Wednesday, October 21, 2009

JOHN HENRY NEWMAN on "groups" being reunited with Rome

I have taken this article from the website dedicated to the Canonisation of John Henry Newman HERE.

A number of reporters have suggested that John Henry Newman could be the patron of new 'Ordinariates' - the name to be given to those Anglican groups who respond to Rome's invitation.

What would Newman himself think of such a scheme? He had an important correspondence in 1876 with the convert Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle, about a plan for an Anglican 'uniate' Church, similar to the Eastern Rite Churches in communion with Rome. The plan, which had some support from Cardinal Manning, the then Archbishop of Westminster, had been proposed in an anonymous pamphlet called Christianity or Erastianism? It argued that the Anglican Church was at the mercy of the British State, and that the only way to avoid this 'Erastian' Church was to enter into communion with the Holy See.

Newman's initial position was sceptical, for practical reasons. He wrote to de Lisle on 19th January that it was a 'plausible scheme', but that he saw difficulties, for instance in the relations between the ex-Anglican groups and the rest of the English Catholic Church ("it would be very difficult to avoid perpetual collisions between the two bodies ... The Roman priests would be complaining that the rich splendid Anglican Church in their mission was drawing away at least the young generation"). For Newman, it depended on what the plan could hope to achieve - if enough Anglicans would enter the Catholic Church, it would be worth it. But Newman noted that among Anglo-Catholics "I am told few will feel inclined towards it".

But some ten days later Newman wrote again to de Lisle: "Nothing will rejoice me more than to find that the Holy See considers it safe and promising to sanction some such plan as the Pamphlet suggests. I give my best prayers, such as they are, that some means of drawing to us so many good people, who are now shivering at our gates, may be discovered."

In fact, the scheme soon collapsed, with de Lisle writing that "some powerful influence ... has at once intervened". Writing in May, Newman consoled de Lisle with thoughts he had already expressed in his Apologia pro Vita Sua: "It seems to me there must be some divine purpose in it. It often has happened in sacred and in ecclesiastical history, that a thing is in itself good, but the time has not come for it ... And thus I reconcile myself to many, many things, and put them into God's hands. I can quite believe that the conversion of Anglicans may be more thorough and more extended, if it is delayed - and our Lord knows more than we do."

Newman's line, then, was that plans for group reunion should be left to the right time. When would be right? In his 1873 sermon 'The Infidelity of the Future', Newman had noted the positive influence of non-Catholic Christian groups in modern times: "it is obvious that while the various religious bodies and sects which surround us according to God's permission have done untold harm to the cause of Catholic truth in their opposition to us, they have hitherto been of great service to us in shielding and sheltering us from the assaults of those who believed less than themselves or nothing at all". Yet he had gone on to predict the increasing pressure that secularisation and anti-Christian forces would place on these non-Catholic traditions: "in these years before us it will be much if those outlying bodies are able to defend their own dogmatic professions". Whereas, according to Newman, the Catholic Church would hold fast against such challenges, he predicted that "as time goes on, when there will be a crisis and a turning-point with each of them, then it will be found that, instead of their position being in any sense a defence for us, it will be found in possession of the enemy".

In the challenge provided by secularism, Newman saw a new opportunity. "I rejoice ... [that] as one compensation of the cruel overthrow of faith which we see on all sides of us, that, as the setting of the sun brings out the stars, so great principles are found to shine out, which are hailed by men of various [Christian] religions as their own in common, when infidelity prevails." As he had written in his Idea of a University, "if falsehood assails Truth, Truth can assail falsehood". Newman believed that, under the pressure of an increasingly aggressive secularism, there will be people of all different Christian allegiances and backgrounds who come to recognise the principles that they share and move closer to that closest unity of faith and love which can only exist in communion with the Vicar of Christ.

So, Newman foresaw a point where the weakness of non Catholic Christian traditions, under the assaults of rationalism and unbelief, would signal the moment had arrived for plans to allow bodies of such Christians to enter into communion with the Catholic Church. Newman did not underestimate the possible dangers of this kind of plan. He recognised the great significance of personal conversion, such as his own, and the difficulties there might be in fully integrating the new bodies into the life of the Catholic Church. But still, according to Newman, when the time came for such initiatives it would be right to hope that they would contribute to sharpening and purifying the Christian conscience in a hostile world, and would bring blessings upon both the Catholic Church and upon those who in this way entered into communion with her.


Fr John Abberton said...

Dear Bishop David, thank you for this post about Newman, and thank you for your blog which I discovered about three weeks ago.
I am an RC priest with good Anglican friends. I love and respect them as they are and if they accept the Pope's jurisdiction I will rejoice because we have much to learn. Many in the "Anglo-Catholic" communities have much to share with us, and I look forward with expectation to many of them joining with us so that we can share the Eucharist together.
Deo Gratias!

(The Revd. Dr.) Edward Baty said...

Thank you Bishop David for your remarks - very helpful.

What strikes me as odd is how little we have moved on. The present proposals for the ordinariate are very clear, indeed starkly clear. Those accepting would be Roman Catholics and no longer Anglicans.

Moving slightly further on than Cardinal Newman (whose prayers along with those of "the Blessed John Keble" and the BVM are invoked at the church where I have worshipped Anglican-wise for the last fifteen years or so) we come to the stumbling block of "Apostolicae Curae".

Some years ago I reviewed the then newly published compilation of documents regarding the latter with commentary mainly by Christopher Hill (now my diocesan bishop) and Fr. Yarnold. The riposte to "Apostolicae Curae" by the then Archbishops of Canterbury and York seemed to me to point out quite clearly that the Roman arguments used invalidated their own orders.

Some years later our Anglican scholar Dr. Briggs reported that Pope Leo X had commented that the decision in "Apostolicae Curae" of his predecessor "was not infallible".

As we approach the celebrations anew of Newman's life and work, is it not time, perhaps, to revisit the attitude of Rome to Anglican orders with the same rigor (and honesty about the history of both sides) as Newman was wont to apply?

Such an approach could bring a degree of greater calm and sanity to the Church of England's dilemmas over how to provide for women as bishops whilst still maintaining the breadth of interpretation of the faith in the church at which so many have worked so hard in recent decades.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for this Blog on John Henry Newman....Blessings +++

David Hampson said...

As a point of historical record I would like to point out that the Roman Catholic church in France at the end of world war two helped Nazis hide from justice and escape to South America. Similarly the RC church was involved in the genocide in Rwanda. As a member of the church of England I would not want to be a member of such an authoritarian and hypocritical body, despite the humanitarian quality of some of its members.

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