Friday, October 09, 2009

Pius XII: Newman "gave up his life to the truth"

Today is the anniversary of Newman's conversion in 1845.
Ever since an editorial in The Tablet suggested Newman should be canonised for "his Englishness", many people have feared a watering down of Newman's theology and his conversion. That editorial suggested, in The Tablet’s opinion, suggested Newman’s Catholicism is a potentially divisive issue, both ecumenically and in the nation as a whole, and his Beatification should therefore not accord it pride of place. Equally important, according to The Tablet, should be Newman’s ‘Englishness’, around which the whole nation can unite.
The official site run by the Fathers of the Birmingham carries this little thought today:
If the Church is to be regal, a witness for Heaven, unchangeable amid secular changes, if in every age she is to hold her own, and proclaim as well as profess the truth, if she is to thrive without or against the civil power, if she is to be resourceful and self-recuperative under all fortunes, she must be more than Holy and Apostolic; she must be Catholic
Of course a lot hangs on what Newman meant by "Catholic", high church, incense swinging Anglicans might suggest it means Anglo-Catholicism, liberals might understand it to be their particular version of the faith, but Newman, having identified himself all his life as the fiercest enemy of liberalism left Anglicanism for communion with the See of Peter. Newman understood "Catholic", in its proper sense, to mean communion with the See of Peter, identified in the person of the reigning Pontiff.

The same site features a letter from Pius XII on the centenary of Newman's conversion:

One quality especially seems to Us to call for close attention and study in the career of the great man whose happy return to the Christian fold you are commemorating. He ‘gave up his whole life to the truth’ (Juvenal. Sat. iv. 91); all his efforts, all his untiring labours, were dedicated to that end. A time came when the beauty of Catholic teaching revealed itself clearly to his longing eyes; with that, no obstacle of any kind—his old prejudices, loss of prospects, the protests of his friends—could hold him back; nothing must stand between him and full adherence to the truth he had now mastered. He held to it ever afterwards with unshaken consistency, made it the guiding principle of his whole life, found in it, as in nothing else, full contentment of mind.


‘The mind,’ we are told, ‘knows no food more appetizing than discovery of the truth’ (Lactantius, De Falsa Religione, i. 1; Migne, P.L. VI, c. 118). What shall we say, then, of truth in matters of religious belief, so intimately bound up with every man’s hope of eternal salvation? To search out such truth as this with all care, hunt it down with all eagerness, is a task for great and generous hearts; to possess it fully, is to win enlargement and satisfaction of mind. There can be no doubt that the evocation of so great a memory will have great value for those who already rest in the bosom of the Catholic Church, already enjoy Christian teaching in its entirety. read the rest here

The reason for his beatification is because "he gave up his life to the truth", there is a sense of martyrdom here. For Newman the search for "the truth" cost a great deal. I hear of many Anglicans especially clergy who hesitate to leave their rectories, their livings, their friends, their position in society. For "the truth" Newman gave up all these things, entering the Catholic Church where for many years he experienced odium, mistrust, obscurity, disappointment, suspicion of heresy.
"The truth" for Newman was a gain which far outweighed the loss.


Dominic Jordan said...

Because of Newman's courage to forgo all the previous privileges as an Anglican clergyman for the sake of truth, he made it possible for a great many others to do the same. He helped to open the way for others who wanted to do the same and helped the situation of those who were already Catholics by helping to break down the sort of discrimination that they had once been subjected to. We owe him an enormous debt. The opportunities and freedom from bigotry that liberal Catholics enjoy is a direct result of his personal sacrifice- they should remember this.

pelerin said...

'The mind knows no food more appetizing than discovery of the truth.'

What a wonderful quote, but there is sadness when those dear to us fail to see this.

Henry said...

There is always a price to be paid.

Independent said...

Newman was a great scholar concerned with following the truth and his conscience where it lead him. His "Letter to the Duke of Norfolk" is indeed a manifesto for such ideas. Not surprisingly he endured in both the Church of England and the Catholic Church "odium,mistrust,obscurity, disappointment, and suspicion of heresy". His battles against the Anglican authorities gave way to battles against Manning and the extreme ultramontanists, he was ever involved in controversy for what he believed to be true.

To Beatify him merely for his "Englishness" would be meaningless.