Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England
John Henry Newman

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Revised September, 2001—NR.

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1.   Protestant View of the Catholic Church      1.
2.  Tradition the Sustaining Power of the Protestant View    42.
3 . Fable the Basis of the Protestant View    83.
4.  True Testimony Insufficient for the Protestant View  127.
5.  Logical Inconsistency of the Protestant View  177.
6.  Prejudice the Life of the Protestant View  223.
7.  Assumed Principles the Intellectual Ground of the Protestant View  271.
8.  Ignorance Concerning Catholics the Protection of the Protestant View   315.
9.  Duties of Catholics Towards the Protestant View  363.
  Notes  404.

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Life of Cardinal Newman, Chapter 9 [covers the period in which this book was written—NR]

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{v} IT is the infelicity of the moment at which I write, that it is not allowed me to place the following pages under the patronage of the successor of St. Patrick, with the ceremony and observance due to so great a name, without appearing to show disrespect to an Act of Parliament.

Such appearance a Catholic is bound to avoid, whenever it is possible. The authority of the civil power is based on sanctions so solemn and august, and the temporal blessings which all classes derive from its protection are so many, that both on Christian principles and from {vi} motives of expedience it is ever a duty, unless religious considerations interfere, to profess a simple deference to its enunciations, and a hearty concurrence in its very suggestions; but how can I deny of your Grace what may almost be called a dogmatic fact, that you are what the Catholic Church has made you?

Evil, however, is never without its alleviation; and I think I shall have your Grace's concurrence, if in the present instance I recognise the operation, already commenced, of that unfailing law of Divine Providence, by which all events, prosperous or adverse, are made to tend, in one way or other, to the triumph of our Religion. The violence of our enemies has thrown us back upon ourselves and upon each other; and though it needed no adventitious cause to lead me to aspire to the honour of associating my name with that of your Grace, whose kindness I had already experienced so abundantly when I was at Rome in 1847, yet the present circumstances furnish a motive of their own, for my turning my eyes in devotion and affection to the Primate of {vii} that ancient and glorious and much enduring Church, the Church of Ireland, who, from her own past history, can teach her restored English Sister how to persevere in the best of causes, and can interchange with her, amid trials common to both, the tenderness of Catholic sympathy and the power of Catholic intercession.

Begging of your Grace for me and mine the fulness of St. Patrick's benediction,
I am, my dear Lord Primate,
Your Grace's faithful and affectionate Servant,

Of the Oratory.

Sept. 1851.

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{ix} IT may be necessary to state, that by "Brothers of the Oratory" are meant the members of an Association or Confraternity of seculars attached, but external, to the Ecclesiastical Congregation, to which the Author belongs. These are the persons to whom the following Lectures are addressed, with a view of suggesting to them, how best, as Catholics, to master their own position and to perform their duties in a Protestant country.

The Author repeats here, what he has several times observed in the course of the Volume itself, that his object has not been to prove the divine origin of Catholicism, but to remove some of the moral and intellectual impediments which prevent Protestants from acknowledging it. Protestants cannot be expected to do justice to a religion whose professors they hate and scorn. It has been objected to the Author, as {x} regards both this and other of his works, that he succeeds better in demolition than in construction; and he has been challenged to draw out a proof of the truth of the Catholic Faith. Persons who so speak, should consider the state of the case more accurately:that he has not attempted the task to which they invite him, does not arise from any misgiving whatever in his mind about the strength of his cause, but about the disposition of his audience. He has a most profound misgiving about their fairness as judges, founded on his sense of the misconceptions concerning Catholicism which generally pre-occupy the English mind. Irresistible as the proof seems to him to be, so as even to master and carry away the intellect as soon as it is stated, so that Catholicism is almost its own evidence, yet it requires, as the great philosopher of antiquity reminds us, as being a moral proof, a rightly-disposed recipient. While a community is overrun with prejudices, it is as premature to attempt to prove that doctrine to be true which is the object of them, as it would be to think of building in the aboriginal forest till its trees had been felled.

The controversy with our opponents is not simple, but various and manifold; when a Catholic is doing one thing he cannot be doing another; yet the common answer made to his proof of this point is, that it is no proof of that. Thus men shift about, silenced {xi} in nothing, because they have not yet been answered in everything. Let them admit what we have already proved, and they will have a claim on us for proof of more. One thing at a time is the general rule given for getting through business well, and it applies to the case before us. In a large and complicated question it is much to settle portions of it; yet this is so little understood, that a course of Lectures might profitably confine itself simply to the consideration of the canons to be observed in disputation. Catholics would have cause to congratulate themselves, though they were able to proceed no further than to persuade Protestants to argue out one point before going on to another. It would be much even to get them to give up what they could not defend, and to promise that they would not return to it. It would be much to succeed in hindering them from making a great deal of an objection till it is refuted, and then suddenly considering it so small that it is not worth withdrawing. It would be much to hinder them from eluding a defeat on one point by digressing upon three or four others, and then presently running back to the first, and then to and fro, to second, third and fourth, and treating each in turn as if quite a fresh subject on which not a word had yet been said. In all controversy it is surely right to mark down and record what has been proved, as well as what has not; and {xii} this is what the Author claims of the reader as regards the following Volume.

He claims, and surely with justice, that it should not be urged against his proof that Protestant views of Catholics are wrong, that he has not thereby proved that Catholicism is right. He wishes his proof taken for what it is. He certainly has not proved what he did not set about proving; and neither he nor any one else has any encouragement to go on to prove something more, until what he actually has accomplished is distinctly acknowledged. The obligations of a controversialist lie with Protestants equally as with us.

As regards his Catholic readers, he would ask leave to express a hope that he may not be supposed in his concluding Lecture to recommend to the Laity the cultivation of a controversial temper, or a forwardness and rashness and unseasonableness in disputing upon religion. No one apprehends so clearly the difficulty of arguing on religious topics, consistently with their sacredness and delicacy, as he who has taken pains to do so well. No one shrinks so sensitively from its responsibility, when it is not a duty, as he who has learned by experience his own unavoidable inaccuracies in statement and in reasoning. It is no easy accomplishment in a Catholic to know his religion so perfectly, as to be able to volunteer a defence of it. {xiii}

The Author has, besides, to apologize to them for having perhaps made some quotations of Scripture from the Protestant version. If anywhere he has been led to do so, it has been in cases where, points of faith not being involved, it was necessary for the argumentative or rhetorical force of the passages in which they occur.

And lastly, he earnestly begs their prayers that he may be prospered and blest in whatever he attempts, however poorly, for God's glory and the edification of His Church.

In Fest. Nativ. B. M. V., 1851.

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Title Page





Addressed to the Brothers of the Oratory






Tempus tacendi, et tempus loquendi






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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.