Catholic Politics and Catholic Intellect, 1860-1861

Josef L. Altholz, Professor of History, University of Minnesota


Chapter eight of the author's The Liberal Catholic Movement in England: The "Rambler" and its Contributors, 1848-1864, which Burns and Oates (London) published in 1962. It has been included in the Victorian Web with the kind permission of the author, who of course retains copyright.

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decorated initial 'T' HE Liberal Catholics had to maintain the struggle for their principles on two fronts. In politics, the Temporal Power of the Papacy became the preoccupation of Catholics throughout Europe. At the same time, new developments in science and scholarship demanded an intelligent Catholic response. The Liberal Catholics attempted to meet both challenges, but their efforts to do so brought them into conflict with important elements in English Catholicism.

The 1860s were, for the Catholic Church, years of crisis. Italian nationalism threatened to put an end to the rule of the Pope as a temporal sovereign in Italy. Pius IX, refusing to distinguish his temporal from his spiritual authority, called upon the resources of the Church in the defence of his political power. Catholics in all countries were expected to demonstrate their sympathy for the beleaguered Pontiff and to exercise their political influence to secure the preservation of his sovereignty. The Temporal Power, however, became a party question within the Catholic Church itself. The division of parties on political issues paralleled that on intellectual issues. The extreme advocates of the prerogatives of the Papacy, the new Ultramontanes, were the dominant party. Convinced of the absolute opposition between the principles of Catholicism and the ways of the modern world, they fostered a spirit of withdrawal from modern society and thought. Both in politics and in philosophy, the leading principles of this Catholic reaction were opposed to the tenets of Liberal Catholicism.

In England the new Ultramontanism received the sanction of Cardinal Wiseman, who sought to employ the political resources of English Catholicism against a government [130/131] which favoured the Italian revolution. Wiseman was less affected by the intellectual intolerance of the Ultramontanes; but in the 1860s he was enfeebled by illness and allowed the leadership of English Catholicism to pass into the hands of more extreme men, notably Manning, Provost of Westminster. Manning had earlier devoted his energies to the struggle against the recalcitrant old Catholics led by Errington; by 1860 Errington had been defeated and removed, and Manning took up the cause of the Temporal Power. His sermons on the Temporal Power were regarded as extreme even by his own party and were delated to the Index; but he possessed a powerful friend at Rome in Monsignor Talbot, a Papal Chamberlain, and he was favourably regarded by the Pope himself. Manning was prepared to make the Temporal Power a dogma of faith; to him it was "providentially the centre of the Christian order of Europe" (Manning to Gladstone, 24 October 1864, BM Add. MS 44248 ff. 222-7). He had the enthusiastic support of Father Faber of the London Oratory, who emphasized the emotional side of Ultramontanism, personal devotion to the Pope and imitation of Roman practices. The intellectual leader of the Ultramontanes was W. G. Ward, who urged that all problems be solved by recourse to Rome and that every intimation of the will of the Pope was as binding on Catholics as dogma itself. Ward's too logical mind was delighted by the most absolute and' extravagant statements. In the tense atmosphere of the 1860s there was little room for balanced views. The Church was regarded as being in a "state of siege," and the Ultramontanes sought to foster the mentality of inflexible resistance appropriate to a besieged army. This attitude pressed hard upon those who held that the Church should emerge from its isolation into freer contact with the modern world, and it was particularly uncomfortable for Newman and Acton.

Newman concealed his thoughts from the public, but he was evidently cool towards the Temporal Power and declined to speak out in favour of it or to give any assistance to its supporters. He opposed the attempt to make the Temporal Power a doctrine of faith or a test of Catholic loyalty. This [131/132] was sufficient to cause the Ultramontanes to brand him as disloyal; and the question of the Temporal Power completed what the article on "Consulting the Faithful" had begun, in rendering Newman an object of suspicion among Catholics. In private, Newman went still further; he had a distaste for the Temporal Power as it affected the spiritual life of the Church. As Sir Rowland Blennerhasset wrote to Acton three decades later,

The Temporal Power had according to him a distinct tendency to strengthen the spirit of the world in the Church. The T[emporal] P[ower] was not a thing either to be attacked absolutely or to be defended absolutely. It was perhaps according to him productive in our time of more harm than good; at all events it was not to be defended in the wild way Manning defended it. [16 Oct. 1890, quoted in CUL Add. MS. 4989. For Newman's own re-statement of his views, see his memorandum, 22 May 1882, in Ward, I, 521]

But Newman refused to speak out, partly from timidity and partly out of a personal reverence for the Pope. The public never realized how great was his dislike of the Temporal Power.3 In 1860 Newman's aversion to it was greater than Acton's.

Acton was convinced of the necessity of some temporal sovereignty for the Pope as a safeguard for his liberty of action and the independence of the Church. But he acknowledged the faults of the Papal government of Rome and had no hope for the success of any reforms. More important, he had come to believe that the Temporal Power was in fact a hopeless cause. As early as 1857, Döllinger had spoken to Acton of the certainty of the fall of the Temporal Power. Acton himself had observed that if the Temporal Power should ever come to be considered an impediment to the spiritual mission of the Church "then the last hour of the papal state would have sounded. The Church was 700 years without a territory, and might be so again for 7000 years. [133/134] As things now are it cannot be, but such a state of things might be possble" (CUL Add. MS. 5751). At the beginning of 1860 Acton still defended the Temporal Power, but without enthusiasm and without hope.

Acton's writings in the Rambler showed the limitations of his zeal for the Papal cause. In "The Political System of the Popes," which appeared in the Rambler between January 1860 and 1861, he called history to its defence and in a series of articles sought to justify the political conduct of the Popes during the Middle Ages (Reprinted in Essays, pp. 123-158). But history was an uncertain ally: "Every record older than the thirteenth century which could be quoted as an authority for the full territorial rights of the Holy See is almost certainly spurious, whilst all those documents by which those rights were actually created have been lost." Acton admitted that the Papal States were badly governed. the only plea he raised on behalf of the Temporal Power was its necessity, "the conservation of the independence of the Holy See through the integrity of its territory" ("The States of the Church," Essays, pp. 86-87).

As a member of Parliament Acton showed that he would not sacrifice his political principles to the cause of the Temporal Power. "I find everybody saying that the interests of religion must override the precepts of politics, which seems to, me a contradiction" (A to S, July 1860, Downside MSS). He was not a confirmed Liberal, but he would not oppose a Liberal ministry whose principles were generally sound merely because of a disagreement with its Italian policy. Neither would he conceal the faults of the Papal government or the weakness of its advocates. The Catholic members of Parliament were anxious to make public information which would reflect favourably on the Papal government of Rome, and thought that a certain despatch of Mr. (later Lord) Lyons, a former British diplomatic agent at Rome, would support their case. Acton, however, asked that not only this particular document, but all of Lyons' despatches, be made public. [133/134]

I ask for it not because I expect that it will be favourable, but because I hope that it will be authentic. It is impossible at present for any impartial persons to disting uish truth from falsehood in the midst of so much conflicting testimony and of so many conflicting passions. We have plenty of unscrupulous attacks on one side, and a good deal of not very discriminating eulogy on the other. All Catholics are, or ought to be, anxious to know all the truth concerning the accusations brought against the Roman Government. We do not wish to be open to the accusation that we are arguing from imperfect knowledge, or defending that which does not deserve to be defended. We do not wish that it should be believed that the Catholics of this country . . . are indifferent to the political welfare of their fellow-Catholics abroad, or that we are blinded by attachment to our religion to facts by which, if they are true, that religion is injured and disgraced. [Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, 3rd ser., CLVIII (1860), 679-681]

Acton had turned an attempt to embarrass the Government into an occasion for criticism of the Catholics themselves for their undiscriminating advocacy of the Temporal Power. Sir George Bowyer, the leading Catholic spokesman in the House, was caught by surprise. "The fun was that Bowyer, expecting something in his line, began cheering aloud at first, but pulled a very long face before I had done" (A to S, June 1860, Gasquet, p. 139). Acton rather enjoyed the situation, and compared himself to De Decker, the Belgian Liberal Catholic statesman: "An enemy said of De Decker that he is a double-barrelled gun, one barrel to shoot at his enenues, the other at his friends. Rambler, tout pur" (A to S, July 1860, ibid., p. 145).

The Lyons despatches were made public in July. Acton found them satisfactory, "confirming, thank God, all I said" (A to S, 9 July 1860, ibid., p. 140). While Lyons criticized the efficiency of the Roman administration, he gave no support to the more extreme charges against it and showed that reforms had been made impossible by the Italian liberals. If Acton had little sympathy for the Papal administration, he had none at all for the Italian liberals, holding that their nationalism was opposed [134/135] to true liberty. Some of the other Catholic members, however, were disturbed by Lyons' criticism of the Roman government (see Hales, pp. 343-44).

Acton was still closely associated with the other Catholic members. He was on particularly good terms with certain Catholics who were supporters of the Liberal Government, notably William Monsell (later Lord Emly), an Irish gentleman educated at Oxford and converted in 1850, who was a friend of Newman. Acton was unconsciously drawing closer to the Liberal party. On Catholic issues, however, the Catholic members operated independently of party affiliation. In August, during a debate on Italy, the Whig Catholics rose in a body and left the House in protest against the party's Italian policy. The Roman question had already caused a breach between Acton and his stepfather Granville, a member of the Government; and Granville complained that Johnny Acton has thrown us over" (Granville to Lord Canning, 4 Aug. 1860, cited in Fitzmaurice, I, 387. See Himmelfarb, pp. 91-92).

Acton was still maturing his position on the Temporal Power. In February, he had taken pains to avoid appearing at a great Catholic rally in Birmingham, in order not to be committed to the resolution voted by the meeting in favour of the Temporal Power (A to S, "Friday" [prob. Feb. 1860], Gasquet, p. 115). He was aware that his position on so difficult a subject was liable to misrepresentation, and secretly wrote an article for the Weekly Register to explain his speech on the Lyons despatches. Still convinced of the necessity of the Papal sovereignty, he had come to believe that it was doomed to fall. "The inquiry seems to me nearly superfluous, as I cannot believe that the Temporal Government has any future before it" (A to S, 12 July 1860, ibid., pp. 147-8). It was necessary above all for Catholics not to be comnjitted to an untenable position. To Simpson, who had become the regular writer on foreign affairs for the Weekly Register, Acton sent notes on the [135/136] Roman question, but he warned: "don't speak decisively on the character or future of the Roman Government" (A to S, 9 July 1860, ibid., p. 141).

Simpson wrote on "The Roman Question" in an appropriately indecisive fashion in the November Rambler: "The events of the day seem to render it probable that the complication may be ultimately solved by the development of some new arrangement of the temporal guarantees of the spiritual liberty of the Pope" (IV Nov. 1860, 13). The status quo should be supported as long as possible, but it was likely to fall. The revolution which menaced Rome ultimately threatened the entire political system of Europe; but if the Temporal Power was to be preserved by French troops in Rome, there was an equal danger of the loss of the liberty of the Church by means of French domination. Simpson concluded that "no Catholic can be justified in consenting to the spoliation of the Papal States; yet every believer will be sure that, in any case, if a new system should arise on the ruins of the present one, it will be better adapted than its predecessor to secure the spiritual independence of the Church amid the complications of the coming centuries" (p. 27). The Liberal Catholics were moving hesitantly towards a position of criticism of the Temporal Power. A review written by Acton spoke of the Italian revolution having been provoked by the "orthodox party" and its "too exclusive reliance on foreign bayonets" ( IV Nov. 1860, 127). In the Weekly Register Simpson was taking a more critical line, somewhat to the distress of the timid Wilberforce (A to S, 9 Jan. 1861, Downside MSS).

The decisive change in Acton's attitude came in December 1860, after a meeting with Döllinger in Munich. Dbllinger talked of the fall of the Temporal Power as a certainty, and Acton adopted his views. "We must certainly be prepared to see the Pope leave Rome and take refuge in Spain or Germany. . . . a restoration of the old regime and of the position of the Pope as a ruler of millions is, I am persuaded, out of the question." Döllinger was hopeful that the removal [136/137] of the Pope to Germany would lead to a reunion of German Protestants with the Church and at the same time effect a needed change in Catholicism itself: "the Romanism of the Church was destroyed for good" ()." Yet Döllinger did not oppose the Temporal Power itself, and he rejected Cavour's dream of a "free Church in a free State": he was more liberal in religion than in politics. Döllinger and Acton looked forward to the impending fall of the Temporal Power, not for the sake of the State, but for the sake of the Church which would thereby be purged of its greatest defects.

On his return to England, Acton found that his fellow Catholic members of Parliament were still determined to uphold the Temporal Power and make it a public issue between themselves and the Government. Acton, convinced of the hopelessness of the cause, thought this bad policy. Fearing that the too evident commitment of the English Catholics to the Papal cause would provoke a Protestant reaction, he meditated a speech on the Temporal Power "to save us, as far as I can, from a no popery excitement" (A to S, 14 Feb. 1861, Downside MSS). Acton feared that the Catholics would join with the Tories to defeat the Liberal government and that the ensuing election would be fought on the Catholic issue (A to Döllinger, 25 Feb. 1861, Woodruff MSS). He eventually decided not to deliver the speech, feeling that it would have no useful effect, for as he explained to Simpson, "I will not waste powder, make enemies and get into so much trouble without an object and an occasion" (March 1861, Gasquet, p. 172). The incident showed clearly the extent of his political differences with his fellow Catholics.

* * * * *

The years from 1859 to 1861, during which the English Catholics were occupied with the crisis of the Temporal Power and their own internal dissensionsi were notable in English intellectual history for the outbreak of a conflict between the forces of science and religion. Darwin's Origin Of Species in 1859 and Essays and Reviews in 1860 signified that the conventional formulations and interpretations of the Christian revelation were to be challenged by the new [137/138] theories of natural science and Biblical criticism. While outraged Protestants defended the citadel of Biblical literalism, the English Catholics took little part in the struggle. This was largely due to their preoccupation with other concerns and to an ignorance of science and scholarship which prevented them from formulating a response to the new challenge. Although Wiseman, in his younger days, had been a Biblical scholar of some repute, the dominant intellectual force among the English Catholics in the 1860s was the Ultramontanism of Ward and Faber, which emphasized inward sanctification rather than scientific investigation. Acton recognized the desirability of a greater spirituality among the English Catholics, but he regarded Ward's exclusive asceticism as a dangerous remedy. The idea of cultivating devotion on a new scale without promoting at the same time philosophy and literature is in reality very dangerous. Rather less devotion than more so long as there is so little reasoning and learning. Piety is a respectable and impenetrable cloak for all kinds of errors and false tendencies. [A to S, 8 March 1859, quoted by Watkin and Butterfield, 82] Asceticism without knowledge was dangerous to belief: it led to a "one-sided view of things, ignorance of the world, ignorance of proportion and perspective in things purely religious, ignorance of the borderland where religion touches the outer world of life and ideas. There have been heresies of false asceticism just as there have of false speculation" (A to S, 23 Jan. 1861, Gasquet, p. 167). Catholics should be prepared to respond to the intellectual challenges of the age with the best weapons of the day, to meet scientific objections by a more perfect science and critical scholarship by a more acute criticism. This required an improvement in the education of Catholics. Acton desired that a Catholic university should be founded in England, under the guidance of Newman. Newman at first entered into this idea, regarding it "as the last great work of his life" (A to Döllinger, 10 Feb. 1860, Woodruff MSS). For this reason he supported the Oratory School founded by [138/139] Newman at Edgbaston, which trained lay students up to the university level; he felt that it would inevitably lead to a demand for university education (A to Döllinger, 20 Jan. 1861, Woodruff MSS; A to S, I Jan. 1862, Downside MSS). Acton had expressed these hopes when the school was being planned in 1858. He placed one of his Italian cousins, Paolo Beccadelli, as a student at the school. This did not materialize; but the Edgbaston School, the first of the English Catholic public schools, represents the most lasting institutional accomplishment of the Liberal Catholic movement in England.

To a large extent Newman shared Acton's views. He was conscious of the urgency of preparing men's minds for the fundamental questions being posed by scientists and scholars. Newman believed that Catholics need not fear the discoveries or theories of science: "If anything seems to be proved . . . in contradiction to the dogmas of faith, that point will eventually turn out, first, not to be proved, or secondly, not contradictoy, or thirdly, not contradictory to anything really revealed, but to something which has been confused with revelation" (Quoted in Ward, I, 407). Therefore Catholics could be fearless in their use of the scientific method, recognizing the necessity of free discussion and debate in the scientific process. This was precisely the spirit of the Rambler; but Newman was too cautious to give his full support to the Liberal Catholics. He feared that their freedom of inquiry and statement might raise doubts in the minds of pious Catholics unprepared for critical thought, or that some rash speculation might step beyond the limits of orthodoxy. In the Rambler's attempt to formulate a Catholic response to natural science and Biblical scholarship, Newman was of little assistance.

That task was largely left to S. Simpson's review of Darwin's Origin of Species was written in an "exceptionally impartial spirit for the time."29 He questioned Darwin's [139/140] conclusions on scientific grounds, arguing that Darwin's facts did not justify the treatment of evolution as anything but an unproved hypothesis. Here Simpson showed himself dependent upon the erroneous theories of anti-evolutionary scientists such as the paleontologist Owen, writing in his review of Owen's Paleontology: "We confirm by the high authority of Mr. Owen the arguments which we ventured to put forward ... in reply to Mr. Darwin's theory" (III May 1860, 128). Simpson's criticism, however, was directed equally against those who rejected Darwin's work in its entirety. Catholics, he said, may appreciate the facts gathered by Darwin and might even regard his theory as a useful hypothesis. There was no incompatibility between creation and natural law. in "Darwin on the Origin of Species," Simpson argued: "Creation is not a miraculous interference with the laws of nature, but the very institution of those laws.... The law of creation is no exceptional rule that acts by fits and starts, by catastrophes and miraculous interpositions; but an equable ever-present force" (II March 1860, 372, 374). This is an extension of Newman's concept of Development. Darwin's infidelity was to be met by argument, not by ignorance. Catholics ought not to attempt to suppress the discussion:

There is a tendency in all religious bodies towards intolerance in matters of opinion, towards an unwillingness to allow the few to hold sentiments which differ from those of the many; there is a tendency to force all thought into the mold of the average mediocrity. There could be no surer way of offending Men of original views, or of tempting them to degrade opinions that are at first only novel or paradoxical into real and con scious attacks upon religion. [Ibid., 376. For a different account of this article, see Willey]

Simpson had succeeded in formulating at least a temporary Catholic response to Darwin; at the same time he had scored a hit upon the Catholic opponents of the Rambler with his argument for free debate. The argument was carried one stage further in May 1860, with an article by the Baron d'Eckstein on "The Church and Science." Eckstein urged religious men not to despise science, which shows the great [140/141] of God. Theology must not overstep its limits and pretend to lay down the law for science, and it must clear and simplify its language in order to deal with scientific discoveries (III May 1860, 68-83). A second article by Eckstein, however, proved too bold for Wetherell and Newman, and was not published. Yet even Newman, in urging the rejection of the article to avoid conflicts with authority, admitted that the Rambler, "do what it will, is sure to give offence" (N to Wetherell, 12 Aug. 1860, Newman MSS; partly quoted in Ward, I, 505-6). Wetherell, alarmed by Eckstein's language, had sent his article to N, who rejected it because it seemed to teach as fact what was merely unproved opinion and disregarded the prepossessions of the majority of Catholics. The work of formulating a Catholic response to scientific criticism had to be carried on simultaneously with the defence of the right of free inquiry.

The Biblical criticism of Essays and Reviews was dealt with in the same spirit. The Rambler's review of the book was written by Henry N. Oxenham, a former Anglican minister who had been converted in 1857. Oxenham, was somewhat of an eccentric: he had studied at a Catholic seminary but, believing his Anglican orders still valid, did not proceed to the priesthood. He was an admirer of Newman; he was also a friend of Döllinger, whose later works he translated. He was active in the "reunion" movement and retained many of his Anglican friendships. Oxenham's Anglican connections and his competent scholarship made him a suitable reviewer for Essays and Reviews. Acton had called the book "a weak reproduction" of German scepticism and was not impressed with it (A to Döllinger, 25 Feb. 1861, quoted by Woodward, 254. Prof. Woodward describes Acton as being "in fundamental things, a believing Catholic, a croyant of a simple kind."). In "The Neo-Protestantism of Oxford," Oxenharn gave it a more respectful treatment, calling it the most remarkable contribution to English Protestant theology since Newman's tracts; but he condemned the work as undermining the foundations of all religious belief. Biblical criticism, he said, will dissolve ordinary Protestant belief; only Catholicism can defend the cause of religion against rationalism and scepticism. Biblical criticism presented [141-142] a challenge which the Catholic Church should be anxious to meet:

It is clear that we shall have to deal hereafter rather with the fundamental principles of Revelation than with the specialities of the Evangelical or Anglican creeds. And we do not regret that it should be so. It will demand from us a firmer grasp of ascertained principles, a wider range of speculation, a nicer discrimination of what is essential and what is accidental, a more generous estimate of an adversary's position, and bolder proclamation of our own. [Rambler,IV (March 1861), 298-9.]

Oxenham found it better to deal with sceptics who denied revelation altogether than with adherents of other denominations who differed only on particular points. As Protestantism showed that it could no longer defend the cause of religion, men would turn to Rome.

This notion that the progress of scholarship would demonstrate the failure of Protestantism and the necessity of Catholicism was one of Döllinger's ruling ideas. It was the basis of the Liberal Catholics' willingness to accept the risks of free scientific inquiry. in "Döllinger's History of Christianity," Acton, for example, held that Catholic theology, founded on the living Church rather than the letter of the Bible, was invulnerable to scholarly criticism: "We differ from the Protestant supernaturalists because the critical examination of theBible, conducted in the spirit of religion, does not equally affect the foundations of our faith" (IV Jan. 1861, 168). The real danger came from the tendency among Catholics to confuse the actual substance of revelation, the dogmas of faith, with a variety of supplementary beliefs, analogies and explanations which had become accidentally bound up with dogma in men's minds. "Real faith," said Simpson,

keeps divine dogma in its proper isolation from all earthly things. Sham faith brings it down, mixes it with false conceptions of these things, and places orthodoxy in strict adherence to these falsehoods. This is the real reason why faith is so supremely indifferent to speculation-because speculation [142/143] cannot really touch it, however much it may seem to do so. [S to A, n.d., Woodruff MSS]

It is significant in this connection that Simpson had favourably reviewed Mansel's controversial Bampton lectures on the limits of religious thought in 1858: "Mansel's Bampton Lectures" (X Dec. 1858, 407-415).

The opposition between reason and faith, Simpson argued, was an unnatural one. If Christians have been overcome in conflicts with science, it was "because they have always fought for more than the Christian dogma; because ... they have failed to recognise that all except the central core of revealed truth is human addition, and therefore fallible, changeable, and obnoxious to decay; and because they have defended the accidental and temporary vestment of truth with as much obstinacy as they defended truth itself" ("Reason and Faith," V July 1861, 182.). To rescue the Catholic cause from its unworthy defenders and to demonstrate the harmony of faith and reason, Simpson wrote two articles on "Reason and Faith" which were published in the summer of 1861.

The danger of conflicts between religious authority and inductive science might be avoided, Simpson said, if each were confined to its proper sphere. The sphere of science is the world of phenomena; the sphere of faith is the world of spirit. Even in matters of faith, the mind must operate according to its own laws, and it is a requisite of faith that its articles should not contradict the laws of reason. Faith is not a distinct faculty of the soul opposed to reason, but "is only function of reason, one of its modes of working" (172). There would be no contradiction between faith and reason, were it not for the failure to distinguish the internal element of faith, the dogmas, from the external element, their evidences. The latter element is not the object of faith; therefore Biblical criticism, while it may affect the proof of dogmas, can never affect the dogmas themselves. Hence the Christian may "hold fast to the faith, while all else is in a state of confusion and transition, because the dogmas of the faith are addressed to those powers of the intellect which transcend the sphere of phenomena in time and space, to which science is confined" (184). [143/144]

Simpson spoke in "Reason and Faith" of the Catholic faith as "limited to the invisible substance, and the few individual facts in which this substance was manifested" (2nd article: V Sept. 1861, 329). The Church's infallibility is restricted to questions which are wholly religious, or to the religious element of mixed questions. In matters not of faith or morals, such as history, politics or science, Simpson did not regard himself as bound by the decisions of the Church. He acknowledged that the Church possessed a practical right to interfere in such matters, by virtue of her function as the guardian of faith. Nonetheless, such disciplinary prohibitions, thou h binding in practice, make no claim to the interior assent of Catholics but only require "a silent acquiescence" (337). The danger of such interferences lies in the fact that the Church is frequently involved in the prejudices of the ignorant.

If students in theology are forced to suck in the theories which ages of ignorance have foisted on Moses, when they have to work as clergymen they will experience in their own persons the way in which Church and Scripture have been exposed to the contempt of intelligent infidels who, after hearing divines teaching physical falsehoods as Bible truths, have mocked at the same men when they claimed credence for biblical faith and morals; for most people have at least biblical knowledge enough to be aware that those who are found unfaithfui in what men can see, are not to be believed when they speak of heavenly things that men cannot see. [338]

The divine character of the Church may be overshadowed by the human weaknesses of its leaders. "There is danger in all cases of interf the ground of its supposed ill-effects on faith, lest the interfering authorities should mistake their own irritation for a scandal growing up in the minds of the masses." The Church should cultivate versatility and extend its patronage to all knowledge, allowing freedom in doubtful matters. "In intellectual encounters the Church and the world must always use the same weapons; they must argue upon the [144/145] common principles of reason, and assume the same universally-accepted truths. In her battle with successive schools of philosophy, she has ever fought with their arms: they have passed away, and she remains" (339).

In later years Simpson's articles were to provide the substance for the charge of Modernism often made against the Liberal Catholics. Simpson's emphasis on the "central core" of faith sounds Modernistic, but it meant something different from the Modernist viewpoint. The Modernists were prepared to see dogmas changed or abandoned in conformity with the progress of scientific criticism. Simpson, on the other hand, regarded dogma as the essence of that inward core of religion which he declared to be immutable. Liberal Catholicism cannot be held responsible for the errors of Modernism. It stands by itself as a response to the intellectual challenges facing the Catholic religion in the middle decades of the nineteenth century.

* * * * *

"Beyond the theological arguments involved) lay the decisive issues of freedom versus authority" (Tonsor, 352). It was the persistent independence of the Rambler, more than its questionable theology, which made it a source of controversy. In 1859, it had come into conflict with ecclesiastical authority on a question of education. In 1860 another controversy arose on the same subject.

The controversy was started by a letter, signed "X.Y.Z.," written by Oxenham in the July Rambler. Oxenharn was at the time an instructor at St. Edmund's Seminary, Old Hall, where he had come into conflict with some of his superiors by his criticisms of Catholic seminary education; see letters from Thomas MacDonnell to Wiseman, 9 Nov. 1860, and Wiseman to Dr. Weathers, 10 Nov. 1860, Westminster Archives. In the "X.Y.Z." letter, he objected to the separate training from boyhood of candidates for the priesthood, the restrictions on their general reading, and the system of "surveillance" by which their behaviour was rigidly supervised. This amounted to a denunciation of the whole seminary system which had [145/146] been established by the Council of Trent. Oxenham sought to replace it with a more general education which would tend to intellectual refinement. In support of his arguments he cited Newman's Dublin lectures to the effect that general knowledge was the best preparation for a professional career. The letter was temperate in tone, "seeking rather to ventilate the question than to lay down the law" (X.Y.Z. [Oxenham], "Catholic Education," III July 1860, 253).

Acton thought that Oxenham's "general view requires and deserves support" (A to S, 12 Jan. 1861, Gasquet, p. 162). Having been educated at Oscott, Acton knew the weaknesses of the Catholic colleges; and his opinions had been confirmed by Northcote, the former editor of the Rambler, who had recently become president of Oscott. A told Simpson:

What is most wanted is a high standard of education in the clergy, without which we can neither have, except in rare cases, good preachers or men of taste or masters of style, or up to the knowledge, the ignorance and the errors of the day. They will have neither sympathy nor equality with the laity. * * * It is no answer to say that an ignorant clergy is good enough for an ignorant laity. They must be equal not only to lay Catholics, but also to Protestants, both lay and clerical. They must be educated with a view to the clever enemy, not only to the stupid friend.

Above all, Acton believed, questions of this kind "require ventilation" to enlighten those who have to decide about them and to inspire confidence in others: "nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity" (A to S, 23 Jan. 1861, ibid., pp. 166-67). 50 Oxenham's educational views met a hostile reception. Ward, who had penetrated the pseudonym of "X.Y.Z.," strongly attacked him in The Tablet under the signature of "A.B.C." But the sharpest criticism of Oxenham came from an unexpected quarter. Newman felt it necessary to speak out, lest it be suspected that he had acquiesced in the use of his Dublin lectures to buttress Oxenham's arguments. Newman regarded the question of seminary education as having been settled by the Council of Trent. To discuss such [146/147] matters in public was to court ecclesiastical censure for the Rambler. But the discussion annoyed Newman "not only for the sake of the Rambler, but for itself" (N to A, 5 July 1861, Ward, Life of Newman, 1, 528). It seemed to him that "X.Y.Z.," and by implication the Rambler, represented an excessively secular outlook, an "intellectualism," which was ultimately subversive of religion. It was in regard to this question of the emphasis to be placed on the intellect that Liberal Catholicism seemed to partake of that "liberalism" which it was the mission of Newman's life to oppose.

Newman replied to "X.Y.Z." in a letter in the Rambler. Not knowing that Oxenham was the author of the "X.Y.Z." letter, Newman chose by accident Oxenham's own initials, "H.O.," for his signature.52 He complained of "X.Y.Z." that "in a lay magazine he has discussed a purely clerical subject" ("H.0 "Seminaries of the Church," III Sept. 1860, 398). The Council of Trent had set up a professedly narrow system that cultivated holiness rather than intellectual attainments. Newman argued that the Dublin lectures had been misunderstood by "X.Y.Z.," and he cited passages to prove that his praise of general education had not been intended to cover the special case of the education of the clergy.

Oxenham was greatly annoyed by this letter. Not suspecting that it had been written by Newman, he thought that "H.O." was the "A.B.C." who had written in The Tablet; and the use of his own initials appeared to him to be a personal attack. He replied with a sharp letter in the November Rambler, saying that "H.O." (i.e., Newman himself) had misunderstood Newman! Oxenham argued that the decrees of Trent had never been formally received in England; they were merely disciplinary and might be changed. Laymen were 'intimately concerned with the education of their clergy and were entitled to discuss the subject. The constitution of the Church contained elements [147/148] not only of monarchy but of aristocracy and democracy. Paraphrasing Newman's argument in "Consulting the Faithful," Oxenham urged that the sensus fidelium be consulted:

The sensus fidelium was a plea among the preliminaries even of dogmatic definitions; nay more, . . - there have been periods in her history when, under the infliction of time-serving or heretical pastors, the Church has, humanly speaking, been thrown back on that sensus fidelium as ... the main preservative of her faith. A fortiori, then, we may suppose that, in matters not of faith, but of practice.... our ecclesiastical rulers would desire to be conversant with the sentiments of the faithful. . * * But this is impossible without a free ventilation of such questions. [X.Y.Z.,11 "Catholic Education," Rambler, n.s., IV (Nov. 1860), 103]

Oxenham had turned Newman's arguments against him, particularly the arguments of the article "On Consulting the Faithful" which had caused Newman so much trouble. Acton thought that Oxenham had had the better of the controversy: "X.Y.Z. is really a treasure of knowledge, temper and sense.... His treatment of Newman is exquisite, quoting him against himself so often" (A to S, 28 Nov. 1860, Gasquet, p. 150) But Oxenham, learning that Newman, whom he admired, had been his antagonist, was completely crushed. He found himself in the ludicrous position of having asserted that Newman had misinterpreted his own words. Oxenham wrote to Wetherell to assure Newman that he would never have answered him as he did if he had known whom he was opposing. Newman answered that he had not been offended: "On the contrary, I was very much amused to find with what good will he laid on me, and with what simple good faith" (N's endorsement on letter of Wetherell to N, 21 Dec. 1860, Newman-MSS). Nonetheless Oxenham determined to withdraw from the discussion.

The controversy was kept alive by the pertinacity of W. G. Ward. Ward, who had taught at St. Edmund's, was well aware of the weaknesses of the Catholic colleges. "The whole philosophical fabric which occupies our colleges is rotten from the roof to the floor ... it intellectually debauches [148/149] the students' minds" (Ward to S, n.d., cited in Gasquet, p. xxxvii). Nonetheless he violently opposed the theories of "X.Y.Z." In "Catholic Education," a letter in the Rambler for January 1861, Ward protested against the public discussion of an ecclesiastical question, which amounted to an indictment of the episcopate "before the miscellaneous readers of a lay periodical" (272). He defended the principles of the existing system. The main work of Christians was their own sanctification; Catholic education was based upon the principle that men must be trained for holiness and not for mere intellectual pleasure. In his attack on the worship of intellect, to which he ascribed no place in man's true perfection, Ward showed some sympathy with the theories of the Abbé Gaume, who wished to eliminate the classics altogether from Catholic higher education. Ward, less extreme than Gaume, argued that the free reading of general literature was dangerous.

Ward procured from Newman a statement of his views on clerical education. Newman described Oxenham's position as "unutterably strange" and "extravagantly novel" -- and supported Ward's general view that holiness was to be preferred above intellectualism: "The more a man is educated, whether in theology or in secular science, the holier he needs to be if he would be saved.... devotion and selfrule are worth all the intellectual cultivation in the world" (N to Ward, 8 Nov. 1860, quoted in Ward, I, 516). Newman's action in this case, an example of the way in which he balanced reason with faith, seemed to indicate greater sympathy with Ward than with the Rambler. He urged A to allow no reply to be published to Ward's letter.

Acton, however, thought that Ward's opinions were more dangerous than those of "X.Y.Z." (A to S, 2 3 Jan. 186 1, Gasquet, p. 168). He was concerned to refute the notion that the subject of clerical education was excluded from public discussion. He wished to write an editorial article on the subject; but Wetherell was resolute that the Rambler should not be committed to a position opposed to N's, and Acton's views were eventually [149/150] represented by a letter" -- "S.A.B.S," "Catholic Education," Rambler, n.s., IV (March 1861), 392-6. There is no direct evidence to warrant assigning this letter to Acton, but it represents his views and passages are taken almost verbatim from his letters. Ward's letter had provoked several replies. Oxenham, complained that Ward had misrepresented him. Frederick Oakeley, who had earlier written against Oxenham, now said that he had done good by ventilating the subject, which could not be kept sacred from discussion: "We English live in a land of liberty; and even the Catholic Church herself cannot keep on the outskirts of the national atmosphere" ("Catholic Education," IV March 1861, 399). Simpson, writing under a pseudonym, subjected Ward's arguments to an extended critique. Simpson expressed his preference for the public-school system of Protestant England over the un-English system of separate education, restricted reading and surveillance. A final exchange of letters in the May Rambler concluded the discussion.

The chief result of the controversy had been to produce an estrangement between Newman and the Rambler. The issue of September 1860, in which the "H.O." letter had appeared, had seen Newman's last contribution to the Rambler, the concluding article on "Ancient Saints." The course of the discussion led Newman to decide to contribute no more articles. Meanwhile Acton had given Newman further cause of offence. Father Bittleston of the Birmingham Oratory had written a letter in support of the arguments of "H.O." Newman forwarded this letter to A, who replied frankly that he would not have thought it worthy of publication but for Newman's recommendation. Newman withdrew Bittleston's letter; but, as he wrote later, "this episode clenched what the introduction of the discussion about clerical education had wrought in my feelings about the Rambler" (Note by N, cited in Ward, I, 518. See also A to S, 10 June 1861, Gasquet, p. 190).

In the midst of all the criticism to which the Rambler was being subjected it received a token of respect from a most unexpected quarter. Ward, despite his opposition to the Rambler, retained his friendship with Simpson; and while the [150/151] "X.Y.Z." controversy was still raging he wrote the following letter:

Amidst the differences which I recognize between the Rambler and myself ... I am extremely grateful to you and it for many things. First, you have been bold enough to face much obloquy in refusing to "bow the knee to Baal," to join in the most disgusting chorus of self-laudation, which is the present fashion. I cannot indeed think your "croaking" at all up to mark; but it is refreshing to hear the "croaking" at all. Secondly, I think the Rambler has been the only publication which has shown the ' most distant perception as to the immense intellectual work incumbent upon us, in both theology and philosophy. Even your contributions on "Original Sin" -- though I doubt if they contained two consecutive sentences in which I could concur-yet did this most important service (in my humble opinion): that they opened the way into a new ground which it is absolutely essential that we Catholics should occupy.... At least we agree that all these questions are most momentously important. [Ward to S, n.d., quoted by Gasquet, pp. xxxvi-xxvii]

References

Acton, Sir John. Essays on Church and State. Ed. Douglas Woodruff London, 1952.

Butler, Dom Cuthbert . The Life and Times of Bishop Ullathorne, 2 vols. London and New York, 1926.

Bokenkotter, Thomas S. Cardinal Newman as an Historian. Louvain, 1959.

Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond. The Life of Granville George Leveson Gower, Second Earl Granville. 2 vols. London, 1905.

Hales, E. E. Y. Pio Nono: A Study in European politics and religion in the nineteenth century. London, 1954.

Himmelfarb, Gertrude. Lord Acton: A Study in Conscience and Politics. Chicago, 1952.

Lord Acton and his Circle. Ed. Abbot Gasquet. London, 1906.

Mathew, David. Acton: The Formative Years. London, 1946.

Purcell, Edmund Sheridan. Life of Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster, 2 vols. New York, 1896.

Tonsor, Stephen J. "Lord Acton on Döllinger's Historical Theology," Journal of the History of Ideas XX (June-Sept. 1959).

Ward, Wilfrid. Life of John Henry Cardinal Newman. 2 vols. London, 1912.

Watkin, [Dom] A[elred] , and Herbert Butterfield. "Gasquet and the Acton-Simpson Correspondence," Cambridge Historical Journal, X (1930).

Willey, Basil. "Darwin and Clerical Orthodoxy," 1859: Entering an Age of Crisis, ed. Philip Appleman, William A. Madden and Michael Wolff. Bloomington, Ind., 1959. Pp. 58-59.

Woodward, E. L. "The Place of Lord Acton in the Liberal Movement of the Nineteenth Century," Politica, IV (1939).


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