|Chapter IV.2--Move to
In Section 2, Newman recounts his movement of mind
toward eventual certitude that the Roman Catholic Church is the true
church and that his salvation depends upon his conversion to it. He
describes how he is forced to consider the principle of development in
- Sola cum solo. He learns from the Ignatian
exercises, the principle of "My son, give me your heart,"
that our supreme homage given to God does not belittle but exalts our
devotion to things of this world. This eventually opens him to the
acceptability of devotion to saints.
- He realizes that the magnification of the Virgin
Mary has to be seen within the larger system of Eucharistic and
- In University Sermon 15, he considered the
principle of doctrinal development, but he still played off Creed
against Church, though now he begins to accept the idea of a divine
guidance in church history as at least possible.
- He saw the doctrine of development as able
not only to account for church history but also to provide a real
philosophical framework within which to explain catholicity.
- He became convinced that no middle position
between atheism and complete catholicity is possible.
- His epistemology reinforced his view of doctrinal
development, for he understood certitude as deriving from "an
accumulative force of certain reasons which, taken one by one, were
only probabilities" (157), but as a cumulative probability, it
took on real grounds for potential belief.
So having come to believe that the Anglican Church
is wrong, and Rome is right, he published his Retraction of his views
against the RCC and resigns from his position. He feels intense anger at
the Anglican divines, believing he has been lied to, and he feels sadness
at the triumph of Liberalism, but he has come to see his own former
position as a "paper system." He traces the pattern of his
solidifying certitude by including three letters to Manning in October of
1843, his struggle to make Pusey understand, his letters to J.W. Bowden,
his letters to a future nun, and his letter of 1845 to Charles Marriott.
He begins his book, An Essay on Development of Christian Doctrine,
and then he is received into the RCC by Father Dominic the Passionist. He,
eventually, is placed as a priest to serve in Birmingham Oratory.
- How would you respond to Newman's growing belief
in doctrinal development?
- How certain do you have to be of what you
believe? How do you achieve certainty?
- How much should what you believe match up with
the actual experience of it?
Chapter V (since 1845)--A Defense of Rational
Newman's last chapter is really a defense of why his
repose and peace of mind as an English Roman Catholic are not only
rational, but also are held in good faith. He answers a number of
- It is irrational to believe in
transubstantiation, in Mary's immaculate conception, or in God at all.
- To be a Catholic, one is forced to believe all
sorts of things against one's rational faculties.
- The claim of papal authority, even infallibility,
renders the rational pursuit of knowledge and its application in civic
- Scientific knowledge disproves Catholic (and
- Catholics are given permission to equivocate, so
they cannot be trusted.
He argues that he first came to believe in the
authority of the RCC as "the oracle of God," so he belief in her
doctrines followed form this. He argues that the Being of God is beyond
us, and that without revelation and proper rational guidance, one would
have a hard time believing in God or in original sin, yet the voice of
one's conscience points toward God and without the doctrine of original
sin, the state of humanity's failure is hard to explain. He believes that
the Bible by itself is not enough to withstand the onslaught of atheism in
Europe; instead, one needs a divinely guided Church to buttress one's
The doctrine of an infallible teaching office is a
certain stand against the rebellion of humanity against God and truth, and
the restoration of a depraved mind needs the deep work of grace. True
conversion has to begin in a person's thoughts and beliefs, so an office
of teaching must have real authority to guard the deposit of faith by
setting its limits, imposing silence on false expressions of it, demanding
outward reverence and submission, and by applying the power of
excommunication if necessary. The exercise of the Church's infallibility
is itself a vast exercise of reason that involves a great amount of
teaching, research, writing, and debate, often over generations, because
new truth must flow from old truth with a measure of continuity.
Likewise, the definition provided by the bishops
follows the belief of the laity for its guidance, and thus, takes
centuries to establish new beliefs. None of its claims to infallible
teaching can be extended to mean infallible people in the process of
debate. Sometimes it is not the right time for a new change or reform in
Liberalism had morphed from a party position to a
cultural attitude and force, and despite the new science's antipathy
towards Christianity and the Bible, Catholicism is not angry at science or
perplexed by its findings. Rather, one should have a fair amount of
patience and fortitude in the face of new findings.
The papal see interferes in the day-to-day rational
lives of its people very little, and the controversies that shape its
belief (again) are often carried out over generations. There is a good and
right national diversity within the church. Works like that of Alfonso
Liguori that seem to allow for equivocation were 1) intended to deal with
extreme, special circumstances, and 2) were intended as advice for the
confessor, dealing with tender consciences, not the preacher before a
congregation. All this said, Newman is a frank, open Englishman, and
doesn't indulge in even such allowable behavior.
- Is it rational to believe in an infallible
teaching office of a church?
- What determines true Christian belief?
- Does the Catholic position rob one of
rationality? Why or why not?
- Is it ever permissible to lie? Why or why not?