Skip to content
Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

The Oxford Movement (1833-1845)

Free World Class Education
FREE Catholic Classes

The Oxford Movement may be looked upon in two distinct lights. "The conception which lay at its base," according to the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline , 1906, "was that of the Holy Catholic Church as a visible body upon earth, bound together by a spiritual but absolute unity, though divided into national and other sections. This conception drew with it the sense of ecclesiastical continuity, of the intimate and unbroken connection between the primitive Church and the Church of England, and of the importance of the Fathers as guides and teachers. It also tended to emphasize points of communion between those different branches of the Church, which recognize the doctrine or fact of Apostolic Succession " (Report, p. 54). That is the point of view maintained in the "Tracts for the Times" from 1833 to 1841, which gave its familiar name to the "Tractarian" Movement. They originated and ended with John Henry Newman.

But a second, very unlike, account of the matter was put forward by Newman himself in his "Lectures on Anglican Difficulties" of 1850. There he considers that the drift or tendency of this remarkable change was not towards a party in the Establishment, or even towards the first place in it, but away from national divisions altogether. It was meant ultimately to absorb "the various English denominations and parties" into the Roman Church, whence their ancestors had come out at the Reformation. And as Newman had been leader in the Anglican phase of the movement, so he opened the way towards Rome, submitted to it in 1845, and made popular the reasoning on which thousands followed his example. There seems no other instance adducible from history of a religious thinker who has moulded on permanent lines the institution which he quitted, while assigning causes for its abandonment. But this result was in some measure a consequence of the "anomalous and singular position", as Dean Church allows, held by the English Establishment, since it was legally set up under Elizabeth (Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity, 8 May, 1559).

Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

Lord Chatham brought out these anomalies in a famous epigram. "We have", he remarked, "a Popish Liturgy, Calvinistic articles, and an Arminian clergy." Such differences were visible from the first. "It is historically certain," says J.A. Froude, "that Elizabeth and her ministers intentionally framed the Church formulas so as to enable every one to use them who would disclaim allegiance to the Pope." When the Armada was scattered and broken, many adherents of the old faith appear to have conformed; and their impetus accounts for the rise of a High Anglican party, whose chief representative was Launcelot Andrewes, Bishop of Winchester (1555-1626). The Anglo- Catholic school was continued by Laud, and triumphed after the Restoration. In 1662 it expelled from the Church, Baxter and the Presbyterians. But from the Revolution in 1688 it steadily declined. The non-juring bishops were wholly in its tradition, which, through obscure by-ways, was handed on from his father to John Keble and so to Hurrell Froude and Newman.

However, the Laudian or Carolinian divines must not be supposed to have ever succeeded in driving out their Calvinistic rivals, so powerful when the Thirty-Nine Articles were drawn up, and known from Shakespeare's time as Puritans (see Malvolio in "Twelfth Night"). Andrewes himself, though taking St. Augustine and St. Thomas for his masters, did not admit the sacerdotal doctrine of the Eucharist. At every period Baptismal Regeneration, Apostolic Succession, and the Real Presence were open questions, not decided one way or another by "the stammering lips of ambiguous Formularies." If there was a High Church in power, and if what the Arminians held, as it was wittily said, were all the best livings in England, yet Calvin's theology, whether a little softened by Archbishop Whitgift or according to the text of the "Institutes", never did involve deprivation. It was sheltered by the Articles, as Catholic tradition was by the Prayer Book; and the balance was kept between contending schools of opinion by means of the Royal Supremacy.

Suggested by Thomas Cromwell, asserted in Parliamentary legislation under Henry VIII (1534), this prime article of Anglicanism made the king supreme head of the English Church on earth, and his tribunal the last court of appeal in all cases, spiritual no less than secular. It has been said of Henry, and is equally true of Edward VI, that he claimed the whole power of the keys . Elizabeth, while relinquishing the title of Head and the administration of holy rites, certainly retained and exercised full jurisdiction over "all persons and all causes" within the realm. She extinguished the ancient hierarchy "without any proceeding in any spiritual court", as Macaulay observes, and she appointed the new one. She "turned the pulpit ", admonished archbishops, and even supplied by her own legal authority defects in the process of episcopal consecration. The Prayer Book itself is an Act of Parliament. "The supreme tribunal of appeal, in ecclesiastical causes, from 1559 to 1832," we are told, "was that created by 25 Hen. VIII, c. 19, which gave an appeal from the Church Courts to the King in Chancery for lack of justice " (Dodd, Hist. Canon Law, 232). These powers were exercised by the court of delegates; in 1832 they were transferred to the judicial committee of the privy council, whose members may all be laymen ; and, if bishops, they do not sit by virtue of their episcopal office but as the king's advisers. Contrast will drive the matter home. The constituent form of the Catholic Church is the pope's universal jurisdiction (see Florence, Council of; Vatican Council ). But the constituent form of the English Church, as established by Parliament, is the universal jurisdiction of the Crown. In either case there is no appeal from the papal or the royal decision. When Elizabeth broke with the Catholic bishops who would not acknowledge her spiritual headship, and when William III deprived Sancroft and his suffragans who refused the oath of allegiance, a test was applied, dogmatic in 1559, perhaps not less so in 1690, which proves that no cause of exemption can be pleaded against the king when he acts as supreme governor of the Church.

We ask you, humbly: don't scroll away.

Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you.

Help Now >

Such is the doctrine often called Erastian, from Erastus, a Swiss theologian (1524-83), who denied to the clergy all power of excommunication. In England the course of events had run on before Erastus could publish its philosophy. Politicians like Burghley and Walsingham acted on no theory, but drew their inspiration from Henry VIII. The abstract statement of a view which identifies the Church with the nation and subjects both equally to the king, may be found in Hooker, "The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity" (1594-97). It was vigorously asserted by Selden and the lawyers at all times. During the critical years of the nineteenth century, Arnold, Stanley and Kingsley were its best known defenders among clergymen. Stanley declared that the Church of England "is by the very conditions of its being neither High nor Low, but Broad" ("Ed. Rev.", July, 1850). In coarser but equally practical terms men said, "The Church was grafted upon the State, and the State would remain master." No ruling, in fact, of bishop or convocation need be regarded by Anglicans, lay or clerical, unless it implies, at all events tacitly, the consent of the Crown, i.e. of Parliament.

So long as the State excluded Dissenters and Catholics from its offices, the system, in spite of the Great Rebellion, nay after the more truly disastrous Revolution of 1688, worked as well as could be expected. But in 1828 the Test Act was repealed; next year Catholic Emancipation was passed into law. In 1830 the French drove out their Bourbon dynasty; Belgium threw off the yoke of Holland. In 1832 came the Reform Bill, which Tories construed into an attack on the church. What would the Royal Supremacy mean if Parliament was no longer to be exclusively Anglican ? Lord Grey told the bishops to set their house in order; ten Irish bishoprics were suppressed. Arnold wrote in 1832, "The Church, as it now stands, no human power can save." Whately thought it difficult to "preserve the Establishment from utter overthrow." Alexander Knox, a far-seeing Irish writer, said, "The old High Church race is worn out." The "Clapham" sect of Evangelicals, who came down from Calvin, and the "Clapton sect ", otherwise called High and Dry, who had no theology at all, divided "serious" people among them. Bishops were great persons who amassed wealth for their families, and who had attained to place and influence by servile offices or by editing Greek plays. In the presence of threatened revolution they sat helpless and bewildered. From them neither counsel nor aid was to be expected by earnest churchmen. Arnold would have brought in Dissenters by a "comprehension" which sacrificed dogma to individual judgment. Whateley protested against "that double usurpation, the interference of the Church in temporals, of the State in spirituals." A notable preacher and organizer, Dr. Hook, "first gave body and force to Church theology, not to be mistaken or ignored." But it was from Oxford, "the home of lost causes", always Cavalier at heart, still "debating its eternal Church question as in the days of Henry IV ", that salvation came.

Oriel, once illustrated by Raleigh and Butler, was now the most distinguished college in the university. For some thirty years it had welcomed original thinkers, and among its fellows were or had been, Copleston, Whateley, Hawkins, Davison, Keble, Arnold, Pusey, and Hurrell Froude. "This knot of Oriel men", says Pattison, "was distinctly the product of the French Revolution." Those among them who indulged in "free inquiry" were termed "Noetics"; they "called everything in question; they appealed to first principles, and disallowed authority in intellectual matters." The university, which Pattison describes as "a close clerical corporation ", where all alike had sworn to the Prayer Book and Articles, had thus in its bosom a seed of " Liberalism ", and was menaced by changes analogous to the greater revolution in the State itself. Reaction came, as was to be expected, in the very college that had witnessed the provocation. Oxford, of all places, would surely be the last to accept French and democratic ideas.

John Keble (1792-1865) was the leading fellow of Oriel. As a mere boy, he had carried off the highest honours of the university. In 1823 he became his father's curate at Fairford, and in 1827 he published "The Christian Year", a cycle of poems or meditations in verse, refined, soothing, and akin to George Herbert's "The Temple ", by their spiritual depth and devout attachment to the English Church. They have gone through innumerable editions. Keble, though a scholarly mind, had no grasp of metaphysics. An ingrained conservative, he took over the doctrines, and lived on the recollection of the Laudian school. Without ambition, he was inflexible, never open to development, but gentle, shrewd, and saintly. His convictions needed an Aaron to make them widely effective; and he found a voice in his pupil, the "bright and beautiful" Froude, whose short life (1802-36) counts for much in the Oxford Movement. Froude was the connecting link between Keble and Newman. His friendship, at the moment when Newman's Evangelical prejudices were fading and his inclination towards Liberalism had received a sharp check by "illness and bereavement", proved to be the one thing needful to a temper which always leaned on its associates, and which absorbed ideas with the vivacity of genius. So the fusion came about. Elsewhere (see JOHN HENRY NEWMAN ) is related the story of those earlier years in which, from various sources, the future Tractarian leader gained his knowledge of certain Catholic truths, one by one. But their living unity and paramount authority were borne in upon him by discussions with Froude, whose teacher was Keble. Froude, says Newman, "professed openly his admiration for the Church of Rome, and his hatred of the Reformers. He delighted in the notion of an hierarchical system, of sacerdotal power, and of full ecclesiastical liberty. He felt scorn of the maxim, 'the Bible and the Bible only is the religion of Protestants' ; and he gloried in accepting tradition as a main instrument of religious teaching. He has a high severe idea of the intrinsic excellence of virginity. . . He delighted in thinking of the saints. . . He embraced the principle of penance and mortification. He had a deep devotion to the Real Presence in which he had a firm faith. He was powerfully drawn to the Medieval Church, but not to the Primitive." ("Apol.", p. 24)

This Christmas, Light your Free Prayer Candle!

These, remarkably enough, are characteristics of the later phases of the Movement, known as Ritualism, rather than of its beginning. Yet Newman's friendship with Froude goes back to 1826; they became very intimate after the rejection of Peel by the university in 1829; and the Roman tendencies, of which mention is made above, cannot but have told powerfully on the leader, when his hopes for Anglicanism were shattered by the misfortunes of "Tract 90". Keble, on the other hand, had "a great dislike of Rome ", as well as of "Dissent and Methodism." The first years of the revival were disfigured by a strong anti-Roman polemic, which Froude, on his death-bed, condemned as so much "cursing and swearing." But Newman had been as a youth "most firmly convinced that the Pope was the Antichrist predicted by Daniel, St. Paul and St. John." His imagination was stained by the effects of this doctrine as late as the year 1843. In consequence, his language towards the ancient Church only just fell short of the vituperation lavished on it by the Puritans themselves. The movement, therefore, started, not on Roman ground, but in a panic provoked by the alliance of O Connell with the Whigs, of Dissenters with Benthamites, intent on destroying all religious establishments. How could they be resisted? Newman answers in his opening tract, addressed to the clergy by one of themselves, a fellow-presbyter, "I fear ", he tells them, "we have neglected the real ground on which our authority is built, our Apostolical descent." And he made his appeal to the ordination service in other words, to the Prayer Book and the sacramental system, of which the clergy were the Divinely appointed ministers.

The first three tracts are dated 9 September, 1833. Newman and Froude, after their voyage to the Mediterranean in Dec. 1832, had returned in the midst of an agitation in which they were speedily caught up. Keble's sermon in itself not very striking on "National Apostasy ", had marked 14 July, 1833, as the birthday of a "second Reformation." At Hadleigh, H.J. Rose and three other clergymen had met in conference, 25 29 July, and were endeavoring to start a society of Church defence, with machinery and safeguards, as befitted responsible persons. But Newman would not be swamped by committees. " Luther ", he wrote, "was an individual." He proposed to be an Apostolical Luther. He was not now tutor of Oriel. Hawkins had turned him out of office a curious acknowledgement of the vote by which he had made Hawkins provost instead of Keble. But he was Vicar of St. Mary's a parish dependent on Oriel, and the university church. His pulpit was one of the most famous in England. He knew the secret of journalism, and had at his command a stern eloquence, barbed by convictions, which his reading of the Fathers and the Anglican folios daily strengthened. He felt supreme confidence in his position. But he was not well read in the history of the Anglican origins or of the Royal Supremacy. His Church was an ideal; never, certainly, since the legislation of Henry and Elizabeth had the English Establishment enjoyed the freedom he sought. It had issued articles of faith imposed by political expediency; it had tolerated among its communicants Lutherans, Calvinists, Erastians, and in the persons of high dignitaries like Bishop Hoadley even Socinians. It had never been self-governing in the past any more than it was now. If the " idea or first principle" of the movement was "ecclesiastical liberty", it must be pronounced a failure; for the Royal Supremacy as understood by lawyers and lamented over by High Church divines is still intact.

15% OFF for Christmas

On that side, therefore, not a shadow of victory appears. Anyone may believe the doctrines peculiar to Tractarian theology, and any one may reject them, without incurring penalties in the Church Establishment. They are opinions, not dogmas, not the exclusive teaching that alone constitutes a creed. Fresh from Aristotle's "Ethics", where virtue is said to lie in a mean, the Oriel scholar termed his position the Via Media; it was the golden mean that avoided papal corruptions and Protestant heresies. But did it exist anywhere except in books? Was it not "as a doctrine, wanting in simplicity, hard to master, indeterminate in its provisions, and without a substantive existence in any age or country?" Newman did not deny that "it still remains to be tried whether what is called Anglo-Catholicism, the religion of Andrewes, Laud, Hammond, Butler, and Wilson, is capable of being professed, acted on, and maintained . . . or whether it be a mere modification or transition-state of Romanism or of popular Protestantism." The Via Media was an experiment. Perhaps the Established Church "never represented a doctrine at all . . . never had an intellectual basis"; perhaps it has "been but a name, or a department of State" (Proph. Office, Introd.). To this second conclusion the author finally came; but not until during eight years he had made trial of his "middle way" and had won to it a crowd of disciples. The Tractarian Movement succeeded after his time in planting among the varieties of Anglican religious life a Catholic party. It failed altogether in making of the Establishment a Catholic Church.

Palmer, of Worcester College, and his clerical associates presented an address in 1834, signed with 10,000 names, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, defending the imperilled interests. Joshua Watson, a leading layman, brought up one more emphatic, to which 230,000 heads of families gave their adhesion. But of these collective efforts no lasting results came, although they frightened the Government and damped its revolutionary zeal. Mr. Rose, a man of high character and distinction, had started the "British Magazine" as a Church organ ; the conference at Hadleigh was due to him; and he seemed to be marked out as chief over "nobodies" like Froude and Newman. His friends objected to the "Tracts" which were the doing of these free lances. Newman, however, would not give way. His language about the Reformation offended Mr. Rose, who held it to be a "deliverance"; and while Froude was eager to dissolve the union of Church and State, which he considered to be the parent or the tool of " Liberalism " in doctrine, he called Rose a "conservative." Between minds thus drawing in opposite directions any real fellowship was not likely to endure. Rose may be termed an auxiliary in the first stage of Church defence; he never was a Tractarian; and he died in 1839. His ally, William Palmer, long survived him. Palmer, an Irish Protestant, learned and pompous, had printed his "Origines Liturgicae" in 1832, a volume now obsolete, but the best book for that period on the Offices of the Church of England. His later "Treatise on the Church ", of 1838, was purely Anglican and therefore anti-Roman; it so far won the respect of Father Perrone, S.J. , that he replied to it.

Free, world-class Catholic education for anyone, anywhere

Palmer was no Tractarian either, as his "Narrative of Events", published in 1843, sufficiently proves. The difference may be sharply stated. Genuine Anglicans identified the Catholic Church once for all with the local body of which they were members, and interpreted the phenomena whether of medieval or reformed Christianity on this principle; they were Englishmen first and Catholics after. Not so with Newman, who tells us, "I felt affection for my own Church, but not tenderness . . . if Liberalism once got a footing within her, it was sure of the victory in the event. I saw that Reformation principles were powerless to rescue her. As to leaving her, the thought never crossed my imagination ; still I ever kept before me that there was something greater than the Established Church, and that was the Church Catholic and Apostolic, set up from the beginning, of which she was but the local presence and the organ." These divergent views went at last asunder in 1845.

"The new Tracts," says Dean Church, "were received with surprise, dismay, ridicule, and indignation. But they also at once called forth a response of eager sympathy from numbers." An active propaganda was started all over the country. Bishops were perplexed at so bold a restatement of the Apostolic Succession , in which they hardly believed. Newman affirmed the principle of dogma ; a visible Church with sacraments and rites as the channels of invisible grace; a Divinely ordained episcopal system as inculcated by the Epistles of St. Ignatius. But the Erastian or Liberal did not set store by dogma ; and the Evangelical found no grace ex opere operato in the sacraments. Episcopacy to both of them was but a convenient form of Church government, and the Church itself a voluntary association. Now the English bishops, who were appointed by Erastians ("an infidel government" is Keble's expression), dreaded the power of Evangelicals. At no time could they dare to support the "Tracts." Moreover, to quote Newman, "All the world was astounded at what Froude and I were saying; men said that it was sheer Popery." There were searchings of heart in England, the like of which had not been felt since the non-jurors went out. Catholics had been emancipated; and "those that sat in the reformers seats were traducing the Reformation." To add to the confusion, the Liberalizing attack on the university had now begun. In 1834 Dr. Hampden wrote and sent to Newman his pamphlet, in which he recommended the abolition of tests for Dissenters, or technically, of subscription to the Articles by undergraduates. On what grounds? Because, he said, religion was one thing, theological opinion another. The Trinitarian and Unitarian doctrines were merely opinions, and the spirit of the English Church was not the spirit of dogma. Hampden did little more than repeat the well-known arguments of Locke and Chillingworth; but he was breaking open the gates of Oxford to unbelief, as Newman foresaw, and the latter answered wrathfully that Hampden's views made shipwreck of the Christian faith. "Since that time ", says the "Apologia", "Phaethon has got into the chariot of the sun; we, alas, can only look on, and watch him down the steep of heaven." In Mark Pattison's phrase, the University has been secularized. The Noetics of Oriel were followed by the Broad Churchmen of Balliol, and these by the agnostics of a more recent period. From Whateley and Arnold, through the stormy days of "Tract 90" and Ward's "degradation" we come down to the Royal Commission of 1854, which created modern Oxford. Subscription to the Articles was done away; fellowships ceased to be what some one has styled "clerical preserves"; there was an "outbreak of infidelity", says Pattison with a sneer, and names like Arthur Clough, Matthew Arnold, J.A. Froude, Jowett, and Max Müller triumphantly declare that the Liberals had conquered.

15% OFF for Christmas

Newman lost the university, but he held it entranced for years by his visible greatness, by his preaching, and by his friendships. The sermons, of which eight volumes are extant, afforded a severe yet most persuasive commentary upon tracts and treatises, in themselves always of large outlook and of nervous though formal style. These, annotated after 1870 from the Catholic point of view, were reprinted in "Via Media", "Historical Sketches", "Discussions and Arguments", and two volumes of "Essays" (see popular editions of his Works, 1895). Keble republished Hooker as if an Anglo-Catholic Aquinas (finished 1836); and from the chair of poetry were delivered his graceful Latin "Prælections", deeply imbued with the same religious colouring. Hurrell Froude attempted a sketch of his own hero, St. Thomas à Becket, pattern of all anti-Erastians. Bowden compiled the life of Pope Gregory VII, evidently for the like motive. Nor were poetical manifestos wanting. To the "Lyra Apostolica" we may attribute a strong influence over many who could not grasp the subtle reasoning which filled Newman's "Prophetic Office." Concerning the verses from his pen, A.J. Froude observes that, in spite of their somewhat rude form, "they had pierced into the heart and mind and there remained." "Lead, Kindly Light", he adds, "is perhaps the most popular hymn in the language." Here, indeed, "were thoughts like no other man's thoughts, and emotions like no other man's emotions." To the "Lyra", Keble and others also contributed poems. And High Anglican stories began to appear in print.

But inspiration needed a constant power behind it, if the tracts were not to be a flash in the pan. It was given in 1834 and 1835 by the accession to the movement of E.B. Pusey, Canon of Christ Church and Hebrew professor. Pusey had enormous erudition, gained in part at German universities ; he was of high social standing (always impressive to Englishmen), and revered as a saint for his devout life, his munificence, his gravity. Though a "dull and tedious preacher", most confused and unrhetorical, the weight of his learning was felt. He took the place that Mr. Rose could not have occupied long. At once the world out of doors looked up to him as official head of the movement. It came to be known as "Puseyism" at home and abroad. University wits had jested about "Newmaniacs" and likened the Vicar of St. Mary's to the conforming Jew, Neander; but "Puseyite" was a serious term even in rebuke. The Tractarian leader showed a deference to this "great man " which was always touching; yet they agreed less than Pusey understood. Towards Rome itself the latter felt no drawing; Newman's fierceness betrayed the impatience of a thwarted affection. "O that thy creed were sound, thou Church of Rome !" he exclaimed in the bitterness of his heart. Pusey, always mild, has none of that "hysterical passion." Neither did he regard the judgment of bishops as decisive, nor was he troubled by them if they ran counter the Fathers teaching, so intimately known to this unwearied student.

We ask you, humbly: don't scroll away.

Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you.

Help Now >

He was "a man of large designs", confident in his position, "haunted by no intellectual perplexities." He welcomed responsibility, a little too much sometimes; and now he gave the tracts a more important character. His own in 1835 on Holy Baptism was an elaborate treatise, which led to others on a similar model. In 1836 he advertised his great project for a translation or "library" of the Fathers, which was executed mainly in conjunction with the pious and eccentric Charles Marriot. The republication of Anglican divines, from Andrewes onwards, likewise owed its inception to Pusey. The instauratio magna of theology and devotion, intended to be purely Catholic, thus made a beginning. It has taken on it since the largest dimensions, and become not only learned but popular; Anglican experts have treated the liturgy, church history, books for guidance in the spiritual life, hymnology, architecture and ritual with a copious knowledge and remarkable success. Of these enterprises Dr. Pusey was the source and for many years the standard.

In 1836 Hurrell Froude, returning from Barbadoes in the last stage of weakness, died at his father's house in Devonshire. His "Remains", of which we shall speak presently, were published in 1837. Newman's dearest friend was taken from him just as a fresh scene opened, with alarums and excursions to be repeated during half a century -- legal "persecutions", acts of reprisals, fallings away on the right hand and the left. Froude died on 28 February, 1836. In May Dr. Hampden -- who had been appointed, thanks to Whateley, Regius Professor of Divinity on 7 Feb. -- was censured by the heads of houses, the governing board of the university, for the unsound doctrine taught in his "Bampton Lectures". All the Oxford residents at this time, except a handful, were incensed by what they considered the perils to faith which Dr. Hampden's free-thought was provoking. But it was Newman who, by his "Elucidations", pointed the charge, and gave to less learned combatants an excuse for condemning what the had not read. Nemesis lay in wait on his threshold. The Evangelicals who trooped into Convocation to vote against Hampden "avowed their desire that the next time they were brought up to Oxford, it might be to put down the Popery of the Movement."

At this date even Pusey celebrated the Reformers as "the founders of our Church "; and that largely fabulous account of the past which Newman calls "the Protestant tradition" was believed on all sides. Imagine, then, how shocked and alarmed were old-fashioned parsons of every type when Froude's letters and diaries upset "with amazing audacity" these "popular and conventional estimates"; when the Reformation was described as "a limb badly set", its apologist Jewel flung aside as "an irreverent Dissenter", its reasoning against the Catholic mysteries denounced as the fruit of a proud spirit which would make short work of Christianity itself. Froude, in his graphic correspondence, appeared to be the enfant terrible who had no reserves and no respect for "idols" whether of the market-place or the theatre. Friends were pained, foes exultant; "sermons and newspapers", says Dean Church, "drew attention to Froude's extravagances with horror and disgust." The editors, Keble no less than Newman, had miscalculated the effect, which was widely irritating and which increased the suspicion their own writings had excited of some deep-laid plot in favour of Rome (Letter to Faussett, June, 1835). To be at once imprudent and insidious might seem beyond man's power; but such was the reputation Tractarians bore from that day. Froude's outspoken judgments, however, marked the turning of the tide in ecclesiastical history. "The divines of the Reformation ", continues Dean Church, "never can be again, with their confused Calvinism, with their shifting opinions, their extravagant deference to the foreign oracles of Geneva and Zurich, their subservience to bad men in power, the heroes and saints of Churchmen." Since Cobbet's indictment of the Reformation no language had so stirred the rage of "general ignorance ", long content to take its legends on trust. Froude's "Remains" were a challenge to it in one way, as the "Library of the Fathers" was in another, and yet again the ponderous "Catenas" of High Church authorities, to which by and by the "Parker Society " answered with its sixty-six volumes, mostly unreadable, of the Cranmer, Bullinger and Zurich pattern. The Reformation theology was doomed. What the " Anglican regiment" has accomplished, J.A. Froude proclaims, "is the destruction of the Evangelical party in the Church of England."

FREE Catholic Classes Pick a class, you can learn anything

When Samson pulled down the temple of the Philistines, he was buried in its ruins. Newman did not shrink from that sacrifice; he was ready to strike and be stricken. Though Hampden's condemnation would never have been carried by the Tractarians alone, they gave it a force and an edge in the very spirit of Laud. To put down false teachers by authority, to visit them with penalties of censure and deprivation, they held was the duty of the Church and of the State as God's minister. They would have repealed Catholic Emancipation. They resisted the grant to the College of Maynooth. They had saved the Prayer Book from amendments, and frightened politicians, who would have distributed the spoils of the Church among more or less "Liberal" schemes. By the year 1838 they had won their place in Oxford; the "Times" was coming over to their side; Bampton Lectures were beginning to talk of Catholic tradition as the practical rule of faith ; and Evangelicals, infuriated if not dismayed, were put on their defence. Whateley from Dublin, Hawkins, Faussett, Hampden, Golightly, in Oxford, were calling up a motley array, united on one point only, that Tractarians must be handled as the emissaries of Rome. Dr. Arnold in the Edinburgh launched an invective against the "Oxford Malignants", accusing them of "moral dishonesty." Newman's former friend, Whateley, shrieked over "this rapidly increasing pestilence", and transfixed its leaders with epithets; they were "veiled prophets "; their religion was "Thuggee"; they were working out "infidel designs." Lord Morpeth in the House of Commons trampled on "a sect of damnable and detestable heretics lately sprung up at Oxford", and mentioned Newman by name. From every quarter of the compass a storm was blowing up; but it moved round a thunder cloud called "Rome".

"Just at this time, June, 1838", says Newman, "was the zenith of the Tract Movement." A change of fortune began with his bishop's charge, animadverting lightly on its Roman tendencies, to which the answer came at once from Newman, that if it was desired he would suppress the tracts. It was not asked of him; but he had written to Bowden the significant words, "I do not see how the bishop can materially alter his charge or how I can bear any blow whatever." Some of his friends objected to publishing the tract on the Roman Breviary ; for it was not then realized how much the Anglican Prayer Book owes to Catholic, i.e. to Latin and papal sources. Newman impatiently rejoined that they must have confidence in him. To Keble he disclosed his idea of giving up the tracts, the "British Critic", and St. Mary's. For while preaching High Anglican doctrine, he said, "one cannot stop still. Shrewd minds anticipate conclusions, oblige one to say yes or no." He collected in January, 1839, "all the strong things" which he and others had flung out against the Church of Rome, and made of them "advertisements" to the Puseyite publications. By way of protest on the Low Church side, bishops, clergy, and laity united in the Martyrs Memorial to Cranmer and Latimer, set up near the spot where they suffered, in front of Balliol College. But the tracts were selling faster than the printers could meet the demand. In July, Newman, taking up again his always projected and never issued edition of Dionysius of Alexandria, plunged into the record of the Monophysites and the Council of Chalcedon. In September he wrote to F. Rogers, "I have had the first real hit from Romanism"; an allusion to Wiseman's telling article on the Donatist schism in the "Dublin" for August. Walking with H. Wilberforce in the New Forest he made to him the "astounding confidence" that doubt was upon him, thanks to "the position of St. Leo in the Monophysite controversy, and the principle 'Securis judicat orbit terrarum' in that of the Donatists." A vista had opened to the end of which he did not see. His mind was never settled again in Anglicanism. "He has told the story with so keen a feeling of its tragic and pathetic character ", as Dean Church truly says, "that it will never cease to be read where the English language is spoken." It was the story of a deliverance. But still Samson paid for it with all he held dear.

FREE Learning Resources - Download Today - Printable PDF's

Parallels from antiquity might affect a student like Newman. To the many, inside or beyond Oxford, they meant nothing. The live question always was, how to combat Rome, which appeared at the end of every vista as the goal of Tractarian reasoning. The "shrewd minds " which now harried and drove on their leader did not take to any "middle way"; these men cut into the movement at right angles and sang loudly Tendimus in Latium , they were pilgrims to St. Peter's shrine. J.B. Morris, Dalgairns, Oakeley, Macmullen (converts in the sequel), came round Newman while his older associates had not advanced. But the captain of the band was W.G. Ward, lecturer at Balliol, a friend of Stanley's and for a time attracted by Arnold, then suddenly changed for the good by the sermons at St. Mary's, with his one sole article of faith, Credo in Newmannum. Ward, a strange, joyous, provoking figure, pervading the university with his logic and his jokes,was the enfant terrible of this critical time as Froude had been previously. They differed in a hundred ways; but both certainly urged Newman forward at a pace he would not have chosen. Froude "did not seem to be afraid of inferences"; Ward revelled in them. It was Froude who first taught Newman "to look with admiration towards the Church of Rome." Ward, of all men the least inclined to compromise, did not care one jot for the Church of England, except insofar as it could be proved Catholic, by which he understood, as Protestants and Liberals did before him, the doctrine and discipline of the papal communion. He had "the intellect of an archangel", as he said ingenuously; his acuteness and audacity were a continual challenge to Newman, who partly resented but still more yielded to them; and so the problem took a formidable shape: how much on "infused Catholicism " would the Establishment bear. It was "like proving cannon." The crucial test was applied in "Tract 90", which came out on 27 February, 1841. Once more, as in the case of Froude's "Remains", Newman miscalculated. He had drifted so far that he lost sight of the ever-enduring Protestantism which, to this day, is the bulwark of the national feeling against Rome. He thought his peace-offering would not cause offence. But Ward prophesied, and his instinct proved true, that it would "be hotly received." A lively epistle from Church (afterwards Dean of St. Paul s) to F. Rogers at Naples shows the storm raging early in March. What "Tract 90" affirmed was that the Thirty-Nine Articles might be signed in a Catholic, though not in a Roman sense; that they did not condemn the Council of Trent, which in 1562, the date of their publication, was not ended; and that a distinction must be drawn between the corruptions of popular religion and the formal decrees approved by the Holy See. It is now admitted, in the language of J.A. Froude, that "Newman was only claiming a position for himself and his friends which had purposely left open when the constitution of the Anglican Church was framed." But he appeared to be an innovator and, in that excited season, a traitor. The Philistines held him bound by his own cords; Erastians or Evangelicals, they well knew that his bishop would not shield him from attack. Four leading tutors, egged on by the fanatical Golightly, and including A.C. Tait, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, demanded the writer's name and charged him with dangerous tendencies. The hebdomadal board now retorted on Newman the "persecution" dealt out on Hampden. They would not wait even twelve hours for his defence. They resolved on 15 March, that "modes of interpretation such as are suggested in the said Tract, evading rather than explaining the sense of the Thirty-nine Article, and reconciling subscription to them with the adoption of errors, which they were designed to counteract, defeat the object, and are inconsistent with the due observance of the above mentioned Statutes."

This anathema was posted up on every buttery hatch, or public board, of the colleges, as a warning to undergraduates. Newman acknowledged his authorship in a touching letter, perhaps too humble ; and a war of pamphlets broke out. Keble, Palmer, and Pusey stood up for the tract, though Pusey could not bring himself to approve of its method unconditionally. But Ward, with great effect, hurled back the charge of "insincerity" on those who made it. How could Whateley and Hampden use the services for baptism, visitation of the sick, or

Join the Movement
When you sign up below, you don't just join an email list - you're joining an entire movement for Free world class Catholic education.

40 Days of Deals this Christmas season of 2022
Daily Readings logo
Saint of the Day logo

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2022 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2022 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!