20th May 1928. Crisis of Conscience.
In the mid-19thc John Henry Newman, later Vicar of St. Mary’s the University Church in Oxford, Dr. Edward Pusey, Professor of Hebrew and Canon of Christ Church Oxford along with poet and hymn writer John Keble, founded the pro-Catholic Oxford Movement.(1)
These reformers called for a renewal of holiness and a return to traditional worship in the Church of England, in place of austere evangelicalism. In short, a new Reformation to correct what they saw as the doctrinal divisions that had grown up since Tudor times and which if left unchecked would choke out its existence.
However whilst Newman was to leave for Rome, eventually becoming a cardinal, Pusey and Keble were to remain within the Anglican fold.
One outspoken critic of Newman, was the Christian Socialist, Charles Kingsley, whose hatred of popery was argued cogently in the pages of Macmillan’s Magazine. (2)
It was this article which provoked Newman’s 1864 response: his ‘Apologia pro vita Sua’, a ‘defence’ of his life, which was attacked in turn, by the evangelical, Kingsley, as constituting ‘falsehood and insincerity.’
Nearly 70 years later Today in 1928, another great Catholic Apologist, Hilaire Belloc wrote a Forward to a new work on Newman’s Apologia, which also examined the methods by which The Church of England, and their natural home Oxford University had come by their faith.
Belloc looked at how the ‘millionaires’ in the 16thc were concerned how to protect their fortunes acquired by the Monastic Dissolution, especially as the England of the reign of Elizabeth was still closet Catholic, under the new magnates, such as the Cecils.
The aristocracy had to decide which path to tread: to follow that beaten by Henry VIII who had created all the new money and nationalism, or continue as the persecuted, controlled from Rome.
What they didn’t want was the return of the Mass and the Catholic spirit. Patriotism and vague and elastic religious pragmatism was to become the new order.
Newman’s confidence in the Established Church had been shattered in 1841, when a joint bishopric was founded in Jerusalem, through the efforts of Baron von Bunsen, which linked the Church of England with German Protestantism.
He also wanted to find common ground with Roman Catholicism and the Church of England and was to live long enough to see the decline of Evangelicalism towards the end of Victoria’s reign: ‘Old Mr Clare was a clergyman of a type, which within the last twenty years, has well nigh dropped out of contemporary life.'(3)
Belloc’s most telling point is ‘that the Anglican Church is little thought of in Europe…as its dissolution proceeds’, and regarded Oxford [in 1928], as ‘being the playground of the rich and idle and no equal of Paris and Leipzig.’ Can one now take issue with these points?
(1a) Newman 1801-1891. He and the others were known as Tractarians from ‘Tracts for our Times’ which set out the Movements credo.
(1b) William Lockhart was the first Tractarian to become a Catholic and followed quickly by Newman, who was forced to resign from St. Mary’s, as Lockhart was in his pastoral care.
(2) The didactic and moral tale and now regarded as racist, The Water Babies was first published in the Magazine.
(3) P.138 Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy, Wordsworth Classics.
Ref: newmanreader.org/works/apologia. Forward by Hilaire Belloc from Apologia edit by D M O’Connor, Chicago 1930.