Newman, an "Apostate"?

May 2003By Stanley L. Jaki

Stanley L. Jaki, who in 2002 produced an edition of Newman’s Letter to the Duke of Norfolk under the title Conscience and Papacy, has recently released an edition of Newman’s Reply to Pusey’s Eirenicon under the title The Mother of God. Consult

John Henry Newman: The Challenge to Evangelical Religion.  By Frank M. Turner. Yale University Press. 724 pages. $35.

This book by Frank M. Turner, formerly Provost at Yale University, is not the first lengthy study of Newman’s life prior to his conversion. The first volume of Wilfrid Ward’s Newman, now almost 100 years old, is almost as long, though it gives a vastly different account from what Turner claims to be the truth. In her two-volume Newman, Meriol Trevor devoted more than 300 pages, or about a fourth of the entire work, to the Anglican half of Newman’s life, and again in a vein which flies in the face of what Turner insists upon. In his turn, Ian Ker assigned one-third of his John Henry Newman to Newman’s Anglican years, and as editor of several volumes of Newman’s Letters and Diaries, he has already had his say about Turner’s book in the Times Literary Supplement, and Turner was not pleased at all.

From none of these three books would one guess that there was a monumental feature about the Anglican Newman still to be unveiled, and precisely because, so Turner implies, it has been carefully ig-nored. But in this book, Turner presents it as a fact that prior to 1845 Newman was a contentiously disingenuous character. And if this were not enough to startle, Turner also claims that Newman actually remained a devious character throughout the second forty-five years of his life, and success-fully so. And as if to heap insult upon injury, Turner presents that claim as an advance warning about the merit of Newman’s possible beatifica-tion.

About that claim, indeed about any claim, the first thing to keep in mind is that a claim is not a proof, however lengthy that claim may be. A chief support of Turner’s claim is merely another claim of his, which few would take seriously, apart from those who have a vested interest in portraying Newman as a false and self-aggrandizing character. The claim is that if one digs into the vast material relating to Newman’s pre-conversion years, then Newman’s own account of those years, his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, would appear untrustwor-thy and highly misleading. Turner then assumes, without proving it at all, that the entire generation that first read the Apologia was hoodwinked by Newman’s bewitching style into believing his story. Turner fails to consider how this mental blindness could happen to a large number of hard-nosed readers, many of them eminent figures of high-Victorian times, some of whom would have been, for various reasons, most eager to have Newman discredited.

On the contrary, almost to a man they sided with Newman concerning the question of sincerity. Not a few of them would have agreed with Richard Holt Hutton, future Editor of the Spectator (who from Unitarianism could advance only to Anglicanism) that Kingsley owed a public retraction of his claim that Newman was insincere. Such a debt has Turner incurred by writing this book. But the fact that he had written it over twenty years, suggests an ingrained obstinacy on his part which may blind him to his colossal mischief.

Turner’s failure to say anything about those Victorians who sided with Newman is not the only glaring failure in a book whose author prides himself on being an intellectual historian. Actually, the book is a huge puzzle, which did not bother those who volunteered accolades for the jacket of his book. The jacket carries four accolades, trumpet blasts really, as if four horsemen exited from the ivory towers of academia to help besmirch Newman’s memory once and for all. The first to sound off is Boyd Hilton of Cambridge University, who takes this book for Turner’s “crowning achievement” and takes him for the greatest living intellectual historian, though he qualifies this exorbitant praise with the word, “arguably.” This smacks of hype typical of discourse in an academia which is all too often a composite of mutual admiration groups. At any rate, Hilton is not known for writing on Newman.

According to George P. Landow of Brown University, Turner’s book “is a grenade hurled into Newman studies.” The grenade will appear rather harmless if one keeps in mind that Landow has not published anything significant on Newman. Relatively muted is the third blast in which G.B. Tennyson, author of Victorian Devotional Poetry: The Tractarian Mode, praises Turner for having “freed himself and the reader from the domination of Newman’s Apologia, hitherto the definitive interpretation of the man and the [Tractarian] movement.” In this age of endless and mindless liberation movements, anyone can have his liberation without deliberation.

Quite vicious is the fourth blast, which comes from the trumpet of Claude Welch, who thirty years ago came out with a two-volume work, Protestant Thought in the Nineteenth Century. The irrelevance of such a work for understanding Newman the Anglican will be clear shortly. After declaring Turner’s book to be “the definite account of Newman as a controversialist in the early years of his career,” Welch praises it as a “refreshing corrective to Newman’s own later and self-serving account in the Apologia.” Surely, Welch must have found in Turner’s book much self-serving refresh-ment. But the potion is refreshing only insofar as it helps one’s resolve to poison Newma-n’s reputation. An act of libel is here, which, though it can have no legal ramifications, strikes at the standard norms of historical scholarship. Incidentally, the Manchester Guardian has come out with a glowing review of Turner’s book written by someone whose field of research is Victorian towns. Perhaps the next reviewer will be an expert on Victorian cricketeers. Such a historian may point out that those sportsmen greatly valued the virtue of fair play. Turner’s game plan includes no such virtue.

All these endorsers are Protestant, and some Protestants have long been intent on discredit-ing and burying Newman. What Jaroslav Pelikan, who left Protestantism for Greek Orthodoxy and who was a colleague of Turner’s at Yale, would say of all that grenade throwing may easily be guessed. Anyone who opened the door of Pelikan’s office at Yale was confronted with the sign: Cor ad cor loquitur, the words of St. Francis de Sales, which Newman had chosen for the motto of his coat of arms on being created a cardinal. No love, not even some sympathy, for Newman exudes from Turner’s thick book. Even Lytton Stratchey of Eminent Victorians fame would have found this not so much self-serving as self-defeating.

Turner is unable to restrain himself, and at the end of the book he explodes. Surely explosive is his charge that Newman was an apostate. The word sounds strange in this age when nobody can be held accountable for his present or past convic-tions. Except, of course, in one sense. In this age when academia relentless-ly celebrates relativism as the only absolute norm, Newman may seem to those trapped in that “absolutism” to be a chief apostate, though even then for a very wrong reason.

Turner’s entire book is a refutation of his claim that Newman was an apostate. He makes this charge with a rhetorical bravado — but with little logic and even less respect for history — in the last paragraph which begins with the declaration that “Newman stands among the first cultural apostates who established new foundations for a late Victorian English culture that would be pluralistic religiously, morally, intellectually, rather than exclusively Protestant in character.” The paragraph closes as follows: “Throughout that cultural as well as religious apostasy, Newman emerged as the first great, and perhaps the most enduring, Victorian skeptic. Nothing bore witness to the long-term effectiveness of his enterprise as the transatlantic recognition of the elderly John Henry Cardinal Newman, celibate Roman Catholic priest of the Birmingham Oratory, as one of the sage voices of late-Victorian intellectual as well as religious life. The earlier John Henry Newman, fell-ow of Oriel College and Vicar of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin of Oxford, could hardly have imagined such a development.” Apostate and skeptic, such is Newman according to Turner, who, as will be seen, fails to ponder either of those terms, either in themselves or in reference to Newman, who fought skepticism tooth and nail throughout all his career and explicitly in almost all his major publications.

That final paragraph is preceded by 12 long chapters. The first is about the “evangelical impulse” to which Newman was exposed in his youthful years. He certainly was, but an impulse should be evaluated not merely in terms of what it objectively was, but also in the manner in which it was a-bsorbed by the subject. Already in that first chapter Turner fails to make very important distinctions. For him everything is equally important in that vast catch-basin that Evangelicalism was in England in the 1820s and even later. It varied from mere emotionalism to blind fundamentalism, but in all cases it was void of dogmas.

It is of no importance to Turner that according to Newman’s own recollection his youthful awakening to the reality of God was to a God who is not only immediately obvious to the soul, but also who reveals Himself in sacred history. That awakening contained for young Newman the vivid perception that such a revelation has dogmas for its essential part. Newman was so much alive to the Evangelical Joseph Milner’s History of the Church of Christ because it presented a series of most convincing scenes about an early Church which was animated by that dogmatic view, even though Milner shied away from the word “dogma.” In other words, Newman was much more a Catholic from his early years on than a Protestant, let alone a vague Evangelical. This is why the Catholic Newman, whose memory ought to be trusted more than Turner’s invariably selective memory, recalled that as an Anglican curate he felt happy only when, either at St. Mary’s or in Littlemore, he could do things in the Catholic way. And that was long before he disavowed in print all his anti-Roman and anti-papal statements.

Turner’s second chapter is about “three men in motion,” John Keble, Hurrel Froude, and Edward Pusey. He paints them all as sickly souls. He will have plenty of trouble selling to Anglicans who still care for the faith those portraits, especially of Keble and Pusey, and of those who fought with them the juggernaut of secularism, which is Turner’s great cause. To paraphrase a dictum of T.H. Huxley, who dismissed Auguste Comte’s Positive Church as “Catholicism minus Christianity,” the religion Turner pleads for in his book may be described as “Protes-tantism minus Christianity.” This Protestantism is a dominant phenome-non in our Ivy League universities, all of them founded, in part at least, for the formation of Protestant missionaries. Nowadays the graduates from there, if they still have any sense of mission at all, are bent on spreading the kind of Protestantism that fully subscribes to the promotion of what Turner calls at one point “Kingsley’s robust sexual creativity.”

In the third chapter, Turner discusses Newman’s sense of having been called to obedience. Again, Turner, who delights in the psychologi-cal fathoming of the subjective, turns a blind eye to what for Newman was a call to obey something most objective, that is, what the Tractarians fondly called “Church principles.” They meant the supernatu-ral realities of sacramental practices, to which there were numerous references in the Book of Common Prayer and some even in the Thirty-Nine Articles. Unfortu-nately, the actual practice reflected hardly a whiff of the supernat-ural, a word very dear to the Tractarians but hardly visible in Turner’s pages.

Those readers of Turner’s book who fail to note this and fail to appreciate this will then be led by their nose into a thicket in which good guys are fighting bad guys, the former being the Evangelicals (with or without faith), the latter the Tractarians. Surely this is not the framework one would expect from one who is “arguably” the foremost cultural historian of our time. Turner fails to realize that the historical method does not consist in piling mountains of endnotes upon endnotes. It demands primarily the clarification of what one talks about or what, in the case of a biography, the person held as dearest. For Newman what was dearest was the supernatural, whether as a Tractarian or a Roman Catholic. He was an “integral supernaturalist,” to recall the words of then still Father Avery Dulles in his summary of my Newman’s Challenge, a collection of essays on the thought of Newman. This book fell like a grenade among liberal Catholics, who are bent on besmirching anything traditionally Catholic and who try especially to take the sting out of the supernatural.

Not for Turner the supernatural. An ample indication of this is the collection of essays he edited under the ti-tle Idea of a Universi-ty, all of whose contributors sedulously ignored the most important claim in Newman’s book. But apparently this is a Yale University Press tradition, which half a century ago published The Imperial Intellect, in which Newma-n’s mind was presented as exclusively preoccupied with things natural. As I showed in my essay “Newman’s Idea of the University and the Supernatural” (Sensus Communis, Jan.-June 2002), Newman specified that the failure of all the great British universities of his time and of standard writings on university education consisted in their disregard of supernatural revelation, which for Newman was the most objective reality. Hardly a skeptic by any measure. One may think him wrong, but to treat him in disregard of his visceral endorsement of the supernatu-ral is just as bad as to treat Karl Marx apart from the principal claims of Das Kapital, Hitler apart from Mein Kampf, and Luther apart from his The Babylonian Captivity of the Church and his commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Romans. I mention Luther because Turner, no theologian at all, claims at one point that Newman had no deep knowledge of the Lutheran doctrine of justification. Turner’s book is full of such howlers.

Precisely because Turner is opaque to the supernatural, he fails to understand the true bearing of the topics of chapters 4 and 5 of his book. They are, respectively, about the early Tracts and the Hampden case. The early Tracts were not entirely on purely devotional practices, such as fasting and the like. Among the early Tracts was Pusey’s great Tract on baptismal regeneration, which flew in the face of the Established Church when the Privy Council handed down its Gorham Judgment in March 1850. As a result, the Bishop of Exeter, a staunch doctrinal conserva-tive, had to install the Rev. G.C. Gorham, although the latter held that the rite of Baptism effected nothing supernaturally spiritual in the baptized. The Judgment resulted in the conversion of a number of prominent Anglican clergymen, including Manning, and of laymen, including James Hope. Among those who subscribed to the declaration that if the bishops accepted the Privy Council’s judgment, they would have to leave the Church of England, were Pusey and Gladstone. Pusey soon counseled “caution,” the age-old procedure to let time work out things that nothing could untie and that time would only entangle more and more. Gladstone fought for the Church of England to his dying days, simply because he fought for England, which he wanted to save from the rising tide of cultural relativism.

As for the Hampden case, it related to the appointment in 1836 of the Rev. Renn Dickson Hampden to the chair of Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford. Turner quotes the gist of Hampden’s position, and in Hampden-’s own words, that “strictly to speak, in the Scripture itself there is no doctrine.” Now according to Turner, Hampden argued this point brilliantly, whereas he would never say that any of Hampden’s critics, especially Newman, offered any brilliant counterargument. This is just one of the instances among many that show Turner stacking his cards in a fashion that befits a self-serving controversialist but not a historian. He controverts facts, and all too often passes over in silence those that would militate against his militant objective: to undermine the stance Newman made as an Anglican on behalf of the supernatural. Ignore this point and the whole thick book will fail to reveal its monumentally negative instructiveness.

Equally misleading is Turner’s next chapter in which he deals with the Tractarians’ “assault on the Protestant.” This assault would have become mere religious infighting had it not really been something else. The Tractarians and Newman in particular fought not Protestants or Evangelicals as such but the manifold intrusions of Protestant doctrine and attitudes into what the Tractarians believed to have been the real Catholic nature of the Church of England. They had to attack Evangeli-cal-ism as long as they meant to defend Catholicism.

Now, this attack clearly irks Turner, a Baptist by background, but as vaguely Evangelical as vagueness would permit. He therefore presents Newman’s attacks as unjust. Well, Newman then as later, called himself a controversialist. He was a fighter who dealt blows and found it most natural to receive blows. “He who gives, must take,” was his motto in that regard. And why not fight if one was convinced of having a most worthy cause to defend? But since for Turner the only worthy cause is a cultural relativism in which Evangelical Protestantism is tolerated and can thrive, he therefore finds improper Newman’s attacks on Evangelicals. The whole book rests on such transparently valuational judg-ments. Not for Turner the new-fangled American Evangelical who finds in the Bible not only facts but also doctrines, and dissociates himself from all forms of mainline Protestant-ism, to say nothing of cultural relativ-ism.

With that we reach the second half of the book, its last six chapters, which are more and more about a Newman who, according to Turner, really does not know what he wants except that he wants to have himself recognized as the only one who knows. The titles of chapters 7 to 12 all carry a tendentious thrust: “The Pursuit of the Catholic,” “Proving Cannon,” “In Schism with all Christendom,” “Monks, Miracles and Popery,” “End Game,” and “Paths Taken and Not.” The “proving cannon” is Newman’s Tract 90, which for Turner is a poorly argued script that reveals a Newman who does not know what he is arguing about.

The bishops sensed, however, that Tract 90 was a clear argument, and felt that they could not tolerate it. But twenty-five years later they chose a different tack, because the Anglo-Catholic pressure on them was different. Among its champions there was no longer a single mind evocative of Newman’s. That mind no one described better than Glad-stone, who did so in his great debate with Newman on civic and religious loyalty in relation to the newly defined dogma of papal infallibility. Gladstone praised the mind of the author of A Letter to the Duke of Norfolk, as “sharp enough to cut the diamond, and bright as the diamond which it cuts.”

In writing Tract 90 Newman wanted to force the bishops to recognize the right of any Anglican to an unfettered profession of Catholic doctrine, as well as to an unhindered Catholic sacramental practice. Unhindered and unfettered, so that one also might free the Church of England of the disingenuousness of the framers of the Thirty-Nine Articles, who, Newman said all too clearly in the concluding phrase of the Tract, “shuffled” in order to mislead the still largely Catholic population. Newman, so contemptu-ous of those who, to recall his words, could not be themselves, refused to become the kind of Anglican who was a shuffler. That such was indeed his frame of mind when he wrote that Tract, he himself made crystal clear in 1865 to Fr. Coler-idge, a convert, a Jesuit, and Editor of The Month. I know, of course, that for Turner and his endorsers, one cannot trust Newman’s own reconstructions of his own past. Surely enough, this is a precept of deconstru-ctionism.

During the upsurge of Anglo-Catholics in the 1860s, the bishops leaned over backward not to alienate them. They decided to tolerate Anglo-Catholic practices as much as possible, lest they should touch off another exodus. They realized that they had badly burned their fingers in 1841 by proscribing Tract 90. There were, of course, some bishops such as Samuel Wilberforce (the only one of the four Wilber-force brothers not to convert), who opposed the Anglo-Catholics. “Soapy Sam,” as he was called, delivered a bristling address in the House of Lords against those who wanted to Romanize the Church. Two days later he fell off his horse and broke his neck. By then he had for years been most zealous in revitaliz-ing the Church of England along Protestant lines.

The best comment on all this came from Newman when he took up the pen on April 15, 1866, to answer a Miss Bristowe, who did not know whether to convert or not. She felt that the strength of the Anglo-Catholic movement was a strong argument in favor of waiting for corporate reunion. She also asked Newman whether he would now convert.

As to his own case, Newman wrote: “I left it [the Church of England] because I was sure that it was not a portion of that Catholic Church which our Lord and His Apostles established, as the source of teaching and the channel of grace till the end of the world.” This conviction of his had remained unchanged, Newman continued, for the past 20 years. It mattered not that the Catholicizing party had gained ground within that Church. So had the Liberalizing party, even more so. “I think it has spread far more, and is quite as likely to eat out the Catholici-sing party, as the Catholicising party is to eat out it.” This was prophetic foresight at its best. But far more important for Newman was the timeless dogmatic truth: “However, all this belongs to the future — we belong to the present. The question is, what is our duty to day? is the Church of England now Catholic in its doctrine? no. Is it a part of the one Catholic Church? no. That I said twenty years ago when I was an Anglican — that I say now, when I am a Catho-lic — that I should say now, I believe, were I an Anglican now.”

From a distance of almost a century and a half, and in view of what is happening in the Church of England today, whose leaders are madly shuffling, Newman’s words should seem a prophecy fulfilled. Of course, Turner’s thick book, with its endless carping at Newman, entitles one to assume that were he to ponder Newman’s letter to Fr. Coleridge, he would dismiss it as another case of Newman’s “self-serving” memory or his disingenuo-us-ness. For Turner, Newman is a consummate and chronic shuffler, whereas his antagonists are the epitome of sincerity, probity, and brilliance.

Contrary to the claim of the next chapter that Newman, in the four years following Tract 90, was “in schism with all Christendom,” he desper-ately tried to remain a member of the Church of England. He hoped against hope that an argument might still be found that would show the Church of England to be a legitimate branch of the Church Catholic. But two considerations prevailed on his mind, of which one is treated rather shabbily by Turner, the other not mentioned at all. The first was that the actual position and posture of the Church of England appeared to him more and more to resemble that of the Monophysites of the fifth century. This consideration Newman mentioned in letters during those years, and presented it in full form in 1850 in public lectures which he would later refer to as Anglican Difficul-ties. Now Turner claims that already in 1850, let alone in 1864, Newman did not accurate-ly remember his state of mind in 1839 concerning that paral-lel. Turner gives no proof, except a reference to a book whose author claims the same thing without proving his case.

Actually that tactic merely shows that the shoe is on the other foot with respect to remembrance. The account in Anglican Difficulties is so vivid, detailed, and emphatic as to make it most unlikely that Newman’s memory had already failed him at that time. After all, he was speaking to a largely Anglo-Catholic audience, some of whom were the recipients of letters in which he had spoken of the Monophysite syndrome. They would have objected had they found him to present a novelty.

The chapter “Monks, Miracles and Popery,” is larded with remarks in bad taste, so that the principle applies, De gustibus non est disputandum (tastes are beyond the pale of arguments). But something needs to be said about the next-to-final chapter, “End Game.” Turner means Newman’s end game, in which, so he claims, Newman outwits Wiseman and many others in order to make sure that he enters the Roman Church on his own terms. If this were true, Newman would not have counseled countless Anglicans over the next forty years not to enter the Catholic Church unless they were fully convinced that the pope and the bishops united with him spoke with God’s authority. Is it possible that a character bent on deceiving himself and others would not have counseled deviousness at least once over so many years and to so many different people eager to save their souls? But as I put together the record to the extent of over 500 pages in my Newman to Converts, I found that in this respect too Newman was fully consistent, a virtue which, so he told Henry Wil-berforce in 1845, was the hallmark of saints.

Turner commits an unsavory faux pas in his cursory account of the confession Newman made to Fr. Dominic Barberi in 1845, as part of his converting to Rome. A mere end game for Turner, it was for Newman an agonizing soul-baring that lasted four hours twice, a spiritual feat totally out of Turner’s mental and spiritual ken. But the issue here is Turner the cultural historian who wants culture without a cult, unless it is that of Evangelical-ism, whose penetration into the Church of England Newman the Anglican excoriated. Wishing to see a Catholic entity in that Church, Newman had no choice but to take up the cudgels against Evangelicalism. This may discomfit Turner the cultural relativist, but this does not entitle Turner the historian to take it lightly. He thinks that one with a haughty contempt for dogmas can write the biography of a dogmatist.

This is a matter of logic, before it becomes something even more reprehensible, but it certainly vitiates the efforts of Turner the historian. He takes cover by serving up endless details of conflicts between Newman and his antagonists, while giving mostly the side of the latter. These are portrayed as always honest, always cultured, always engaging. Only Newman is the invariable black sheep.

In this portrayal of Newman, Turner fails to note some well-known passages relating to the character of Newman, passages that did not come from Newman’s camp. Gladstone was one of those who gave a glowing tribute to Newman’s upright character — and there were many others. Should we then believe Turner’s demand that all those then, and many others still now, have been bewitched by Newman’s prose and misled by his story? Such is an enormous request, which defeats itself by its enormity.

Turner weasels from the first to the last page of his massive book. In the Introduction he lists a number of people whose counsel and writings he profited from. They and he, so Turner writes, are united in their interest in Newman the Tractarian, whatever their very different views on him. I know that some Catholic experts on Newman the Tractarian are livid with rage on finding themselves in this dubious way in Turner’s company. But let them fight their own battles with Turner, including the ominous cases of Turner’s “liberal borrowing” from other authors. As for the Catholic Newmanist who insisted that Newman kept integrally all his Evangeli-cal heritage, he will have a special cause on hand if he wants to show that he appreciates Newman’s reputation more than his own niche in the world of Newman “scholars.”

Here, in order to do honor to Newman the master of logic, who held that “logic is a stern master,” let the concluding remark belong to the logic that controls the use of Turner’s key word: “apostasy.” One can only be an apostate from a group he clearly belonged to. Newman never belonged to the nondogmatic Evangelicals or the evangelically nondogmatic Anglicans. He was a dogmatist, and certainly so already from the day of his ordination in the Church of England. He was a dogmatist as a Tractarian, and he was a dogmatist as a Roman Catholic. Hence his enduring love for Athanasius and Ambrose.

Contrary to Turner’s claim, Newman never totally belon-ged to the Church of England. But this is what Newman should have been if his departure from it might be branded as apostasy. And he certainly never belonged with his soul to the establishment, which, together with its ecclesial cocoon, he decried in 1850 in London’s full hearing as a “mere wreck,” a “counter-feit Church” ministering to “the State’s pattern man,” that is, to those who were “politically correct,” to use the modern term.

One can be an “apostate” if one dissociates himself from a societal entity that is clearly definable and has always clearly defined itself. Such an entity is the Catholic Church toward which Newman tended even when transitorily “Evangelical.” The true “apostates” are therefore those who leave that Church. This is true from Luther on in a dechristianized Western culture, which today has its citadels in academe.

During the first four or so months that Turner’s book has been available, one has witnessed, especially on the eastern seaboard, a relentless campaign by The New York Times to keep alive the issue of some minors’ having been sexually abused by some Catholic priests. It never occurs to that daily, which is the daily Bible-reading on Ivy League campuses, to observe what The Economist momentarily perceived in its April 6, 2002, issue: the need to submit non-Catholic clergy to a similar scrutiny. That scrutiny will not come because those other clergymen matter little for a secularist and secularizing juggernaut, which is also gigantic with respect to dishonesty. While The Times charges the Church with “moral bankrupt-cy,” it promotes rank immorality along the whole spectrum, as it hangs on to the purely legal issue of the rights of minors. It hands these minors over to homosexual couples for adoption and wants those minors to be taught in elementary schools about homosexu-al-ity as a legitimate, noble, alternate “lifestyle.”

With his book Turner has joined that war machine, to the thorough discredit of his historical scholarship. It is a modern version of the Sacco di Roma, perpetrated by the uncouth Landsknechte of Charles V. They stole artifacts; their modern counterparts are bent on robbing Roman Catholics of some of their greatest figures. A historian at Princeton, who portrayed Augustine the man at a total disregard of his having been a saint, has recently come to think that he merely robbed himself of Augustine. One hopes Turner, too, will realize that Newman cannot be shortchanged.

It is counterproductive to breathe ferocious-ly Voltaire’s dictum: Ecrasez l’infâme. It will produce further illustrations of the truth of what Peter Viereck stated in 1940, that “Catholic baiting is the anti-Semitism of the liberals.” Or one may quote Arthur Schlesin-ger père who admitted to Tracey Ellis, a fellow historian, that “the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoic agitation in American history has been anti-Catholicism.” Turner’s book proves that the paranoia keeps producing startlingly new strains. The book, intended as a grenade, will prove a mere firecracker when hurled against Newma-n’s intellectual and spiritual grandeur.

Of this grandeur Turner sees practica-lly nothing. He is one of those whom Gladstone might have had in mind when he wrote in Vatican-ism, his ill-fated reply to Newman’s Letter to the Duke of Norfolk: “It has been said that the world does not know its greatest men; neither, I will add, is it aware of the power and weight carried by the words and by the acts of those among its greatest men it does know.” Some merely think they know them as they look at them through glasses intentionally distorted. These fail to show even the differe-nce between apostates and an “apostate.”

DOSSIER: Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman

Back to May 2003 Issue

Read our posting policy Add a comment
Be the first to comment on this note!