I've divided this broadcast into four parts, one for each momentous date:
I. 1829--Emancipation for Catholics at last--meant the removal of all penal and recusancy laws, now really religious freedom as a human or even civil right, but a legal measure of toleration. I'll examine the reasons for this policy change and some reaction.
II. 1845--Anglican minister and Tractarian/Oxford Movement leader John Henry Newman becomes a Catholic on October 9, 1845. This date gives me the opportunity to make a few comments about the Oxford Movement and then about Newman's contributions to the Catholic community and Church in England as an Oratorian, teacher, and writer.
III. 1850--the Restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy by Pope Pio Nono; this provoked some violent reaction from Queen Victoria, the Prime Minister and some rioters! But it meant that the Catholic Church could start building again: cathedrals, churches, schools, convents, monasteries, etc. I'll highlight the great architect of the Catholic revival, A.W.G. Pugin.
IV. 1870--the First Vatican Council defines the dogma of Papal Infallibility. William Gladstone, former Prime Minister, takes offense and publishes a pamphlet warning that Catholics just cannot be loyal English citizens when the Pope is Infallible. Father John Henry Newman wrote his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk to prove that Gladstone was wrong--because he did not understand either the rights and duties of conscience or the reality of Papal Infallibility in faith and morals:
There are two more crucial points Blessed John Henry Newman makes about conscience: first, that we must follow our conscience but second, that we must take care to form our conscience: “Conscience has rights because it has duties”. Since conscience reflects not on individual judgment and consistency but on God’s Law, we have to work to understand God’s Law. This is where Newman again addresses the authority of the Church and Christ’s Vicar on Earth, the Pope, who are God’s representatives alluded to above.
Jesus left us the Church and He established the Papacy because “the sense of right and wrong, which is the first element in religion, is so delicate, so fitful, so easily puzzled, obscured, perverted, so subtle in its argumentative methods, so impressible by education, so biased by pride and passion, so unsteady in its course, that, in the struggle for existence amid the various exercises and triumphs of the human intellect, this sense is at once the highest of all teachers, yet the least luminous; and the Church, the Pope, the Hierarchy are, in the Divine purpose, the supply of an urgent demand.” Therefore, Newman notes that every Catholic owes the teaching authority of the Church at the very least the benefit of the doubt and further observes that the burden of proof is upon the individual, not the Church. Newman warns us that the individual “must have no willful determination to exercise a right of thinking, saying, doing just what he pleases”. . . .
Newman’s Letter to the Duke of Norfolk addressed contemporary concerns but his discussion of conscience has been timeless: it is quoted in the Catechism in paragraph 1778 and Pope Benedict XVI has reflected upon it. Speaking in December 2010 on the beatification of Newman during his visit to Scotland and England that September, Pope Benedict highlighted it as one of Newman’s great contributions. For Newman, he said, “conscience means man’s capacity for truth: the capacity to recognize precisely in the decision-making areas of his life – religion and morals – a truth, the truth. At the same time, conscience – man’s capacity to recognize truth – thereby imposes on him the obligation to set out along the path towards truth, to seek it and to submit to it wherever he finds it. Conscience is both capacity for truth and obedience to the truth which manifests itself to anyone who seeks it with an open heart.”
And I suppose I could add one more date if there is time (if not, at least you have some information about it here and can meditate upon it at your leisure):
V. 1879--Pope Leo XIII makes Newman a Cardinal and Newman warns against liberalism, the great danger to religion and truth:
“Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither. They may fraternise together in spiritual thoughts and feelings, without having any views at all of doctrine in common, or seeing the need of them. Since, then, religion is so personal a peculiarity and so private a possession, we must of necessity ignore it in the intercourse of man with man. If a man puts on a new religion every morning, what is that to you? It is as impertinent to think about a man’s religion as about his sources of income or his management of his family. Religion is in no sense the bond of society.”
I welcome all listeners of Radio Maria US to my blog, whether you're listening on one of their radio stations or on line or through one of their apps. I invite you to call in with questions and comments toll-free at 866-333-MARY(6279). Just a reminder, too, that podcasts of previous episodes of The English Reformation Today are available on the Radio Maria US website. Next week: Catholic Revivial and Converts--Two Popes visit the British Isles and the Personal Ordinariate!