Saturday, November 16, 2013

"he moves on a line, on which did he progress for centuries, he would but be carried further from them, instead of catching them up."

     "Now this, I fear, will seem a hard doctrine to some of us.  There are those, whom it is impossible not to respect and love, of amiable minds and charitable feelings, who do not like to think unfavorably of any one.  And, when they find another differ from them in religious matters, they cannot bear the thought that he differs from them in principle, or that he moves on a line, on which did he progress for centuries, he would but be carried further from them, instead of catching them up.  Their delight is to think that he holds what they hold, only not enough; and that he is right as far as he goes.  Such persons are very slow to believe that a scheme of general education, which puts Religion more or less aside, does ipso facto part company with Religion; but they try to think, as far as they can, that its only fault is the accident that it is not so religious as it might be.  In short they are of that school of thought, which will not admit that half a truth is an error, and nine-tenths of a truth no better; that the most frightful discord is close upon harmony; and that intellectual principles combine, not by a process of physical accumulation, but in unity of idea.
"It is true . . . that youths can be educated at Mixed Colleges of the kind I am supposing, nay at Protestant Colleges, and yet may come out of them as good Catholics as they went in.  Also it is true, that Protestants are to be found, who, as far as they profess Catholic doctrine, do truly hold it, in the same sense as that in which a Catholic holds it.  I grant all this, but I maintain at the same time, that such cases are exceptional; the case of individuals is one thing, of bodies or institutions another; it is not safe to argue from individuals to institutions. . . .
     "I allow all this as regards individuals; but I have not to do with individual teachers in this Discourse, but with systems, institutions, bodies of men.  There are doubtless individual Protestants, who, so far from making their Catholic pupils Protestant, lead  on their Protestant pupils to Catholicism; but we cannot legislate for exceptions, nor can we tell for certain before the event where those exceptional cases are to be found.  As to bodies of men, political or religious, we may safely say that they are what they profess to be, perhaps worse, certainly not better; and, if we would be safe, we must look to their principles, not to this or that individual, whom they can put forward for an occasion.  Half the evil that happens in public affairs arises from the mistake of measuring parties, not by their history and by their position, but by their accidental manifestations of the moment, the place, or the person. . . .  And the case is the same as regards the so-called approaches of heterodox bodies or institutions towards Catholicism.  Men may have glowing imaginations, warm feelings, or benevolent tempers; they may be very little aware themselves how far they are removed from Catholicism; they may even style themselves its friends, and be disappointed it does not recognize them; they may admire its doctrines, they may think it uncharitable in us not to meet them half way.  All the while, they may have nothing whatever of that form, idea, type of Catholicism, even in its inchoate condition, which I have allowed to some individuals among them. . . .  This is why some persons have been so taken by surprise at the late outburst against us in England, because they fancied men would be better than their systems.  This is why we have to lament, in times past and present, the resolute holding off from us of learned men in the Establishment, who seemed or seem to come nearest to us.  Pearson, or Bull, or Beveridge, almost touches the gates of the Divine City, yet he gropes for them in vain; for such men are formed on a different type from the Catholic, and the most Catholic of their doctrines are not Catholic in them.  In vain are the most ecclesiastical thoughts, the most ample concessions, the most promising aspirations, nay, the most fraternal sentiments, if they are not an integral part of that intellectual and moral form, which is ultimately from divine grace, and of which faith, not carnal wisdom, is the characteristic.  The event shows this, as in the case of those many, who, as time goes on, after appearing to approach the Church, recede from her.  In other cases the event is not necessary for their detection, to Catholics who happen to be near them.  These are conscious in them of something or other, different from Catholicism, a bearing, or an aspect, or a tone, which they cannot indeed analyze or account for, but which they cannot mistake.  They may not be able to put their finger on a single definite error; but, in proportion to the clearness of their spiritual discernment or the exactness of their theology, do they recognize, either the incipient heresiarch within the Church's pale, or the unhopeful inquirer outside of it.  Whichever he be, he has made a wrong start; and however long the road has been, he has to go back and begin again.  So it is with the bodies, institutions, and systems of which he is the specimen; they may die, they cannot be reformed."

     John Henry Newman, The idea of a university defined and illustrated, Appendices I:  1852 Discourse V, "General knowledge viewed as one philosophy" (ed. I. T. Ker (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1976), 430-434 (419-434)).
     Newman here responds to the suggestion that university instruction in religion can safely treat of "'general religion'" only, i.e., only "just as much as . . . Catholics and Protestants . . . hold in common" (428); a kind of "mere Christianity", as it were.  Interesting, in that light, that C. S. Lewis was never more than one of those "who seemed . . . to come nearest to us".