This article is about the English cardinal. For the Bohemian-American bishop, see John Neumann.
For other people named John Newman, see John Newman (disambiguation).
"Cardinal Newman" redirects here. For schools etc. named after him, see Cardinal Newman (disambiguation).
John Henry Newman
|Cardinal Deacon of San Giorgio in Velabro|
Portrait of Newman by
|Appointed||12 May 1879|
|Term ended||11 August 1890|
|Successor||Francis Aidan Gasquet|
|Other posts||Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford; Provost of the Birmingham Oratory|
|Created Cardinal||12 May 1879|
by Pope Leo XIII
|Born||(1801-02-21)21 February 1801|
|Died||11 August 1890(1890-08-11) (aged 89)|
Edgbaston, Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
Rednal, West Midlands, England, United Kingdom
|Parents||John Newman and Jemina Fourdrinier|
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Oxford|
|Coat of arms|
|Beatified||19 September 2010|
Cofton Park, Birmingham, England
by Pope Benedict XVI
|Patronage||Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham|
|John Henry Newman|
|Faith and rationality|
Philosophy of education
|The development of doctrine|
The illative sense
John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat. (21 February 1801 – 11 August 1890) was an Anglican priest, poet and theologian, and later a Catholic cardinal, who was an important and controversial figure in the religious history of England in the 19th century. He was known nationally by the mid-1830s.
Originally an evangelicalOxford University academic and priest in the Church of England, Newman then became drawn to the high-church tradition of Anglicanism. He became known as a leader of, and an able polemicist for, the Oxford Movement, an influential and controversial grouping of Anglicans who wished to return to the Church of England many Catholic beliefs and liturgical rituals from before the English Reformation. In this the movement had some success. In 1845 Newman, joined by some but not all of his followers, officially left the Church of England and his teaching post at Oxford University and was received into the Catholic Church. He was quickly ordained as a priest and continued as an influential religious leader, based in Birmingham. In 1879, he was created a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in recognition of his services to the cause of the Catholic Church in England. He was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland which evolved into University College Dublin, today the largest university in Ireland.
Newman was also a literary figure of note: his major writings including the Tracts for the Times (1833–1841), his autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1865–1866), the Grammar of Assent (1870), and the poem The Dream of Gerontius (1865), which was set to music in 1900 by Edward Elgar. He wrote the popular hymns "Lead, Kindly Light" and "Praise to the Holiest in the Height" (taken from Gerontius).
Newman's beatification was officially proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI on 19 September 2010 during his visit to the United Kingdom. His canonisation is dependent on the documentation of additional miracles attributed to his intercession.
Early life and education
Newman was born on 21 February 1801 in the City of London, the eldest of a family of three sons and three daughters. His father, John Newman, was a banker with Ramsbottom, Newman and Company in Lombard Street. His mother, Jemima (née Fourdrinier), was descended from a notable family of Huguenot refugees in England, founded by the engraver, printer and stationer Paul Fourdrinier. Francis William Newman was a younger brother. His eldest sister, Harriet Elizabeth, married Thomas Mozley, also prominent in the Oxford Movement. The family lived in Southampton Street (now Southampton Place) in Bloomsbury and bought a country retreat in Ham, near Richmond, in the early 1800s.
At school in Ealing
At the age of seven Newman was sent to Great Ealing School conducted by George Nicholas. There George Huxley, father of Thomas Henry Huxley, taught mathematics, and the classics teacher was Walter Mayers. Newman took no part in the casual school games. He was a great reader of the novels of Walter Scott, then in course of publication, and of Robert Southey. Aged 14, he read sceptical works by Thomas Paine, David Hume and perhaps Voltaire.
At the age of 15, during his last year at school, Newman was converted, an incident of which he wrote in his Apologia that it was "more certain than that I have hands or feet". Almost at the same time (March 1816) the bank Ramsbottom, Newman and Co. crashed, though it paid its creditors and his father left to manage a brewery. Mayers, who had himself undergone a conversion in 1814, lent Newman books from the English Calvinist tradition. It was in the autumn of 1816 that Newman "fell under the influence of a definite creed" and received into his intellect "impressions of dogma, which, through God's mercy, have never been effaced or obscured". He became an evangelical Calvinist and held the typical belief that the Pope was the antichrist under the influence of the writings of Thomas Newton, as well as his reading of Joseph Milner's History of the Church of Christ. Mayers is described as a moderate, Clapham Sect Calvinist, and Newman read William Law as well as William Beveridge in devotional literature. He also read The Force of Truth by Thomas Scott.
Although to the end of his life Newman looked back on his conversion to evangelical Christianity in 1816 as the saving of his soul, he gradually shifted away from his early Calvinism. As Eamon Duffy puts it, "He came to see Evangelicalism, with its emphasis on religious feeling and on the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone, as a Trojan horse for an undogmatic religious individualism that ignored the Church's role in the transmission of revealed truth, and that must lead inexorably to subjectivism and skepticism."
Newman's name was entered at Lincoln's Inn. He was, however, sent shortly to Trinity College, Oxford, where he studied widely. Anxiety to do well in the final schools produced the opposite result; he broke down in the examination, under Thomas Vowler Short, and so graduated as a BA 'under the line' (with a lower second class honours in Classics, and having failed classification in the Mathematical Papers).
Desiring to remain in Oxford, Newman then took private pupils and read for a fellowship at Oriel, then "the acknowledged centre of Oxford intellectualism." He was elected at Oriel on 12 April 1822. Edward Bouverie Pusey was elected a fellow of the same college in 1823.
On 13 June 1824, Newman was made an Anglican deacon in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Ten days later he preached his first sermon in Holy Trinity at Over Worton, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, when on a visit to his former teacher the Reverend Walter Mayers, who had been curate there since 1823. On Trinity Sunday, 29 May 1825, he was ordained a priest in Christ Church Cathedral by the Bishop of Oxford, Edward Legge. He became, at Pusey's suggestion, curate of St Clement's Church, Oxford. Here, for two years, he was engaged in parochial work, and wrote articles on Apollonius of Tyana, Cicero, and Miracles for the Encyclopædia Metropolitana.
Richard Whately and Edward Copleston, Provost of Oriel, were leaders in the group of Oriel Noetics, a group of independently thinking dons with a strong belief in free debate. In 1825, at Whately's request, Newman became vice-principal of St Alban Hall, but he only held this post for one year. He attributed much of his "mental improvement" and partial conquest of his shyness at this time to Whately.
In 1826 Newman returned as tutor of Oriel, and the same year Richard Hurrell Froude, described by Newman as "one of the acutest, cleverest and deepest men" he ever met, was elected fellow there. The two formed a high ideal of the tutorial office as clerical and pastoral rather than secular, which led to tensions in the college. Newman assisted Whately in his popular work Elements of Logic (1826, initially for the Encyclopædia Metropolitana), and from him gained a definite idea of the Christian Church as institution: "... a Divine appointment, and as a substantive body, independent of the State, and endowed with rights, prerogatives and powers of its own".
Newman broke with Whately in 1827 on the occasion of the re-election of Robert Peel as Member of Parliament for the university: Newman opposed Peel on personal grounds. In 1827 Newman was a preacher at Whitehall.
In 1828 Newman supported and secured the election of Edward Hawkins as Provost of Oriel over John Keble. This choice, he later commented, produced the Oxford Movement with all its consequences. In the same year Newman was appointed vicar of St Mary's University Church, to which the benefice of Littlemore (to the south of the city of Oxford) was attached, and Pusey was made Regius Professor of Hebrew.
At this date, though Newman was still nominally associated with the Evangelicals, his views were gradually assuming a higher ecclesiastical tone. George Herring considers that the death of his sister Mary in January had a major impact on Newman. In the middle part of the year he worked to read the Church Fathers thoroughly.
While local secretary of the Church Missionary Society, Newman circulated an anonymous letter suggesting a method by which Anglican clergy might practically oust Nonconformists from all control of the society. This resulted in his being dismissed from the post on 8 March 1830; and three months later Newman withdrew from the Bible Society, completing his move away from the Low Church group. In 1831–1832 Newman became the "Select Preacher" before the University. In 1832 his difference with Hawkins as to the "substantially religious nature" of a college tutorship became acute and prompted his resignation.
In December 1832, Newman went with Hurrell Froude, on account of the latter's health, for a tour in Southern Europe. On board the mail steamship Hermes they visited Gibraltar, Malta, the Ionian Islands and, subsequently, Sicily, Naples and Rome, where Newman made the acquaintance of Nicholas Wiseman. In a letter home he described Rome as "the most wonderful place on Earth", but the Roman Catholic Church as "polytheistic, degrading and idolatrous".
During the course of this tour, Newman wrote most of the short poems which a year later were printed in the Lyra Apostolica. From Rome, instead of accompanying the Froudes home in April, Newman returned to Sicily alone. He fell dangerously ill with gastric or typhoid fever at Leonforte, but recovered, with the conviction that God still had work for him to do in England. Newman saw this as his third providential illness. In June 1833 he left Palermo for Marseille in an orange boat, which was becalmed in the Strait of Bonifacio. Here, Newman wrote the verses "Lead, Kindly Light" which later became popular as a hymn.
Tracts for the Times
Main article: Tracts for the Times
Newman was at home again in Oxford on 9 July 1833 and, on 14 July, Keble preached at St Mary's an assize sermon on "National Apostasy", which Newman afterwards regarded as the inauguration of the Oxford Movement. In the words of Richard William Church, it was "Keble who inspired, Froude who gave the impetus, and Newman who took up the work"; but the first organisation of it was due to Hugh James Rose, editor of the British Magazine, who has been styled "the Cambridge originator of the Oxford Movement". Rose met Oxford Movement figures on a visit to Oxford looking for magazine contributors, and it was in his rectory house at Hadleigh, Suffolk, that a meeting of High Church clergy was held over 25–26 July (Newman was not present, but Hurrell Froude, Arthur Philip Perceval, and William Palmer had gone to visit Rose), at which it was resolved to fight for "the apostolical succession and the integrity of the Prayer Book."
A few weeks later Newman started, apparently on his own initiative, the Tracts for the Times, from which the movement was subsequently named "Tractarian". Its aim was to secure for the Church of England a definite basis of doctrine and discipline. At the time the state's financial stance towards the Church of Ireland had raised the spectres of disestablishment, or an exit of high churchmen. The teaching of the tracts was supplemented by Newman's Sunday afternoon sermons at St Mary's, the influence of which, especially over the junior members of the university, was increasingly marked during a period of eight years. In 1835 Pusey joined the movement, which, so far as concerned ritual observances, was later called "Puseyite".
In 1836 the Tractarians appeared as an activist group, in united opposition to the appointment of Renn Dickson Hampden as Regius Professor of Divinity. Hampden's 1832 Bampton Lectures, in the preparation of which Joseph Blanco White had assisted him, were suspected of heresy; and this suspicion was accentuated by a pamphlet put forth by Newman, Elucidations of Dr Hampden's Theological Statements.
At this date Newman became editor of the British Critic. He also gave courses of lectures in a side chapel of St Mary's in defence of the via media ("middle way") of Anglicanism between Roman Catholicism and popular Protestantism.
Doubts and opposition
Newman's influence in Oxford was supreme about the year 1839. Just then, however, his study of monophysitism caused him to doubt whether Anglican theology was consistent with the principles of ecclesiastical authority which he had come to accept. He read Nicholas Wiseman's article in the Dublin Review on "The Anglican Claim", which quoted Augustine of Hippo against the Donatists, "securus judicat orbis terrarum" ("the verdict of the world is conclusive"). Newman later wrote of his reaction:
For a mere sentence, the words of St Augustine struck me with a power which I never had felt from any words before. ...They were like the 'Tolle, lege, — Tolle, lege,' of the child, which converted St Augustine himself. 'Securus judicat orbis terrarum!' By those great words of the ancient Father, interpreting and summing up the long and varied course of ecclesiastical history, the theology of the Via Media was absolutely pulverised. (Apologia, part 5)
After a furore in which the eccentric John Brande Morris preached for him in St Mary's in September 1839, Newman began to think of moving away from Oxford. One plan that surfaced was to set up a religious community in Littlemore, outside the city of Oxford. Since accepting his post at St. Mary's, Newman had a chapel (dedicated to Sts. Nicholas and Mary) and school built in the parish's neglected area. Newman's mother had laid the foundation stone in 1835, based on a half-acre plot and £100 given by Oriel College. Newman planned to appoint Charles Pourtales Golightly, an Oriel man, as curate at Littlemore in 1836. However, Golightly had taken offence at one of Newman's sermons, and joined a group of aggressive anti-Catholics. Thus, Isaac Williams became Littlemore's curate instead, succeeded by John Rouse Bloxam from 1837 to 1840, during which the school opened.William John Copeland acted as curate from 1840.
Newman continued as a High Anglican controversialist until 1841, when he published Tract 90, which proved the last of the series. This detailed examination of the Thirty-Nine Articles suggested that their framers directed their negations not against Catholicism's authorised creed, but only against popular errors and exaggerations. Though this was not altogether new, Archibald Campbell Tait, with three other senior tutors, denounced it as "suggesting and opening a way by which men might violate their solemn engagements to the university." Other heads of houses and others in authority joined in the alarm. At the request of Richard Bagot, the Bishop of Oxford, the publication of the Tracts came to an end.
Retreat to Littlemore
Newman also resigned the editorship of the British Critic and was thenceforth, as he later described it, "on his deathbed as regards membership with the Anglican Church". He now considered the position of Anglicans to be similar to that of the semi-Arians in the Arian controversy. The joint Anglican-Lutheran bishopric set up in Jerusalem was to him further evidence that the Church of England was not apostolic.
In 1842 Newman withdrew to Littlemore with a small band of followers, and lived in semi-monastic conditions. The first to join him there was John Dobree Dalgairns. Others were William Lockhart on the advice of Henry Manning,Ambrose St John in 1843,Frederick Oakeley and Albany James Christie in 1845. The group adapted buildings in what is now College Lane, Littlemore, opposite the inn, including stables and a granary for stage coaches. Newman called it "the house of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Littlemore" (now Newman College). This "Anglican monastery" attracted publicity, and much curiosity in Oxford, which Newman tried to downplay, but some nicknamed it Newmanooth (from Maynooth College). Some Newman disciples wrote about English saints, while Newman himself worked to complete an Essay on the development of doctrine.
In February 1843, Newman published, as an advertisement in the Oxford Conservative Journal, an anonymous but otherwise formal retractation of all the hard things he had said against Roman Catholicism. Lockhart became the first in the group to convert formally to Catholicism. Newman preached his last Anglican sermon at Littlemore, the valedictory "The parting of friends" on 25 September, and resigned the living of St Mary's, although he did not leave Littlemore for two more years, until his own formal reception into the Catholic Church.
Conversion to Roman Catholicism
An interval of two years then elapsed before Newman was received into the Roman Catholic Church on 9 October 1845 by Dominic Barberi, an Italian Passionist, at the college in Littlemore. The personal consequences for Newman of his conversion were great: he suffered broken relationships with family and friends, attitudes to him within his Oxford circle becoming polarised. The effect on the wider Tractarian movement is still debated, since Newman's leading role is regarded by some scholars as overstated, as is Oxford's domination of the movement as a whole. Tractarian writings had a wide and continuing circulation after 1845, well beyond the range of personal contacts with the main Oxford figures, and Tractarian clergy continued to be recruited into the Church of England in numbers.
In February 1846, Newman left Oxford for Oscott, where Nicholas Wiseman, then vicar-apostolic of the Midland district, resided; and in October he went to Rome, where he was ordained priest by Cardinal Giacomo Filippo Fransoni and awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity by Pope Pius IX. At the close of 1847, Newman returned to England as an Oratorian and resided first at Maryvale (near Old Oscott, now the site of Maryvale Institute, a college of Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education); then at St Wilfrid's College, Cheadle; and then at St Anne's, Alcester Street, Birmingham. Finally he settled at Edgbaston, where spacious premises were built for the community, and where (except for four years in Ireland) he lived a secluded life for nearly forty years.
Before the house at Edgbaston was occupied, Newman established the London Oratory, with Father Frederick William Faber as its superior.
Lectures on the position of Catholics in England
Anti-Catholicism had been central to British culture since the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. According to D. G. Paz, anti-Catholicism was "an integral part of what it meant to be a Victorian". Popular Protestant feeling ran high at this time, partly in consequence of the papal bull Universalis Ecclesiae by which Pope Pius IX re-established the Catholic diocesan hierarchy in England on 29 September 1850. New Episcopal sees were created and Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman was to be the first Archbishop of Westminster.
On 7 October, Wiseman announced the Pope's restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in England in a pastoral letter From out of the Flaminian Gate:
Catholic England has been restored to its orbit in the ecclesiastical firmament, from which its light had long vanished, and begins anew its course of regularly adjusted action round the centre of unity, the source of jurisdiction, of light and vigour.
Led by The Times and Punch, the British press saw this as being an attempt by the Papacy to reclaim jurisdiction over England. This was dubbed the "Papal Aggression". The Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, wrote a public letter to the Bishop of Durham and denounced this "attempt to impose a foreign yoke upon our minds and consciences". Russell's stirring up of anti-Catholicism led to a national outcry. This "No Popery" uproar led to violence with Catholic priests being pelted in the streets and Catholic churches being attacked.
Newman was keen for lay people to be at the forefront of any public apologetics, writing that Catholics should "make the excuse of this persecution for getting up a great organization, going round the towns giving lectures, or making speeches." He supported John Capes in the committee he was organising for public lectures in February 1851. Due to ill-health, Capes had to stop them halfway through.
Newman took the initiative and booked the Birmingham Corn Exchange for a series of public lectures. He decided to make their tone popular and provide cheap off-prints to those who attended. These lectures were his Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England and they were delivered weekly, beginning on 30 June and finishing on 1 September 1851.
In total there were nine lectures:
- Protestant view of the Catholic Church
- Tradition the sustaining power of the Protestant view
- Fable the basis of the Protestant view
- True testimony insufficient for the Protestant view
- Logical inconsistency of the Protestant view
- Prejudice the life of the Protestant view
- Assumed principles of the intellectual ground of the Protestant view
- Ignorance concerning Catholics the protection of the Protestant view
- Duties of Catholics towards the Protestant view
which form the nine chapters of the published book. Following the first edition, a number of paragraphs were removed following the Achilli trial as "they were decided by a jury to constitute a libel, June 24, 1852."
Andrew Nash describes the Lectures as: "an analysis of this [anti-Catholic] ideology, satirising it, demonstrating the false traditions on which it was based and advising Catholics how they should respond to it. They were the first of their kind in English literature."
John Wolffe assesses the Lectures as:
an interesting treatment of the problem of anti-Catholicism from an observer whose partisan commitment did not cause him to slide into mere polemic and who had the advantage of viewing the religious battlefield from both sides of the tortured no man's land of Littlemore.
The response to the Lectures was split between Catholics and Protestants. Catholics greeted them with enthusiasm. A review in The Rambler, a Catholic periodical, saw them as "furnishing a key to the whole mystery of anti-Catholic hostility and as shewing the special point of attack upon which our controversial energies should be concentrated." The Protestant response was, predictably, less positive. Archdeacon Julius Hare said that Newman "is determined to say whatever he chooses, in despite of facts and reason".
Wilfred Ward, Newman's first biographer, describes the Lectures as follows:
We have the very curious spectacle of a grave religious apologist giving rein for the first time at the age of fifty to a sense of rollicking fun and gifts of humorous writing, which if expended on other subjects would naturally have adorned the pages of Thackeray's Punch.
Ian Ker has raised the profile of Newman's satire. Ker notes that Newman's imagery has a "savage, Swiftian flavour" and can be "grotesque in the Dickens manner".
Newman himself described the lectures as his "best written book."
One of the features of English anti-Catholicism was the holding of public meetings at which ex-Catholics, including former priests, denounced their prior beliefs and gave detailed accounts of the horrors of Catholic life. Giacinto Achilli (1803–1860), an ex-Dominican friar, was one such speaker.
In 1833 Achilli, author of Dealings with the inquisition: or, Papal Rome, her priests, and her Jesuits... (1851), had been made Master of Sacred Theology at the College of St. Thomas, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum.
Nash describes Achilli's journey to England thus:
[Achilli] had been imprisoned (in a monastery) by the Inquisition for heresy, he claimed, but actually for a series of sexual offences against under-age young women. He had been "rescued" from the Inquisition by a group of English ultra-Protestants as a hero six months before the Papal Aggression crisis broke. He was received by the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, greeted a public meeting at Exeter Hall with a specially written hymn, "Hail Roman prisoner, Hail" and given a chapel in London. His Dealings with the Inquisition was a best seller. In his public lectures, sponsored by the Evangelical Alliance, he professed to the errors of Catholicism and to be a sincere Protestant, and his exciting account of the cruelties of the Inquisition made him a credible and popular anti-Catholic speaker.
In July 1850, Wiseman wrote a detailed exposé of him in The Dublin Review which listed all of his offences. Newman therefore assumed, after seeking legal advice, that he would be able to repeat the facts in his fifth lecture in his Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England.
In these lectures, Newman denounced various anti-Catholic utterances. These included those of the Maria Monk, the allegation of cells under his own Oratory on Hagley Road, Birmingham and those of Giacinto Achilli. Newman emphasises the importance of responding to Achilli:
For how, Brothers of the Oratory, can we possibly believe a man like this [Achilli], in what he says about persons and facts, and conversations, and events, when he is of the stamp of Maria Monk, of Jeffreys, and of Teodore, and of others who have had their hour, and then been dropped by the indignation or the shame of mankind.
The section of the lecture that was decided by jury to constitute a libel was:
I have been a Catholic and an infidel; I have been a Roman priest and a hypocrite; I have been a profligate under a cowl. I am that Father Achilli, who as early as 1826, was deprived of my faculty to lecture, for an offence which my superiors did their best to conceal; and who in 1827 had already earned the reputation of a scandalous friar. I am that Achilli, who in the diocese of Viterbo in February, 1831, robbed of her honour a young women of eighteen; who in September 1833, was found guilty of a second such crime, in the case of a person of twenty-eight; and who perpetrated a third in July, 1834, in the case of another aged twenty-four. I am he, who afterwards was found guilty of sins, similar or worse, in other towns of the neighbourhood. I am that son of St. Dominic who is known to have repeated the offence at Capua, in 1834 or 1835; and at Naples again, in 1840, in the case of a child of fi[f]teen. I am he who chose the sacristy of the church for one of these crimes, and Good Friday for another. Look on me, ye mothers of England, a confessor against Popery, for ye 'ne'er may look upon my like again.' I am that veritable priest, who, after all this, began to speak against, not only the Catholic faith, but the moral law, and perverted others by my teaching. I am the Cavaliere Achilli, who then went to Corfu, made the wife of a tailor faithless to her husband, and lived publicly and travelled about with the wife of a chorus-singer. I am that Professor of the Protestant College at Malta, who with two others was dismissed from my post for offences which the authorities cannot get themselves to describe. And now attend to me, such as I am, and you shall see what you shall see about the barbarity and profligacy of the Inquisitors of Rome.
You speak truly, O Achilli, and we cannot answer you a word. You are a Priest; you have been a Friar; you are, it is undeniable, the scandal of Catholicism, and the palmary argument of Protestants, by your extraordinary depravity. You have been, it is true, a profligate, an unbeliever, and a hypocrite. Not many years passed of your conventional life, and you were never in the choir, always in private houses, so that the laity observed you. You were deprived of your professorship, we own it; you were prohibited from preaching and hearing confessions; you were obliged to give hush-money to the father of one of your victims, as we learned from an official document of the Neapolitan Police to be 'known for habitual incontinency;' your name came before the civil tribunal at Corfu for your crime of adultery. You have put the crown on your offences, by as long as you could, denying them all; you have professed to seek after truth, when you were ravening after sin.
The libel charge was officially laid against Newman in November. Under English law, Newman needed to prove every single charge he had made against Achilli. Newman requested the documents that Wiseman had used for his article in the Dublin Review but he had mislaid them. He eventually found them but it was too late to prevent the trial.
Newman and his defence committee needed to locate the victims and return them to England. A number of the victims were found and Maria Giberne, a friend of Newman, went to Italy to return with them to England. Achilli, on hearing that witnesses were being brought, arranged for the trial to be delayed. This put Newman under great strain as he had been invited to be the founding Rector of the proposed Catholic University in Dublin and was composing and delivering the lectures that would become The Idea of a University.
On 21 June 1852, the libel trial started and lasted three days. Despite the evidence of the victims and witnesses, Achilli denied that any of it had happened; the jury believed him and found Newman guilty of libel. The injustice of the verdict was widely recognised:
a great blow has been given to the administration of justice in this country, and Roman Catholics will have henceforth only too good reason for asserting that there is no justice for them in matters tending to rouse the Protestant feelings of judges and juries.
A second trial was not granted and sentencing was postponed. When sentencing occurred, Newman did not get the prison sentence expected but got a fine of £100 and a long lecture from Judge John Taylor Coleridge about his moral deterioration since he had become a Catholic. Coleridge later wrote to Keble:
It is a very painful matter for us who must hail this libel as false, believing it is in great part true – or at least that it may be.
The fine was paid on the spot and while his expenses as defendant amounted to about £14,000, they were paid out of a fund organised by this defence committee to which Catholics at home and abroad had contributed; there was £2,000 left over which was spent on the purchase of a small property in Rednal, on the Lickey Hills, with a chapel and cemetery, where Newman was eventually buried.
Achilli, despite his victory, was discredited. Newman removed the libellous section of the fifth lecture and replaced them by the inscription:
De illis quae sequebantur / posterorum judicium sit – About those things which had followed / let posterity be the judge.
In 1854, at the request of the Irish Catholic bishops, Newman went to Dublin as rector of the newly established Catholic University of Ireland, now University College, Dublin. It was during this time that he founded the Literary and Historical Society. After four years, he retired. He published a volume of lectures entitled The Idea of a University, which explained his philosophy of education.
Newman believed in a middle way between free thinking and moral authority – one that would respect the rights of knowledge as well as the rights of revelation. His purpose was to build a Catholic university, in a world where the major Catholic universities on the European continent had recently been secularised, and most universities in the English-speaking world were Protestant. For a university to claim legitimacy in the larger world, it would have to support research and publication free from church censorship; however, for a university to be a safe place for the education of Catholic youth, it would have to be a place in which the teachings of the Catholic church were respected and promoted.
The University ... has this object and this mission; it contemplates neither moral impression nor mechanical production; it professes to exercise the mind neither in art nor in duty; its function is intellectual culture; here it may leave its scholars, and it has done its work when it has done as much as this. It educates the intellect to reason well in all matters, to reach out towards truth, and to grasp it.
This philosophy encountered opposition within the Catholic Church, at least in Ireland, as evidenced by the opinion of bishop Paul Cullen. In 1854 Cullen wrote a letter to the Vatican's office Propaganda fide (now called the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples), criticising Newman's liberal exercise of authority within the new university:
The discipline introduced is unsuitable, certainly to this country. The young men are allowed to go out at all hours, to smoke, etc., and there has not been any fixed time for study. All this makes it clear that Father Newman does not give enough attention to details.
The University as envisaged by Newman encountered too much opposition to prosper. However, his book did have a wide influence.
In 1858, Newman projected a branch house of the Oratory at Oxford; but this project was opposed by Father (later Cardinal) Henry Edward Manning, another influential convert from Anglicanism, and others. It was thought that the creation of a Catholic body within the heart of Oxford was likely to induce Catholics to send their sons to that university, rather than to newly formed Catholic universities. The scheme was abandoned. When Catholics did begin to attend Oxford from the 1860s onwards, a Catholic club was formed and, in 1888, it was renamed the Oxford University Newman Society in recognition of Newman's efforts on behalf of Catholicism in that university city. The Oxford Oratory was eventually founded over 100 years later in 1993.
In 1859, Newman established, in connection with the Birmingham Oratory, a school for the education of the sons of gentlemen along lines similar to those of English public schools. The Oratory School flourished as a boy's boarding school, dubbed 'The Catholic Eton'.
Relationships with other converts
Newman had a special concern in the publisher Burns & Oates; the owner, James Burns, had published some of the Tractarians, and Burns had himself converted to Roman Catholicism in 1847. Newman published several books with the company, effectively saving it. There is even a story that Newman's novel Loss and Gain was written specifically to assist Burns.
In 1863, in a response to Thomas William Allies, while agreeing that slavery was bad, Newman would not publicly condemn it as "intrinsically evil" on the grounds that it had been tolerated by St Paul – thus asserting that slavery is "a condition of life ordained by God in the same sense that other conditions of life are".
Newman and Henry Edward Manning both became significant figures in the late 19th-century Roman Catholic Church in England: both were Anglican converts and both were elevated to the dignity of cardinal. In spite of these similarities, in fact there was a lack of sympathy between the two men who were different in character and experience, and they clashed on a number of issues, in particular the foundation of an Oratory in Oxford. On theological issues, Newman had reservations about the declaration of papal infallibility (Manning favoured the formal declaration of the doctrine).
George W. E. Russell recorded that:
When Newman died there appeared in a monthly magazine a series of very unflattering sketches by one who had lived under his roof. I ventured to ask Cardinal Manning if he had seen these sketches. He replied that he had and thought them very shocking; the writer must have a very unenviable mind, &c., and then, having thus sacrificed to propriety, after a moment's pause he added: "But if you ask me if they are like poor Newman, I am bound to say – a photograph."
In 1862 Newman began to prepare autobiographical and other memoranda to vindicate his career. The occasion came when, in January 1864, Charles Kingsley, reviewing James Anthony Froude's History of England in Macmillan's Magazine, incidentally asserted that "Father Newman informs us that truth for its own sake need not be, and on the whole ought not to be, a virtue of the Roman clergy." Edward Lowth Badeley, who had been a close legal adviser to Newman since the Achilli trial, encouraged him to make a robust rebuttal. After some preliminary sparring between the two, in which Kingsley refused to admit any fault, Newman published a pamphlet, Mr Kingsley and Dr Newman: a Correspondence on the Question whether Dr Newman teaches that Truth is no Virtue, (published in 1864 and not reprinted until 1913). The pamphlet has been described as "unsurpassed in the English language for the vigour of its satire". However, the anger displayed was later, in a letter to Sir William Cope, admitted to have been largely feigned. After the debate went public, Kingsley attempted to defend his assertion in a lengthy pamphlet entitled "What then does Dr Newman mean?", described by a historian as "one of the most momentous rhetorical and polemical failures of the Victorian age".
In answer to Kingsley, again encouraged by Badeley, Newman published in bi-monthly parts his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, a religious autobiography of abiding interest. Its tone changed the popular estimate of its author, by explaining the convictions which had led him into the Catholic Church. Kingsley's general accusation against the Catholic clergy is dealt with later in the work; his specific accusations are addressed in an appendix. Newman maintains that English Catholic priests are at least as truthful as English Catholic laymen. Newman published a revision of the series of pamphlets in book form in 1865; in 1913 a combined critical edition, edited by Wilfrid Ward, was published.
In 1870, Newman published his Grammar of Assent, a closely reasoned work in which the case for religious belief is maintained by arguments somewhat different from those commonly used by Roman Catholic theologians of the time. In 1877, in the republication of his Anglican works, he added to the two volumes containing his defence of the via media, a long preface in which he criticised and replied to anti-Catholic arguments of his own which were contained in the original works.
At the time of the First Vatican Council (1869–1870), Newman was uneasy about the formal definition of the doctrine of papal infallibility, believing that the time was 'inopportune'. In a private letter to his bishop (William Bernard Ullathorne), surreptitiously published, he denounced the "insolent and aggressive faction" that had pushed the matter forward. Newman gave no sign of disapproval when the doctrine was finally defined, but was an advocate of the "principle of minimising", that included very few papal declarations within the scope of infallibility. Subsequently, in a letter nominally addressed to the Duke of Norfolk when Gladstone accused the Roman church of having "equally repudiated modern thought and ancient history", Newman affirmed that he had always believed in the doctrine, and had only feared the deterrent effect of its definition on conversions on account of acknowledged historical difficulties. In this letter, and especially in the postscript to the second edition, Newman answered the charge that he was not at ease within the Catholic Church.
In 1878, Newman's old college elected him an honorary fellow, and he revisited Oxford after an interval of thirty-two years, on the same day Pope Pius IX died. Pius had mistrusted Newman but his successor, Pope Leo XIII, was encouraged by the Duke of Norfolk and other English Catholic laymen to make Newman a cardinal
Some of you have heard of John Henry Newman, or Cardinal Newman as he is often called. Those of you seeking to renew the classical tradition of education, no doubt have come across Newman’s name, and some of you have read through at least parts of his famous book, The Idea of a University. This is a book and writer that cannot be ignored.
To understand the state of classical education in the Victorian era, when classical education was beginning to falter and diminish, Newman must be read. He is a bright light seeking to illuminate and preserve the classical tradition of education at a time when a great fog was rolling in, a time when a secular paradigm for learning was ascendant, a time when the value of studying classical languages, literature, and theology was being questioned and mocked. Newman held forth the flame, and not only defended the tradition, but managed to brilliantly restate it for his own time, and extend it.
Newman was born in 1801 in London. He went to Oxford University at the age of 16, and after graduating become a tutor at one of the colleges there—Oriel College. While serving as a tutor (professor) he also was ordained as a priest in the Church of England and served as the vicar St. Mary’s, the university church.
He and several other colleagues at Oxford become concerned with the ways they perceived the Anglican church to be drifting from its more liturgical and sacramental aspects and began to call for a return to traditional liturgies and practices that resembled those of the Roman Catholic Church. This renewal movement became known as the Oxford Movement and was described as Anglo-Catholic. Newman was the chief writer of many small pamphlets or tracts arguing for this “high church” renewal. In 1845, Newman was received into the Roman Catholic Church, and in 1879 was appointed a cardinal in the church–at the age of 78.
When Newman was asked to found a new Catholic University in Ireland, he delivered a series of nine lectures in Dublin that were then collected and published in his book The Idea of a University in 1852. This was about the same time (1872) that Nietzche was railing against the deterioration of the German university system which he thought was being destroyed by what he called a “micrological” pendantry. Newman argues for traditional liberal education, that instead of seeking hyper-specialized knowledge sought to master the studium generale which he translates as the “School of Universal Learning.”
For Newman, a liberal education was its own reward, valuable for its own sake, and befitting someone who would truly be free. For Newman education was the cultivation or perfection (full development) of the intellect–“the true enlargement of the mind and the power of viewing many things at once.” He is truly eloquent on this point, offering not just a restatement of the ancient Greek ideal, but revivifying it. I quote at length, so the reader can get a sense not only of Newman’s thought, but his eloquence:
To have even a portion of this illuminative reason and true philosophy is the highest state to which nature can aspire, in the way of intellect; it puts the mind above the influences of chance and necessity, above anxiety, suspense, unsettlement, and superstition, which is the lot of the many. Men, whose minds are possessed with some one object, take exaggerated views of its importance, are feverish in the pursuit of it, make it the measure of things which are utterly foreign to it, and are startled and despond if it happens to fail them. They are ever in alarm or in transport. Those on the other hand who have no object or principle whatever to hold by, lose their way, every step they take. They are thrown out, and do not know what to think or say, at every fresh juncture; they have no view of persons, or occurrences, or facts, which come suddenly upon them, and they hang upon the opinion of others, for want of internal resources. But the intellect, which has been disciplined to the perfection of its powers, which knows, and thinks while it knows, which has learned to leaven the dense mass of facts and events with the elastic force of reason, such an intellect cannot be partial, cannot be exclusive, cannot be impetuous, cannot be at a loss, cannot but be patient, collected, and majestically calm, because it discerns the end in every beginning, the origin in every end, the law in every interruption, the limit in each delay; because it ever knows where it stands, and how its path lies from one point to another. It is the [tetragonos] of the Peripatetic, and has the “nil admirari” (nothing to surprise) of the Stoic,—
There are men who, when in difficulties, originate at the moment vast ideas or dazzling projects; who, under the influence of excitement, are able to cast a light, almost as if from inspiration, on a subject or course of action which comes before them; who have a sudden presence of mind equal to any emergency, rising with the occasion, and an undaunted magnanimous bearing, and an energy and keenness which is but made intense by opposition. This is genius, this is heroism; it is the exhibition of a natural gift, which no culture can teach, at which no Institution can aim; here, on the contrary, we are concerned, not with mere nature, but with training and teaching. That perfection of the Intellect, which is the result of Education, and its beau ideal, to be imparted to individuals in their respective measures, is the clear, calm, accurate vision and comprehension of all things, as far as the finite mind can embrace them, each in its place, and with its own characteristics upon it. It is almost prophetic from its knowledge of history; it is almost heart-searching from its knowledge of human nature; it has almost supernatural charity from its freedom from littleness and prejudice; it has almost the repose of faith, because nothing can startle it; it has almost the beauty and harmony of heavenly contemplation, so intimate is it with the eternal order of things and the music of the spheres.
I think I can safely say that nearly no one speaks this way today about education. To our ears, “the perfection of the intellect” is masked by the din of the Acheron River–the river of the underworld–our coming demise–or by the yelps and hoorahs of current carnival culture, with its ubiquitous distractions. What’s worse, we don’t even know what the words “perfection” and “intellect” mean as Newman uses them. To tell an 18 year-old college student that we seek the perfection of his intellect is like telling him we that we think he should “develop his cognitive capacities”–bleh.
Newman was able to restate and revivify the classical tradition in the middle of the 19th century–and he continued the great conversation about education. Who will do this in the early 21st century?
I will leave the reader with one more distinctive emphasis found in Newman: education is essentially a relationship, a friendship between student and teacher, making a university a vibrant community of learning. When we talk of education as the cultivation of virtue, we are certatinly echoing Newman (who was restating the great thinkers before him); When we talk of education as community, we are also echoing Newman. Students learn from teachers and colleagues. Humans, he thinks, are compelled by nature to engage in “mutual education”—we can’t help but to share knowledge and educate one another. The university is one evolved and grand way we do this; it is a place “for the communication and circulation of thought, by means of personal intercourse.” While the university may represent a pinnacle of learning, he argues by way of illustration that similar kinds of “university” education exist in the education of a gentleman, politician, scientist, city-dweller and catechized Christian.
Man cannot live by books alone. Newman loves books, but he regards those capable of writing books to be best at cultivating wisdom and securing an education. Why not just read great books? Newman’s answer: Why not study personally with the authors? Why not become an academic disciple? If you could study with the man and not just his books—wouldn’t you do so?
This “man to man” personal intercourse Newman calls a rival method, a method that rivals the mere reading of books, and all attempts to become a self-educated man or woman. While we admire those who have read many books and studied “on their own,” we instinctively know that a full education requires a relationship with a master. Christ said as much when he said that “a student is not above his teacher, but when he is fully-trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Newman says the same when he argues that the life of a study “which makes it live in us, you must catch… from those in whom it lives already,” and “we must come to the teachers of wisdom to learn wisdom.”
Haven’t we all known a self-educated man or woman who lacked the deeper, living wisdom found in those who had been tutored by a virtuoso? Don’t many of us lament that while we have learned from our private reading, we long for a person who embodied those books and who could better guide, lead and teach us?
Over 150 years ago, Newman makes a case against online learning and internet research as sufficient for a full education. He notes the same objection we hear today from advocates of a wholly online education: “Why, you will ask, need we go up to knowledge, when knowledge comes down to us?” His humorous description of the “profusion of print” is similar to the contemporary laments of the profusion of distracting digital devices that have nearly replaced our real lives with virtual ones. No doubt, Newman today would exhort us to put down our smart phones and actually converse with one another, face to face, student to teacher, disciple to master. This is Newman’s rival method, the “Oral Tradition.”
Newman raises us for the question: Why have we come to college? What is it we seek at college? Most likely students enroll in collegee for several reasons—to explore new subjects, enjoy new friendships and community, prepare for a working career, to grow in wisdom. Of these good goals, should any be chief among them?
For his part, Newman privileges the communal cultivation of wisdom and knowledge as the chief purpose and “idea” of a university. The word “university” means (from the Latin) “turned into one” such that many various parts might come together in a unity. It is similar to our word “college” that is derived from the Latin collegere, which means “to gather.” A college is a gathering of scholars and students who come together in a unity qualified by excellence in the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge.
Newman mentions that universities have a kind of gravitational pull, attracting excellent thought, scholarship and interchange. If true, this means it is a great honor to attend a university and associate with such excellence, with a fair chance that we might acquire some small quantity of excellence ourselves. In fact Newman says that “excellence implies a center.” Perhaps he was thinking of the Latin root for excel, for it is excellere, which means “to rise up high, to tower.” Universities and colleges are known for their high towers that symbolize at once the quest for knowledge and wisdom, the reach for greatness, and the call for us all to gather and seek together. For many of us, it is at college that we grow up.
For further reading:
- Certainly, the reader will want to consult Newman’s The Idea of a University (1852).
- The reader may also want to read his brief essay by the same name that can be found online or in the Harvard Classics, volume 28. This essay was published in 1856 as part of a book called The Office and Work of Universities and is clearly derived from his previous book bearing the same title as the essay. This essay presents Newman’s distilled thought about the purpose and function of a university, and has become a classic description of the traditional model of university education.