John Henry Newman.

A letter addressed to His Grace the Duke of Norfolk : on occasion of Mr. Gladstone's recent expostulation online

. (page 1 of 12)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanA letter addressed to His Grace the Duke of Norfolk : on occasion of Mr. Gladstone's recent expostulation → online text (page 1 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook














&c., &c.


When I yielded to the earnest wish which you,
together with many others, urged upon me, that I should
reply to Mr. Gladstone's recent Expostulation, a friend
suggested that I ought to ask your Grace's permission to
address my remarks to you. Not that for a moment he
or I thought of implicating you, in any sense or measure,
in a responsibility which is solely and entirely my own;
but on a very serious occasion, when such heavy charges
had been made against the Catholics of England by so
powerful and so earnest an adversary, it seemed my duty,
in meeting his challenge, to gain the support, if I could,
of a name, which is the special representative and the
fitting sample of a laity, as zealous for the Catholic Religion
as it is patriotic.

You consented with something of the reluctance which
I had felt myself when called upon to write ; for it was
hard to be summoned at any age, early or late, from a
peaceful course of life and the duties of one's station, to a
scene of war. Still, you consented ; and for myself, it is
the compensation for a very unpleasant task, that I, who
belong to a generation that is fast flitting away, am thus
enabled, in what is likely to be my last publication, to asso-
ciate myself with one, on many accounts so dear to me, so
full of young promise whose career is before him.

I deeply grieve that Mr. Gladstone has felt it his
duty to speak with such Extraordinary severity of our
Religion and of ourselves. I consider he has committed
himself to a representation of ecclesiastical documents
which will not hold, and to a view of our position in the
country which we have neither deserved nor can be patient
under. None but the Schola Theologorum is competent to
determine the force of Papal and Synodal utterances, and the
exact interpretation of them is a work of time. But so
much may be safely said of the decrees which have lately been
promulgated, and of the faithful who have received them,
that Mr. Gladstone's account, both of them and of us, is
neither trustworthy nor charitable.

Yet not a little may be said in explanation of a step,
which so many of his admirers and well-wishers deplore. I
own to a deep feeling, that Catholics may in good measure
thank themselves, and no one else, for having alienated
from them so religious a mind. There are those among us,
as it must be confessed, who for years past have conducted
themselves as if no responsibility attached to wild words
and overbearing deeds ; who have stated truths in the most
paradoxical form, and stretched principles till they were
close upon snapping ; and who at length, having done their
best to set the house on fire, leave to others the task of putting
out the flame. The English people are sufficiently sensitive of
the claims of the Pope, without having them, as if in defiance,
flourished in their faces. Those claims most certainly I am not
going to deny; 1 have never denied them. I have no
intention, now that I have to write upon them, to conceal
any part of them. And I uphold them as heartily as I
recognize my duty of loyalty to the constitution, the laws,
and the government of England. I see no inconsistency
in my being at once a good Catholic and a good English-
man. Yet it is one thing to be able to satisfy myself
as to my consistency, quite another to satisfy others ; and,
undisturbed as I am in my own conscience, I have great
difficulties in the task before me. I have one difficulty
to overcome in the present excitement of the public mind
against our Keligion, caused partly by the chronic extra va-

gances of knots of Catholics here and there, partly by the
vehement rhetoric which is the occasion of my writing to
you. A worse difficulty lies in getting people, as they are
commonly found, to put off the modes of speech and lan-
guage which are usual with them, and to enter into scien-
tific distinctions and traditionary rules of interpretation,
which, as being new to them, appear evasive and unnatural.
And a third difficulty, as I may call it, is this that in so
very wide a subject, opening so great a variety of questions,
and of opinions upon them, while it will be simply neces-
sary to take the objections made against us and our faith,
one by one, readers may think me trifling with their pati-
ence, because they do not find those points first dealt with, on
which they lay most stress themselves.

But I have said enough by way of preface ; and
without more delay turn to Mr. Gladstone's pamphlet.


The main question which Mr. Gladstone has started I
consider to be this : Can Catholics be trustworthy subjects
of the State \ has not a foreign Power a hold over their
consciences such, that it may at any time be used to the
serious perplexity and injury of the civil government under
which they live 1 Not that Mr. Gladstone confines him-
self to these questions, for he goes out of his way, I am sorry
to say, to taunt us with our loss of mental and moral freedom,
a vituperation which is not necessary for his purpose at all.
He informs us too that we have "repudiated ancient history,"
and are rejecting "modern thought/' and that our Church
has been " refurbishing her rusty tools," and has been lately
aggravating, and is likely still more to aggravate, our state
of bondage. I think it unworthy of Mr. Gladstone's high
character thus to have inveighed against us ; what intellec-
tual manliness is left to us, according to him \ yet his circle
of acquaintance is too wide, and his knowledge of his coun-
trymen on the other hand too accurate, for him not to know
that he is bringing a great amount of odium and bad feel-
ing upon excellent men, whose only offence is their religion.
The more intense is the prejudice with which we are regarded
by whole classes of men, the less is there of generosity in
his pouring upon us superfluous reproaches. The graver
the charge, which is the direct occasion of his writing against
us, the more careful should he be not to prejudice judge
and jury to our disadvantage. No rhetoric is needed in
England against an unfortunate Catholic at any time ; but
so little is Mr. Gladstone conscious of his treatment of us
that in one place of his Pamphlet, strange as it may seem,
he makes it his boast that he has been careful to " do nothing
towards importing passion into what is matter of pure
argument " pp. 15, 16. I venture to think he will one day
be sorry for what he has said.


However, we must take things as we find them ; and
what I propose to do is this to put aside, unless it comes
directly in my way, his accusation against us of repudiating
ancient history, rejecting modern thought, and renouncing
our mental freedom, and to confine myself for the most part
to what he principally insists upon, that Catholics, if
they act consistently with their principles, cannot be
loyal subjects ; I shall not, however, omit notice of his
attack upon our moral uprightness.

The occasion and the grounds of Mr. Gladstone's impeach-
ment of us, if I understand him, are as follows : He was
alarmed, as a statesman, ten years ago by the Pope's Ency-
clical of December 8, and by the Syllabus of Erroneous
Propositions which, by the Pope's authority, accompanied
its transmission to the bishops. Then came the Definitions
of the Vatican Council in 1870, upon the universal juris-
diction and doctrinal infallibility of the Pope. And lastly,
as the event which turned alarm into indignation, and into
the duty of public remonstrance, '' the Roman Catholic
Prelacy of Ireland thought fit to procure the rejection of" the
Irish University Bill of February, 1873, "by the direct
influence which they exercised over a certain number of Irish
Members of Parliament, &c." p. 60. This step on the part
of the bishops showed, if I understand him, the new and mis-
chievous force which had been acquired at Rome by the late
acts there, or at least left him at liberty, by causing his loss
of power, to denounce it. " From that time forward the
situation was changed," and an opening was made for a
" broad political discussion " on the subject of the Catholic re-
ligion and its professors, and " a debt to the country had to
be disposed of." That debt, if I am right, will be paid, if he
can ascertain, on behalf of the country, that there is nothing
in the Catholic Religion to hinder its professors from being
as loyal as other subjects of the State, and that the See of
Rome cannot interfere with their civil duties so as to give
the civil power trouble or alarm. The main ground on
which he relies for the necessity of some such inquiry is, first,
the text of the authoritative documents of 1864 and 1870 ;


next, and still more, the animus which they breathe, and
the sustained aggressive spirit which they disclose ; and,
thirdly, the daring deed of aggression in 1873, when the
Pope, acting (as it is alleged) upon the Irish Members of
Parliament, succeeded in ousting from their seats a ministry
who, besides past benefits, were at that very time doing for
Irish Catholics, and therefore ousted for doing, a special

Now, it would be preposterous and officious in me to put
my elf forwa rd as champion for the Venerable Prelacy of
Ireland, or to take upon myself the part of advocate and
representative of the Holy See. " Non tali auxilio;" in neither
character could I come forward without great presumption ;
not the least for this reason, because I cannot know the exact
points which are really the gist of the affront, which Mr.
Gladstone conceives he has sustained, whether from the one
quarter or from the other ; yet in a question so nearly inte-
resting myself as that February bill, which he brought into
the House, in great sincerity and kindness, for the benefit of
the Catholic University in Ireland, I may be allowed to say
thus much that I, who now have no official relation to the
Irish Bishops, and am not in any sense in the counsels of
Eome, felt at once, when I first saw the outline of that bill,
the greatest astonishment on reading one of its provisions,
and a dread which painfully affected me, lest Mr. Gladstone
perhaps was acting on an understanding with the Catholic
Prelacy. I did not see how in honour they could accept it.
It was possible, did the question come over again, to decide
in favour of the Queen's Colleges, and to leave the project
of a Catholic University alone. The Holy See might so
have decided in 1847. But at or about that date, three re-
scripts had come' from Rome in favour of a distinctively
Catholic Institution ; a National Council had decided in its
favour ; large offers of the Government had been rejected ;
great commotions had been caused in the political world, mu-
nificent contributions had been made, all on the sole principle
that Catholic teaching was to be upheld in the country in-
violate, If, then, for the sake of a money grant, or other
secular advantage, this ground of principle was deserted, and


Catholic youths after all were allowed to attend the lectures
of men of no religion, or of the Protestant, the contest of
thirty years would have been stultified, and the Pope and the
Bishops would seem to have been playing a game, while
putting forward the plea of conscience and religious duty.
I hoped that the clause in the Bill, which gave me such un-
easiness, could have been omitted from it ; but, any how, it
was an extreme relief to me when the papers announced
that the Bishops had expressed their formal dissatisfaction
with it.

They determined to decline a gift laden with such a con-
dition, and who can blame them for so doing 1 who can be
surprised that they should now do what they did in 1847 ?
what new move in politics was it, if they so determined I what
was there in it of a factious character ? Is the Catholic Irish
interest the only one which is not to be represented in the
House of Commons ? Why is not that interest as much a
matter of right as any other ? I fear to expose my own
ignorance of Parliamentary rules and proceedings, but I had
supposed that the railway interest, and what is called the
publican interest, were very powerful there : in Scotland, too,
I believe, a government has a formidable party to deal with ;
and, to revert to Ireland, there are the Home-rulers, who have
objects in view quite distinct from, or contrary to, those of the
Catholic hierarchy. As to the Pope, looking at the surface of
things, there is nothing to suggest that he interfered, there
was no necessity of interference, on so plain a point ; and,
when an act can be sufficiently accounted for without intro-
ducing an hypothetical cause, it is bad logic to introduce it.
Speaking according to my lights, I altogether disbelieve the
interposition of Rome in the matter. In the proceedings
which they adopted, the Bishops were only using civil rights,
common to all, which others also used and in their own
way. Why might it not be their duty to promote the inte-
rests of their religion by means of their political opportu-
nities ? Is there no Exeter Hall interest ? I thought it was a
received theory of our Reformed Constitution that Members
of Parliament were representatives, and in some sort dele-
gates of their constituents, and that the strength of each


interest was shown, and the course of the nation determined,
by the divisions in the House of Commons. I recollect
the u Times " intimating its regret, after one general elec-
tion, that there was no English Catholic in the new House,
on the ground that every class and party should be repre-
sented there. Surely the Catholic religion has not a small
party in Ireland ; why then should it not have a corres-
ponding number of exponents and defenders at Westmin-
ster ? So clear does this seem to me, that I think there
must be some defect in my knowledge of facts to explain
Mr. Gladstone's surprise and displeasure at the conduct of
the Irish Prelacy in 1873 ; yet I suspect none ; and, if there
be none, then his unreasonableness in this instance of Ire-
land makes it not unlikely that he is unreasonable also in
his judgment of the Encyclical, Syllabus, and Vatican De-

However, the Bishops, I believe, not only opposed Mr.
Gladstone's bill, but, instead of it, they asked for some
money grant towards the expenses of their University. If
so, their obvious argument was this that Catholics formed
the great majority of the population of Ireland, and it was
not fair that the Protestant minority should have all that
was bestowed in endowment or otherwise upon Education.
To this the reply, I suppose, would be, that it was not Pro-
testantism, but liberal education that had the money, and
that, if the Bishops chose to give up their own principles
and act as Liberals, they might have the benefit of it too.
I am not concerned here with these arguments, but I wish
to notice the position which the Bishops would occupy in
urging such a request : I must not say that they were
Irishmen first and Catholics afterwards, but I do say that in
such a demand they spoke not simply as Catholic Bishops,
but as the Bishops of a Catholic nation. They did not speak
from any promptings of the Encyclical, Syllabus, or Vatican
Decrees. They claimed as Irishmen a share in the endow-
ments of the country ; and has not Ireland surely a right to
speak in such a matter, and might not her Bishops fairly
represent her ? It seems to me a great mistake to think
that every thing that is done by the Irish Bishops and clergy


is done on an ecclesiastical motive ; why not on a national ?
but if so, such acts have nothing to do with Rome. I know
well what simple firm faith the great body of the Irish
people have, and how they put the Catholic Religion before
anything else in the world. It is their comfort, their joy,
their treasure, their boast, their compensation for a hundred
worldly disadvantages ; but who can deny that in politics
their conduct at times nay, more than at times has had a
flavour rather of their nation than of their Church ? Only in
the last general election this was said, when they were so earn-
est for Home Rule. Why, then, must Mr. Gladstone come
down upon the Catholic Religion, because the Irish love
dearly the Green Island, and its interests ? Ireland is not
the only country in which politics, or patriotism, or party,
has been so closely associated with religion in the nation or a
class, that it is difficult to say which of the various motive
principles was uppermost. " The Puritan," says Macaulay,
" prostrated himself in the dust before his Maker, but he set
his foot on the neck of his king :" I am not accusing such a
man of hypocrisy on account of this ; having great wrongs,
as he considered, both in religious and temporal matters, and
the authors of these distinct wrongs being the same persons,
he did not nicely discriminate between the acts which he
did as a patriot and the acts which he did as a Puritan.
And so as regards Irishmen, they do not, cannot, distin-
guish between their love of Ireland and then- love of reli-
gion ; their patriotism is religious, and their religion is
strongly tinctured with patriotism ; and it is hard to recog-
nize the abstract and ideal Ultramontane, pure and simple,
in the concrete exhibition of him in flesh and blood as found
in the polling booth or in his chapel. I do not see how the
Pope can be made answerable for him in any of his political
acts during the last fifty years.

This leads me to a subject, of which Mr. Gladstone makes
a good deal in his Pamphlet. I will say of a great man, whom
he quotes, and for whose memory I have a great respect, I
mean Bishop Doyle, that there was just a little tinge of
patriotism in the way in which, on one occasion, he speaks
of the Pope. I dare say any of us would have done the


same, in the heat of a great struggle for national liberty,
for he said nothing but what was true and honest ; I only
mean that the energetic language which he used was
not exactly such as would have suited the atmosphere of
Eome. He says to Lord Liverpool, <f We are taunted with
the proceedings of Popes. What, my Lord, have we Catho-
lics to do with the proceedings of Popes, or why should we
be made accountable for them ?" p. 27. Now, with some pro-
ceedings of Popes, we Catholics have very much to do indeed ;
but, if the context of his words is consulted, I make no
doubt it will be found that he was referring to certain pro-
ceedings of certain Popes, when he said that Catholics had
no part of their responsibility. Assuredly there are certain
acts of Popes in which no one would like to have part.
Then, again, his words require some pious interpretation
when he says that <c the allegiance due to the king and the
allegiance due to the Pope, are as distinct and as divided
in their nature as any two things can possibly be/' p. 30.
Yes, in their nature, in the abstract, but not in the particular
case ; for a heathen State might bid me throw incense upon
the altar of Jupiter, and the Pope would bid me not to do
so, I venture to make the same remark on the Address of
the Irish Bishops to their clergy and laity, quoted at p. 31,
and on the Declaration of the Vicars Apostolic in England,

But I must not be supposed for an instant to mean, in
what I have said, that the venerable men, to whom I have
referred, were aware of any ambiguity either in such state-
ments as the above, or in others which were denials of
the Pope's infallibility. Indeed, one of them at an earlier
date, 1793, Dr. Troy, Archbishop of Dublin, had introduced
into one of his Pastorals the subject, which Mr. Gladstone
considers they so summarily disposed of. The Archbishop
says : " Many Catholics contend that the Pope, when teach-
ing the universal Church, as their supreme visible head and
pastor, as successor to St. Peter, and heir to the promises
of special assistance made to him by Jesus Christ, is in-
fallible ; and that his decrees and decisions in that capacity
are to be respected as rules of faith, when they are dogma-


tical or confined to doctrinal points of faith and morals.
Others deny this, and require the expressed or tacit acqui-
escence of the Church, assembled or dispersed, to stamp in-
fallibility on his dogmatical decrees. Until the Church
shall decide upon this question of the Schools, either opinion
may be adopted by individual Catholics, without any breach
of Catholic communion or peace. The Catholics of Ireland
have lately declared, that it is not an article of the Catholic
faith; nor are they thereby required to believe or profess
that the Pope is infallible, without adopting or abjuring
either of the recited opinions which are open to discussion,
while the Church continues silent about them." The Arch-
bishop thus addressed his flock, at the time when he was
informing them that the Pope had altered the oath which
was taken by the Catholic Bishops.

As to the language of the Bishops in 1826, we must
recollect that at that time the clergy, both of Ireland and
England,were educateddn Gallican opinions. They took those
opinions for granted, and they thought, if they went so far
as to ask themselves the question, that the definition of
Papal Infallibility was simply impossible. Even among those
at the Vatican Council, who themselves personally believed in
it, I believe there were Bishops who, until the actual defini-
tion had been passed, thought that such a definition could
not be made. Perhaps they would argue that, though the
historical evidence was sufficient for their own personal
conviction, it was not sufficiently clear of difficulties to
make it safe to impose it on Catholics as a dogma. Much
more would this be the feeling of the Bishops in 1826.
" How," they would ask, " can it ever come to pass that a
majority of our order should find it their duty to relinquish
their prime prerogative, and to make the Church take the
shape of a pure monarchy ?" They would think its definition
as much out of the question, as that, in twenty-five years after
their time, there would be a hierarchy of thirteen Bishops in
England, with a Cardinal for Archbishop.

But, all this while, such modes of thinking were foreign
altogether to the minds of the entourage of the Holy See.
Mr, Gladstone himself says, and the Duke of Wellington


and Sir Kobert Peel must have known it as well as he,
" The Popes have kept up, with comparatively little inter-
mission, for well nigh a thousand years, their claim to dog-
matic infallibility," p. 28. Then, if the Pope's claim to infal-
libility was so patent a fact, could they ever suppose that
he could be brought to admit that it was hopeless to turn
that claim into a dogma ? In truth, those ministers were very
little interested in that question ; as was said in a Petition
or Declaration, signed among others by Dr. Troy, it was
"immaterial in apolitical light;" but, even if they thought it
material, or if there were other questions they wanted to
ask, why go to Bishop Doyle ? If they wanted to obtain
some real information about the probabilities of the future,
why did they not go to head-quarters ? Why did they
potter about the halls of Universities in this matter of
Papal exorbitances, or rely upon the pamphlets or examina-
tions of Bishops whom they never asked for their credentials ?
Why not go at once to Eome ?

The reason is plain : it was a most notable instance, with a
grave consequence, of what is a fixed tradition with us the
English people, and a great embarrassment to every admi-
nistration in their dealings with Catholics. I recollect,
years ago, Dr. Griffiths, Vicar Apostolic of the London
District, giving me an account of an interview he had with
the late Lord Derby, then I suppose Colonial Secretary. I
understood him to say that Lord Derby was in perplexity
at the time, on some West India matter, in which Catholics
were concerned, because he could not find their responsible
representative. He wanted Dr. Griffiths to undertake the
office, and expressed something of disappointment when the

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanA letter addressed to His Grace the Duke of Norfolk : on occasion of Mr. Gladstone's recent expostulation → online text (page 1 of 12)