Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cardinal Merry del Val and Blessed John Henry Newman

From The Catholic Herald, this article by Stephen Bullivant, Senior Lecturer in Theology and Ethics at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, describes how one faction in Catholic theology, the Modernists, tried to claim Newman as one of them. Bullivant demonstrates the crucial role of Rafael Merry del Val y de Zulueta, Cardinal Merry del Val, who died on February 26, 1930:

His unlikely name notwithstanding, Merry del Val is surely among the most remarkable churchmen this country has ever produced. The son of a Spanish diplomat, he was born in London in 1865. He lived here until he was thirteen, later returning to begin his ordination studies at Ushaw. Following a meteoric rise within the Vatican diplomatic corps – including, bizarrely, being made a monsignor before he was a priest – he was ultimately appointed Secretary of State by Pius X in 1903, aged just 38. Though a Spanish national, he considered himself to ‘be English to all intents and purposes’, even to the point of dreaming in English. There were rumours of his succeeding Cardinal Bourne as Archbishop of Westminster in 1903.

Though this was not to be – Pius had other plans for him – his gimlet eye remained fixed on English ecclesiastical life, and on its burgeoning modernism especially. It was Merry del Val who commissioned Joseph Lemius, procurator of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, to draft
Pascendi; Merry del Val who took a lead role in enforcing its anti-modernist agenda; and – nota bene – Merry del Val who tirelessly championed Newman’s orthodoxy, using the semi-official L’Osservatore Romano to underline the ‘world of difference between what the Cardinal taught and the Modernism which is condemned in the Encyclical.’

Pius himself, in the same letter I quoted above, wrote to Bishop O’Dwyer of Limerick to commend him for showing, in a pamphlet, that ‘the writings of Cardinal Newman, far from being in disagreement with Our Encyclical Letter
Pascendi, are very much in harmony with it’. To [George] Tyrrell’s guessing assertions, neither the magisterium nor its closest confidants had then any intention whatsoever of censuring, or casting aspersions upon, Newman’s thought and legacy. The simple fact is that, at this time, nobody – Protestant or Catholic, ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ – had a bad word to say about him.

Today especially, this point is of more than merely historical interest. The significant point is this: had Tyrrell been more successful in arguing for Newman’s condemnation, or Merry del Val and St Pius less proactive in denying it, then a great doubt would surely have been cast over his orthodoxy. So much so, that even his latter-day supporters John Paul II (who declared him Venerable) and Benedict XVI (who broke his own protocol to beatify him personally, and who has previously suggested Newman to be a Doctor of a Church) might have been wary of overturning it.


Read the rest there. The best book on the Modernist Crisis and papal response to it is Marvin R. O'Connell's Critics on Trial: An Introduction to the Catholic Modernist Crisis, published by the Catholic University of America Press:

Here for the first time [published in 1994], the story of the Catholic Modernists is presented as a chronological narrative of events, with special emphasis placed upon the persons involved, their interrelations and opinions. Through a study of the participants, Marvin O'Connell traces the emergence of Modernism and the controversies related to it, offers a careful examination of the movement's multiple causes and ramifications, and places the events within the political, social, and intellectual context of the time.

Rather than analyze the phenomenon called Catholic Modernism or argue one side or the other, the author tells the story of the Modernists themselves. These intellectuals-scripture scholars, philosophers, apologists, priests, and laypersons-were bound together by a mutual concern that the church could not survive the challenges of the modern world unless it brought its teaching and its constitution into line with contemporary thought. They offered unconventional solutions to the religious questions of the day, solutions they were convinced would reform and revivify their church.

Their story involves a cast of fascinating characters: the deeply learned and deeply skeptical exegete, Alfred Loisy; the lyrical and melancholy Anglo-Irish Jesuit, George Tyrell; the eccentric polymath, Friedrich von Hegel; the apostle of Christian democracy, Romolo Murri; the combative philosopher, Lucien Laberthonniere, and his mentor, Maurice Blondel. Against them stood the pope who, in the name of doctrinal integrity, sought to root out and destroy their ideas.

O'Connell follows the drama step by step until it reaches its climax in the condemnations of 1907, when Pius X denounced Catholic Modernism as the synthesis of all heresies. The author recounts the story largely in the words of the Modernists and their opponents, as well as those who, like the journalist and biographer Wilfrid Ward and the scripture scholar Marie-Joseph Lagrange, desperately sought a middle ground.


Critics on Trial offers the nonspecialist a reliable, compelling account of the Modernist crisis; it offers the student of nineteenth- and twentieth-century religious and intellectual history a thorough introduction to the topic.

Cardinal Merry del Val wrote the great Litany of Humility:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

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