John Henry Newman

Orfeas Katsoulis | Mar 11, 2023

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John Henry Newman, born in London on February 21, 1801 and died in Edgbaston on August 11, 1890, was a Catholic saint. During his lifetime, he was a British clergyman, theologian and writer. He converted to Catholicism in 1845.

As a student at Oxford University, he was ordained an Anglican priest. His work on the Fathers of the Church led him to analyze the Christian roots of Anglicanism and to defend the independence of his religion from the British state, in the form of "tracts". Thus was born the Oxford Movement, of which John Newman was one of the main actors. His research on the Church Fathers and his conception of the Church led him to convert to Catholicism, which he now saw as the confession most faithful to the roots of Christianity. It was during this period that he wrote the famous poem Lead, Kindly Light (1833).

He left for Ireland to found a Catholic university in Dublin, at the request of the bishops of that country. In order to make his conception of education and science better understood, he gave a series of lectures: The Idea of University, before resigning in 1857 because of the lack of confidence of the Irish bishops in his enterprise. His conversion to Catholicism was misunderstood and criticized by his former Anglican friends. He was also viewed with suspicion by some English Catholic clergy because of his positions, which were considered very liberal. In response to slander, John Newman described his conversion to Catholicism in Apologia Pro Vita Sua. This work changed the perception of Anglicans towards him and increased his notoriety. The misunderstanding caused by the proclamation of the dogma of papal infallibility led Newman to defend the Church and the primordial place of conscience in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk. His conception of conscience was partly developed during the Second Vatican Council. He then wrote the Grammar of Assent, which was a defense of the faith in the face of the development of positivism. The new Pope Leo XIII, elected in 1878, decided to create him a cardinal in 1879. John Newman died eleven years later at the age of 89.

A renowned theologian and Christologist, he is one of the major figures of British Catholicism, along with Thomas More, Henry Edward Manning and Ronald Knox. He has had a considerable influence on Catholic intellectuals, especially on authors coming from Anglicanism. For Xavier Tilliette, he appears as "a great and singular personality, a sort of Paschal candle in the Catholic Church of the 19th century". His works, including the Grammar of Assent and the Apologia Pro Vita Sua, are a constant reference for writers such as G. K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh and Julien Green, as well as for theologians and philosophers such as Avery Dulles, Erich Przywara and Edith Stein, who translated his work The Idea of University into German.

Proclaimed venerable by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1991 and beatified in Birmingham on September 19, 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI, he was proclaimed a saint on October 13, 2019 by Pope Francis.

Years of training

John Henry Newman was the oldest of six children. The family is said to have Dutch origins, and the name "Newman", previously spelled "Newmann", suggests Jewish roots, although these have not been proven. His mother, Jemima Fourdrinier, came from a family of French Huguenots, engravers and paper makers, long settled in London.

The father, John Newman, a Whig, founded a bank, moved with his family to Ham, then to Brighton in 1807 and to London the following year. The Napoleonic wars forced him into bankruptcy, and the family moved to their country house in Norwood. Soon after, John took over the management of a brewery near Alton, and the Newmans moved there to be closer to their new place of work.

John Henry's younger brother, Charles Robert (1802-1884), an intelligent but temperamental man and an avowed atheist, led an isolated life, while the youngest, Francis William (1805-1897), made a career at University College London as a professor of Latin. Two of the three sisters, Harriett Elizabeth (1803) and Jemima Charlotte (1807), married two brothers, Thomas and John Mozley. From the union of Jemima Charlotte and John was born Anna Mozley, who edited Newman's correspondence in 1892. The third sister, Mary Sophia, born in 1809, died in 1828, which deeply affected the young John.

At the age of seven, in May 1808, Newman was enrolled in George Nicholas' private school in Ealing, where he continued his education until 1816. Among his teachers was the father of biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, who taught mathematics. Newman received a Christian education and was noted for his studiousness, but also for his shyness towards other students whose games he did not share. He describes himself as having been "very superstitious" in his youth. He took great pleasure in reading the Bible, but also the novels of Walter Scott, which were then being published, and between 1810 and 1813 he studied the Ancients such as Ovid, Virgil, Homer and Herodotus. Later, he discovered agnostic authors such as Thomas Paine and David Hume, who influenced him for some time.

In 1816, when his father's Ramsbottom, Newman & Co. bank went bankrupt, John Henry, unlike his friends who went back to their families, spent the summer in Ealing. He is fifteen years old and, as he enters his last year of college, he meets the Reverend Walter Mayers, an evangelical Protestant close to the Methodism of John Wesley. Very impressed by this priest with whom he had long conversations, he ended up joining evangelicalism himself. A few months later, this conversion deepened: "When I was fifteen years old (in the autumn of 1816), a great change took place in my thoughts. I was influenced by what the dogma was and this impression, thanks to God, has never faded or been obscured." This change was gradual: "My personal feelings were not violent; but it was, under the power of the Spirit, a return to principles which I had already felt, and in some measure acted upon when I was younger, or their renewal."

Newman would later describe his adherence to evangelicalism in Apologia Pro Vita Sua. For him, the central point is "to remain in the thought of two beings and two beings only, absolute and luminously evident: myself and my Creator". Some authors have seen there the expression of a "voluntary isolation", even egotistical. Louis Bouyer, on the other hand, perceives in Newman's conversion an awareness of the self, an independence immediately confronted with that of the Creator, God, made accessible by the apprehension of the self as an individual. Thomas Scott's book, Force of Truth, made a deep impression on Newman, who said of the author, "Humanly speaking, I almost owe him my soul. In it, Thomas Scott explained his conversion and his search for an integral faith in the Anglican Church; his motto, "holiness rather than peace," influenced Newman, who was then passionately searching for truth. Moreover, the history of the Church introduced him to the Fathers of the Church. From then on, he considered that his vocation implied celibacy, an idea that he confirmed practically throughout his life. Finally, his attachment to evangelical Protestantism and Calvinism made the Roman Catholic Church intolerable to him, and he vigorously opposed the prejudices against the idolatrous papists and the "Antichrist" pope.

Admitted to Trinity College, Oxford, on December 4, 1816, he settled there after a six-month wait in June 1817. His correspondence with the Reverend Walter Mayers testifies to his critical spirit, and his reading of Bishop William Beveridge's "Private Thoughts" invites him to question certain aspects of the evangelical Protestantism advocated by Mayers: strengthened by this new contribution, Newman questions the relevance of sensitive gifts in Methodist conversions and seems to foresee that conversion can, through baptism, dispense with any sensitive experience.

Oxford appealed to him and, always discreet and shy by nature, he devoted himself to his studies. He became friends with John William Bowden, three years older than him, and attended classes with him. His classmates tried to take him to drunken parties at the university, but he did not feel comfortable there and their attempts failed. He redoubled his efforts to obtain a scholarship, 60 pounds over nine years, which was granted to him in 1818, but this allowance was insufficient to cover university expenses while his father's bank suspended all payments.

In 1819, his name was chosen for Lincoln's Inn, Oxford's law school. This marked the beginning of years of hard academic work. From the summer of 1819 until the exam in November 1820, John Henry studied nearly ten hours a day to pass his exams with honors. However, suffering from anxiety, he failed the final exam and did not receive his diploma, without honors, until 1821. On January 11 of that year, his father asked him about his orientation and, contrary to his father's expectation, who was considering a career at the bar, John Henry announced his choice of the Anglican Church.

As he wished to remain at Oxford to finance his studies, he gave private lessons and applied for a position as a lecturer at Oriel College, then the "intellectual center of Oxford" frequented by thinkers such as Richard Whately and Thomas Arnold. Newman passed the examination and was co-opted as a fellow of Oriel on April 12, 1822.

His entry into the very closed circle of the "Noetics" (nickname of the members of Oriel College) represented a turning point in his life: the "Noetics" were elected in a very selective way and all sought intellectual excellence. Their company allowed Newman to refine his religious thinking, which was very much influenced by the simple faith of evangelical Protestantism (he later wrote that he professed dogmas "at a time when religion was a matter of feeling and experience rather than of faith"), especially since he met theologians such as Richard Whately and Edward Hawkins who claimed the doctrine of baptismal regeneration while affirming the visibility and authority of the Anglican Church. In 1823, Edward Bouverie Pusey joined him.

On June 13, 1824, Trinity Sunday, Newman was ordained a deacon in the Anglican Church. Ten days later, he delivered his first sermon in the church of Over Worton (Oxfordshire), and took the opportunity to visit his former teacher Walter Mayers. Thanks to Pusey, he was granted the parish of St. Clement's in Oxford, and for two years he carried out his parochial activities while publishing articles for the Encyclopædia Metropolitana on Apollonius of Tyana, Cicero and miracles. It was also the time when he discovered Joseph Butler's Analogy of Natural Religion, whose themes were similar to his own.

In 1825, at the request of Richard Whately, he became vice principal of St. Alban's Hall, but remained in that position for only one year. His intellectual sympathy with Whately, he later wrote, contributed greatly to his "mental improvement" and partial victory over shyness. On the other hand, the reflection he had with him on logic enabled him to sketch out a first precise definition of the Christian Church. However, when Robert Peel, whom he opposed for personal reasons, was re-elected in 1827 as a member of Parliament at Oxford University, he put an end to their collaboration.

In 1826, he was appointed tutor at Oriel College, where he was joined as a teacher by Richard Hurrell Froude, whom he described as "one of the most insightful, intelligent and profound men alive. Together, Froude and Newman developed a demanding concept of tutoring that was more clerical and pastoral than secular. This new collaboration marked his spiritual thinking: as he would later say, "He taught me to look with admiration on the Church of Rome and thereby to detach myself from the Reformation. He engraved deeply in me the idea of devotion to the Blessed Virgin and gradually led me to believe in the Real Presence.

It was during this period that Newman also befriended John Keble and in 1827 was selected to preach at Whitehall.

At the end of 1827, two trials prompted Newman to detach himself from the intellectualism of his training. As an examiner, he suffered a nervous collapse on November 26, 1827, probably due to overwork. He then left for his friend Robert Isaac Wilberforce's house to rest, but a few weeks later, on January 5, 1828, his sister Mary Sophia died after a great fatigue; this brutal death upset him and led him, while he started to write poetry, to conceive a form of living reminiscence allowing him to apprehend the eternal reality of the deceased and to link her destiny to the divine will.

During this period, he became close to John Keble, whose collection of poems, The Christian Year, undoubtedly influenced his own poetry and confirmed the importance he attached to feelings in the spiritual life.

Newman continued his study of patristics, which he had begun shortly before his illness on October 18, 1827, on the advice of Charles Lloyd, and which was encouraged by his readings and the articles he wrote for the Encyclopædia Metropolitana. His reflections led to the publication in 1833 of a book on Arianism, The Arians of the Fourth Century; he detected in the Fathers of the Church an authentic Christian humanism. During his vacations in 1828 he read Ignatius of Antioch and Justin of Nablus, then in 1829 he studied Irenaeus of Lyon and Cyprian of Carthage. During the same period he undertook the study of the complete works of Athanasius of Alexandria and Gregory the Great. But this research worried him when he received the responsibility of new students on June 10, 1830. He feared that he would not be able to devote as much time to the Fathers of the Church as he would have liked.

The following year, Newman supported, and later regretted, the appointment of Hawkins rather than John Keble as provost of Oriel College. This, he believed, was the impetus for the Oxford movement. In the same year he was appointed vicar of St. Mary-the-Virgin, the university church, to which was attached the office of chaplain of Littlemore, while Pusey became regent professor of Hebrew.

Still officially close to evangelical Protestants, Newman nevertheless evolved in his positions on the place of the clergy within the Anglican Church. His writings show that he is more and more in favour of it, distancing him from the evangelical Protestants. In particular, he published an anonymous letter proposing to Anglican clerics a method of eliminating the control of non-conformist Protestants over the Church Missionary Society, of which he was the local secretary, which led to his dismissal on March 8, 1830. Three months later, he also left the Bible Society, thus completing his break with the "Low Church" trend in the Church of England.

In 1831, he was invited by Froude to share his vacation, during which he continued to write poems and saw the friendship that bound him to his host, whose ascetic life inspired him a certain admiration.

In 1831 and 1832, he was appointed to preach before the entire university, and in 1832, as his differences with Hawkins over the "essentially religious nature" of tutoring became particularly acute, he resigned as tutor at Oriel College.

When Whately was appointed bishop, Newman hoped to be called to him, but, this wish being in vain, Froude offered to accompany him on his trip to the Mediterranean.

On December 8, he accompanied Froude on a health trip through southern Europe on board the steamer Hermes, which called at Gibraltar, Malta, the Ionian Islands, then Sicily, and finally Naples and Rome, where Newman met Nicholas Wiseman.

During this journey, John Henry Newman wrote most of the short poems later published under the title of Lyra Apostolica, and his feelings are divided between disgust for the Christian faith of the Latin countries, whose history reminds him of the Fathers of the Church, and admiration for the nature he discovers, as evidenced by one of his letters where, if he sees in Rome "the most marvellous place on Earth", the Roman Catholic religion seems to him to be "polytheistic, decadent and idolatrous.

From Rome, Newman returned alone to Sicily, where he fell ill in Leonforte. The "pilgrimage of beauty" becomes "a two-sided experience of discovery and distress, of enchantment and disarray", and is now one of the most important events of his life. For more than a month, in fact, his condition worsened and he believed he was dying, a trial that he used to deepen his faith. He considered the possibility of his own death as a struggle between God and himself. The experience is so striking for him that he will relate it later under the title My Illness in Sicily, "digging deep into his memory" to finish this account only in June 1840.

In what may seem like "an involuntary retreat, an ordeal", he lives his illness as a struggle between his will, in which he discerns the devil, and that of God. At the end of the ordeal, he acquires the certainty of "the elective love of God" and recognizes: "I was his". Xavier Tilliette observes in this regard: "The accent does not deceive, it is that which emanates from conversions, including interior conversions which occur in a life already dedicated. Newman writes: "I felt that God was fighting against me, and I felt - in the end I knew why - that it was for my own will, but I also felt and kept saying: 'I have not sinned against the light'. Although he considered himself superficial and lacking in love for God, he felt promised a greater mission in England. In June 1833, once he was cured, he left Palermo for Marseille. The sailing ship Conte Ruggiero, of which he was the only passenger with a cargo of oranges, was stuck off Bonifacio. Newman wrote the poem "Lead, kindly Light", which became a very popular hymn in Britain.

The Oxford Movement

He returned to Oxford on July 9, 1833. On the 14th, John Keble delivered his sermon on "National Apostasy" at St. Mary's, which Newman considered the starting point of the Oxford Movement: "Keble inspired, Froude gave the impulse, and Newman carried on the work," wrote Richard William Church. The birth of the Movement is also attributed to H. J. Rose, editor of the British Magazine, "founder, from Cambridge, of the Oxford Movement". On July 25 and 26, at the rectory of Hadleigh (Suffolk), a meeting of clergymen of the High Church of England, without Newman, was held, where the decision was made to support the doctrine of apostolic succession in that Church, as well as the use of the Book of Common Prayer in its entirety.

A few weeks later, Newman began anonymously writing the Tracts for the Times, hence the name "Tractarian movement" or "Tractarianism" later given to the Oxford Movement. The aim was to provide the Church of England with a solid doctrinal and disciplinary foundation in preparation for the end of its official "establishment" by the British monarchy or the eventual break of High Church clergymen with the established institution, a prospect that could be envisaged because of the government's attitude towards the Church of Ireland, an official Reformed church that became independent of the authority of the State in 1871. The tracts were supplemented by Newman's Saturday afternoon sermons at St. Mary's, which had a growing influence over the next eight years, especially on young scholars. In 1835, Pusey signed his initials on a tract as a commitment to the Oxford Movement, hence the name "Puseyism" that is sometimes given to him.

In 1836, the members of the Movement strengthened their internal cohesion by unanimously opposing the appointment of Renn Dickson Hampden as Regent Professor of Theology at Oxford, because his Bampton Lectures, preached in 1832 with the assistance of Blanco White, were suspected of heresy, a fact corroborated by Newman in the pamphlet Elucidations of Dr Hampden's Theological Statements.

At that time, Newman became editor of the British Critic and gave a series of lectures in a chapel in St. Mary's, where he defended the theory of Anglicanism as a "Via Media" between Catholicism and popular Protestantism, working to reconcile Anglicanism with revealed apostolic and dogmatic fidelity, according to the Fathers of the Church, whose thought Newman always deepened. Their struggle against various heresies that were in the majority at the time, including Arianism, led Newman to seek, in the face of the divisions in the Church, the best way to anchor Anglicanism in respect for tradition, and therefore for the faith, which represented revealed truth in his eyes.

In 1838, Newman and Keble decided to publish, under the title Remains, the writings of Richard Hurrell Froude, who had died two years earlier; the publication caused a scandal, as some Englishmen were shocked by the ascetic life revealed by his "Diaries", with exercises and examinations of conscience. Some went so far as to see it as a disguised apology for Catholicism.

Newman's influence at Oxford reached a peak in 1839, yet his study of the Monophysite heresy led him to doubt: Contrary to what he believed, Catholic doctrine, he found, had remained faithful to the Council of Chalcedon (in other words, it had not deviated from original Christianity, a questioning that redoubled when he read an article by Nicholas Wiseman in the Dublin Review, which included the words of St. Augustine against the Donatists: "Securus judicat orbis terrarum" ("the verdict of the world is conclusive"). Newman explains his reaction thus:

"  Cette petite phrase, ces mots de saint Augustin, me frappèrent avec une force que des mots ne m'avaient jamais fait ressentir jusqu'alors.... C'était comme ces mots, "Tolle, lege... Tolle, lege", prononcés par l'enfant, qui avaient converti saint Augustin lui-même. "Securus judicat orbis terrarum" ! Ces grandes paroles d'un Père de l'Église, interprétant et résumant tout le cours de la longue histoire de l'Église, réduisaient en miettes la théologie de la "Via Media" "."  Pour une simple phrase, les mots de Saint Augustin, m'ont frappé avec une puissance que je n'avais jamais ressentie de la part d'aucun mot auparavant... ils étaient comme le "Tolle, lege, - Tolle, lege," de l'enfant, qui a converti Saint Augustin lui-même. "Securus judicat orbis terrarum !" Par ces grandes paroles de l'ancien Père, interprétant et résumant le cours long et varié de l'histoire ecclésiastique, la théologie de la Via Media anglicane fut absolument pulvérisée " ".

However, Newman continued his work as a theologian for the High Church until the publication of Tract 90, the last in the series, in which he examined in detail the Thirty-Nine Founding Articles of Anglicanism and affirmed their compatibility with Catholic dogma. The Thirty-Nine Articles, he added, were not opposed to the official doctrine of the Catholic Church, but only to certain excesses and commonly held errors.

This theory was not new, but it provoked general indignation in Oxford. Archibald Campbell Trait, the future archbishop of Canterbury, and three other professors denounced the thesis as "opening a way in which men might violate their solemn engagements with the university. Concern was shared by many authorities at the institution, and at the request of the Bishop of Oxford, publication of the Tracts was halted.

Newman, as he later explained, was "on his deathbed as regards his membership of the Anglican Church. He then resigned as editor of the British Critic. He now believed that the position of the Anglicans was similar to that of the Semiarians in the Arian controversy, and the plan for an Anglican diocese in Jerusalem, with appointments alternating between the British and Prussian governments, finally convinced him that the Church of England was not apostolic.

In 1842, he retired to Littlemore, where he lived in monastic conditions with a small group of relatives, to whom he asked to write biographies of English saints, while he completed his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, in which he sought to reconcile himself with the doctrine and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. He studied the writings of Alphonsus Liguori, from which he became convinced that the Catholic Church was not, as he had believed, a superstitious faith. In February 1843, he published anonymously in the Oxford Conservative Journal an official retraction of his criticisms of the Roman Church, and in September he delivered his last Anglican sermon at Littlemore, then resigned from St. Mary's on September 18, 1843.

The conversion

On September 26, 1843, Newman wrote his last Anglican sermon, "On the Parting of Friends. John Keble, asserting himself as one of the few people to support him through his correspondence, attributed his withdrawal to the harsh criticism and slander he was subjected to. Newman, for his part, maintains that he had been doubting the validity of Anglicanism for more than three years, that his decision had been matured over a long period of time, and that he no longer felt secure in a schismatic Church. Moreover, he added, his conversion to Catholicism could only be the fruit of his reflection on the faith, because far from finding it interesting, he would lose his status and his friends, and would join a community where he knew no one. However, he postponed his final decision, preferring to continue his study of the Fathers of the Church and, as he explained in his correspondence, to pray to know if he " . During the summer, he completed his work on St. Athanasius of Alexandria and began to write a new set of theological reflections.

Two years passed before he was officially received into the Roman Catholic Church on October 9, 1845 by Dominic Barberi, an Italian Passionist at Littlemore College, a conversion, he asserts, that brought him peace and joy.

On February 22, 1846, he left Oxford for Oscott Theological College near Birmingham, where Nicholas Wiseman, Vicar Apostolic for the Central District of England, resided. He published one of his major works, the fruit of his theological reflections: Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. It was difficult for him to leave Oxford, although his conversion was followed by others, more and more numerous, among the members of the Oxford movement.

At the instigation of Nicholas Wiseman, he left for Rome in October 1846 to prepare for the Catholic priesthood and to continue his studies, but his arrival quickly became a source of misunderstanding among theologians. The American Catholic Church condemned his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, a decision that was taken up by some Italian doctrinarians as heresy. In the hope of clearing up the misunderstandings he was subjected to, Newman was forced to have his work translated.

In Rome, John Henry Newman wondered about his life as a Catholic; initially attracted by the Dominicans, and in particular by the writings of Henri Lacordaire, he gradually turned away from this order in favor of the congregation of the Oratory and its founder, Saint Philip Neri, who, among other things, not practicing the profession of religious vows, was more suitable for him after years spent in Anglicanism. Pope Pius IX, enthusiastic, facilitated his entry, as well as that of some of his converted Anglican friends, the novitiate being reduced for them to three months. Newman was ordained a priest on May 30, 1847 by Cardinal Giacomo Filippo Fransoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. After receiving the pope's blessing on August 9, 1847, he decided to leave for the United Kingdom on December 6, 1847 and to found the first oratory in England, the Birmingham Oratory. Arriving in London on Christmas Eve 1847, he settled in Maryvale where, in fact, the first Oratory in England was canonically erected on February 2, 1848.

Among the Oratorians present at Maryvale, two tendencies were apparent: one, gravitating around Frederick William Faber and the younger ones, was more critical of the Anglicans and, following the example of Italian Catholicism, sought to change Anglicanism through conversion; the other centered on Newman's conception of a Catholic Church seen as faithful to the true Christianity of the Church Fathers. However, the tendency represented by Frederick William Faber led him temporarily to criticize Anglicanism in particularly severe terms.

Nicholas Wiseman invited the Oratorians to preach during Lent in London, which proved unsuccessful, but which led to the founding of the London Oratory with Frederick William Faber as its superior, while Newman remained with the Birmingham Oratory. This period was marked by a new wave of conversions of Anglicans to Catholicism, including that of Henry Edward Manning, future cardinal.

At the request of Nicholas Wiseman, Newman received from Pius IX the title of Doctor Honoris Causa in Theology. In 1847, he resided successively at St. Wilfrid's College (Cheadle, Staffordshire), St. Ann's (Birmingham) and Edgbaston.

Pius IX appointed Nicholas Wiseman Cardinal and Archbishop of Westminster, and in 1851 he re-established the Catholic hierarchy in the United Kingdom by creating new dioceses, an initiative that popular Protestantism vigorously contested, attacking not only the Vatican but also Catholics in general, whose defense Newman took on, not by condemning Anglicans but by denouncing their erroneous opinion.

During the 1850s, the Irish bishops opposed the institution of the Queen's University of Ireland, which admitted Catholics and Protestants, because they saw in it a deliberate attempt by Great Britain to gradually impose Anglicanism in their country. It was in this context that they asked Newman to found a new university in Dublin, the "Catholic University of Ireland".

At first, in May 1852, Newman gave lectures in which he explained his conception of education and the university, as well as Christianized culture and the possibility of reconciling science and theology, notions that were further clarified in new lectures that led to one of his main works, Idea of a University. Newman was soon appointed rector of the university, but the bishops of Ireland gave him no room for manoeuvre, which prompted Nicholas Wiseman to try, but in vain, to have him consecrated bishop. Poorly regarded and little listened to, Newman nevertheless founded a faculty of philosophy and literature in 1854, then a faculty of medicine in 1856; he also tried to reconcile with certain Irish people worried about his British origins by studying Celtic culture. However, students did not flock to him, the bishops still refused to trust him and blocked the way to the laity; unable to make appointments, Newman finally resigned in 1857.

In 1851, Newman gave a series of lectures entitled "Present Position of Catholics in England" in which he defended the Catholic Church against the attacks of Giovanni Giacinto Achilli. Achilli, a former Italian Dominican priest who recently moved to England, was returned to the lay state for having relations with women. He protests against the Church, accusing it of obscurantism and injustice. Newman revealed Achilli's hidden life in Rome in a speech in which he denounced acts that he considered immoral. Achilli sued him for defamation, forcing his accuser to seek out witnesses at great expense, and then to pay for their accommodation in London during a procedure which, moreover, dragged on. At first threatened with prison, Newman was finally sentenced to pay a heavy fine of 100 pounds plus costs, amounting to 14,000 pounds. The Times declared that justice had been dishonoured and that Newman's conviction was unfair. To meet the costs, Newman launched a public subscription which succeeded beyond his expectations, since he had a surplus which he devoted to the purchase of Rednall, a small property in the Lickey Hills, with a chapel and a cemetery where he was buried.

The trial was an ordeal for Newman, especially since he was vilified by some who, criticizing his character, described him as "overly sensitive" and afflicted with a "morbid temperament.

When he left for Dublin, he put an Oratorian in charge of the Birmingham Oratory, who prematurely reformed the institution without the approval of the Holy See. As a result, Newman was denounced for heterodoxy and had to leave for Rome, where he defended himself before Cardinal Alessandro Barnabò, who showed him very little respect.

On his return, he began to write his reflections on the relationship between faith and reason. His work was interrupted on September 14, 1857, when Archbishop Nicholas Wiseman asked him to direct a new translation of the Bible into English, an assignment that would keep him busy for more than a year. In 1858, however, after months of work, the work was abandoned at the intervention of American bishops who, having undertaken the same work, demanded that Nicholas Wiseman give up his project. At first, the archbishop hesitated, then gave in to the pressure, so that Newman, who was having great difficulty in getting reimbursed for the expenses incurred, was forced to leave the translation unfinished.

In 1858, he planned to found a house of the Oratory congregation in Oxford, but was opposed by Cardinal Henry Edward Manning and others who feared that this would encourage English Catholics to send their sons to study at Oxford University, so the project was abandoned.

At the same time, Newman also experienced some setbacks related to his participation in a magazine run by Catholics, The Rambler, which became increasingly critical of ecclesiastical authority. Convinced of the good faith of the participants, he tried to reconcile the editorial line with the official position of the Church, but some misused his words and quoted him to support their criticism. As a result, he was denounced to the Holy Office for heresy and was forced to publicly denounce the false interpretation of his writings. In the end, he resigned from the editorial staff.

Since 1841, Newman's attitude had been disconcerting for many Englishmen: having converted to Catholicism, he rarely denounced Anglicanism, preferring to concentrate on defending Catholicism and its dogmas, an attitude which, paradoxically, also aroused the distrust of many of his new co-religionists. His isolation became even more pronounced when Cardinal Manning judged his conception of the authority of the Church to be inconsistent with official doctrine.

In 1862 a pamphlet appeared reporting his return to Anglicanism, which he immediately denounced, and in January 1864, in a review of James Anthony Froude's History of England in the Macmillan Magazine, Charles Kingsley wrote that "Father Newman informs us that for his own good, truth is not necessary, and, on the whole, ought not to be a virtue of the Roman clergy.

Newman then published, in the form of a polemical pamphlet, the serial of his conversion and his steps since the beginning of the Oxford movement; in fact, it was a true spiritual autobiography, published under the name Apologia Pro Vita Sua, which retraced the search for the truth that had led to his conversion. The book was a great success and earned him the support and congratulations of many Catholics, whose doubts it removed, while allowing him to renew his dialogue with the Anglicans of the Oxford movement, in particular John Keble and Edward Bouverie Pusey, with whom he had not been in contact for nearly twenty years.

Following this success, Newman sought to found a school open to Catholics near Oxford University, a project that was all the more important to him because he himself had come to Catholicism through his studies at the university and he considered Anglicans to be friends who, despite certain differences, shared a faith close to his own. However, Cardinal Henry Edward Manning opposed the enterprise and asked the Vatican to denounce it under the pretext that Oxford was a place of atheism hostile to Catholicism. It was a failure, as was the project to found a new oratory in Oxford, which prompted Newman to step back and write one of his most famous poems "The Dream of Gerontius".

The Oratory was nevertheless finally authorized, but Cardinal Alessandro Barnabò, suspecting Newman of heresy, forbade him to enter. Newman asked the Holy See for explanations and learned that he had been denounced as early as 1860, which led to the suspicion of the Roman Curia. His attempt to justify himself immediately failed for the simple reason that Nicholas Wiseman had, out of absent-mindedness, forgotten to send him the documents necessary for his defense. Once this blunder was recognized, the suspicions of the Holy See faded, and both Cardinal Barnabò and the Pope went out of their way to show Newman their esteem, for example by inviting him to participate as a theologian in the First Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, an honor he declined.

In 1870, Newman published his Grammar of Assent, his most accomplished work, in which religious faith is supported by arguments often different from those used by Catholic theologians. In 1877, when his Anglican work was republished, he added a long preface and numerous notes to the two volumes on the Via Media in response to the anti-Catholic criticisms he was making.

During the First Vatican Ecumenical Council (1869-1870), he opposed the definition of papal infallibility presented by the theologians returning from Rome and, in a private letter to his bishop, published without his knowledge, he denounced "the insolent and aggressive faction" that supported this dogma. However, he did not oppose it at the time of its proclamation and, when Prime Minister Gladstone accused the Catholic Church of having "equally repudiated modern thought and ancient history", later found occasion to clarify his attitude. In a letter to the Duke of Norfolk, Newman asserted that he had always believed in this doctrine but feared that it would affect conversions in England because of the local historical specificities of Catholicism; in this, he affirmed the compatibility between Catholicism and the freedom of conscience that some Anglicans, since the proclamation of the dogma of infallibility, had undertaken to denounce.

In 1878, to his great pleasure, his former college chose him as an Honorary Fellow of Oxford University. In the same year Pope Pius IX died, who had little confidence in him, and his successor, Leo XIII, following the suggestion of the Duke of Norfolk, decided to elevate him to the cardinalate, a remarkable distinction inasmuch as he was a simple priest. The proposal was made in February 1879 and its public announcement was widely approved in the English-speaking world. Thus, John Henry Newman was created a cardinal on May 12, 1879, receiving the title of San Giorgio al Velabro. He took advantage of his presence in Rome to underline his constant opposition to liberalism in religious matters.

In Rome, he fell seriously ill, but soon after his apparent recovery, he joined the Oratory in England, where, struck by a recurrence, he died on August 11, 1890 at the age of 89.

Cardinal Newman is buried in Rednall Hill Cemetery (Birmingham). He shares his grave with his friend, Reverend Father Ambrose St. John, who converted to Catholicism at the same time as he did. In the cloister of the Birmingham oratory, where memorial plaques are placed, he wanted this epitaph inscribed below his name: Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem ("From shadows and images to truth").

Newman's theology

Newman's influence as a controversialist and preacher was immense. For the Catholic Church his conversion was a source of great prestige and dispelled many prejudices. More precisely, his influence is in the idea of a broader spirituality and in the notion of development, both in doctrine and in the government of the Church. He thus deepened the notion of the homogeneous development of dogma. The content of the faith, present from the beginning, gradually finds, in the history of the Church, a wider and more precise understanding and formulation.

Although he never considered himself a mystic, Newman developed the idea that spiritual truth is known by direct intuition, as a necessity prior to the rational basis of the Catholic creed. For Anglicans, but also for some stricter Protestant communities, his influence is also great, but from another point of view: indeed, he defended the legitimacy of Catholic dogmas and the importance of the austere, ascetic, solemn part of Christianity.

Newman asserts that, apart from an inner conviction irreducible to reason, there is no rational proof of the existence of God. In Tract 85, he confronts the difficulties of the "Creed" and the Scriptures, concluding that the latter are insurmountable if not transcended by the authority of an infallible Church. In Newman's case, such assertions do not lead to skepticism, because he always had a very strong inner conviction. In Tract 85, his only doubt concerns the identity of the true Church. But, as a general rule, his teaching leads to the conclusion that the man without this inner conviction can only be an agnostic, while he who possesses it is destined to become, sooner or later, a Catholic.

Theology of Christianity

Through theology and fundamental texts, Newman sought throughout his life an authentic Christianity. For him, it must be based on Revelation: the Truth revealed by God. He wondered how the original faith of the apostles could be summarized in the form of various creeds, how the Christian religion developed and to what extent it describes Revelation without betraying it. The Fathers of the Church allow him to go to the foundation of this truth. This quest for truth then became his main objective and he explains it thus: "I am struck with a sad presentiment that the gift of truth, once lost, is lost forever. Thus the Christian world gradually becomes sterile and exhausted, like a fully exploited land that becomes sand.

From the outset, he placed the Church at the heart of his thinking. He refused to make the Bible the only pillar of faith. According to him, the faith must be present in concrete reality and in daily experience, and lived within the Church. He considered that the Church transmits Christian truths through the revelation that comes from Tradition and is based on the apostolic succession: God acts, and the Christian life exists, not through a sensible experience, as the evangelical Protestants affirm, but through faith and grace that can act without necessarily giving visible psychological experiences. For Newman, being a Christian consists in a gift of self, renewed in faith.

The study of the Fathers of the Church, encouraged by the writing of encyclopedic articles, then by research on Arianism, incited him to deepen his faith. The words of Origen on the difficulty of piercing the mysteries of the Bible marked him: "Whoever believes that the Scriptures came from him who is the author of nature can well expect to find in them the same kind of difficulties that one finds in the constitution of nature". For him, God speaks through the Church. This patristic study leads him to examine the principal councils and to seek the truth by going back to the sources of Christianity.

The religious crisis that affected the United Kingdom in the 19th century led the Anglican Church to free itself from the grip of the State. Newman wanted to return to the origins of Christianity and the integral Catholicism that Anglicanism represented for him. This attempt to reconcile original Christianity and the unity of the Anglican Church was the subject of his research, developed for a time under the name "Via Media". Finally, he questioned this point of view and considered that Anglicanism was moving away from the original Christianity.

John Henry Newman, even before his conversion to Catholicism, placed great importance on Tradition in Christianity. Some Protestants reject all dogma and truth outside the Bible, following the adage "Sola scriptura" (Scripture only). They object to the creation of new dogmas by the Catholic Church. Newman, on the other hand, emphasized Christian tradition in a series of lectures at St. Mary's in 1837 entitled "Lectures on the Prophetic Office of the Church". He defined Tradition in two forms: the "Episcopal Tradition" and the "Prophetic Tradition". For him, these two types of tradition are inseparable.

Episcopal Tradition", which groups together all the official documents of the hierarchy, values both the hierarchy, and thus the apostolic succession, and all the founding texts and creeds of the Church. It is added to Sacred Scripture and allows for its interpretation. Set down in writing, this Tradition makes it possible to preserve and protect the faith of the Church.

The "Prophetic Tradition," the writings of the Doctors of the Church, the liturgy and the rites, is expressed in the life of Christians. According to Newman, it consists of what St. Paul calls "the life of the Spirit. For Newman, the Prophetic Tradition is the Tradition lived daily and continuously by Christians.

Newman thus interprets Tradition as something living, changing and current. However, he argues that Anglicanism is likely to depart from the truth of the faith if it departs from the Church Fathers and thus from Tradition. For Newman, the Church always needs to return to the sources, to its foundation, because in departing from the episcopal tradition, Anglicanism can lose the richness of Tradition. The importance given by Newman to the Fathers of the Church and to patristics thus derives from his conception of Tradition.

Throughout his life, Newman studied the Church and its meaning. The search for original Christianity led him to study the writings of the Church Fathers, and he saw in the crisis of Arianism in the fourth century similarities to those affecting Christianity in the nineteenth.

He wondered whether Anglicanism could be the heir to the authentic Christianity of the Church Fathers; to which he replied positively, except that the Papacy had betrayed its essence. If Anglicanism experienced a crisis in its practice in the 19th century, it sought, through the Oxford movement and its work on the "Via Media", to define an authentic doctrine, based on the faith revealed by the Fathers of the Church and on the sacraments.

However, his research gradually led him to distance himself. After years of reflection, on the Fathers of the Church in particular, he came to the conclusion that Anglicanism was departing from true Christianity, so much so that the analysis of the history of the Church, and in particular that of the heresies, underlined its difference from Christian dogma and Tradition. His refusal of the authority of Rome is assimilated to the Donatist heresy and also, he notes during new research, to that of the Monophysites. Henceforth, he later wrote: "It was difficult to maintain that the Eutychians and the Monophysites were heretics, unless the Protestants and the Anglicans were also heretics; it was difficult to find arguments against the Fathers of Trent that did not also contradict the Fathers of Chalcedon; it was difficult to condemn the popes of the sixteenth century without also condemning the popes of the fifth.

So, reconciling Anglicanism with the Christianity of the Church Fathers was difficult, so much so that the foundations necessary for its "Via Media" were lost, and the doctrine of the Church Fathers could not be reconciled with a local Church cut off from the universal Church. Newman therefore takes note of this impossibility: "What was the use of pursuing the controversy or defending my position, if, after all, I forged arguments for Arius and Eutyches, and became the devil's advocate against the patient Athanasius and the majestic Leo?

Thus, his reflection led him to nuance and change his view of the Catholic Church. If he no longer detected any dogmatic differences with the faith of the Church Fathers, he noted an increasingly pronounced difference with that of Protestant Anglicanism. The grievances were reversed: at first suspicious of what he believed to be a "superstitious" faith, his distrust faded when he studied the question in greater depth, notably through the writings of Alphonsus Liguori, and once he had reached the end of his long reflection, he took a step back so that he could mature his views and make his decision. Only then did he make the choice to convert to Catholicism.

Newman now saw the Catholic Church as the heir of the Church Fathers and, therefore, of the only authentic Christianity, since it was revealed, conversion and faith did not exclude criticism of certain papal attitudes. For him, the Church is indeed a divine institution, but it is rooted in the world, and therefore made up of sinners.

The place of consciousness

For Newman, conscience is the very essence of human nature, "a feeling of responsibility, shame, or fear," an echo of an external admonition or a secret whisper of the heart. It "is a law of our mind, but in some way beyond our mind; it gives us injunctions; it means responsibility and duty, fear and hope: and it has a spontaneity which distinguishes it from the rest of nature.

Conscience is defined as a capacity to oblige (enjoin) and to judge. The first sermons present it as "this guide, implanted in our nature to distinguish between rectitude and malice, and to clothe rectitude with an absolute authority, has nothing amiable or merciful about it. Conscience is severe, it is even intractable. It does not speak of forgiveness, but of punishment", and its effects can be good conscience, inner peace, but also condemnation.

The conscience is presented as a faculty of judgment, fragile but irreducible: voice, motion, insistent but weak, independent of the will of the man who has the faculty to disobey it but remains powerless to destroy it.

Theology of Grace: Lectures on Justification

The Lectures on Justification are taken from a series of lectures Newman gave at St. Mary's in 1838, while still an Anglican. Once converted to Catholicism, as he did not deny anything he had said, his objective became to reconcile two elements, the effect of grace and that of works (good deeds) in salvation. Indeed, Protestants, notably Martin Luther, turned away from the Catholic doctrine of justification, rejecting the idea that works can contribute to salvation and affirming that only faith in God gives access to paradise. This theology strongly influenced Anglicanism and led to justification being a private matter between man and God. Newman attempted to develop a theory of justification that would reconcile the two theologies, which he succeeded in doing, at least in the eyes of the German theologian Ignaz von Döllinger, who saw it as "the finest masterpiece of theology that England had produced for a century," and some even assigned to it a profound ecumenical significance.

In this Treatise on Justification, Newman begins by criticizing the overly literal conception of the Bible held by some Protestants. Basing himself on the interpretation of the Church Fathers, he denounces two drifts, the exclusive selection of certain passages, harmful to the perception of the logic of salvation in its indivisible globality, and the danger, at the expense of the teaching of the councils and the patristic writings, of the biblical reading as the only source of interpretation. Such a choice contains the seeds of a possible subjective interpretation, detached from any temporal and historical context, which, for Newman, amounts to denying the Revelation that continues, beyond the death of Christ, through the action of the Holy Spirit present in the Church.

Secondly, Newman criticizes the Protestant conception according to which only faith leads to salvation, which implies that God is no longer the actor in the justification and sanctification of persons; if personal faith leads in itself to salvation, it is conversion and faith that are primary, Christ being relegated to second place. Man then becomes his own justification, a total paradox for Newman: "Thus religion ends up consisting in the contemplation of oneself and not of Christ".

Newman then opposes Martin Luther's view of justification, according to which God justifies by no longer recognizing man's guilt, which Newman opposes by developing a theology of the "Word of God"; as he shows in Genesis, where it is by word that God creates the world, this "Word of God" is action. When God declares someone justified, justification no longer consists in a non-recognition of the guilt of the justified person, but God makes him or her a just person: "It is not a matter of the silent granting of a favor, but of the visible outpouring of his power and his love. Let us be sure of this consoling truth: the divine grace that justifies does what it says.

For Newman, God, in justification, transforms man, not by an act external to himself, but by changing him internally. Now this change that justifies is a pure gift of God: "It is neither a quality, nor an act of our spirit, nor faith, nor renewal, nor obedience, nor anything else knowable to man, but a certain gift of God which contains all his realities. Thus justification consists in living with God: "to be justified is to receive the divine Presence, to become the Temple of the Holy Spirit".

If God has justified us, Newman asserts, it is so that our conduct, our actions and our works, are part of God's salvation. There is no dichotomy in justification between faith and works: "Christ did not keep the power of justification in his own hands alone; his Spirit gives it to us by means of our own actions. He has given us the ability to please him. The justified then, for Newman, lives with Christ. And Christ continues to justify us, "within us, with us, through us, by us. Our life becomes a sign of God's justification, and of God's presence that continually justifies us: "There is only one reconciliation: there are ten thousand justifications. Justification can be understood in accordance with the words of St. Paul: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me", the merits of the person then merging with those of God. Thus justification is born of the fact of God's presence in us: "The Almighty Father looks at us; he does not see us, but the sacred presence of his son who reveals himself spiritually in us.

Conception of knowledge

The idea of a university was born from the request of the Irish bishops who were opposed to the Queen's colleges that the English government was setting up in Ireland. They did not want Catholics in Ireland to have any choice but to attend a university owned by His Majesty and run by Anglicans. So they suggested to Newman that he found what would become University College Dublin. Faced with the bishops' surprise at his conception of the university, Newman gave a series of lectures between 1852 and 1858 that shed light on his choices, a body of work that was later included in his book The Idea of the University.

In the course of these conferences, Newman set out his conception of the role of the university: although it was intended to transmit knowledge, it should above all educate the intelligence and lead to the search for truth, even if this meant using approaches and methodologies specific to different disciplines.

It has no practical purpose, its aim not being to form a good citizen or even a good religious person; its mission is to "give the intellect its due", a requirement, that said, that does not imply indifference to reality or to technical knowledge. Essentially destined to open minds and not to lock them into what Newman calls the "bigotry" of specialization, its richness is to aspire, through the teaching of all knowledge, to the universality of knowledge, of which it remains the seat where the acquisition of know-how is perpetuated, but the primacy of culture.

At a time when this discipline was beginning to be called into question, Newman advocated the study of theology, a teaching, he thought, that served the sciences, whose claim to universality and ambition to give a global explanation of the world and of things, while, paradoxically, they were becoming specialized, did not correspond to their original specificity. Thus, theology and philosophy must be taught alongside the scientific disciplines, without claiming, as they do, an explanation of the world, but precisely by questioning them on their limits and the finality that they believe they can say about man and the universe.

For Newman, in fact, the sciences, at least those that go beyond their field of research, are in error: "A dozen diverse disciplines invade its territory to plunder it. They cannot fail to make a mistake in a matter that they have absolutely no mission to know. I appeal to this far-reaching principle: any science, however exhaustive it may be, goes astray when it sets itself up as the sole interpreter of what happens in heaven and on earth.

The role that Newman assigns to theology is to be a function of regulation and criticism in the face of scientific knowledge, science and theology having to dialogue and enrich each other. Theology is not, by nature, superior to science; it allows another view of man and to approach another truth, which is of another order.

The last major theme developed by Newman is the hierarchy of knowledge and the place of culture. He shows that the educational model goes beyond the simple sphere of knowledge. Indeed, each piece of knowledge tends to answer the question of how, thus evacuating the question of why. It obeys an operating technique which, through mechanisms, leads to seeing everything according to the same mode of functioning and, by the same token, tends to make it difficult, even to prevent any other vision of a reality that would not be subject to these mechanisms.

For Newman, Christian teaching should not deny faith, but leave a place for it, allowing openness to the mystery of faith. It is therefore a question of developing two types of knowledge, one rational and the other which, situated beyond the logic of knowledge, gives access to a level of truth other than that of the school disciplines.

The literary work: the apologist

In the book La Littérature autobiographique en Grande-Bretagne et en Irlande, Robert Ferrieux devotes a sub-chapter to the apology, which he classifies as a "circumstantial autobiography"; he examines this genre by relying essentially on the example of John Henry Newman. It is from this analysis that much of the discussion in this section is borrowed.

With his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, published in 1867, Newman stands out as one of the great autobiographical writers of the 19th century. Perhaps his choice of a Latin title was inspired by an illustrious predecessor, the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who had published his Biographia Literaria in 1817, a book that was already a kind of apology, since it was based on the preface composed by William Wordsworth for the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads in 1800. From the very first page, Coleridge insists on what he calls an "exculpation" (exculpation), responding to a "charge" (accusation), signifying by this his apologetic desire, a necessary prelude to the exposition of his ideas.

The essence of self-apology, indeed, is a pro domo plea made necessary by an accusation. Socrates, it is said, corrupted the youth of the city, and John Henry Newman, according to Charles Kingsley, does not consider the love of truth "to be a necessary virtue". Charles Kingsley, in fact, in a review of J. A. Froude's History of England for Macmillan's Magazine, inserted a vengeful sentence against Newman: "Truth in itself has never been a virtue in the eyes of the clergy of the Roman Church. Father Newman informs us that it need not and, indeed, must not be, and that cunning is the weapon which has been given to the saints to repel the manly and brutal forces of the wicked world" ("Truth, for its own sake, had never been a virtue with the Roman clergy. Father Newman informs us that it need not, and on the whole ought not to be; that cunning is the weapon which heaven has given to the Saints wherewith to withstand the brute male force of the wicked world"). After a polemical correspondence - the two men had not met - Newman's response was his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, a response not to an intimate solicitation, but to the injury of an injustice from without.

The autobiographical need is therefore not primary: it is because Newman knows he is under intellectual and moral calumny that he undertakes to give an account of himself. If he did not have to answer for his acts, in the quasi-criminal sense of the term, before the tribunal of men, and not only of his conscience (the word "charge" is constantly recurring in his writings), he would probably not have taken the trouble of this systematic reminder of his spiritual life. Moreover, he feels the need to justify himself in the name of the whole Church, targeted through his person by his detractors. His apology, ambitiously called Pro Vita Sua ("For his life"), which testifies to the "vital" importance of the commitment, then becomes a necessity, a duty, as he writes, to himself, the Catholic cause and the clergy.

On this account, the apology cannot be developed in the conditions of serenity that characterize many autobiographical undertakings. On the contrary, it is passion that governs it and, in fact, Newman blushes under the insult and intends not to let himself be called a rascal or a fool without raising the glove. Moreover, knowing that he is thus placed in a position of inferiority makes him aggressive in spite of himself, and the detachment he displays when he claims to be "in a train of thought higher and more serene than any which slander can disturb" cannot be illusory for long, since he is now "in a train of thought higher and more serene than any which slander can disturb, can't make illusion for a long time, since he immediately sends Mr Kingsley "flying" in the infinite spaces with an uncommon vigor ("away with you, Mr Kingsley and fly into space").

In such conditions, the autobiographical process ceases to be a pleasure: "It is easy to understand the ordeal of writing the history of my person in this way; but I must not shrink from the task". Exposing the deepest motives of his conduct to opponents for whom he feels only contempt or hatred is a real pain: Newman is ashamed to give himself up to the gaze of his detractors. The words "obligation", "trial", "reluctance" come up again and again in his account, and each time he has to reveal a personal detail, he does himself a great deal of violence, feeling that he is intruding sacrilegiously into the most secret of debates, the one that his soul is conducting with God: "It is not pleasant to be giving to every shallow or flippant disputant that advantage over me of knowing my most private thoughts".

Such a fund of passion and such a pronounced reticence cannot a priori constitute the best guarantees of objectivity. By trying too hard to justify himself, the apologist risks, even unknowingly, betraying himself: organizing the account of his spiritual and interior life to prove to the world the validity of an attitude is tempting and, in this kind of undertaking, the end calls for the means. Therein lies what Georges Gusdorf has called "a posteriori reconstruction". Newman, well aware of this danger, underlines at the beginning of his work the numerous difficulties he will encounter. Will he succeed in preventing his conversion to Roman Catholicism, a major event in his life and the last episode of his narrative, from influencing and coloring his subject? He immediately faced the objection: "Moreover, my intention is to remain simply personal and historical. Moreover, I mean to be simply personal and historical, I am not expounding the Catholic doctrine, I am doing no more than explaining myself, and my opinions and actions I wish, as far as I am able, to state facts".

There is here, as with all apologists, a preconceived notion of the data which does not exactly correspond to the aims of autobiography. Newman does not need to review his entire life, since his approach is limited to a well-defined section of his activity. He needs to gather a body of evidence that is all the more convincing because it is close to the period in which he was implicated. Thus, he is interested in the various aspects of his life only insofar as they can contribute to the construction of his system of defense and persuasion: "I am concerned throughout," he writes, "with matters of belief and opinion, and if I introduce other people into my narrative, it is neither for their own sake nor because I have or have had any affection for them, but because and in so far as they have influenced my theological views" ("I am all along engaged upon matters of belief and opinion, and am introducing others into my narrative, not for their own sake, or because I loved or have loved them, so much as because, and in so far as, they have influenced my theological views"). It is not surprising, therefore, that his apology devotes thirty-one pages to thirty-two years of his life, while almost twice as many are reserved for the only two, crucial for him and his opponents, which definitively changed the turbulent Anglican agitator into a convinced Catholic.

This apology, which by its very nature tends to develop on the surface, but which, inviting to deliver the best of oneself, is no less a valuable autobiographical document. To restore a situation judged compromised requires first of all a defense system free of intellectual dishonesty: Newman knows this and accumulates the virtues he intends to prove: he "scorns and detests," he assures us, "lying, and quibbling, and hypocritical talk, and cunning, and false suavity, and hollow speech, and pretence, pray that their snare may be kept from him" ("scorn and detest lying, and quibbling, and double-tongued practice, and slyness, and cunning, and smoothness, and cant, and pretence , and I pray to be kept from the snare of them"). Historian of his mind, as he defines himself, he specifies throughout the pages his program and his method: no anecdote or romanticism; despite the lack of "autobiographical" documents that he deplores, he has found some notes from March 1839 that illustrate his point; he distrusts his memory and, if need be, prefers to dismiss a possible argument rather than run the risk of distorting reality; he finally strives to express himself with all the necessary clarity and does not neglect, on occasion, to structure his work "with a rigor and perhaps also, adds Robert Ferrieux, a quite academic gaucherie": "Thus I have gathered as best I could what there was to say about the general state of my mind from the autumn of 1839 to the summer of 1841 ; I have thus put together, as well as I could, what had to be said about my general state of mind from the autumn of 1839 to the summer of 1841; and having done so, I go on to narrate how my misgivings affected my conduct and my relations towards the Anglican church.

In general, the apologist, by dint of justifying himself, learns little by little and as if in spite of himself to know himself; starting from the principle of his absolute competence, he realizes, at the end of his quest, that he is not quite the same man as at the beginning. Newman is no exception: his tone gradually becomes less peremptory, his argumentation less dogmatic, his expression less polemical. He is now interested in his hesitations and anxieties, he asks himself: "I thought I was right; how can I know for sure that I was always right, how many years had I been convinced of what I now reject? How could I ever again have confidence in myself?" (how was I certain that I was right now, how many years had I thought myself sure of what I now rejected? How could I ever again have confidence in myself? Is he certain of something, of himself? "To be certain is to know that one knows; how could I ever be certain that I would not change again after becoming a Catholic? "To be certain is to know that one knows; what test had I, that I should not change again, after that I had become a Catholic?").

Thus, the narrative helped him to overcome, once again, the solicitations of his conscience and brought him a confirmation that he secretly needed: "Insensibly," writes Robert Ferrieux, "the apology came closer to autobiography and the justification turned into discovery. Towards the end of his book, Newman could write in all serenity: "I have nothing more to say about the history of my religious opinions. I have not had to report any change or any anguish. I have been in a perfect state of peace and contentment It has been like coming into port after a storm, and I feel a happiness that to this day has never been denied" ("I have no further history of my religious opinions to narrate I have had no changes to record, and have had no anxiety of heart whatever. I have been in perfect peace and contentment It was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption"). As a supreme gratification, he thanks Mr. Kingsley for the trouble he has caused him; in the end, comments Robert Ferrieux, "he has nothing to regret: the crossing was worth it.


Cardinal Newman, with his strengths and weaknesses, is a charismatic man, convinced of the meaning of his own destiny. An inspired poet, he possessed a genuine literary talent. Several of his early poems remain, writes R. H. Hutton, "unsurpassed for magnificence of composition, purity of taste, and total radiance," and "The Dream of Gerontius," the last and longest of them all, is sometimes considered the most convincing attempt to represent the invisible world since the time of Dante.

His theory of doctrinal development and his affirmation of the supremacy of conscience have sometimes led to his being considered, despite all his denials, a liberal. That he accepts every element of the Catholic creed is, however, a certainty, and, on papal infallibility as well as on canonization, he has very advanced positions. Moreover, while he claimed to prefer English to Italian forms of devotion, he was one of the first to introduce them into England and to blend them with specific local rites.

The motto he adopted when he became a cardinal, "Cor ad cor loquitur" (The heart speaks to the heart), and the phrase engraved on the memorial erected in his honor at Edgbaston, "Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem" (Out of the shadows and images into the truth), seem to reveal, as much as possible, the secret of a life that aroused the interest of his contemporaries, mixing affection and curiosity, adherence to the truth, and stern reserve.

Newman and Manning

The two great figures of the Catholic Church in England in the nineteenth century both became cardinals and are both former Anglican clergymen. But there is little sympathy between them.

Newman's character is reserved, while Manning is an expansive man. One is a university professor, the other an advocate for workers, one a loner, the other a leading figure in the social life of Victorian society.

There were also more fundamental reasons for their opposition: Newman posed the important problem of the integration of Catholics in a country with an Anglican majority. Anglicanism had taken anti-Catholic measures, and one of them, which was particularly close to his heart, was the ban on Catholics entering universities. He believed that their participation in public life depended to a large extent on access to higher education, and so, despite repeated failures, he continued to negotiate for this right, even if it meant leaving some questions unanswered

Cardinal Manning, on the other hand, was inclined to share the traditional views held by the victims of Anglican ostracism and took a harder line on the restrictions that were imposed, hence his refusal to compromise or negotiate on the issue of Catholic membership in universities.

However, when it comes to social issues, Manning is more modern in his approach, as he is considered to be one of the pioneers of the Church's social doctrine, and in fact, he plays a major role in the elaboration of the encyclical Rerum Novarum.


When Catholics began to attend Oxford in the 1860s, they formed a club which in 1888 became known as the Oxford University Newman Society. Eventually, the Oxford Oratory was founded one hundred years later, in 1993, in premises previously owned by the Society of Jesus.

Newman's fame grew after his death, both in the theological and literary fields. In a letter of May 25, 1907, Paul Claudel directs Jacques Rivière in the choice of his religious readings in these terms: "Books to be read: above all Pascal All that you can find of Newman". James Joyce considers that "no prose writer is comparable to Newman". And G. K. Chesterton devoted several essays to him between 1904 and 1933, indicating in the foreword to his book Orthodoxy that he was modelling himself on the Apologia.

From 1922 onwards, Newman Centres were developed mainly in American and British universities, with the aim of developing a life of faith and reflection in accordance with Newman's thinking on universities. There are currently more than 300 of them in the in the world.

Some of his writings were translated into German by Edith Stein, and she drew on them in her philosophy. The theologian Erich Przywara says of Newman's influence: "What St. Augustine was for the ancient world, St. Thomas for the Middle Ages, Newman deserves to be for modern times.

Newman's thinking on conscience and the relationship with the authority of the Church, notably in his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, was developed by theologians to the point of being taken up by the magisterium of Catholic teaching, notably at the time of the Second Vatican Council and the declaration Dignitatis Humanae.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church takes up Newman's conception of conscience by quoting an excerpt from the Letter to the Duke of Norfolk in its number 1778.

In 1990, on the centenary of his death, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, future Pope Benedict XVI, considered Newman to be one of the "great teachers of the Church".

In 2001 for the bicentennial celebrations of John Henry Newan's birth, Estonian classical music composer Arvo Pärt composed Littlemore Tractus, a work for choir (based on a sermon by the future cardinal) and organ premiered at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, which would be adapted in 2014 also into a short symphony entitled Swansong.

After his beatification, a film directed by Liana Marabini is being made about his life with F. Murray Abraham in the title role.

The founding of the Newman Institute in Uppsala in 2001 was inspired by the philosopher and theologian's open-minded attitude.

Beatification and Canonization Processes

The beatification process of John Henry Newman began in 1958.

After a thorough examination of his life by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, John Paul II proclaimed him venerable in 1991.

In 2005, the postulator of the cause announced the healing of Jack Sullivan, suffering from a spinal cord disease, attributed to Newman's intercession. After an examination by experts commissioned by the Vatican, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints found no scientific explanation for the cure and a council of experts attested to its inexplicable nature. On April 24, 2009, the Cardinals of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted to attribute it to a miracle, thus opening the procedure for beatification. On July 3, 2009, Benedict XVI recognized Jack Sullivan's healing as miraculous. The same day, he authorized Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation, to open the canonization process.

The beatification of John Henry Newman was celebrated on September 19, 2010 in Birmingham by Benedict XVI, during his visit to the United Kingdom. It is the first beatification, and the only one with that of John Paul II on May 1, 2011, presided over by this pope since the beginning of his pontificate. On the occasion of this trip, the sovereign also visits the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, in the district of Edgbaston, where Newman lived from 1854 until his death in 1890.

On January 15, 2011, Blessed John Henry Newman was chosen as patron for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which was erected that same day. It is a structure designed to welcome groups of Anglicans from England and Wales who ask to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.

On February 12, 2019, Pope Francis signs the decree of a second miracle attributed to Blessed Newmann, allowing for his future canonization.

On October 13, 2019, Blessed John Henry Newman was canonized at the Mass of Canonization celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square and became Saint John Henry Newman.

Works translated into French

John Henry Newman was the leading figure in the Oxford Movement. His study of the Church Fathers led him to Catholicism in 1845. He founded the Oratory of England in 1848 and was created a cardinal by Leo XIII in 1879.

Commentary according to Mark (Mk 16:15-20)

"The life of St. Mark contained the following contrasts: at first he abandoned the cause of the Gospel as soon as any danger appeared; later he behaved not only as a good Christian, but as a resolute and diligent servant of God, founding and governing that Church of Alexandria, famous for its rigor. The instrument of this transfiguration seems to have been the influence of St. Peter, a worthy restorer of a timid disciple who was apt to let his courage flag. We will find encouragement in the circumstances of his life by thinking that the weakest among us can, by the grace of God, become strong.

- St John Henry Newman. Sermons paroissiaux, t. 2, Paris, Cerf, 1993, p. 156-157.

Writings set to music

Enregistrements : They are at rest, extrait de l'album 'Treasures of English Church Music'.

Recordings :


  1. John Henry Newman
  2. John Henry Newman
  3. Xavier Tilliette L'Église des philosophes, p. 117
  4. Xavier Tilliette L'Église des philosophes, p. 161
  5. ^ Burger, John (14 September 2019). "Prince Charles plans to attend Cardinal Newman's canonization". Archived from the original on 15 September 2019. Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  6. ^ Joshua P. Hochschild, "The Re-Imagined Aristotelianism of John Henry Newman".
  7. ^ (EN) Blessed John Henry Newman, su URL consultato il 25 giugno 2015 (archiviato dall'url originale il 26 giugno 2015).«Newman became an Oratorian and in 1848 he established the first English Oratory at Maryvale near Birmingham...»
  8. ^ Sharkey, pp. 339-346.
  9. ^ a b Muolo, p. 28.
  10. ^ a b c d e „John Henry Newman”, Gemeinsame Normdatei, accesat în 9 aprilie 2014
  11. ^ a b c d e Blessed John Henry Newman, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, accesat în 9 octombrie 2017
  12. ^ a b c d e John Henry Newman, SNAC, accesat în 9 octombrie 2017
  13. ^ a b c d „John Henry Newman”, Gemeinsame Normdatei, accesat în 2 aprilie 2015

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