EWMAN'S editorship of the "Rambler" represented the last opportunity to bridge the chasm which separated the Liberal Catholics from their Ultramontane opponents. Newman hoped to restore the Rambler to the good graces of the hierarchy by changing what was offensive in its style and tone; at the same time he sought, in the spirit of its former conductors, to meet the intellectual challenges of the day and to develop an educated Catholic laity.
In order to reduce the burden of the editorship, the Rambler was changed from a monthly to a bi-monthly. This allowed it to emulate the style of a quarterly review while avoiding direct competition with the Dublin. This change, and the new format adopted by the magazine, justified the beginning of a "new series." On this occasion Newman sent a prospectus to the subscribers, announcing its new form and intentions. He stated that the Rambler would abstain from direct discussion of theology and, in dealing with mixed questions into which theology indirectly entered, would seek to reconcile freedom of inquiry with faith and reverence. In order to allow a wide range of discussion, the Rambler would be divided into three main sections: "editorial" articles, for which the editor was directly responsible, "communicable" articles, and correspondence, for which he assumed "only such general responsibility" (III Sept. 1860, 388n) as was involved in publishing them. By this device it was hoped that free discussion could be carried on without involving the Rambler in the opinions of its contributors. To emphasize this distinction, "communicated" articles were to be signed (usually with fictitious initials) and to employ the personal "I" rather than the editorial "we." In addition to these main sections, the "Literary Notices" were to be increased, and a new section [98/99] of "Contemporary Events," dealing with news of the day, was to be added; these sections were "editorial" in character.
Newman made every effort to preserve the continuity of the Rambler. He made no public announcement of his assumption of the editorship; instead he adopted the journalistic conventions of editorial anonymity and the corporate identity of the magazine. This was against the advice of Ward and of John Wallis, the editor of The Tablet, who urged Newman to change the name of the Rambler and to transform it into a new and distinct periodical (John Wallis to N, 23 May 1859, cited Ward,I , 633). Newman rejected this advice:
Not a word was said of any change of matter, drift, objects, tone, etc. of the Rambler, though my purpose was in fact to change what had in so many ways displeased me. But I had no wish to damage the fair fame of men who I believed were at bottom sincere Catholics, and I thought it unfair, ungenerous, impertinent, and cowardly to make on their behalf acts of confession and contrition, and to make a display of change of editorship. [Memorandum by N, 24 May 1882, Ward, 494]
Simpson acknowledged Newman's "great generosity" and "kindness towards the old proprietors" (for Simpson's assistance to Newman, see S to N, 5 and 19 May 1859, Newman MSS). Although he had no official position on the staff of the Rambler, Simpson performed many of the functions of a sub-editor, correcting proofs, making arrangements with the printers, and writing short reviews. The former conductors of the Rambler were welcomed as contributors. Newman's first issue contained an article by Simpson on "Religious Associations in the Sixteenth Century." The article is notable for its assertion that the persecuted Elizabethan Catholics organized themselves as "a secret Society."5 Newman, disregarding the modern Church's opposition to secret societies, admitted the article in the "editorial" section. Its conclusion, a plea for [99/100] the impartial treatment of Catholic history, may have represented his own views. Bokenkotter, Newman's biographer, describes Simpson's article as "a solid contribution to historical scholarship" (61).
A spirit of liberality governed Newman's conduct of the Rambler. Although he approved the policies of Napoleon III, Newman accepted an article by Thomas F. Wetherell writing as "Sigma" -- "Thoughts on the Causes of the Present War" -- sharply criticizing the French Emperor. (I July 1859, 186-198). Newman replied in a letter (signed "J.0.") in the next issue, "Napoleonism not Impious," (Sept. 1859, 378-79), to which Wetherell reponded in November. Newman even invited Döllinger to reply in the Rambler to Dr. Gillow's pamphlet against his article on the "Paternity of Jansenism." Döllinger, however, cautiously declined to write, feeling that it would be unwise to do so in the present -- state of Catholic opinion and that it 'would prejudice the position and influence of the Rambler (Ward, I, 493-94). Apparently the delation of Döllinger's article had produced no effect in Rome. William Burke, Wiseman's nephew, told Simpson that there was no case for the Index (see A to A, 20 Feb. 1859, Woodruff MSS). Controversies flourished in the "Correspondence" section, where great freedom was allowed. Although the Rambler professed to abstain from theology, a correspondent was allowed to raise the question: "How far is it allowable, or desirable, for laymen to study theology?" (I May 1859, 109). "H" (probably Simpson), answered with "Lay Students in Theology," (July 1859, 238-41), to the effect that it was permissible within limits; Simpson had consulted the Belgian Fr. de Buck on this point. Another correspondent inquired whether Döllinger had implied that the traditional theology of the schools was opposed to real historical and patristic learning, and was answered by Simpson, whose "Traditions of Historical Points in the Schools," criticized the school theologians for knowing the Fathers only from compendia rather than from the sources themselves" (I July 1859, 242-4). A mild controversy developed over the question whether temporal prosperity was a ccnote" or sign of the Church, with reference to the state of Catholic countries. It was natural, then, for The Tablet to foresee a danger that licence would be given, in the "correspondence" section of the Rambler, for the expression of dangerous views, or that it might become "the [100/101] safety valve for intellectual crotchets" (21 May 1859; cited Butler, I, 313). It seemed, indeed, that Newman was giving himself over to the Liberal Catholics.
The real test of Newman's editorship was to be his handling of the education controversy which had led to Simpson's retirement. The bishops had since made public their decision against co-operating with the Royal Commission, and it was now necessary for the Rambler to make some statement on the subject, in order to explain its previous conduct and put an end to the controversy. Newman began his statement with a full submission to the decision of the bishops, and cited copious extracts from their Pastoral Letters. He argued that their remarks did not contain any particular allusion to the Rambler. He further claimed that Stokes' articles had not, in fact, opposed the decision as such, since no formal decision had been made public when Stokes wrote:
Episcopal decisions are matters too serious to admit of being made except in form. We did not know the Bishops had spoken formally, and we do not know what is meant by an informal decision.... We did not know that they had actually put the question out of their hands by any irreversible act or judgment; we are very sorry for our mistake, but we are not sure, from what is reported, that they have done so even now. ["Judgment of the English Bishops on the Royal Commission," I May 1859, 122. The article was printed as part of the "Contemporary Events."]
He then went on to make a plea for greater consideration of lay opinion:
Acknowledging, then, most fully the prerogatives of the episcopate, we do unfeignedly believe ... that their Lordships really desire to know the opinion of the laity on subjects in which the laity are especially concerned. If even in the preparation of a dogmatic definition the faithful are consulted, as lately in the instance of the Immaculate Conception, it is at least as natural to anticipate such an act of kind feeling and sympathy in great practical questions . . . surely we are not disrespectful in thinking, and in having thought, that the [101/102] Bishops would like to know, the sentiments of an influential portion of the laity before they took any step which perhaps they could not recall. [Ibid]
Newman had intended to satisfy the bishops without repudiating the writers in the Rambler, but the effect of this article was to give the impression that he had fully identified his new Rambler with the old. Simpson thanked him "for the generosity with which you take the past sins of the Rambler on your own shoulders" (S to N, I May 1859, Newman MSS). Wiseman, on the other hand, complained that the new Rambler was "just as bad as the old" (According to Henry Wilberforce. See A to S, 1 June 1859, Downside MSS). Newman himself later admitted that "I took up and defended (in my own way) its cause on the Education Question" (N to A, 20 June 1860, cited in Ward, I, 636). In attempting to exculpate Stokes, Newman had done more than merely explain away his offence; he had implied that the bishops' decision had been made improperly and without due form. This was no less offensive than Stokes' criticism had been.
The most severe criticism of Newman's article, however, was made on theological grounds. Dr. Gillow, professor of theology at Ushaw College, objected to the passage in which Newman stated that "even in the preparation of a dogmatic definition the faithful are consulted." A correspondence ensued between Gillow and Newman, which the latter felt obliged to show to his bishop, Ullathorne. At the same time, Newman asked Ullathorne to appoint a theological censor for future issues of the Rambler.
On 22 May, Ullathorne came to the Oratory to discuss the matter with Newman. Ullathorne declined to appoint a censor for the Rambler, first, because it was not published in his diocese, and secondly, because its style made censorship virtually impossible: ' , the theological difficulties cropped up in half sentences." He agreed with many of the criticisms that had been made of the new Rambler, and he regretted that the old spirit had not gone out of it. "The Catholics of England were a peaceable people; the Church was peace.[103/103] Catholics never had a doubt; it pained them to know that things could be considered doubtful which they had ever implicitly believed. The Rambler was irritating" (N to E. H. Thompson, May 1859, cited in Ward, I, 496). Newman urged the importance of giving due consideration to the educated laity, but Ullathorne would not allow the weight of his argument. Newman then mentioned how great an annoyance it had been to accept the Rambler, and how relieved he would have been not to have done so; whereupon Ullathorne abruptly suggested that he give it up. Newman objected that this would mean giving it back to its old proprietors; but Ullathorne, disregarding the objection, said that there would be no difficulty if he gave them fair notice and edited one more issue. Newman, ever responsive to the wishes of his bishop, promised to resign the Rambler after the July number. "I never have resisted, nor can resist, the voice of a lawful Superior speaking in his own province. I should have been in an utterly false position if' I had continued, without a revision.... a work, of the very object and principle of which my diocesan disapproved" (Ibid).
Newman's editorship had been a source of embarrassment to the bishops: their triumph of having secured Simpson's resignation had been virtually nullified when it became apparent that Newman, with his greater prestige, was continuing many of the old Rambler's policies. Newman, some years later, observed that what he required for the Rambler was "elbow room-but this was impossible" (N to Miss E. Bowles, 19 May 1863, quoted by Ward, I, 587). Ullathorne was on the friendliest terms with Newman; but this bluff, unintellectual old-Catholic bishop found it difficult to comprehend the range of Newman's ideas and could not accept his views on the rights of the laity. The bishops, having brought Newman into the Rambler, soon became anxious that he should leave it.
Ullathorne's attitude was a great blow to Newman. His life as a Catholic, at least since 1852, had been a succession of frustrations and failures, and now another failure was added [103/104] to the list. To the intellectual converts-whether liberal or Ultramontane-Newman's resignation was a great mortification, a sign that their wider views could command no sympathy from the ecclesiastical authorities. Thompson wrote to Newman that what was needed was a convert bishop, and Henry Wilberforce felt that "our bishops do not understand England and the English" (Cited in Ward, I, 501). Thompson wished to consult Ward on the situation, but Newman forbade this, calling Ward a "prodigious blab."
Newman's resignation meant that the Rambler would be returned to its old proprietors after the July issue. It was resolved that Simpson should not resume his editorship, since his reputation as an editor had been compromised by the conflict with the bishops, and the renewed association of his name with the Rambler would prejudice its chances of acceptance by the Catholic public. Simpson cheerfully accepted the necessity of his self-effacement and suggested that Acton should be the new editor, with the Rambler becoming more distinctly political in its character. Acton was, in fact, the inevitable choice to succeed Newman.
Acton had given his confidence to Simpson throughout the negotiations with Newman; he had welcomed Newman's acceptance of the editorship, and contributed to his first issue. While travelling on the Continent, Acton had met Montalembert,and arranged for Simpson, deprived of an organ in the Rambler, to contribute to the Correspondant.21 Later Acton had proposed that he and Simpson should buy shares in the Weekly Register, which Henry Wilberforce, frightened by the bishops' treatment of the Rambler, seemed disposed to sell. This proposal did not materialize, but Simpson contributed to the Weekly Register later in the year, making it for a while a second organ of Liberal Catholicism (A to S, 21 May, I June and 10 Aug. 1859, Downside MSS).
In April Acton was hurriedly called back to England by [104/105] Lord Granville, on the occasion of the dissolution of Parliament. The general election offered Acton an opportunity to enter political life, and Granville was eager to sponsor him. Acton was not enthusiastic, but he felt obliged to stand for election, "Pour acquit de conscience" (A to S, 5 April 1859, Gasquet, p. 67. 24 A to S, 19 April 1859, Downside MSS), and also to avoid being named sheriff of his county. He sought nomination at Cashel, Waterford City and Dublin, without success. Acton attributed his failure to the influence of Wiseman, 24 who favoured Lord Derby's government, partly because it had shown some sympathy with Catholic grievances, and partly because the Tories were less hostile than the Liberals to the Pope's Temporal Power. Eventually Acton received the nomination for Carlow, a borough with a somewhat disreputable parliamentary history, where the Catholic Liberals had been unable to secure a candidate.
Acton, who was ill at the time, did not visit Carlow until after the election, but was nominated in absentia. He stood as a Catholic first, and then as a Liberal; his principal supporter was a local priest; his opponent was a Protestant a Tory, and a landlord. Acton's only contribution to the campaign, aside from some finances, was a letter to the priest, Father Maher, leaving the question of his party affiliation rather vague, but stating that he would oppose the existing Tory government: "I had rather reckon on Liberal principles than on the fears of the Tories."25 He favoured Reform, the Ballot, Tenant Right, and non-intervention in Continental politics; but his greatest stress was on his Catholicism, and he made use of the letter of recommendation which Wiseman had given him in 1857. In an election marked by the exertions of Father Maher, a considerable amount of mob violence, and at least the suspicion of bribery, Acton unexpectedly defeated his opponent, -and found himself, rather to his dismay, a member of Parliament.
Newman feared that Acton's new parliamentary responsibilities [105/106] would not allow him to accept the editorship of the Rambler; but Acton thought that the two positions could be combined. Simpson suggested that the Rambler be made the organ of the small band of Catholic Liberal members of Parliament. Acton, though approving a greater emphasis on political affairs, did not wish to make the Rambler the organ of any parliamentary group. He was still uncertain of his political affiliation, although he voted with the Liberals in the division which overthrew the Derby government. His friends were in power, but he desired and received no office. This left him free to edit the Rambler as a magazine independent of party. Newman was relieved that Acton was willing to accept the editorship; Acton was not eager but was resi ned to it as inevitable: "I hardly see how the Rambler can survive unless I undertake the editing of it" (A to N, Corpus Christi 1859, Newman MSS.).
While Acton was arranging to take over the Rambler in the summer, Newman was preparing the July issue which was to be his last. It was necessary for him to defend his statement in the May issue that "even in the preparation of a dogmatic definition the faithful [i.e. the laity] are consulted." Gillow had objected to this statement as unsound in theology, because the word "consult" has ' in Latin, a theological meaning incompatible with the use to which Newman put it in English. But Newman wished to do more than merely to justify his use of the word. He sought to take advantage of the occasion to make a plea for the recognition of the place of the laity in Catholic thought, a cause which had always been dear to him, for "in all times the laity have been the measure of Catholicism" (Quoted by Gasquet, p. xxii)
Newman's article "On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine"28 began with an attempt to explain away the [106/107] offensive word "consult," which, he said, might legitimately be used in popular English writing, even if such usage appeared unscientific in theology. While the opinion or judgment of the laity is not "consulted" in defining dogma, the fact of their belief is sought for, as a testimony of the apostolic tradition. The belief of the faithful, the consensus fidelium, is considered by the Church before it proceeds to a definition. "The body of the faithful is one of the witnesses to the fact of the tradition of revealed doctrine . . . their consensus through Christendom is the voice of the Infallible Church" ("Consulting the Faithful," p. 205). Newman cited several theological authorities for his doctrine of the consensus fidellum, particularly the Jesuit Perrone, who had been influential in securing the definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, when the Pope had made inquiries about the belief of the laity on the subject.
Newman might have ended the article at this point, having explained his remarks in the May issue; but he chose to go further and give an historical example of the principle of the conse,nsusfidelium. In the fourth century, during the struggles with the Arians and semi-Arians, a majority of the bishops had been willing to compromise on questions of dogma, but the body of the laity and lower clergy had been firm in defence of orthodoxy. Newman argued that in those days "the divine tradition committed to the infallible Church was proclaimed and maintained far more by the faithful than by the Episcopate.... the body of the episcopate was unfaithful to its commission, while the body of the laity was faithful to its baptism." At various times Popes, bishops and councils had obscured or compromised revealed dogma, while the people had supported Athanasius and other defenders of orthodoxy -- "a palmary example of a state of the Church during which, in order to know the tradition of the Apostles, we must have recourse to the faithful" (213). It was the ecclesia discens, the body of the faithful, rather than the ecclesia docens, the episcopate or "teaching Church," that saved the faith in this crisis: "there was a temporary suspense of the functions [107/108] of the 'Ecclesia docens'. The body of Bishops failed in their confession of the faith" (214).
At the present time, Newman said, the bishops could be relied on to preserve the faith; but still it would be well to consider the sentiments of the laity. "I think certainly that the Ecclesia docens is more happy when she has such enthusiastic partisans about her . . . than when she cuts off the faithful from the study of her divine doctrines ... and requires from them a fides implicita in her word, which in the educated classes will terminate in indifference, and in the poorer in superstition" (230).
Newman's article was more than a defence of his earlier remarks or a continuation of the controversy over the role of the laity. Newman later said that in the article "I retract the word 'consult'." (N to A, 31 July 1859, Woodruff MSS). It was an exposition of his doctrine of the development of dogma, the theory that the dogmatic formulation of the contents of revelation developed gradually in the course of the Church's history. This historical outlook did not involve any contradiction of the scholastic philosophy but it appeared strange and vaguely unorthodox to men trained only in the formal logic of the schools. Acton (CUL Add. MSS. 4988) later made much of this apparent antagonism, as the explanation of the distrust with which Newman was regarded by many Catholics. (see also A to Lady Blennerhasset, 14 April 1894 and 13 Sept. 1900, Selections, pp. 77, 82). In demonstrating the role which the laity had played in the development of dogma in the fourth century, Newman had disregarded the traditional way of viewing Catholic doctrine. His historical statements could not be controverted, but his language gave much offence, especially his phrase "there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the Ecclesia docens." It appeared to many readers that Newman had asserted that the divine authority or magisterium of the Church had failed in the fourth century, that the teaching Church had been fallible, and that the episcopate in its corporate capacity had been guilty of heresy. Such assertions would have been heretical, but Newman had not in fact [108/109] made them. Nonetheless, his historical statements were interpreted in this theological sense, divorced from their original context. Monsignor Talbot, in Rome, thought that Newman's consensus fidelium meant the consensus of the laity in opposition to the clergy; this was "detestable" as it tended "to encourage the laity to dogmatize" (Talbot to Msgr. Patterson, 12 Nov. 1859, Westminster Archives). The theologians of Ushaw College, particularly Dr. Gillow, also criticized the article.
Newman was aware of some of these criticisms, though he underestimated their significance. "I know that the article had annoyed the Ushaw people, but nothing more.... I have no misgiving about my real meaning as being sound dogmatically" (). 36 The reaction to the article did, however, confirm Newman in his decision to resign the editorship of the Rambler, which was quietly transferred to Acton in July.
The worst was yet to come. Bishop Brown of Newport, offended by the phrase "there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the Ecclesia docens," delated the article to the authorities at Rome on grounds of heresy.31 Cardinal Barnabo", who as Prefect of Propaganda had oversight over English Catholic affairs, asked Ullathorne to bring the matter to Newman's attention and to secure from him an explanation of his article. Cardinal Wiseman, shocked by the denunciation, promised to do everything he could to help Newman clear himself Wiseman attributed the denunciation to an old Catholic attempt to discredit the converts.
There has been an unceasing undermining action going on against converts-the Oratory and Oblates [Manning's congregation] particularly, through letters to Barnab6. The Rambler opinions have been thrown into the scale. The late articles have given great pain, and Dr. Ullathorne is charged
" Newman to Ward, 20 Oct. 1859, cited in Wilfrid Ward William George Ward and the Catholic Revival (London, 1912), p. 46 1. He also learned that his articles on "Ancient Saints" had somehow given offence. N to A, 5 July 1859, cited in Ward, I, 634; also CUL Add. MS. 4988.
" The delation was made somewhat informally in letters to Mgr. Bedini of Propaganda and to Msgr. Talbot. Brown, who was generally suspicious of the converts, regarded Newman's words as positively heretical; some of the difficulty was caused by Brown's Latin translation which was not faithful to the sense of Newman's English. See Vincent F. Blehl, S.J., "Newman's Delation: Some Hitherto Unpublished Letters," Dublin Review (Winter, 1960-1), 296-305.
[109/110] with a mission of peace to Dr. N[ewman]. It is wished he would write an Art[icle] explaining them rightly. I have spoken as well and soothingly as possible.38
Newman, when informed of the denunciation by Ullathorne, wrote to Wiseman on 19 January 1860, expressing his willingness to comply with Barnab6's wishes. Newman stated his readiness to explain his article, to accept and profess the dogmatic propositions which he had allegedly impugned, to explain his position in strict accordance with these propositions and to sh6w that his words were consistent with them. He asked only that he be first informed as to the precise passages in his article which had given offence and the propositions which they had supposedly impugned.
Newman's case was now in Wiseman's hands. He showed Newman's letter to Manning and Talbot, but absentmindedly laid it aside among his papers and never presented it to Propaganda. The only explanation for his failure is that he was seriously ill at the time, and on his recovery his mind was occupied with his quarrel with Errington, then in its final stages. Manning and Talbot also failed to inform Propaganda of Newman's letter. Newman thus lost the opportunity to justify himself, while Barnab6 was left with the impression that he had refused to do so. Nothing further was done about the affair, and some months later Manning told Newman informally that it had been settled.
But the matter had not been settled; it was merely allowed to drift. Barnab6 believed that Newman had disobediently refused to explain his article. Despite Ullathorne's attempts to clarify the situation, the affair had been so mishandled by Wiseman that, for seven years, Newman remained "under a cloud" at Rome, and the suspicion with which Rome regarded him was eventually communicated to the English Catholics. These seven years were the unhappiest period of
38 Wiseman to Manning, St. Agnes' Day [21.Jan.] 1860, in "More Letters of Wiseman and Manning," Dublin Review, CLXXII (Jan. 1923), 121; originals in Manning MSS.
39 Newman to Wiseman, 19 Jan. 1860, cited in Ward, Life of Newman, II, 17 In. See also a letter of Ullathorne to Newinan, 9 May 1867, ibid., 171-2.
40 Newman to Ambrose St. John, 7 May 1867, ibid., 170.
41 See Butler, Life of Ullathorne, 1, 319-20. As late as 1861 Barnab6 believed that Newman was still the editor of the Rambler,
Newman's life. Although he believed that the affair of his article had been hushed up, he was aware that it had left a bad impression and might be revived at any time. From 1861 to 1864, he published nothing, being unwilling to expose himself to further attacks. "How can I fight with such a chain on my arm " (Newman to Miss E. Bowles, 19 May 1863, quoted by Ward, I, 588). For the story of Newman's vindication in 1867, see Ward (II, 165-179, 546-8).
Such were the effects of his brief editorship of the Rambler on Newman's career and reputation. For his failure he was himself partly to blame: he had gone farther than was necessary in explaining Stokes' articles and in defending his own remarks on consulting the laity. Yet it is questionable whether any amount of caution in language would have saved him from criticism, once it had become clear that in many matters of principle his own position was not far from that of Acton and Simpson. Newman, although never fully committed to the Liberal Catholic movement, had "entered the front lines of the battle with his Essay on Consulting the Faithful and when it backfired retreated to the rear as one of the first casualties" (Bokenkotter, p. 138).
In obtaining Newman's withdrawal from the Rambler, the bishops had removed from the Liberal Catholics an influence which had always been exercised in the direction of caution and moderation. Manning foresaw the possible consequences:
Now, there is another matter which gives me real anxiety, and that is the state of many of our ablest and most active laymen. There is a tone in matters of education, government, politics, and theology, which is free up to the boundary of legitimate freedom, if not beyond it, and they are men who deserve a good and fair treatment. Moreover, they cannot be ut down or checked like boys. I am seriously afraid that we shall have a kind of De Lamennais School among some who, like him, were intellectual champions of the Church, and nothingwill produce this so surely as snubbing. They could be easily directed by any one whom they thought fair or friendly, especially if, in the way Dr. N[ewman] has done, he grapples with their intellectual difficulties.[Manning to Talbot, 17june 185.9, quoted by Purcell, II, 140-1] [111/112]
The bishops had chosen to snub the intellectual laymen and to remove Newman's direction of their efforts. With Newman "a great influence disappeared to which men of very divergent opinions look for guidance" (A to N, June 1860, Newman MSS). The position which Newman had held, as a bridge between Liberal Catholics and Ultramontanes, was no longer tenable.
Last modified 8 September 2001