Sunday, October 2, 2011

Newman's University Church in Dublin

Newman was able to build in this church in Dublin from leftover funds from his Achilli trial defense and fine. The 1852 Achilli trial was Newman's first great debacle as a Catholic. He had attacked the anti-Catholic stories of Dr. Giacinto Achilli, a former Dominican friar, based upon information researched previously by Cardinal Wiseman. The venue for these attacks were the lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England, presented at the London Oratory in 1851. Newman told his audience that Dr. Achilli had been in trouble with his order for sexual impropriety. Achilli then accused Newman of libel for attacking his morals and Cardinal Wiseman could not find the information Newman needed. Newman did manage to find witnesses from abroad who would substantiate those charges, but the presiding judge would not allow their testimony. Newman was thus found guilty and ordered to pay only one hundred pounds, but his court costs were fourteen thousand pounds. An international subscription for funds assisted Newman and he used the extra for several foundations, including the Rednal site of the Oratorian cemetery and this church in Dublin.

Achilli, by the way, was really destroyed by the trial: information from the witnesses revealed his immoral character. The next year he visited the United States, working with the Swedenborgians and the American Bible Union. He disappeared in 1860 after being accused of adultery while his wife, the former Josephine Hely, was in Italy. Achilli left his eight-year old son in the custody of his supposed lover, Miss Bogue. British justice did not come out of the case very well either, as the presiding judge's actions in dismissing Newman's witnesses led The London Times to descry the injustice: "We consider that a great blow has been given to the administration of justice in this country, and that Roman Catholics will henceforth have only too good reason for asserting that there is no justice for them in cases tending to arouse the Protestant feelings of judges and juries." Remember this is after the 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act and the 1850 restoration of the hierarchy. Anti-Catholic feelings were high and Newman's trial and conviction reflected that atmosphere.

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom is situated on the south side of St. Stephen's Green, next to the Newman House. It is now a parish church, but I think its architecture is well worth studying, because Newman had a hand in its design, working with John Hungerford Pollen, Senior--father of Father John Hungerford Pollen, Jr., S.J. who worked on the canonization causes of the Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales. The church is in Byzantine basilica style, rather long and narrow. The sanctuary features a baldachino above the original altar with a semi-dome mosaic based on the Church of San Clemente in Rome.

Of course, the church contains memorials and mementos to Blessed John Henry Newman, but it also has a memorial to Thomas Arnold, Matthew Arnold's younger brother, aka Thomas Arnold the Younger to distinguish him from his father, Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School. Thomas Arnold the Younger converted to Catholicism in January, 1856 while living in Tasmania. His first wife reacted to his conversion just like the "Tasmanian Devil" of the old cartoons, breaking the windows in the chapel. He was one of Newman's chosen faculty members at the Catholic University of Dublin. So was John Hungerford Pollen, also a convert from the Church of England (in 1852). Pollen was Newman's professor of Fine Arts.

One last note is that one of Thomas Arnold the Younger's children was the popular novelist Mrs. Humphrey Ward, author of Robert Elsmere, The Marriage of William Ashe, and Lady Rose's Daughter. She also founded the Women's National Anti-Sufferage League, which Hilaire Belloc joined! Her sister was Julia Huxley (Leonard, son of Thomas Henry), mother of Julian and Aldous. Quite a family tree.

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