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Newman's Resentment of Authority

April 1867 had been a hot month for Newman, as we have already pointed out. He was forbidden to move to Oxford and ordered to halt his project for Catholic youth to enter a Protestant University. At the end of April, Fr. Ambrose St. John and Fr. Henry Bittleston arrived in Rome as Newman's representatives with the mission to clear his name. Newman was obsessed with the notion that Rome was misinformed about his actions and thinking.

The two priests were received with the proverbial Vatican cordiality by Cardinals and Monsignors who listened to what they had to say. They were even granted an audience with Pius IX. Amid the amiabilities and talk, two substantial points came to surface:
  1. Fr. Johann Baptist Franzelin, a famous theologian, delivered a lecture to the Roman College about the errors of Newman in his Rambler article on the role of laymen in the Church (Life of Cardinal Newman, vol. II, p. 174).

  2. The Pope himself admonished Newman, through Fr. St. John, to leave the company of Lord John Acton and abandon his project promoting mixed education (ibid,, p. 167).
In parallel, on May 9, 1867, during the trip of the two ambassador-priests, the Bishop of Birmingham communicated to Newman that Cardinal Barnabo, prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fidei) - under whose jurisdiction England was at that time - had sent him the text of Newman's article in The Rambler marked with the points Newman should explain (ibid., p. 171). Until then, Newman had always claimed that no one had showed him the erroneous points in that controversial thesis on the role of laymen in the Church.

A correspondence opened between Cardinal Barnabo and Newman, and in August Newman sent that Cardinal an extremely violent letter. These letters, although mentioned in Ward's work, are not reproduced in it.

As a fruit of that exchange of letters with the Roman Cardinal, Newman became openly indignant against any authority in the Church. We reproduce below one letter - no addressee specified - in which Newman's intense resentment and rejection of such authority appears.

This document is in The Life of John Henry Cardinal Newman by Wilfrid Ward, vol. II, pp. 200-202.

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Posted on April 10, 2010

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