Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman
Memorandum On the Immaculate Conception
1. IT is so difficult for me to enter into the feelings of a person who understands the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and yet objects to it, that I am diffident about attempting to speak on the subject. I was accused of holding it, in one of the first books I wrote, twenty years ago. On the other hand, this very fact may be an argument against an objector—for why should it not have been difficult to me at that time, if there were a real difficulty in receiving it?
2. Does not the objector consider that Eve was created, or born, without original sin? Why does not this shock him? Would he have been inclined to worship Eve in that first estate of hers? Why, then, Mary?
3. Does he not believe that St. John Baptist had the grace of God—i.e., was regenerated, even before his birth? What do we believe of Mary, but that grace was given her at a still earlier period? All we say is, that grace was given her from the first moment of her existence.
4. We do not say that she did not owe her salvation to the death of her Son. Just the contrary, we say that she, of all mere children of Adam, is in the truest sense the fruit and the purchase of His Passion. He has done for her more than for anyone else. To others He gives grace and regeneration at a point in their earthly existence; to her, from the very beginning.
5. We do not make her nature different from others. Though, as St. Austin says, we do not like to name her in the same breath with mention of sin, yet, certainly she would have been a frail being, like Eve, without the grace of God. A more abundant gift of grace made her what she was from the first. It was not her nature which secured her perseverance, but the excess of grace which hindered Nature acting as Nature ever will act. There is no difference in kind between her and us, though an inconceivable difference of degree. She and we are both simply saved by the grace of Christ.
Thus, sincerely speaking, I really do not see what the difficulty is, and should like it set down distinctly in words. I will add that the above statement is no private statement of my own. I never heard of any Catholic who ever had any other view. I never heard of any other put forth by anyone. Continue reading
Part II of my presentation of the four sermons on the Anti-Christ given by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman during Advent in 1835 before his conversion. Part I is here.
In this second sermon Newman concentrates on what we can glean of the Anti-Christ from Scripture and from the writings of the Fathers of the Church. One thing stands out in this sermon for me. The idea that the reign of the Anti-Christ may involve both ferocious atheism and a return to paganism. This seems like a contradiction, but Newman points to the French Revolution:
In that great and famous nation which is near us, once great for its love of CHRIST’S Church, since memorable for deeds of blasphemy, which lead me here to mention it, and now, when it should be pitied and prayed for, made unhappily our own model in too many respects,-followed when it should be condemned, and admired when it should be excused,-in the capital of that powerful and celebrated nation, there took place, as we all well know, within the last fifty years, an open apostasy from Christianity; not from Christianity only, but from every kind of worship which might retain any semblance or pretence of the great truths of religion. Atheism was absolutely professed; -yet in spite of this, it seems a contradiction in terms to say it, a certain sort of worship, and that, as the prophet expresses it, “a strange worship,” was introduced. Observe what this was.
I say, they avowed on the one hand Atheism. They prevailed upon an unhappy man, whom their proceedings had forced upon the Church as an Archbishop, to come before them in public and declare that there was no God, and that what he had hitherto taught was a fable. They wrote up over the burial places that death was an eternal sleep. They closed the Churches, they seized and desecrated the gold and silver plate belonging to them, turning these sacred instruments, like Belshazzar, to the use of their impious revellings; they formed mock processions, clad in priestly garments, and singing profane hymns. They annulled the divine ordinance of marriage, resolving it into a mere civil contract to le made and dissolved at pleasure. These things are but a part of their enormities.”
Yet at the same time the French Revolutionaries made an idol of the State and of abstractions. Think of the worship of the Goddess of Liberty.
After abjuring our LORD and SAVIOUR, and blasphemously declaring Him to be an impostor, they proceeded to decree, in the public assembly of the nation, the adoration of Liberty and Equality as divinities; and they appointed festivals besides in honour of Reason, the Country, the Constitution, and the Virtues. Further, they determined that tutelary gods, even dead men, may be canonized, consecrated, and worshipped; and they enrolled in the number of these some of the most notorious infidels and profligates of the last century. The remains of the two principal of these were brought in solemn procession into one of their Churches, and placed upon the holy altar itself; incense was offered to them, and the assembled multitude bowed down in worship before one of them,-before what remained on earth of an inveterate enemy of CHRIST.
This is all fascinating when we consider what has happened since Newman’s day. Communist regimes have brutally assaulted the Church and proclaimed the reign of atheism. The Nazis were hostitle to Christianity, Hitler considering it to be a Jewish fable and only waiting for the end of the war to settle accounts with the Churches. The collapse of religious faith in Europe and the rise of militant atheism are facts of life in our time. Yet at the same time we see a growth in paganism: Gaia worship, Wicca and all of the New Age mumbo-jumbo. Heinrich Himmler, chicken farmer turned Reichsfuhrer SS, was ahead of his time in his attempts to revive Nordic paganism. A regime that is both atheist and pagan seems much less unlikely in our time than in Newman’s, and Newman was quite perceptive in highlighting this as key to understanding developments which were in their infancy during his life. As another wise Englishman C. S. Lewis put it in the Screwtape Letters:
I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the High Command. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves. Of course this has not always been so. We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all he pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and sceptics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalise and mythologise their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The “Life Force”, the worship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis, may here prove useful. If once we can produce our perfect work—the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshipping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while denying the existence of “spirits”—then the end of the war will be in sight.
Newman’s second sermon on the Anti-Christ is most definitely a sermon for our time when atheism and paganism often seem to walk the same path. Here is the text of the sermon: Continue reading
(I originally posted these sermons back in 2009 when the readership of the blog was quite smaller. Time to do so again. The Anti-Christ would seem at first blush to be a theme for the end of the liturgical year which focuses on the end times and not during Advent. However, Christ came to bring us to salvation and the exact opposite goal is that of the Anti-Christ. Thinking about the Anti-Christ during Advent reminds us that the mission of Christ is ongoing and that at Advent we celebrate the beginning of that mission, not as a mere historical event that occurred two millennia ago, but an on-going reality.}
Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman preached in 1835 a series of Advent Sermons on the Anti-Christ. I have always found them extremely intriguing, and I am going to present them on each of the Sundays in Advent this year.
In this first sermon Newman gives us an overview of the Anti-Christ and the time of his appearance. We see in this sermon Newman’s total command of history and how he uses this knowledge to draw out the implications of the few mentions of the Anti-Christ in Scripture. Newman intellectually was always first and foremost a historian of the highest order and he puts this talent to good and instructive use in this sermon. When Newman converted the Church gained one of the finest intellects of the Nineteenth Century or any century for that matter. Much of Newman’s work concerned the working out of God’s plan for salvation through human history, and his examination of the Anti-Christ places that mysterious part of revelation into that plan. Continue reading
“It in no way depends upon the caprice of the Pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine, the object of a dogmatic definition. He is tied up and limited to the divine revelation, and to the truths which that revelation contains. He is tied up and limited by the Creeds, already in existence, and by the preceding definitions of the Church. He is tied up and limited by the divine law, and by the constitution of the Church. Lastly, he is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that alongside religious society there is civil society, that alongside the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy there is the power of temporal Magistrates, invested in their own domain with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe in conscience obedience and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society.”
Pastoral of the Swiss Bishops on Papal Infallibility cited by John Henry Cardinal Newman
One of the shrewdest minds ever placed at the service of the Church was that of the recently beatified John Henry Cardinal Newman. I have benefited immensely over the years from reading his writings. Here are his thoughts on the subject of papal infallibility, a subject misunderstood by the World at large and by too many Catholics:
NOW I am to speak of the Vatican definition, by which the doctrine of the Pope’s infallibility has become de fide, that is, a truth necessary to be believed, as being included in the original divine revelation, for those terms, revelation, depositum, dogma, and de fide, are correlatives; and I begin with a remark which suggests the drift of all I have to say about it. It is this:—that so difficult a virtue is faith, even with the special grace of God, in proportion as the reason is exercised, so difficult is it to assent inwardly to propositions, verified to us neither by reason nor experience, but depending for their reception on the word of the Church as God’s oracle, that she has ever shown the utmost care to contract, as far as possible, the range of truths and the sense of propositions, of which she demands this absolute reception. “The Church,” says Pallavicini, “as far as may be, has ever abstained from imposing upon the minds of men that commandment, the most arduous of the Christian Law—viz., to believe obscure matters without doubting.” To co-operate in this charitable duty has been one special work of her theologians, and rules are laid down by herself, by tradition, and by custom, to assist them in the task. She only speaks when it is necessary to speak; but hardly has she spoken out magisterially some great general principle, when she sets her theologians to work to explain her meaning in the concrete, by strict interpretation of its wording, by the illustration of its circumstances, and by the recognition of exceptions, in order to make it as tolerable as possible, and the least of a temptation, to self-willed, independent, or wrongly educated minds. A few years ago it was the fashion among us to call writers, who conformed to this rule of the Church, by the name of “Minimizers;” that day of tyrannous ipse-dixits, I trust, is over: Bishop Fessler, a man of high authority, for he was Secretary General of the Vatican Council, and of higher authority still in his work, for it has the approbation of the Sovereign Pontiff, clearly proves to us that a moderation of doctrine, dictated by charity, is not inconsistent with soundness in the faith. Such a sanction, I suppose, will be considered sufficient for the character of the remarks which I am about to make upon definitions in general, and upon the Vatican in particular.
The Vatican definition, which comes to us in the shape of the Pope’s Encyclical Bull called the Pastor Æternus, declares that “the Pope has that same infallibility which the Church has”: to determine therefore what is meant by the infallibility of the Pope we must turn first to consider the infallibility of the Church. And again, to determine the character of the Church’s infallibility, we must consider what is the characteristic of Christianity, considered as a revelation of God’s will.
Our Divine Master might have communicated to us heavenly truths without telling us that they came from Him, as it is commonly thought He has done in the case of heathen nations; but He willed the Gospel to be a revelation acknowledged and authenticated, to be public, fixed, and permanent; and accordingly, as Catholics hold, He framed a Society of men to be its home, its instrument, and its guarantee. The rulers of that Association are the legal trustees, so to say, of the sacred truths which He spoke to the Apostles by word of mouth. As He was leaving them, He gave them their great commission, and bade them “teach” their converts all over the earth, “to observe all things whatever He had commanded them;” and then He added, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Continue reading
In the coming turbulent days of the pontificate of Pope Francis, and rest assured that such turbulent days are rapidly approaching if not quite here, I rather suspect I will be accused by some of adopting an attitude towards him contrary to the way I analyzed the actions of his predecessor. Such is not the case. From a comment that I made on a thread relating to papal infallibility in 2010:
At Vatican I Eric, there was a conflict between those who wanted virtually every thing written or said by a Pope to be considered infallible and those who wanted a restrictive definition. By and large those who wanted a restrictive definition prevailed. The problem with a broad view of infallibility is that popes often contradict each other. Consider Pio Nono’s view of religious liberty as compared to that of Pope John XXIII.
This is a complex area filled with minefields for faithful Catholics, and my thoughts in this area have been aided greatly by the writings of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, especially the essay linked below:
“It in no way depends upon the caprice of the Pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine, the object of a dogmatic definition. He is tied up and limited to the divine revelation, and to the truths which that revelation contains. He is tied up and limited by the Creeds, already in existence, and by the preceding definitions of the Church. He is tied up and limited by the divine law, and by the constitution of the Church. Lastly, he is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that alongside religious society there is civil society, that alongside the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy there is the power of temporal Magistrates, invested in their own domain with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe in conscience obedience and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society.” Continue reading
AS soon as we apprehend by faith the great fundamental truth that Mary is the Mother of God, other wonderful truths follow in its train; and one of these is that she was exempt from the ordinary lot of mortals, which is not only to die, but to become earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Die she must, and die she did, as her Divine Son died, for He was man; but various reasons have approved themselves to holy writers, why, although her body was for a while separated from her soul and consigned to the tomb, yet it did not remain there, but was speedily united to her soul again, and raised by our Lord to a new and eternal life of heavenly glory.
And the most obvious reason for so concluding is this—that other servants of God have been raised from the grave by the power of God, and it is not to be supposed that our Lord would have granted any such privilege to anyone else without also granting it to His own Mother.
We are told by St. Matthew, that after our Lord’s death upon the Cross “the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints that had slept”—that is, slept the sleep of death, “arose, and coming out of the tombs after His Resurrection, came into the Holy City, and appeared to many.” St. Matthew says, “many bodies of the Saints”—that is, the holy Prophets, Priests, and Kings of former times—rose again in anticipation of the last day.
Can we suppose that Abraham, or David, or Isaias, or Ezechias, should have been thus favoured, and not God’s own Mother? Had she not a claim on the love of her Son to have what any others had? Was she not nearer to Him than the greatest of the Saints before her? And is it conceivable that the law of the grave should admit of relaxation in their case, and not in hers? Therefore we confidently say that our Lord, having preserved her from sin and the consequences of sin by His Passion, lost no time in pouring out the full merits of that Passion upon her body as well as her soul. Continue reading
Is it not, I say, quite a common case for men and for women to neglect religion in their best days? They have been baptized, they have been taught their duty, they have been taught to pray, they know their Creed, their conscience has been enlightened, they have opportunity to come to Church. This is their birthright, the privileges of their birth of water and of the Spirit; but they sell it, as Esau did. They are tempted by Satan with some bribe of this world, and they give up their birthright in exchange for what is sure to perish, and to make them perish with it. Esau was tempted by the mess of pottage which he saw in Jacob’s hands. Satan arrested the eyes of his lust, and he gazed on the pottage, as Eve gazed on the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve sold their birthright for the fruit of a tree—that was their bargain. Esau sold his for a mess of lentils—that was his. And men now-a-days often sell theirs, not indeed for any thing so simple as fruit or herbs, but for some evil gain or other, which at the time they think worth purchasing at any price; perhaps for the enjoyment of some particular sin, or more commonly for the indulgence of general carelessness and spiritual sloth, because they do not like a strict life, and have no heart for God’s service. And thus they are profane persons, for they despise the great gift of God. Continue reading
(When we went with our new format in November of last year, some of our earlier posts didn’t carry over, including this one. I am republishing it today with some slight modifications so that it may not be lost in internet oblivion eventually, and in the spirit of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s Advent series of sermons on the Anti-Christ which may be viewed here, here, here and here. I have always thought that Advent is a good time to look at evil, since it is at this time of the year that we are reminded of the ultimate triumph of good through Christ.)
I have long heard about Pope Paul VI having referred to the “smoke of Satan” having entered the Church. Usually most references to it do not mention when it was said and in what context. The quote apparently was said on June 29, 1972 by Pope Paul VI on the ninth anniversary of his coronation during a homily given at a mass for the solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The Italian text is here. As far as I know there is no official translation. On November 13, 2006 Jimmy Atkin posted at his blog a translation done of the homily by Father Stephanos Pedrano. Please note that the text that is translated is a summary of what the Pope said and not a word for word transcript of what the Pope said. Father Pedrano’s translation is as follows (I have placed in red the portion of the text that refers to Satan): Continue reading
In so many ways we moderns are pygmies who stand on the shoulders of giants. One group of giants for all English-speaking Catholics is the 40 martyrs of England and Wales who were canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 25, 1970. They deserve to be remembered for their heroic deaths for Christ, and here are their names:
- Augustine Webster d.1535
- John Houghton 1486-1535
- Robert Lawrence d.1535
1 Augustinian friar:
- John Stone d. 1538
- Richard Reynolds d. 1535
- John Jones d. 1598 (Friar Observant – also known as John Buckley, John Griffith, or Godfrey Maurice)
- John Wall d. 1679 (Franciscan – known at Douai and Rome as John Marsh, and by other aliases while on the mission in England)
- John Roberts d. 1610
- Ambrose Barlow d. 1641
- Alban Roe d. 1642
- Alexander Briant 1556-81
- Edmund Campion 1540-81
- Robert Southwell 1561-95
- Henry Walpole 1558-95
- Nicholas Owen 1540-1606
- Thomas Garnet 1575-1608
- Edmund Arrowsmith 1585–1628
- Henry Morse 1595-1644
- Philip Evans 1645-79
- David Lewis 1616-79
13 Priests of the Secular Clergy:
- Cuthbert Mayne 1543–77
- Ralph Sherwin 1558-81
- Luke Kirby 1549-82
- John Paine d. 1582
- John Almond d. 1585
- Polydore Plasden d. 1591
- Eustace White 1560-91
- Edmund G(J)ennings 1567-91
- John Boste 1544-94
- John Southworth 1592-1654
- John Kemble 1599-1679
- John Lloyd d. 1679
- John Plessington d. 1679
7 members of the laity
4 lay men:
- Richard Gwyn 1537-84
- Swithun Wells 1536-91
- Philip Howard 1557-95
- John Rigby 1570-1600 and
3 lay women, all of them mothers:
- Margaret Clitherow 1586
- Margaret Ward 1588
- Anne Line 1601
They were torches that God sent to us to light our way in a frequently dark world. They were representatives of hundreds of martyrs who died for the Faith in England and Wales in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. With the Anglican Ordinariate established by Pope Benedict perhaps what Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman said in the Nineteenth Century will come true in the Twenty-First: Continue reading
The Catholic blogosphere has been ablaze recently with discussions revolving around the actions of Lila Rose and Live Action and their sting operation against Worse Than Murder, Inc, with some bloggers like our own Joe Hargrave condemning these tactics since they involved lying, and other bloggers such as myself holding that there is nothing morally wrong with the tactics used in the sting. I certainly do not wish to raise from the dead this well flogged horse, but I thought our readers might find interesting a fascinating overview of lying, equivocation and morality in Note G of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua. It is a typical tour de force by Newman where he demonstrates his knowledge of the history, reasoning and practical application of a Church teaching on morality. Here is the note:
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. Even silence is in certain cases virtually such a misleading, according to the Proverb, “Silence gives consent.” Again, silence is absolutely forbidden to a Catholic, as a mortal sin, under certain circumstances, e.g. to keep silence, when it is a duty to make a profession of faith.
Another mode of verbal misleading, and the most direct, is actually saying the thing that is not; and it is defended on the principle that such words are not a lie, when there is a “justa causa,” as killing is not murder in the case of an executioner.
Another ground of certain authors for saying that an untruth is not a lie where there is a just cause, is, that veracity is a kind of justice, and therefore, when we have no duty of justice to tell truth to another, it is no sin not to do so. Hence we may say the thing that is not, to children, to madmen, to men who ask impertinent questions, to those whom we hope to benefit by misleading.
Another ground, taken in defending certain untruths, ex justâ causâ, as if not lies, is, that veracity is for the sake of society, and that, if in no case whatever we might lawfully mislead others, we should actually be doing society great harm.
Another mode of verbal misleading is equivocation or a play upon words; and it is defended on the theory that to lie is to use words in a sense which they will not bear. But an equivocator uses them in a received sense, though there is another received sense, and therefore, according to this definition, he does not lie.
Others say that all equivocations are, after all, a kind of lying,—faint lies or awkward lies, but still lies; and some of these disputants infer, that therefore we must not equivocate, and others that equivocation is but a half-measure, and that it is better to say at once that in certain cases untruths are not lies.
Others will try to distinguish between evasions and equivocations; but though there are evasions which are clearly not equivocations, yet it is very difficult scientifically to draw the line between the one and the other.
To these must be added the unscientific way of dealing with lies,—viz. that on a great or cruel occasion a man cannot help telling a lie, and he would not be a man, did he not tell it, but still it is very wrong, and he ought not to do it, and he must trust that the sin will be forgiven him, though he goes about to commit it ever so deliberately, and is sure to commit it again under similar circumstances. It is a necessary frailty, and had better not be thought about before it is incurred, and not thought of again, after it is well over. This view cannot for a moment be defended, but, I suppose, it is very common.
I think the historical course of thought upon the matter has been this: the Greek Fathers thought that, when there was a justa causa, an untruth need not be a lie. St. Augustine took another view, though with great misgiving; and, whether he is rightly interpreted or not, is the doctor of the great and common view that all untruths are lies, and that there can be no just cause of untruth. In these later times, this doctrine has been found difficult to work, and it has been largely taught that, though all untruths are lies, yet that certain equivocations, when there is a just cause, are not untruths. Continue reading
“Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.” Isaiah xxxiii. 17.
YEAR after year, as it passes, brings us the same warnings again and again, and none perhaps more impressive than those with which it comes to us at this season. The very frost and cold, rain and gloom, which now befall us, forebode the last dreary days of the world, and in religious hearts raise the thought of them. The year is worn out: spring, summer, autumn, each in turn, have brought their gifts and done their utmost; but they are over, and the end is come. All is past and gone, all has failed, all has sated; we are tired of the past; we would not have the seasons longer; and the austere weather which succeeds, though ungrateful to the body, is in tone with our feelings, and acceptable. Such is the frame of mind which befits the end of the year; and such the frame of mind which comes alike on good and bad at the end of life. The days have come in which they have no pleasure; yet they would hardly be young again, could they be so by wishing it. Life is well enough in its way; but it does not satisfy. Thus the soul is cast forward upon the future, and in proportion as its conscience is clear and its perception keen and true, does it rejoice solemnly that “the night is far spent, the day is at hand,” that there are “new heavens and a new earth” to come, though the former are failing; nay, rather that, because they are failing, it will “soon see the King in His beauty,” and “behold the land which is very far off.” These are feelings for holy men in winter and in age, waiting, in some dejection perhaps, but with comfort on the whole, and calmly though earnestly, for the Advent of Christ. Continue reading