Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More Notes on Newman

Newman is my nightcap. I pick up the book after the kids have gone to bed and promptly fall to sleep. But I have made it up to his Religious Opinions of 1841-1845, and feel like I have a better acquaintance with Newman the young man. He portrays himself, not as a genius, but as an impassioned defender of truth willing to risk offending people, a courage I often lack. I wonder how it felt to realize you have been a catalyst of a major historical event.

Some quotes that stuck out to me:

From 1833 to 1839: Since our parents are converts, among our extended family are various differences in matters of faith. Some relatives share the opinion of Dr. Hampden: “'Religion is distinct from Theological Opinion’” and that “‘theological propositions’” (dogma and doctrine) are not to be confused with "‘the simple religion of Christ.’” Newman’s response “While I respect the tone of piety which the Pamphlet displays, I dare not trust myself to put on paper my feelings about the principles contained in it; tending as they do, in my opinion, altogether to make shipwreck of Christian faith.”

Is this an attempt at ecumenism or unity?: “A further motive which I had for my attempt was the desire to ascertain the ultimate points of contrariety between the Roman and Anglican creeds, and to make them as few as possible. I thought that each creed was obscured and misrepresented by a dominant circumnambient ‘Popery” and ‘Protestantism.’” He did not succeed, for this is still a problem today, as evidenced by my own family.

Then I skipped to the back of the book and found these:

From Note A on Liberalism:
“Now by Liberalism I mean false liberty of thought, or the exercise of thought upon matters, in which, from the constitution of the human mind, thought cannot be brought to any successful issue, and therefore is out of place. Among such matters are first principles of whatever kind; and of these the most sacred and momentous are especially to be reckoned the truths of Revelation. Liberalism then is the mistake of subjecting to human judgment those revealed doctrines which are in their nature beyond and independent of it, and of claiming to determine on intrinsic grounds the truth and value of propositions which rest for their reception simply on the external authority of the Divine Word.”

From Note G on Lying and Equivocation: This is good for parents:

“Almost all authors, Catholic and Protestant, admit, that when a just cause is present, there is some kind or other of verbal misleading, which is not sin.” Then he explicates the difference between just cause and the kind of verbal misleading or silence, which could be a mortal sin, calling to mind Endo’s book.

My book also has as an appendix Newman's list of English saints arranged according to their feast days and then again chronologically, which is interesting. It stops at the 15th century.

The Sunday meditation in Magnificat was from JHN’s sermons:
“If, indeed, we listen to the world, we shall take another course… We shall have a secret shrinking from the Church’s teaching. We shall have an uneasy, uncomfortable feeling when mention is made of the maxims of holy men and ascetical writers, not liking them, yet not daring to dissent. We shall be scanty in supernatural acts, and have little or nothing of the habits of virtue which are formed by them, and are an armor of proof against temptation. We shall suffer our souls to be overrun with venial sins, which tend to mortal sin, if they have not already reached it.

I say, that we must not only have faith in the Lord, but must wait on him; not only must hope, but must watch for him; not only love him, but must long for him; not only obey him, but must look out, look up earnestly for our reward, which is himself.” He goes on about being detached from the things of the world, and making Christ our only object of faith, hope and charity, as he evidently did himself, to turn his back on his position of rising attention in the Anglican Church. A good reminder when I have such a hard time making even tiny sacrifices.
Yesterday I stumbled across this information on a course in Art, Beauty and Inspiration, at Maryvale, the institute near Newman's Birmingham Oratory from a link from another good blog by former DRE of a former church we used to go to - great for education ideas.  Want to find time and money to go to England for 3 weekends and enroll?


mrsdarwin said...

Emily, a few weeks ago my husband was reading comfortably in bed, and I thought to myself, "I should get a book too. I'm not sleepy. Let's see, what looks good on our shelf?" I had almost resolved to get a favorite novel when it occured to me that I really ought to go downstairs and get Newman. Instantly I was drowsy and fell promptly asleep.

I suppose that this is as good a space as any to gracefully bow out of the rest of Newman. I'm loving his writing, but I'm pregnant and I just can't stay awake at night to read anything, even to my children. I'm going to try and keep going, but I make no promises and I don't think I'll have anything worthwhile to contribute to the conversation. Alas...

Pentimento said...

Well, like everyone probably, I put down JHN for Thanksgiving and have yet to pick him back up again. Will do so tonight. That blog is amazing, by the way, Emily.

Pentimento said...

I'm getting sidetracked by the footnotes, but I found something interesting in the note explaining who the early Tractarians were. JHN mentions a William Palmer "(not William Palmer of Magdalen [College], who is now a Catholic)." The footnote describes the other William Palmer, i.e. the William Palmer of Magdalen, as having applied for entrance into the Eastern Orthodox Church, but having been turned down by both the Russian and Greek churches. This interested me because I had a dear friend, now deceased, who was an English convert to Orthodoxy. He had been an Anglo-Catholic, and had been close to ordination for the priesthood when he left seminary, because he wasn't married yet and, as he said, just didn't think he could manage it without a wife (if you're an Anglican priest, you can't marry after being ordained). In the 1980s, disgusted with the liberal reforms in the Anglican Church, he and his wife consummated their long attraction to Eastern Orthodoxy, and, when I met them in 2001, their lives were wholly informed by it. I asked my friend once whether he'd ever considered becoming Catholic, and he recoiled at the thought. Anti-Catholicism is deeply bred into the British psyche, which makes the conversion of Newman and his colleagues even more remarkable for its time.

Emily J. said...

Thanks for the compliment, Pentimento. I'm afraid I'm often the Rambling Blogger with no real focus to my rambles. The note about your friends becoming orthodox is interesting. After reading Crunchy Cons and finding out that Dreher became Orthodox, I was curious about whether he thought Roman Catholicism just wasn't conservative enough. Or maybe he was drawn by the liturgy.
Another note: I just happened across an article in our Catholic paper about a miracle attributed to Newman that happened to a deacon in Massachusetts. He had a spinal disorder while he was studying for the diaconate that disappeared after praying to JHN. Maybe this is old news, but here's a link:

Anyone see that movie "The Third Miracle" with Anne Heche and Ed Harris? Thought it was pretty good.

Pentimento said...

I haven't seen the movie, but I did know about the Deacon in MA. Newman's going to be beatified next June.

I read Crunchy Cons the book and used to read his blog, but don't anymore because his constant catastrophizing left me in a state of emotional prostration. I feel much better now that I don't read him anymore, in fact. He often talks about the scandals as the motivating reason for him to leave the RC Church, but I suspect it was more than that. The Orthodox Church has a very beautiful, luminous aesthetic tradition that probably was part of the draw for him. You just don't encounter a liturgy in the Orthodox Church that's equivalent of the priest rushing through the canon and treating his sermon like stand-up material, let alone a balloon Mass.

BettyDuffy said...

My friend Jus who blogs at

is a convert to Orthodoxy. She doesn't blog about her faith, but has said before that they do consider the Catholic Church very liberal. I thought that was sort of interesting, because I definitely see a more traditional liturgy, but their social teachings seem less conservative: married priests, and I think some barrier method contraception is allowed.

Anyway, I'm having all the same challenges with Newman as everyone else (staying awake). But I like reading your posts, and then skipping ahead to where you guys are. It occurred to me today that having the opportunity to skim Apologia, and discuss it, or read your discussions, is much much more than I ever would have done on my own. I consider it a success.

Otepoti said...

Hey, Mrs D - congratulations! When is your due date?