Monday, September 29, 2014


  • St. Pius X had Cardinal Newman's back. Like many intelligent people, misunderstood most of his life, Newman was hounded out of the Church of England for being "too conservative" but often was not entirely trusted by other Catholics: "too liberal."
  • Different but complementary theologies about sin. The Latin distinction between mortal and venial sin, taught to me by a fine Irish-American priest who went to seminary in the '40s, is very comforting, a sign of God's mercy and a safeguard against the neurosis of scrupulosity. That said, I recently read a claim that the Orthodox believe the only mortal sin is the one you're not sorry for. I like the sound of that.
  • Happy feast of St. Michael.


  1. Have you read Frank Turner's biography of Newman? There has been a shift among some historians of late to be more critical of the view that Newman was always a victim of hostile forces. He was never 'hounded out of the COE', for example. In many ways the Tractarians marginalised themselves by their intransigence. Well before 1845, Newman had stopped being in any meaningful sense a 'High Churchman'. Catholics read Newman through the Apologia, and this is fine, but the book is not without its problems as a historical source. And I write that as a Catholic who very much loves Newman's theology.

    1. No, I haven't, but I have read the Apologia. Thanks. "In many ways the Tractarians marginalised themselves by their intransigence." Not necessarily a bad thing, if in our point of view misguided (per the Apologia, trying to defend something that wasn't really Anglicanism). Better than begging to be tolerated, the position of the "Catholics" in the C of E now. "Well before 1845, Newman had stopped being in any meaningful sense a 'High Churchman.'" Please explain. By the way, I've been to Newman's old home at Littlemore, including the room, now a chapel, where St. Dominic Barberi received Newman into the church.

    2. Tract 90 was the straw that broke the camel's back for most High Churchmen, but even prior to that the neo-High Churchman (as I like to think of the Tractarians as) had already parted ways with the older High Churchmen who had initially desired the 'Tracts' to be approved by a committee of some sort of Church society. By at least 1841 Newman was trying to do something different than simply revive COE orthodoxy. The reality was that Anglicanism was always a Protestant tradition, even in its Laudian expression. Newman's conversion was evidence of that. He realised that the Tractarian experiment did not work. As Peter Nockles rightly puts it: 'The key to Newman’s ultimate loss of faith lay in his attempt to erect a coherent dogmatic edifice on a structure never designed to support it’ (Peter Nockles, 'The Oxford Movement in Context', p.129). Nockles' book, by the way, is essential reading for anyone interested in the Oxford Movement.

    3. Good point. I didn't learn until relatively late that the old high churchmen and the Anglo-Catholics were very different, with the Tractarians as the transition between the two, not what A-Cs became. (Explained well to me by Fr. Jonathan Mitchican, an ex-Catholic now Episcopal.) Good point about the old high churchmen wanting the Tractarians to submit to church AUTHORITY (that, not ceremonial, being what "high church" was about); I didn't know that. And that was the Tractarians' and A-Cs' problem. They meant to be orthodox but were lawless: giving lip service to apostolic authority but flouting that claimed authority in their church. Now was Newman serious with Tract 90 about trying to bend but not break Anglican doctrine to square with Roman Catholic doctrine or was it just an academic exercise, almost for fun? But yes, the old high churchmen and the Tractarians WEREN'T trying to be Roman Catholics; their enemies accused them of that. Then, as we know, later, SOME A-Cs, the Anglo-Papalists (their Tridentine form is what imprinted onto me so it's my natural churchmanship), were just that: not really Anglican at all. Some churchmen such as David Virtue (met him) and Archbishop Peter Robinson, who is in the OLD high-church tradition, blame A-Cs for inadvertently opening a Pandora's box with their method of lawlessness and disobeying their bishops: by "deconstructing" the Protestant Articles, Newman (not a Modernist, per Jeff Culbreath's post; otherwise he would never have become Catholic) inadvertently helped German higher criticism, etc., do so with doctrine and scripture, producing the modern mainline and even secular humanism. Far from what these fine Oxford dons intended! Then again, King Henry and Archbishop Cranmer never intended women priests and gay marriage. The supreme irony: the Tractarians started in order to protest a side effect of Catholic emancipation (the state shutting down four Anglican dioceses in Catholic Ireland); like the old high churchmen, they saw themselves as the purest "branch" of the apostolic church with Rome and the East in grave error, but their successors, both the papalists and non, imitated the Catholic Church.


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