setting forth, on the authority of the Church, some doctrine as being contained in the deposit of faith, and consequently to be believed on the authority of God.
Dogma, with the Modernists, is a totally different thing, and is utterly unknown to Catholic theology. According to their subjective principles dogma grows in the individual mind, in which it is at first inchoate, then by the mind is elaborated and expressed in what they call secondary propositions, and finally, if it is approved of by the Church, becomes a dogma.
(9) Newman held with the Catholic Church, that the full revelation of the Christian faith and doctrine was made, once for all, by Christ to the Apostles; that it can never change; that the Catholic Church is semper eadem, and that the definitions of faith which are made from time to time by the infallible authority of the Church do not conflict with this truth.
On the other hand, the Modernists are driven by their principles to hold that religious truth, as being a part of human life, is subject to the processes of evolution, and change with the subject in which it resides, and the conditions of human existence.
These are profound and fundamental differences, and, if it were only necessary to vindicate Newman’s well-known and venerable name from any share or part in this mass of Modernist errors, which the Pope so truly designates a ”the synthesis of all heresies”, there would be no need of further discussion. But it has been suggested that some passages in the Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, if not intentionally pointed at Newman, at least, by implication, touch, and to some extent discredit some of the principles of his theology, and their application to the practical uses of religion. In my humble opinion there is not the smallest grounds for this suggestion, which seems to me to have come from people who would wish to create a prejudice against the Encyclical, particularly in England where Newman’s name is held in such veneration.
I have read this Encyclical, again and again, with the utmost care and attention, and during all my life long I have been a student of Newman’s writings, and it is my opinion, given, of course, under correction, that there is not a page of them, written after his conversion, which is not conceived in the full spirit of this great Encyclical.
When he wrote, he had no reason to suspect the rise of this particular attack upon the very foundations of the Christian faith, and consequendy he had no need, in choosing his language, to pay any heed to its tenets. Phrases may possibly be picked out here and there, which, taken out of their context, and their fair meaning, in sensu auctoris, may be turned to uses which he would reprobate. He notes himself a similar thing in the history of the early heretics who used to turn to the purposes of their particular error some passage or other in a Father of the Church, in a previous epoch, whose whole mind was directed against some heresy that went in the opposite direction. It is something of the same now, and therefore I think it well to examine in relation to the teaching of the Encyclical Pascendi some parts of Newman’s theological views and opinions that may lend themselves to deliberate, or unconscious, misrepresentation on the part of disputants at the present time. These I conceive to be his views (1) on the relation between the Natural and the Supernatural in religion; (2) on the evidences of Christianity, and their bearings on faith, and (3) on the question of the development of doctrine.
In the Encyclical Pascendi, the Pope rebukes Catholics who, although they reject the doctrine of Immanence,
employ it as a method of apologetics, and who do this so imprudently that they seem to admit, not merely a capacity and a suitability for the supernatural, such as has at all times been emphasized, within due limits, by Catholic apologists, but that there is in human nature a true and rigorous need for the supernatural order.*22
What the Pope here rebukes is the admission that, in human nature there is a something to which the supernatural is strictly due, by its own nature. In the system of the Modernists, this, and even more, is involved. The supernatural in man is the development, by evolution, of an original germ which is in his very nature. It is a growth, as a man’s intelligence is a development of the child’s, or as a tree is of the seed. Now what the Pope insists upon is the clear recognition, in all Catholic apologetics, that the supernatural is not germane, that is of a kind, in any sense with the natural, and that there is in human nature nothing which could claim the possession of it by any, much less by a rigorous title.
7. Cardinal Newman in Accordance with Pope St. Pius X
Now it seems to me that this doctrine governs all Newman’s views. We find it running through all his discussions in the Grammar of Assent on Natural and Revealed Religion. His whole conception of them is based on their essential difference in kind, although they are found in the same subject. He describes natural religion as that which is within the reach of man’s natural powers, and is acquired by their legitimate exercise; it is from within. On the other hand, the supernatural is from without; it is the gift of God; it is a part of the revelatio revelata, that is the message from God to man; it is an addition to the religion which we may have by nature, and it is interesting to note, that one of his reasons for disliking, but not impugning, William Paley’s (1743-1805) argument for Christianity was that it had a tendency to make men forget that supernatural religion was a boon from God.
To illustrate what I have been saying I take the following extract from one of his sermons:
There is no truth, my brethren, which Holy Church is more earnest in impressing upon us than that our salvation from first to last is the gift of God. It is true indeed that we merit eternal life by our works of obedience; but that those works are meritorious of such a reward, this takes place, not from their intrinsic worth, but from the free appointment and bountiful promise of God; and that we are able to do them at all, is the simple result of His grace. That we are justified is of His grace; that we have the dispositions for justification is of His grace. – – He holds the arbitration of our future in His hands; without an act of His will, independent of ours, we should not have been brought into the grace of the Catholic Church; and without a further act of His will, though we are now members of it, we shall not be brought on to the glory of the kingdom of Heaven. Though a soul justified can merit eternal life, yet neither can it merit to be justified, nor can it merit to remain justified to the end; not only is a state of grace the condition and the life of all merit, but grace brings us into that state of grace, and grace continues us in it; and thus, as I began by saying, our salvation from first to last is the gift of God.*23
I presume that this passage, which is typical, will be accepted as decretorial, and a demonstration that on this most important point Newman’s theology is in absolute harmony with the teaching of the Encyclical. Let me, however, quote another beautiful passage, which I shall take from the Apologia to illustrate the same idea of the essential difference between the natural and the supernatural orders:
She [that is the Catholic Church] has it in charge to rescue human nature from its misery, but not simply by restoring it on its own level, but by lifting it up to a higher level than its own. – – Such truths as these she vigorously reiterates, and pertinaciously inflicts upon mankind; as to such she observes no half-measures, no economical reserve, no delicacy or prudence. ”Ye must be born again,” is the simple, direct form of words which she uses after her Divine Master: ”your whole nature must be re-born; your passions, and your affections, and your aims, and your conscience, and your will, must all be bathed in a new element, and reconsecrated to your Maker, – and, the last not the least, your intellect.”*24
It may seem superfluous to go at such length into this point, which is elementary in Catholic theology, but it is at such points that these Modernists attack the foundations of faith, and it serves my purpose to let Newman, in his own eloquent words, exhibit the profound difference which separates him from them.
But then if the Natural and Supernatural Orders are thus as distinct from one another as the heavens are from the earth, the question arises how can they be found together in man, and covering, so to speak, much of the same ground in his activities. The Pope’s answer is simple and direct, because God in His mercy has given our nature a capacity to receive the supernatural, and has done more, by superadding a fitness, which he calls a convenientia.
This, too, is Newman’s theology to the letter. Revealed does not supersede Natural Religion; grace does not do away with nature, but purifies and raises it. This relation of the Orders to one another is well expressed in the following passage:
Christianity is simply an addition to it [Nature]; it does not supersede or contradict it; it recognizes and depends on it, and that of necessity: for how possibly can it prove its claims except by an appeal to what men have already?*25
In this system Christianity does not spring up in men from within, but has to prove its claims, and present its credentials, and although man cannot, by his mere natural powers, accept them salutariter, but needs the grace of God, neither on the other hand will they be forced on him against his will, or without the assent of his own mind. Now for the reception of these evidences, Newman holds that Natural Religion is the natural preparation; that beginning with an intellectual assent to the truth of God’s existence, and passing through the effects of that knowledge on the imagination, and feelings, man reaches Natural Religion, in which God with our duties to Him is the supreme fact. For Newman himself, that knowledge, as we have seen, originates in the very intimations of duty by conscience, and he holds that, as these intimations are more fully obeyed, not only does the knowledge of God from within become clearer, and His image more vividly reflected from the external world, but the whole man, intellect, will, and feelings comes more fully under the influence of religion; the sense of sin is borne in more oppressively upon him; the recognition of his own corruption more deeply pierces him; in a word, he finds himself in the frame of mind described by St. Paul, in chapter 6 of the Romans, of one who felt the conflict between his higher and his lower nature, in which he cries out quis liberabit? And it is Newman’s view that, if to a man so disposed, the truth of Our Lord’s Gospel were presented, he would respond to it, or rather he would have the natural preparation for responding to it, not merely by a dry assent of the intellect, but by an act of moral duty which, by God’s grace, would include intellect, and will, and heart, that is the whole man.
That is the convenientia – the aptness, or fittingness of human nature to receive the Divine gift. It recognises the moral worth of Man’s natural being, such as it is, the validity of its intellectual acts, the freedom and responsibility of its will, and the aspirations and longings of its heart. Without all these, there could be no such thing as Natural Religion at all, and it is through them that there exists, as Newman holds, and the Pope teaches, a convenientia on the part of man towards the Supernatural Order.
But with reference to all this, it may be well to add Newman’s characteristically cautious remark:
Such, then, in outline is that system of natural beliefs and sentiments, which, though true and divine, is still possible to us independently of Revelation, and is the preparation for it; though in Christians themselves it cannot really be separated from their Christianity, and never is possessed in its higher forms in any people without some portion of those inward aids which Christianity imparts to us, and those endemic traditions which have their first origin in a paradisiacal illumination.*26
(2) In this Modernist system, the main error from which, as from a root, all its ramifications spring, is the denial of its due place in religion to the intellect of man. In presence of the developments of modern science, a number of persons have lost faith in the power of Christianity to justify its claims to the reason, and the intellect, and they seem to imagine that by surrendering the traditional ground of Catholic apologetics, they can escape the attacks of science, and retain their religion in security in the region of mere sentiment. In a sense they are right. You cannot defeat a man in argument who denies the appeal to reason. Religion, in that position, is out of the reach of attack. Those who entrench themselves there, are as safe from the assaults of the human intellect as the late Mr. John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907) of Chicago, or the various sects that since the Reformation have subsisted, for longer or shorter periods, on the sustainment of merely subjective feelings. But to suggest to Catholics to save themselves from the advance of scientific criticism, by such a surrender, is pretty much like asking a man to commit suicide in order to save his life.
In the Encyclical Pascendi the Pope exposes, from its very roots, this fundamental error as to the nature and origin of religion in man. I quote the following rather long passage, as it is important that people should know distinctly the far-reaching, and fatal character of the attack on Christianity with which we have to deal:
It [the explanation of religion] must, therefore, be looked for in man; and since religion is a form of life, the explanation must certainly be found in the life of man. In this way is formulated the principle of religious immanence. Moreover, the first actuation, so to speak, of every vital phenomenon – and religion, as noted above, belongs to this category – is due to a certain need or impulsion; but speaking more particularly of life, it has its origin in a movement of the heart, which movement is called a sense [sensus]. Therefore, as God is the object of religion, we must conclude that faith, which is the basis and foundation of all religion, must consist in a certain interior sense, originating in a need of the divine. This need of the divine, which is experienced only in special and favorable circumstances. cannot of itself appertain to the domain of consciousness, but is first latent beneath consciousness, or, to borrow a term from modern philosophy, in the subconsciousness, where also its root lies hidden and undetected.
It may perhaps be asked how it is that this need of the divine which man experiences within himself resolves itself into religion? To this question the Modernist reply would be as follows: Science and history are confined within two boundaries, the one external, namely, the visible world, the other internal, which is consciousness. When one or other of these limits has been reached, there can be no further progress, for beyond is the unknowable. In presence of this unknowable, whether it is outside man and beyond the visible world of nature, or lies hidden within the subconsciousness, the need of the divine in a soul which is prone to religion excites – according to the principles of Fideism, without any previous advertence of the mind – a certain special sense, and this sense possesses, implied within itself both as its own object and as its intrinsic cause, the divine reality itself, and in a way unites man with God. It is this sense to which Modernists give the name of faith, and this is what they hold to be the beginning of religion.*27
This is the stuff which the Pope so justly styles their ravings rather than their philosophising, and I wonder if any man in Europe could be got to say that he found it, or any semblance of it, in Newman.
The important words in the above quotation, in relation to the precise point which I wish to discuss, that is, as to Newman’s views on the Christian evidences and their relation to faith, are ”with no antecedent judgment of the mind.” With that judgment eliminated nothing remains but sense, feeling, sensus. If on the other hand, faith is, in Newman’s view, and, as all Catholic theology teaches, an act of the human intellect, which follows on a judgment of the mind, based on evidence that what is proposed to be believed is true, because it has been revealed by God, then here again a wide gulf separates him from these Modernists. As to the fact that Newman held that Christianity made its claim on the acceptance of men by an appeal to their intellects, and by the presentation of evidence that it was what it claimed to be, it is written broadly over all his works. You find no discussions in him of the ”unknowable,” nor of what goes on in the hidden recesses of ”subconsciousness,” nor of faith as ”a sentiment,” but intelligible argument, carried on under the same rules of reasoning, and common-sense as govern our dealings with all other branches of human knowledge. He writes:
In consequence, the exhibition of credentials, that is, of evidence, that it is what it professes to be, is essential to Christianity, as it comes to us. – – Be it [Christianity] ever so miraculous, it cannot dispense with nature; this would be to cut the ground from under it; for what would be the worth of evidences in favor of a revelation which denied the authority of that system of thought, and those methods of reasoning, out of which those evidences necessarily grew?*28
It is unnecessary to multiply quotations. The simple fact that he recognised the necessity of evidence at all, settles the whole question, because evidence of its nature is an appeal to the intellect. And, if we wish to get at Newman’s inmost mind on this point, we have only to read his account of the last stages of his own conversion to the Catholic Church. It would be easy to quote passage after passage from his writings to illustrate this, but what piecing of the kind can approach the following revelation of his thoughts and their progress:
On the one hand I came gradually to see that the Anglican Church was formally in the wrong, on the other that the Church of Rome was formally in the right; then, that no valid reasons could be assigned for continuing in the Anglican, and again that no valid objections could be taken to joining the Roman. Then, I had nothing more to learn; what still remained for my conversion, was, not further change of opinion, but to change opinion itself into the clearness and firmness of intellectual conviction.*29
Surely these Modernists may well sneer at Newman as an ”intellectualist”.
8. Faith Grows from Understanding
Years after his conversion he used for the guidance of others the principle which he had found serviceable for himself, namely, that conviction, intellectual conviction, must precede an act of faith in the Catholic Church and her teaching. What can be clearer than the following:
And now, my brethren, who are not Catholics, perhaps you will tell me, that, if all doubt is to cease when you become Catholics, you ought to be very sure that the Church is from God before you join it. You speak truly; no one should enter the Church without a firm purpose of taking her word in all matters of doctrine and morals, and that, on the ground of her coming directly from the God of Truth. – – Be convinced in your reason that the Catholic Church is a teacher sent to you from God, and it is enough. I do not wish you to join her, till you are. If you are half convinced, pray for a full conviction, and wait till you have it.*30
But while every one who knows Newman must know that all this action of the human intellect in the reception of faith, runs through the very web and woof of his theology, yet some persons whose minds lean to these Modernist irrationalities, if I may use the word, give the go-by to all that is fundamental, and fasten on accidental details as to the particular kind of evidence which Newman felt most available for himself, and relied on for others. But they forget that to require evidence at all, as a necessary precedent to an act of faith, is the central position. Whether that evidence is of one kind or another, is entirely unessential; and what the Pope now insists on, and what Newman always held, is that a judgment of the mind, based on sufficient evidence that God has spoken, is essential to an act of faith.
But even as to the nature of the evidence which is available for Christianity, there is the same irreconcilable difference between Newman and the Modernists. One of their favourite points is to deny the evidential character of the Christian miracles, yet, on this issue, nothing can be more clearly defined than the identity of Newman’s views with the traditional teaching of the Church. He wrote his Essay on Miracles while he was yet a Protestant, but the only change in his views which followed on his conversion was as to the authenticity of ecclesiastical miracles. But up to his death he maintained that miracles had been wrought by God as evidence of the truth of His revelation. As he wrote:
Catholics believe that miracles happen in any age of the Church, though not for the same purposes, in the same number, or with the same evidence, as in Apostolic times. The Apostles wrought them in evidence of their divine mission.*31
And again he lays down unequivocally in the Grammar of Assent:
In fact, all professed revelations have been attended, in one shape or another, with the profession of miracles; and we know how direct and unequivocal are the miracles of both the Jewish Covenant and of our own.*32
But while all this had Newman’s own personal assent, and he knew that ”the fact of revelation was demonstrably true,” he preferred, as he had a perfect right to do, to choose for the purpose of argument that portion of the Christian evidences which was most congenial to his own mind, and most likely to be efficacious with others as it had been with himself. In stating the broad argument for revelation he thought it well to avoid as far as possible assuming facts, and to rely on what was ”patent and notorious”.
Thus, instead of advancing to certitude by way of demonstration, in the strict sense, he chose probability as his line, and, founding himself for this on the German Catholic theologian Eusebius Amort (1692–1775), he says:
I prefer to rely on that of an accumulation of various probabilities; but we both hold (that is, I hold with him [Amort]), that from probabilities we may construct legitimate proof, sufficient for certitude.*33
For one who would understand Newman, it is most important to keep this in mind, and to note the strictly intellectual character of the process. Then, in concrete reasoning, he relied very much on antecedent probabilities. For instance, he held that the expectation of a revelation is so congenial to Natural Religion, as to predispose a man in favour of the evidence for it; that the frame of mind which the knowledge of God, the sense of sin, the desire of forgiveness, would naturally create would, when Christianity came, with its definite message, and its positive corroboration of everything that was good in man by nature, and its offer of remedies for his maladies, of itself, be quick to feel these several lines as so many strands of probabilities which would lead up to the certitude that it was a message from God, and, ultimately, by God’s grace to the act of faith itself. All this seems to be perfectly true. To embrace the Christian Religion is not like a mere mathematical problem, in which given the premises we cannot refuse the conclusion. Nor, on the other hand, is it a blind impulse, or a mere feeling, or sentiment, but it is a free act of the human will, based on a reasonable certitude that it is from God. The motives that lead up to that certitude, have always in the individual a large personal element, which has its roots in his whole being, his intellect, his will, his feelings; some of them can be definitely stated in words; others, that in themselves are not less cogent, are often outside the range of language, but nevertheless whencesoever they come, or whatever their nature, they must make for the individual, hic et nunc, the materials for a definite judgment of the mind and certitude that this message comes from God.
Yet while all this is supremely true, it is not less true, as Newman, almost from the beginning, saw clearly, that the act of faith, in itself, is full of mystery. It must be preceded by an intellectual conviction that that which is proposed has been revealed by God, yet that conviction does not coerce the mind, because the act of faith is free; nay more, it consists together with the essential obscurity of faith, and nevertheless the assent of faith transcends the mere argumentative value of the motives of credibility which preceded it, and belongs to the highest order of certitude. If people would keep these principles in mind when reading Newman’s writings upon faith and reason, they would see the explanation of how he seems now to exalt one, and now the other, whereas in reality he is but looking at one facet of the truth at a time.
In Newman’s view, for the first assent to the evidence for revelation, mere intellect is not enough, but it must be informed by natural religion; when, by God’s grace, the voice of the Divine Informant is recognised, reason as a critic is deposed; it can no longer pick and choose, but must simply believe, and, what he did not know when he wrote his University Sermons, ”with no aid from Anglican, and no knowledge of Catholic theologians,” it has, for its protection against imposture and abuse, the evidence that God has spoken, and this guaranteed by the infallible magisterium of the Church.
9. The Development of Doctrine
(3) With regard to the theory of the development of Christian Doctrine, two questions entirely distinct from one another have to be considered in relation to Newman: (a) is his theory admissible according to the principles of Catholic Theology, and (b) is it covered, or touched in any wise, by the condemnations of the recent Encyclical.
The first of these questions I leave on one side now, venturing merely to express, with all submission, my personal opinion, little as it is worth, that in its broad outlines it is thoroughly sound and orthodox, and most serviceable for the interpretation of the facts of the history of dogma.
As to the second, I cannot see how there can be room for doubt. Newman’s whole doctrine was not only different from that of the Modernists, but so contrary to it in essence and fundamental principle, that I cannot conceive how, by any implication, it could be involved in their condemnation. Nothing less than an explicit statement by the supreme authority of the Holy See would convince me to the contrary. I see no common ground in both systems. The word development is the only thing which they hold in common. They do not mean the same thing by Christianity, by dogma, by religion, by Church. They do not start from the same first principles, and consequently they are as separate as the poles.
Just see how the case stands. Newman starts with the revelation of the Christian faith by Christ Lord:
It is a ”Revelatio revelata;” it is a definite message from God to man distinctly conveyed by His chosen instruments, and to be received as such a message; and therefore to be positively acknowledged, embraced, and maintained as true, on the ground of its being divine, not as true on intrinsic grounds, not as probably true, or partially true, but as absolutely certain knowledge, certain in a sense in which nothing else can be certain, because it comes from Him who neither can deceive or be deceived.*34
Consequently he holds that, whatever may be the processes of development with regard to that message, they are bound to it, and become a corruption if they change it. In other words, his theory is governed by the doctrine of the deposit of faith – the great body of truths which make up the complete system, if I may use the phrase, of the Christian faith, e,g., the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption, the Sacraments, the Church; these and many other great truths would constitute, in Newman’s view, the contents of the Divine message, that is,
the whole revealed dogma as taught by the Apostles, as committed by the Apostles to the Church, and as declared by the Church to me.*35
Now the whole scope and purpose of the Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine was to show that in the Church this original revelation has been preserved, that whatever definitions have been pronounced, in the course of ages, they but declare authoritatively, what it has contained from the beginning, and, consequently, that the faith of every Catholic of the present day is identical with that of the Church from the Apostolic times. As this is important let me quote his own words:
That the increase and expansion of the Christian Creed and Ritual, and the variations which have attended the process in the case of individual writers and Churches, are the necessary attendants on any philosophy or polity which takes possession of the intellect and heart and has had any wide or extended dominion; that, from the nature of the human mind, time is necessary for the full comprehension and perfection of great ideas; and that the highest and most wonderful truths, though communicated to the world once for all by inspired teachers could not be comprehended all at once by the recipients, but, as received and transmitted by minds not inspired and through media which were human, have required only the longer time and deeper thought for their full elucidation. This may be called the theory of developments.*36
Now whether this theory be sound or not, and mind it is put forward only as a theory, and whether one is willing or not to admit implicit revelation to the extent which it postulates, it presents to the mind a well-defined view, which is based on the assumption that Christianity was revealed as a complete system, analogously to a philosophical system, with its own special doctrines, which required time for their comprehension and elucidation, but being revealed once for all in their fulness, could never admit any addition or change.
One may ask, then, what on earth has a theory such as this to do with the views of these Modernists, which the Pope condemns? They begin with no deposit of faith; they do not admit any revelation in the Catholic sense; they deny the existence of any body of objective truth, authenticated for us by Divine revelation, as the source from which faith has to draw its doctrines and the criterion by which all human speculations as to faith are to be tested. With Newman the one question to be put to every proposition which claimed to be accepted on Divine faith was, is it in the primitive revelation? Does the infallible Church so teach? But the Modernists put these questions on one side, as irrelevant, and ask instead, has this sentiment or feeling sprung up in man’s consciousness, having emerged from below its threshold, and having been elaborated by the intellect, is it, for the time being, in accordance with the dominant belief amongst the majority of the members of the Church? In a word, it is not has it been taught by Christ our Lord as true, and does it represent objective, absolute truth for all time, but has it grown, by a process of immanence, in the human mind, and has it, for the time being, the upper hand in the Church?
Surely it is an unwarrantable abuse, and deception to isolate a few conditions in one of these systems, and on the strength of a superficial, and mere verbal similarity to pretend to find them in the other. Because Newman speaks of the influence of the living thoughts and feelings of men who are the recipients of Christ’s revelation, we are not justified in identifying him with those who repudiate his whole doctrine, because they harp upon the phrase that religion is vital. Vitality is common to all things that live, religion as well as the rest; but that tells us nothing of the living things in themselves. Positive, definite, explicit truths, revealed by God to man, have a different vitality, and operate in the human mind by different processes from the sensus, sentiment, or whatever else they call it, of these latest heretics; and one clear difference, which they do not seem to realise, but which Newman saw, and all Catholics set store by, is that, in the one case, the human mind is anchored to, and secured by objective Divine truth; but, in the other, it is at the mercy of its own fluctuations; and besides that, according to Newman, development of doctrine is the work of the teaching Church, not of individuals, much less of the laity, although every member of the Church may, under her guidance, help to prepare the way for her definitions, but, on Modernist principles, individuals, good and bad, the revolting heretic, as well as the saint, Arius as well as St. Athanasius, by their own vital action, not only contribute to, but constitute the very process of development.
Having written so much about this system of Modernism, which is heading straight for Atheism, or Pantheism, as far as it is intelligible at all, I should wish to add a word about those who profess it. Of them, personally, I do not wish to entertain, much less express, one unkind thought. He that sees their hearts, with larger, other eyes than ours, will, we may hope, make allowance for the special difficulties and temptations by which they are beset. That special difficulties, of a new and peculiar character, have arisen from scientific developments in our time, no one can deny, and it is extremely probable that, in the near future, they will increase in number and intensity. But surely if there are any men on earth who can face these trials in patience and confidence, it is the members of the Church, which has the pledge and promise of infallibility for all time. This is not the first occasion on which the human mind has set difficult problems to her to solve, but what is the history in all the ages of her superhuman existence, if not the record of the fulfilment of the Divine promise? Why then should men now lose heart, and shift their ground, and despair of the ancient faith which comes to them with the strength of countless victories? ”O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?”
Then on the issues themselves, not only in their dogmatic, but in their disciplinary bearings, we hold, as Newman would say, with the Fisherman. He is our teacher, our guide, the living instrument of God’s government and direction of His Church. Surely it is as uncatholic, as it is anarchical, to set him at defiance, to answer him, in the face of the world, and under the influence, again to use a phrase of Newman’s, of ”a proud fiend” to pretend that it is a handful of persons in the Church, and not its divinely constituted Head and Chief Pastor, that are to preserve and interpret her doctrines. The Pope has gone astray, and the Modernists will bring him back. The good sheep in search of the lost shepherd is a rather grotesque presentation of the Catholic Church. It is as absurd as it is irreligious, and recalls the old line of Virgil:
Not such aid nor such defenders does the time require.
Finally, I should wish to quote one passage from Newman that seems to be singularly apposite at the present time, and to breathe not only the spirit of faith in the Church’s dogmatic teaching, but to be instinct with the humility, and obedience, and loyalty of a true member of her fold, and to be marked by the wisdom which is never far from these virtues:
And now, having thus described it, I profess my own absolute submission to its claim. I believe the whole revealed dogma as taught by the Apostles, as committed by the Apostles to the Church, and as declared by the Church to me. I receive it, as it is infallibly interpreted by the authority to whom it is thus committed, and (implicitly) as it shall be, in like manner, further interpreted by that same authority till the end of time. I submit, moreover, to the universally received traditions of the Church, in which lies the matter of those new dogmatic definitions which are from time to time made, and which in all times are the clothing and the illustration of the Catholic dogma as already defined. And I submit myself to those other decisions of the Holy See, theological or not, through the organs which it has itself appointed, which, waiving the question of their infallibility, on the lowest ground come to me with a claim to be accepted and obeyed. Also, I consider that, gradually and in the course of ages, Catholic inquiry has taken certain definite shapes, and has thrown itself into the form of a science, with a method and a phraseology of its own, under the intellectual handling of great minds, such as St. Athanasius, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas; and I feel no temptation at all to break in pieces the great legacy of thought thus committed to us for these latter days.*37
Newman, John Henry
1845 An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. London: James Toovey.
1849 Discourses Addressed to Mixed Congregations. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.
1865 History of My Religious Opinions. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green.
1870 An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. New York, NY: Catholic Publication Society.
1873 The Idea of a University. Defined and Illustrated. Third Edition. London: Basil Montagu Pickering.
Pius X, St.
1907 Pascendi Dominici gregis. On the Doctrine of the Modernists.
Purcell, Edmund Sheridan
1895 Life of Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster. Vol. II. Manning as a Catholic. London: Macmillan & Co.
*2 Purcell 1895, 749-752.
*3 John 17:3.
*4 Ce n’est que le premier pas qui coute, Voltaire.
*5 DS 3475.
*6 Newman 1873, 52.
*7 Newman 1873, 53.
*8 Newman 1873, 61.
*9 Newman 1873, 67.
*10 Newman 1873, 70.
*11 Newman 1849, 303.
*12 Newman 1849, 312.
*13 Newman 1849, 313.
*14 Newman 1870, 114-115.
*15 Newman 1870, 103.
*16 Newman 1870, 107-108.
*17 Newman 1870, 115-116.
*19 DS 3484.
*20 Newman 1870, 378.
*21 Newman 1870, 378.
*23 Newman 1849, 132-133.
*24 Newman 1865, 247-248.
*25 Newman 1870, 376-377.
*26 Newman 1870, 396-397.
*28 Newman 1870, 376-377.
*29 Newman 1865, 200.
*30 Newman 1849, 245-247.
*31 Newman 1865, 298.
*32 Newman 1870, 416.
*33 Newman 1870, 400.
*34 Newman 1870, 375-376.
*35 Newman 1865, 250-251.
*36 Newman 1845, 27.
*37 Newman 1865, 250-251.