2. Remarks on various statements introduced into the Eirenicon

{9} I KNOW, indeed, and feel deeply, that your frequent references, in your Volume, to what I have lately or formerly written, are caused by your strong desire to be still one with me as far as you can, and by that true affection, which takes pleasure in dwelling on such sayings of mine as you can still accept with the full approbation of your judgment. I trust I am not ungrateful or irresponsive to you in this respect; but other considerations have an imperative claim to be taken into account. Pleasant as it is to agree with you, I am bound to explain myself in cases in which I have changed my mind, or have given a wrong impression of my meaning, or have been wrongly reported; and, while I trust that I have higher than mere personal motives for addressing you in print, yet it will serve to introduce my main subject, and give me an opportunity for remarks which bear upon it indirectly, if I dwell for a page or two on such matters contained in your Volume as concern myself.

1. The mistake which I have principally in view is the belief which is widely spread, that I have publicly spoken of the Anglican Church as "the great bulwark against infidelity in this land." In a pamphlet of yours a year old, you spoke of "a very earnest body of Roman Catholics," who "rejoice in all the workings {10} of God the Holy Ghost in the Church of England (whatever they think of her), and are saddened by what weakens her who is, in God's hands, the great bulwark against infidelity in this land." The concluding words you were thought to quote from my Apologia. In consequence, Dr. Manning, now our Archbishop, replied to you, asserting, as you say, "the contradictory of that statement." In that counter-assertion, he was at the time generally considered (rightly or wrongly as it may be), though writing to you, to be really glancing at my Apologia, and correcting it, without introducing my name, where he thought it needed correction. Further, in the Volume, which you have now published, you recur to the phrase; and you speak of its author in terms which, did I not know your partial kindness for me, would hinder me from identifying him with myself. You say, "The saying was not mine, but that of one of the deepest thinkers and observers in the Roman Communion," p. 7. A friend has suggested to me that perhaps you mean De Maistre; and, from an anonymous letter which I have received from Dublin, I find it is certain that the very words in question were once used by Archbishop Murray; however, you speak of the author of them as if now alive. At length, a reviewer of your Volume in the "Weekly Register," distinctly attributes them to me by name, and gives me the first opportunity I have had of disowning them; and this I now do. What, at some time or other, I may have said in conversation or in private letter, of course I cannot tell; but I have never, I am sure, used the word "bulwark" of the {11} Anglican Church deliberately, or speaking of it in its religious aspect, nor, as I think, at all [Note 1]. What I said in my Apologia was this:—that that Church was "a serviceable breakwater against errors more fundamental than its own." A bulwark is an integral part of the thing it defends; whereas the word "breakwater" implies such a protection of the Catholic truth, as is, in its nature, accidental and de facto,—and again, such a protection as does not utterly exclude error, but detracts from its volume and force. "Serviceable," too, implies a something external to the thing served. Again, in saying that the Anglican Church is a defence against "errors more fundamental than its own," I imply that it has errors, and those fundamental.

2. There is another passage of your book, at p. 337, which it may be right to observe upon. You have made a collection of passages from the Fathers, as witnesses in behalf of your doctrine that the whole Christian faith is contained in Scripture, as if, in your sense of the words, Catholics contradicted you here. And you refer to my Notes on St. Athanasius as contributing passages to your list; but, after all, neither do you, nor do I in my Notes, affirm any doctrine which Rome denies. Those Notes also make frequent reference to a traditional teaching, which (be the faith ever so certainly contained in Scripture), still is necessary as a Regula Fidei, for showing us that it is contained there; vid. pp. 283, 341 [Note 2]; and this tradition, {12} I know, you uphold as fully as I do in the Notes in question. In consequence, you allow that there is a two-fold rule, Scripture and Tradition; and this is all that Catholics say. How, then, do Anglicans differ from Rome here? I believe the difference is merely one of words; and I shall be doing, so far, the work of an Irenicon, if I make clear what this verbal difference is. Catholics and Anglicans (I do not say Protestants), attach different meanings to the word "proof," in the controversy as to whether the whole faith is, or is not, contained in Scripture. We mean that not every article of faith is so contained there, that it may thence be logically proved, independently of the teaching and authority of the Tradition; but Anglicans mean that every article of faith is so contained there, that it may thence be proved, provided there be added the illustrations and compensations supplied by the Tradition. And it is in this latter sense that the Fathers also speak in the passages which you quote from them. I am sure at least that St. Athanasius frequently adduces passages in proof of points in controversy, which no one would see to be proofs, unless Apostolical Tradition were taken into account, first as suggesting, then as authoritatively ruling their meaning. Thus you do not say, that the whole revelation is in Scripture in such sense that pure unaided logic can draw it from the sacred text; nor do we say, that it is not in Scripture, in an improper sense, in the sense that the Tradition of the Church is able to recognize and determine it there. You do not profess to dispense with Tradition; nor do we forbid the idea of probable, {13} secondary, symbolical, connotative, senses of Scripture, over and above those which properly belong to the wording and context. I hope you will agree with me in this.

3. Nor is it only in isolated passages that you give me a place in your Volume. A considerable portion of it is written with a reference to two publications of mine, one of which you name and defend, the other you implicitly protest against; Tract 90, and the Essay on Doctrinal Development. As to Tract 90, you have from the first, as all the world knows, boldly stood up for it, in spite of the obloquy which it brought upon you, and have done me a great service. You are now republishing it with my cordial concurrence; but I take this opportunity of noticing, lest there should be any mistake on the part of the public, that you do so with a different object from that which I had when I wrote it. Its original purpose was simply that of justifying myself and others in subscribing to the Thirty-nine Articles, while professing many tenets which had popularly been considered distinctive of the Roman faith. I considered that my interpretation of the Articles, as I gave it in that Tract, would stand, provided the parties imposing them allowed it; otherwise, I thought it could not stand; and, when in the event the Bishops and public opinion did not allow it, I gave up my Living, as having no right to retain it. My feeling about the interpretation is expressed in a passage in "Loss and Gain," which runs thus:—

"'Is it,' asked Reding, 'a received view?' 'No view is received,' said the other; 'the Articles themselves {14} are received, but there is no authoritative interpretation of them at all.' 'Well,' said Reding, 'is it a tolerated view?' 'It certainly has been strongly opposed,' answered Bateman; 'but it has never been condemned.' 'That is no answer,' said Charles. 'Does any one Bishop hold it? Did any one Bishop ever hold it? Has it ever been formally admitted as tenable by any one Bishop? Is it a view got up to meet existing difficulties, or has it an historical existence?' Bateman could give only one answer to these questions, as they were successively put to him. 'I thought so,' said Charles; 'the view is specious certainly. I don't see why it might not have answered, had it been tolerably sanctioned; but you have no sanction to show me. As it stands, it is a mere theory struck out by individuals. Our Church might have adopted this mode of interpreting the Articles; but, from what you tell me, it certainly has not done so.'"—Ch. 15.

However, the Tract did not carry its object and conditions on its face, and necessarily lay open to interpretations very far from the true one. Dr. Wiseman (as he then was), in particular, with the keen apprehension which was his characteristic, at once saw in it a basis of accommodation between Anglicanism and Rome. He suggested broadly that the decrees of the Council of Trent should be made the rule of interpretation for the Thirty-nine Articles, a proceeding, of which Sancta Clara, I think, had set the example; and as you have observed, published a letter to Lord Shrewsbury on the subject, of which the following are extracts:—

"We Catholics must necessarily deplore [England's] {15} separation as a deep moral evil,—as a state of schism, of which nothing can justify the continuance. Many members of the Anglican Church view it in the same light as to the first point—its sad evil, though they excuse their individual position in it as an unavoidable misfortune ... We may depend upon a willing, an able, and most zealous co-operation with any effort which we may take, towards bringing her into her rightful position, into Catholic unity with the Holy See and the Churches of its obedience,—in other words, with the Church Catholic. Is this a visionary idea? Is it merely the expression of a strong desire? I know that many will so judge it; and, perhaps, were I to consult my own quiet, I would not venture to express it. But I will, in simplicity of heart, cling to hopefulness, cheered, as I feel it, by so many promising appearances …

"A natural question here presents itself;—what facilities appear in the present state of things for bringing about so happy a consummation, as the reunion of England to the Catholic Church, beyond what have before existed, and particularly under Archbishops Laud or Wake. It strikes me, many. First, &c. … A still more promising circumstance I think your Lordship will with me consider the plan which the eventful Tract No. 90 has pursued, and in which Mr. Ward, Mr. Oakeley, and even Dr. Pusey have agreed. I allude to the method of bringing their doctrines into accordance with ours by explanation. A foreign priest has pointed out to us a valuable document for our consideration,—'Bossuet's Reply to the Pope,'—when consulted on the {16} best method of reconciling the followers of the Augsburg Confession with the Holy See. The learned Bishop observes, that Providence had allowed so much Catholic truth to be preserved in that Confession, that full advantage should be taken of the circumstance; that no retractations should be demanded, but an explanation of the Confession in accordance with Catholic doctrines. Now, for such a method as this, the way is in part prepared by the demonstration that such interpretation may be given of the most difficult Articles, as will strip them of all contradiction to the decrees of the Tridentine Synod. The same method may be pursued on other points; and much pain may thus be spared to individuals, and much difficulty to the Church."—Pp. 11, 35, 38.

This use of my Tract, so different from my own, but sanctioned by the great name of our Cardinal, you are now reviving; and I gather from your doing so, that your Bishops and the opinion of the public are likely now, or in prospect, to admit what twenty-five years ago they refused. On this point, much as it rejoices me to know your anticipation, of course I cannot have an opinion.

4. So much for Tract 90. On the other hand, as to my hypothesis of Doctrinal Development, I am sorry to find you do not look upon it with friendly eyes; though how, without its aid, you can maintain the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and Incarnation, and others which you hold, I cannot understand. You consider my principle may be the means, in time to come, of introducing into our Creed, as portions of the necessary Catholic faith, the Infallibility of the Pope, and various opinions, pious or profane, as it may be, about our {17} Blessed Lady. I hope to remove your anxiety as to the character of these consequences, before I bring my observations to an end [Note 3]; at present I notice it as my apology for interfering in a controversy which at first sight is no business of mine.

5. I have another reason for writing; and that is, unless it is rude in me to say so, because you seem to think writing does not become me, as being a convert. I do not like silently to acquiesce in such a judgment. You say at p. 98:—

"Nothing can be more unpractical than for an individual to throw himself into the Roman Church, because he could accept the letter of the Council of Trent. Those who were born Roman Catholics, have a liberty, which, in the nature of things, a person could not have, who left another system, to embrace that of Rome. I cannot imagine how any faith could stand the shock of leaving one system, criticizing it, and cast himself into another system, criticizing it. For myself, I have always felt that had (which God of His mercy avert hereafter also) the English Church, by accepting heresy, driven me out of it, I could have gone in no other way than that of closing my eyes, and accepting whatever was put before me. But a liberty which individuals could not use, and explanations, which so long as they remain individual, must be unauthoritative, might be formally made by the Church of Rome to the Church of England as the basis of reunion." {18}

And again, p. 210:—

"It seems to me to be a psychological impossibility for one who has already exchanged one system for another to make those distinctions. One who, by his own act, places himself under authority, cannot make conditions about his submission. But definite explanations of our Articles have, before now, been at least tentatively offered to us on the Roman and Greek side, as sufficient to restore communion; and the Roman explanations too were, in most cases, mere supplements to our Articles, on points upon which our Church had not spoken."

Now passages such as these seem almost a challenge to me to speak; and to keep silence would be to assent to the justice of them. At the cost, then, of speaking about myself, of which I feel there has been too much of late, I observe upon them as follows:—Of course, as you say, a convert comes to learn, and not to pick and choose. He comes in simplicity and confidence, and it does not occur to him to weigh and measure every proceeding, every practice which he meets with among those whom he has joined. He comes to Catholicism as to a living system, with a living teaching, and not to a mere collection of decrees and canons, which by themselves are of course but the framework, not the body and substance of the Church. And this is a truth which concerns, which binds, those also who never knew any other religion, not only the convert. By the Catholic system, I mean that rule of life, and those practices of devotion, for which we shall look in vain in the Creed of Pope Pius. The convert comes, {19} not only to believe the Church, but also to trust and obey her priests, and to conform himself in charity to her people. It would never do for him to resolve that he never would say a Hail Mary, never avail himself of an indulgence, never kiss a crucifix, never accept the Lent dispensations, never mention a venial sin in confession. All this would not only be unreal, but would be dangerous, too, as arguing a wrong state of mind, which could not look to receive the divine blessing. Moreover, he comes to the ceremonial, and the moral theology, and the ecclesiastical regulations, which he finds on the spot where his lot is cast. And again, as regards matters of politics, of education, of general expedience, of taste, he does not criticize or controvert. And thus surrendering himself to the influences of his new religion, and not risking the loss of revealed truth altogether by attempting by a private rule to discriminate every moment its substance from its accidents, he is gradually so indoctrinated in Catholicism, as at length to have a right to speak as well as to hear. Also in course of time a new generation rises round him; and there is no reason why he should not know as much, and decide questions with as true an instinct, as those who perhaps number fewer years of life than he numbers Easter communions. He has mastered the fact and the nature of the differences of theologian from theologian, school from school, nation from nation, era from era. He knows that there is much of what may be called fashion in opinions and practices, according to the circumstances of time and place, according to current politics, the character of the Pope of the day, or the {20} chief Prelates of a particular country;—and that fashions change. His experience tells him, that sometimes what is denounced in one place as a great offence, or preached up as a first principle, has in another nation been immemorially regarded in just a contrary sense, or has made no sensation at all, one way or the other, when brought before public opinion; and that loud talkers are apt to carry all before them in the Church, as elsewhere, while quiet and conscientious persons commonly have to give way. He perceives that, in matters which happen to be in debate, ecclesiastical authority watches the state of opinion and the direction and course of controversy, and decides accordingly; so that in certain cases to keep back his own judgment on a point, is to be disloyal to his superiors.

So far generally; now in particular as to myself. After twenty years of Catholic life, I feel no delicacy in giving my opinion on any point when there is a call for me,—and the only reason why I have not done so sooner or more often than I have, is that there has been no call. I have now reluctantly come to the conclusion that your Volume is a call. Certainly, in many instances in which theologian differs from theologian and country from country, I have a definite judgment of my own; I can say so without offence to any one, for the very reason that from the nature of the case it is impossible to agree with all of them. I prefer English habits of belief and devotion to foreign, from the same causes, and by the same right, which justifies foreigners in preferring their own. In following those of my people, I show less singularity, and {21} create less disturbance than if I made a flourish with what is novel and exotic. And in this line of conduct I am but availing myself of the teaching which I fell in with on becoming a Catholic; and it is a pleasure to me to think that what I hold now, and would transmit after me if I could, is only what I received then. The utmost delicacy was observed on all hands in giving me advice: only one warning remains on my mind, and it came from Dr. Griffiths, the late Vicar-Apostolic of the London district. He warned me against books of devotion of the Italian school, which were just at that time coming into England; and when I asked him what books he recommended as safe guides, he bade me get the works of Bishop Hay. By this I did not understand that he was jealous of all Italian books, or made himself responsible for all that Dr. Hay happens to have said; but I took him to caution me against a character and tone of religion, excellent in its place, not suited for England.

When I went to Rome, though it may seem strange to you to say it, even there I learned nothing inconsistent with this judgment. Local influences do not form the atmosphere of its institutions and colleges, which are Catholic in teaching as well as in name. I recollect one saying among others of my Confessor, a Jesuit Father, one of the holiest, most prudent men I ever knew. He said that we could not love the Blessed Virgin too much, if we loved our Lord a great deal more. When I returned to England, the first expression of theological opinion which came in my way, was apropos of the series of translated Saints' Lives which {22} the late Dr. Faber originated. That expression proceeded from a wise prelate, who was properly anxious as to the line which might be taken by the Oxford converts, then for the first time coming into work. According as I recollect his opinion, he was apprehensive of the effect of Italian compositions, as unsuited to this country, and suggested that the Lives should be original works, drawn up by ourselves and our friends from Italian sources. If at that time I was betrayed into any acts which were of a more extreme character than I should approve now, the responsibility of course is my own; but the impulse came, not from old Catholics or superiors, but from men whom I loved and trusted, who were younger than myself. But to whatever extent I might be carried away, and I cannot recollect any tangible instances, my mind in no long time fell back to what seems to me a safer and more practical course.

Though I am a convert, then, I think I have a right to speak out; and that the more because other converts have spoken for a long time, while I have not spoken; and with still more reason may I speak without offence in the case of your present criticisms of us, considering that, in the charges you bring, the only two English writers you quote in evidence, are both of them converts, younger in age than myself. I put aside the Archbishop of course, because of his office. These two authors are worthy of all consideration, at once from their character and from their ability. In their respective lines they are perhaps without equals at this particular time; and they deserve the influence they possess. One is still in the vigour of his powers; the other has departed amid {23} the tears of hundreds. It is pleasant to praise them for their real excellences; but why do you rest on them as authorities? You say of the one that he was "a popular writer;" but is there not sufficient reason for this in the fact of his remarkable gifts, of his poetical fancy, his engaging frankness, his playful wit, his affectionateness, his sensitive piety, without supposing that the wide diffusion of his works is caused by a general sympathy with his particular sentiments about the Blessed Virgin? And as to our other friend, do not his energy, acuteness, and theological reading, displayed on the vantage ground of the historic "Dublin Review," fully account for the sensation he has produced, without supposing that any great number of our body go his lengths in their view of the Pope's infallibility? Our silence as regards their writings is very intelligible: it is not agreeable to protest, in the sight of the world, against the writings of men in our own Communion whom we love and respect. But the plain fact is this,—they came to the Church, and have thereby saved their souls; but they are in no sense spokesmen for English Catholics, and they must not stand in the place of those who have a real title to such an office. The chief authors of the passing generation, some of them still alive, others gone to their reward, are Cardinal Wiseman, Dr. Ullathorne, Dr. Lingard, Mr. Tierney, Dr. Oliver, Dr. Rock, Dr. Waterworth, Dr. Husenbeth, and Mr. Flanagan; which of these ecclesiastics has said anything extreme about the prerogatives of the Blessed Virgin or the infallibility of the Pope?

I cannot, then, without remonstrance, allow you to {24} identify the doctrine of our Oxford friends in question, on the two subjects I have mentioned, with the present spirit or the prospective creed of Catholics; or to assume, as you do, that, because they are thorough-going and relentless in their statements, therefore they are the harbingers of a new age, when to show a deference to Antiquity will be thought little else than a mistake. For myself, hopeless as you consider it, I am not ashamed still to take my stand upon the Fathers, and do not mean to budge. The history of their times is not yet an old almanac to me. Of course I maintain the value and authority of the "Schola," as one of the loci theologici; nevertheless I sympathize with Petavius in preferring to the "contentious and subtle theology" of the middle age, that "more elegant and fruitful teaching which is moulded after the image of erudite Antiquity." The Fathers made me a Catholic, and I am not going to kick down the ladder by which I ascended into the Church. It is a ladder quite as serviceable for that purpose now, as it was twenty years ago. Though I hold, as you know, a process of development in Apostolic truth as time goes on, such development does not supersede the Fathers, but explains and completes them. And, in particular, as regards our teaching concerning the Blessed Virgin, with the Fathers I am content;—and to the subject of that teaching I mean to address myself at once. I do so, because you say, as I myself have said in former years, that "That vast system as to the Blessed Virgin ... to all of us has been the special crux of the Roman system."—P. 101. Here, let me say, as on other points, the Fathers are {25} enough for me. I do not wish to say more than they suggest to me, and will not say less. You, I know, will profess the same; and thus we can join issue on a clear and broad principle, and may hope to come to some intelligible result. We are to have a Treatise on the subject of our Lady soon from the pen of the Most Reverend Prelate; but that cannot interfere with such a mere argument from the Fathers as that to which I shall confine myself here. Nor indeed, as regards that argument itself, do I profess to be offering you any new matter, any facts which have not been used by others,—by great divines, as Petavius,—by living writers, nay, by myself on other occasions. I write afresh nevertheless, and that for three reasons; first, because I wish to contribute to the accurate statement and the full exposition of the argument in question; next, because I may gain a more patient hearing than has sometimes been granted to better men than myself; lastly, because there just now seems a call on me, under my circumstances, to avow plainly what I do and what I do not hold about the Blessed Virgin, that others may know, did they come to stand where I stand, what they would, and what they would not, be bound to hold concerning her.

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1. In the former of these volumes, p. 1, speaking of "Institutions" (i.e. "the Church and Universities of the nation"), I call them "the only political bulwarks" remaining of the "dogmatic principle."
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2. Oxford Edition.
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3. Father Ryder of the Oratory removed the necessity of my fulfilling this intention as far as Infallibility is concerned, by his able pamphlets in answer to Mr. Ward.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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