John Henry Newman.

The idea of a university defined and illustrated: I. In nine discourses delivered to the Catholics of Dublin; II. [sic] In occasional lectures and essays addressed to the members of the Catholic University online

. (page 38 of 40)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanThe idea of a university defined and illustrated: I. In nine discourses delivered to the Catholics of Dublin; II. [sic] In occasional lectures and essays addressed to the members of the Catholic University → online text (page 38 of 40)
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strumental in establishing in your great towns. You
do not come to us to have the foundation laid in your
breasts of that knowledge which is highest of all : it has
been laid already. You have begun your mental train-

Discipline of Mind. 503

ing with faith and devotion ; and then you come to us
to add the education of the intellect to the education of
the heart. Go on as you have begun, and you will be
one of the proudest achievements of our great under-
taking. We shall be able to point to you in proof that
zeal for knowledge may thrive even under the pressure
of secular callings ; that mother-wit does not necessarily
make a man idle, nor inquisitiveness of mind irreverent ;
that shrewdness and cleverness are not incompatible
with firm faith in the mysteries of Revelation ; that
attainment in Literature and Science need not make
men conceited, nor above their station, nor restless, nor
self-willed. We shall be able to point to you in proof
of the power of Catholicism to make out of the staple of
great towns exemplary and enlightened Christians, of
those classes which, external to Ireland, are the problem
and perplexity of patriotic statesmen, and the natural
opponents of the teachers of every kind of religion.

As to myself, I wish I could by actual service and
hard work of my own respond to your zeal, as so many
of my dear and excellent friends, the Professors of the
University, have done and do. They have a merit, they
have a claim on you, Gentlemen, in which I have no
part. If I admire the energy and bravery with which
you have undertaken the work of self-improvement, be
sure I do not forget their public spirit and noble free
devotion to the University any more than you do. I
know I should not satisfy you with any praise of this
supplement of our academical arrangements which did
not include those who give to it its life. It is a very
pleasant and encouraging sight to see both parties, the
teachers and the taught, co-operating with a pure esprit-
de-corps thus voluntarily, they as fully as you can do,

504 Discipline of Mind.

for a great object ; and I offer up my earnest prayers to
the Author of all good, that He will ever bestow on you
all, on Professors and on Students, as I feel sure He will
bestow, Rulers and Superiors, who, by their zeal and
diligence in their own place, shall prove themselves
worthy both of your cause and of yourselves.





I HAVE had so few opportunities, Gentlemen, of ad-
dressing you, and our present meeting is of so interest-
ing and pleasing a character, by reason of the object
which occasions it, that I am encouraged to speak freely
to you, though I do not know you personally, on a sub-
ject which, as you may conceive, is often before my own
mind : I mean, the exact relation in which your noble
profession stands towards the Catholic University itself
and towards Catholicism generally. Considering my
own most responsible office as Rector, my vocation as
an ecclesiastic, and then again my years, which increase
my present claim, and diminish my future chances, of
speaking to you, I need make no apology, I am sure,
for a step, which will be recommended to you by my
good intentions, even though it deserves no consideration
on the score of the reflections and suggestions themselves
which I shall bring before you. If indeed this Univer-
sity, and its Faculty of Medicine inclusively, were set up
for the promotion of any merely secular object, in the
spirit of religious rivalry, as a measure of party politics,
or as a commercial speculation, then indeed I should

506 Christianity and Medical Science.

be out of place, not only in addressing you in the tone
of advice, but in being here at all ; for what reason could
I in that case have had for having now given some of
the most valuable years of my life to this University,
for having placed it foremost in my thoughts and anxie-
ties, (I had well nigh said) to the prejudice of prior,
dearer, and more sacred ties, except that I felt that
the highest and most special religious interests were
bound up in its establishment and in its success? Suffer
me, then, Gentlemen, if with these views and feelings I
conform my observations to the sacred building in which
we find ourselves, and if I speak to you for a few minutes
as if I were rather addressing you authoritatively from
the pulpit than in the Rector's chair.

Now I am going to set before you, in as few words as
I can, what I conceive to be the principal duty of the
Medical Profession towards Religion, and some of the
difficulties which are found in the observance of that
duty : and in speaking on the subject I am conscious
how little qualified I am to handle it in such a way as
will come home to your minds, from that want of ac-
quaintance with you personally, to which I have alluded,
and from my necessary ignorance of the influences of
whatever kind which actually surround you, and the
points of detail which are likely to be your religious em-
barrassments. I can but lay down principles and maxims,
which you must apply for yourselves, and which in some
respects or cases you may feel have no true applicatior
at all


All professions have their dangers, all general truths
have their fallacies, all spheres of action have their limits,
and are liable to improper extension or alteration. Every

Christianity and Medical Science. 507

professional man has rightly a zeal for his profession,
and he would not do his duty towards it without that
zeal. And that zeal soon becomes exclusive, or rather
necessarily involves a sort of exclusiveness. A zealous
professional man soon comes to think that his profession
is all in all, and that the world would not go on without
it. We have heard, for instance, a great deal lately in
regard to the war in India, of political views suggesting
one plan of campaign, and military views suggesting
another. How hard it must be for the military man to
forego his own strategical dispositions, not on the ground
that they are not the best, not that they are not ac-
knowledged by those who nevertheless put them aside
to be the best for the object of military success, but
because military success is not the highest of objects,
and the end of ends, because it is not the sovereign
science, but must ever be subordinate to political con-
siderations or maxims of government, which is a higher
science with higher objects, and that therefore his sure
success on the field must be relinquished because the
interests of the council and the cabinet require the sac-
rifice, that the war must yield to the statesman's craft, the
commander-in-chief to the governor-general. Yet what
the soldier feels is natural, and what the statesman does
is just. This collision, this desire on the part of every
profession to be supreme, this necessary, though reluc-
tant, subordination of the one to the other, is a process
ever going on, ever acted out before our eyes. The
civilian is in rivalry with the soldier, the soldier with the
civilian. The diplomatist, the lawyer, the political econo-
mist, the merchant, each wishes to usurp the powers of
the state, and to mould society upon the principles of
his own pursuit.

Nor do they confine themselves to the mere province of

508 Christianity and Medical Science.

secular matters. They intrude into the province of Re-
ligion. In England, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, law-
yers got hold of religion, and never have let it go. Abroad,
bureaucracy keeps hold of Religion with a more or less
firm grasp. The circles of literature and science have
in like manner before now made Religion a mere province
of their universal empire.

I remark, moreover, that these various usurpations are
frequently made in perfectly good faith. There is no
intention of encroachment on the part of the encroachers.
The commander recommends what with all his heart and
soul he thinks best for his country when he presses on
Government a certain plan of campaign. The political
economist has the most honest intentions of improving
the Christian system of social duty by his reforms. The
statesman may have the best and most loyal dispositions
towards the Holy See, at the time that he is urging
changes in ecclesiastical discipline which would be
seriously detrimental to the Church.

And now I will say how this applies to the Medical
Profession, and what is its special danger, viewed in re-
lation to Catholicity.


Its province is the physical nature of man, and its
object is the preservation of that physical nature in its
proper state, and its restoration when it has lost it It
limits itself, by its very profession, to the health of the
body ; it ascertains the conditions of that health ; it
analyzes the causes of its interruption or failure ; it seeks
about for the means of cure. But, after all, bodily health
is not the only end of man, and the medical science is
not the highest science of which he is the subject. Man
has a moral and a religious nature, as well as a physical.

Christianity and Medical Science. 509

He has a mind and a soul ; and the mind and soul have
a legitimate sovereignty over the body, and the sciences
relating to them have in consequence the precedence
of those sciences which relate to the body. And as the
soldier must yield to the statesman, when they come into
collision with each other, so must the medical man to the
priest ; not that the medical man may not be enunciating
what is absolutely certain, in a medical point of view,
as the commander may be perfectly right in what he
enunciates strategically, but that his action is suspended
in the given case by the interests and duty of a superior
science, and he retires not confuted but superseded.

Now this general principle thus stated, all will admit :
who will deny that health must give way to duty ? So
far there is no perplexity : supposing a fever to break
out in a certain place, and the medical practitioner said
co a Sister of Charity who was visiting the sick there,
" You will die to a certainty if you remain there," and
her ecclesiastical superiors on the contrary said, " You
have devoted your life to such services, and there you
must stay ; " and supposing she stayed and was taken
off; the medical adviser would be right, but who would
say that the Religious Sister was wrong ? She did not
doubt his word, but she denied the importance of that
word, compared with the word of her religious superiors.
The medical man was right, yet he could not gain his
point. He was right in what he said, he said what was
true, yet he had to give way.

Here we are approaching what I conceive to be the
especial temptation and danger to which the medical
profession is exposed : it is a certain sophism of the in-
tellect, founded on this maxim, implied, but not spoken
or even recognized "What is true is lawful." Not so.
Observe, here is the fallacy, -What is true in one science

5 IO Christianity and Medical Science.

is dictated to us indeed according to that science, but
not according to another science, or in another depart-
ment. What is certain in the military art has force in
the military art, but not in statesmanship; and if states-
manship be a higher department of action than war, and
enjoins the contrary, it has no claim on our reception and
obedience at all. And so what is true in medical science
might in all cases be carried out, were man a mere
animal or brute without a soul ; but since he is a rational,
responsible being, a thing may be ever so true in medicine,
yet may be unlawful in fact, in consequence of the higher
law of morals and religion having come to some different
conclusion. Now I must be allowed some few words to
express, or rather to suggest, more fully what I mean.

The whole universe comes from the good God. It is
His creation ; it is good ; it is all good, as being the work
of the Good, though good only in its degree, and not after
His Infinite Perfection. The physical nature of man is
good ; nor can there be any thing sinful in itself in acting
according to that nature. Every natural appetite or func-
tion is lawful, speaking abstractedly. No natural feeling
or act is in itself sinful. There can be no doubt of all
this ; and there can be no doubt that science can deter-
mine what is natural, what tends to the preservation ol
a healthy state of nature, and what on the contrary is
injurious to nature. Thus the medical student has a vast
field of knowledge spread out before him, true, because
knowledge, and innocent, because true.

So much in the abstract but when we come to fact,
it may easily happen that what is in itself innocent may
not be innocent to this or that person, or in this or that
mode or degree. Again, it may easily happen that the
impressions made on a man's mind by his own science
may be indefinitely more vivid and operative than the

Christianity and Medical Science. 5 1 1

enunciations of truths belonging to some other branch of
knowledge, which strike indeed his ear, but do not come
home to him, are not fixed in his memory, are not im-
printed on his imagination. And in the profession before
us, a medical student may realize far more powerfully and
habitually that certain acts are advisable in themselves
according to the law of physical nature, than the fact that
they are forbidden according to the law of some higher
science, as theology ; or again, that they are accidentally
wrong, as being, though lawful in themselves, wrong in
this or that individual, or under the circumstances of the

Now to recur to the instance I have already given : it
is supposable that that Sister of Charity, who, for the
sake of her soul, would not obey the law of self-preserva-
tion as regards her body, might cause her medical adviser
great irritation and disgust. His own particular profes-
sion might have so engrossed his mind, and the truth of
its maxims have so penetrated it, that he could not
understand or admit any other or any higher system.
He might in process of time have become simply dead
to all religious truths, because such truths were not present
to him, and those of his own science were ever present.
And observe, his fault would be, not that of taking error
for truth, for what he relied on was truth but in not
understanding that there were other truths, and those
higher than his own.

Take another case, in which there will often in parti-
cular circumstances be considerable differences of opinion
among really religious men, but which does not cease on
that account to illustrate the point I am insisting on. A
patient is dying : the priest wishes to be introduced, lest
he should die without due preparation : the medical man
says that the thought of religion will disturb his mind

512 Christianity and Medical Science.

and imperil his recovery. Now in the particular case,
the one party or the other may be right in urging his
own view of what ought to be done. I am merely
directing attention to the principle involved in it. Here
are the representatives of two great sciences, Religion
and Medicine. Each says what is true in his own science,
each will think he has a right to insist on seeing that the
truth which he himself is maintaining is carried out in
action ; whereas, one of the two sciences is above the
other, and the end of Religion is indefinitely higher than
the end of Medicine. And, however the decision ought
to go, in the particular case, as to introducing the subject
of religion or not, I think the priest ought to have that
decision ; just as a Governor-General, not a Commander-
in-Chief, would have the ultimate decision, were politics
and strategics to come into collision.

You will easily understand, Gentlemen, that I dare
not pursue my subject into those details, which are of
the greater importance for the very reason that they
cannot be spoken of. A medical philosopher, who has
so simply fixed his intellect on his own science as to have
forgotten the existence of any other, will view man, who
is the subject of his contemplation, as a being who has
little more to do than to be born, to grow, to eat, to drink,
to walk, to reproduce his kind, and to die. He sees him
born as other animals are born ; he sees life leave him,
with all those phenomena of annihilation which accom-
pany the death of a brute. He compares his structure,
his organs, his functions, with those of other animals,
and his own range of science leads to the discovery of no
facts which are sufficient to convince him that there is
any difference in kind between the human animal and
them. His practice, then, is according to his facts and
his theory. Such a person will think himself free to give

Christianity and Medical Science. 513

advice, and to insist upon rules, which are quite insuffer-
able to any religious mind, and simply antagonistic to
faith and morals. It is not, I repeat, that he says what
is untrue, supposing that man were an animal and nothing
else : but he thinks that whatever is true in his own
science is at once lawful in practice as if there were not
a number of rival sciences in the great circle of philosophy,
as if there were not a number of conflicting views and
objects in human nature to be taken into account and
reconciled, or as if it were his duty to forget all but his
own ; whereas

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

I have known in England the most detestable advice
given to young persons by eminent physicians, in con-
sequence of this contracted view of man and his destinies.
God forbid that I should measure the professional habits
of Catholics by the rules of practice of those who were
not ! but it is plain that what is actually carried out
where religion is not known, exists as a temptation and
a danger in the Science of Medicine itself, where religion
is known ever so well.


And now, having suggested, as far as I dare, what I
consider the consequences of that radical sophism to
which the medical profession is exposed, let me go on to
say in what way it is corrected by the action of Catho-
licism upon it.

You will observe, then, Gentlemen, that those higher
sciences of which I have spoken, Morals and Religion,
are not represented to the intelligence of the world by
intimations and notices strong and obvious, such as those


514 Christianity and Medical Science

which are the foundation of Physical Science. The
physical nature lies before us, patent to the sight, ready
to the touch, appealing to the senses in so unequivocal a
way that the science which is founded upon it is as
real to us as the fact of our personal existence. But
the phenomena, which are the basis of morals and Reli-
gion, have nothing of this luminous evidence. Instead
of being obtruded upon our notice, so that we cannot
possibly overlook them, they are the dictates either of
Conscience or of Faith. They are faint shadows and
tracings, certain indeed, but delicate, fragile, and almost
evanescent, which the mind recognizes at one time, not
at another, discerns when it is calm, loses when it is in
agitation. The reflection of sky and mountains in the
lake is a proof tHat sky and mountains are around it,
but the twilight, or the mist, or the sudden storm hurries
away the beautiful image, which leaves behind it no
memorial of what it was. Something like this are the
Moral Law and the informations of Faith, as they pre-
sent themselves to individual minds. Who can deny
the existence of Conscience ? who does not feel the force
of its injunctions ? but how dim is the illumination in
which it is invested, and how feeble its influence, com-
pared with that evidence of sight and touch which is the
foundation of Physical Science ! How easily can we be
talked out of our clearest views of duty ! how does this
or that moral precept crumble into nothing when we
rudely handle it ! how does the fear of sin pass off from
us, as quickly as the glow of modesty dies away from
the countenance ! and then we say, " It is all supersti-
tion." However, after a time we look round, and then
to our surprise we see, as before, the same law of duty,
the same moral precepts, the same protests against sin,
appearing over against us, in their old places, as if they

Christianity and Medical Science, 515

never had been brushed away, like the divine handwriting
upon the wall at the banquet. Then perhaps we ap-
proach them rudely, and inspect them irreverently, and
accost them sceptically, and away they go again, like so
many spectres, shining in their cold beauty, but not
presenting themselves bodily to us, for our inspection, so
to say, of their hands and their feet. And thus these
awful, supernatural, bright, majestic, delicate apparitions,
much as we may in our hearts acknowledge their sove-
reignty, are no match as a foundation of Science for
the hard, palpable, material facts which make up the
province of Physics. Recurring to my original illus-
tration, it is as if the India Commander-in-Chief, instead of
being under the control of a local seat of government at
Calcutta, were governed simply from London, or from
the moon. In that case, he would be under a strong
temptation to neglect the home government, which
nevertheless in theory he acknowledged. Such, I say,
is the natural condition of mankind : we depend upon
a seat of government which is in another world ; we are
directed and governed by intimations from above ; we
need a local government on earth.

That great institution, then, the Catholic Church, has
been set up by Divine Mercy, as a present, visible anta-
gonist, and the only possible antagonist, to sight and
sense. Conscience, reason, good feeling, the instincts of
our moral nature, the traditions of Faith, the conclusions
and deductions of philosophical Religion, are no match
at all for the stubborn facts (for they are facts, though
there are other facts besides them), for the facts, which
are the foundation of physical, and in particular of medi-
cal, science. Gentlemen, if you feel, as you must feel,
the whisper of a law of moral truth within you, and the
impulse to believe, be sure there is nothing whatever on

5 1 6 Christianity and Medical Science.

earth which can be the sufficient champion of these
sovereign authorities of your soul, which can vindicate
and preserve them to you, and make you loyal to them,
but the Catholic Church. You fear they will go, you
see with dismay that they are going, under the continual
impression created on your mind by the details of the
material science to which you have devoted your lives.
It is so I do not deny it ; except under rare and happy
circumstances, go they will, unless you have Catholicism
to back you up in keeping faithful to them. The world
is a rough antagonist of spiritual truth : sometimes with
mailed hand, sometimes with pertinacious logic, some-
times with a storm of irresistible facts, it presses on
against you. What it says is true perhaps as far as it
goes, but it is not the whole truth, or the most important
truth. These more important truths, which the natural
heart admits in their substance, though it cannot main-
tain, the being of a God, the certainty of future retri-
bution, the claims of the moral law, the reality of sin,
the hope of supernatural help, of these the Church is in
matter of fact the undaunted and the only defender.

Even those who do not look on her as divine must
grant as much as this. I do not ask you for more here
than to contemplate and recognize her as a fact, as
other things are facts. She has been eighteen hundred
years in the world, and all that time she has been doing
battle in the boldest, most obstinate way in the cause of
the human race, in maintenance of the undeniable but
comparatively obscure truths of Religion. She is always
alive, always on the alert, when any enemy whatever
attacks them. She has brought them through a thou-
sand perils. Sometimes preaching, sometimes pleading,
sometimes arguing, sometimes exposing her ministers
to death, and sometimes, though rarely, inflicting blows

Christianity and Medical Science. 5 1 7

herself, by peremptory deeds, by patient concessions,
she has fought on and fulfilled her trust. No wonder
so many speak against her, for she deserves it ; she has
earned the hatred and obloquy of her opponents by her
success in opposing them. Those even who speak against
her in this day, own that she was of use in a former day.
The historians in fashion with us just now, much as they
may disown her in their own country, where she is an

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanThe idea of a university defined and illustrated: I. In nine discourses delivered to the Catholics of Dublin; II. [sic] In occasional lectures and essays addressed to the members of the Catholic University → online text (page 38 of 40)