Saturday, February 16, 2019

Edward Short on Newman's Canonization

In The Catholic World Report, Edward Short highlights Cardinal Newman's biglietto speech on combatting liberalism in matters of the religion, but he also mentions, Newman's thoughts on the English Reformation and its aftermath:

Once the news came out today that John Henry Newman (1801-90) would soon be made a saint, after the Vatican announced that the pope had formally approved a second miracle attributed to the great convert’s intercession, many around the world will have rejoiced that the Servant of Truth in Newman will finally be given his proper due. Yet to begin to understand this defining aspect of the man, we have to understand the heroic fight he undertook to combat those who sought to deny or mutilate the Truth. . . .

For Newman, the English Reformation had been a tragedy for the unity of Christendom because it ultimately opened the door not only to apostasy but to the private judgment essential to liberalism. And liberalism gave rise to unbelief, a species of apostasy that was at the very heart of Newman’s apostolate, because it was at the heart of his recognition that there could be no re-evangelization of the English people without proper Catholic education. Unbelief was also more insidious than the repudiation of Catholicism exacted by more formal apostasy because it was so much more prevalent in a society suffused with No Popery. Moreover, the unbelief that followed apostasy posed formidable problems for the newly reconstituted English Catholic Church. If three hundred years of Protestant Christianity had left the English radically hostile to Catholic Christianity, any attempt at reviving the Church in England would have its work cut out for it.

Another ancillary problem, as Newman saw it, was that the English had apostatized twice. If their first apostasy had been from their traditional Catholic faith to the Protestant faith of the Tudors, their second caused them to abandon the Bible Christianity of the Established Church for the rationalism of the Enlightenment, which Newman saw as interchangeable with the liberalism that he spent his life combatting. (One can see this in his excoriating criticism of the Enlightenment historian, Edward Gibbon.) Again, in his ‘bigiletto speech,’ there was nothing happenstance about his speaking of his fight against liberalism in the context of what he called “the great apostasia.” They went hand-in-hand.

That's exactly why I put Newman on the cover of my book, facing Henry VIII. Once he became a Catholic, Newman devoted himself to healing the wounds the Reformation left in England. What Henry VIII put in motion, Newman tried to stop and move in a new way of Faith and Truth and Life.

What a joy to think we will soon call him Saint John Henry Newman! I only wish my husband Mark could have lived to see it (although I believe he knows).

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