For articles on the Newman-Kingsley debate, see:
"Clash of Religious Titans: Kingsley vs. Newman" (John Spencer Neumann)
"Newman's Controversies" (Fr. John McCloskey) [The Catholic Answer, March/April, 2002]
From the latter:
Perhaps the best known of all Newman's works, acknowledged as a great classic both of literature and autobiography, is his Apologia Pro Vita Sua: History of My Religious Opinions. This is the book that finally established his reputation as a great Englishman and Catholic. In some way, it prepared for the crowning honor of his life—being named a Cardinal in 1879 by Pope Leo XIII, "when the shadow was lifted forever." Newman was attacked in a magazine by a well-known advocate of Protestant "muscular Christianity," the novelist Charles Kingsley. In the review of an anti-Catholic History of England by J.S. Froude, Kingsley gratuitously attacked Newman by writing, "Truth, for its own sake, had never been a virtue with the Roman clergy. Father Newman informs us that it need not, and on the whole ought not to be'; that cunning is the weapon which Heaven has given to the saints wherewith to withstand the brute male force of the wicked world which marries and is given in marriage. Whether his notion is doctrinally correct or not, it is at least historically so." After an exchange of letters over some months, Newman replied to this insult against himself and the Catholic priesthood with his masterpiece. Newman wrote not to attack Kingsley personally as it was "very difficult to get up resentment towards persons whom one has never seen, but I wish to impute nothing worse to Mr. Kingsley than that he has been furiously carried away by his feelings." He wrote the Apologia to defend himself against the charges of his being "deceitful", hypocritical, and cunning," and as one "who has given up so much so much that he loved and prized and could have retained, but he loved honesty better than name, and Truth better than dear friends.
The book was written as rapidly as possible in six weeks with Newman writing standing up sometimes as long as 22 hours straight in order to get his story before the public. He said' it was "the most arduous work I ever had in my life" in "one of the most terrible trials I ever had." The reviews of the book were universally favorable, and the sales were enormous. His reputation was restored and heightened and indeed even his constant financial worries were over.
Fr. McCloskey concludes:
Reading Newman requires an intellectual effort but it is a refined and elevating taste that once acquired is never lost.
And now a few excerpts from Newman's fabulous Apologia pro vita sua, specifically responding to the false charges of unconcern for truth and insincerity:
Most wonderful phenomenon! An educated man, breathing English air, and walking in the light of the nineteenth century, thinks that neither I nor any members of my communion feel any difficulty in allowing that "Truth for its own sake need not, and on the whole ought not to be, a virtue with the Roman clergy;" nay, that they are not at all surprised to be told that "Father Newman had informed" the world, that such is the standard of morality acknowledged, acquiesced in, by his co-religionists! But, I suppose, in truth, there is nothing at all, however base, up to the high mark of Titus Oates, which a Catholic may not expect to be believed of him by Protestants, however honourable and hard-headed."
. . . I should be committing a crime, heaping dirt upon my soul, and storing up for myself remorse and confusion of face at a future day, if I applied my abstract belief of the latent sensuality of Protestantism, on à priori reasoning, to individuals, to living persons, to authors and men of name, and said (not to make disrespectful allusion to the living) that Bishop Van Mildert, or the Rev. Dr. Spry, or Dean Milner, or the Rev. Charles Simeon "informs us that chastity for its own sake need not be, and on the whole ought not to be, a virtue with the Anglican clergy," . . . "
XII. Reflections on the above.
I shall attempt a brief analysis of the foregoing correspondence; and I trust that the wording which I shall adopt will not offend against the gravity due both to myself and to the occasion. It is impossible to do justice to the course of thought evolved in it without some familiarity of expression.
Mr. Kingsley begins then by exclaiming,—"O the chicanery, the wholesale fraud, the vile hypocrisy, the conscience-killing tyranny of Rome! We have not far to seek for an evidence of it. There's Father Newman to wit: one living specimen is worth a hundred dead ones. He, a Priest writing of Priests, tells us that lying is never any harm."
I interpose: "You are taking a most extraordinary liberty with my name. If I have said this, tell me when and where."
Mr. Kingsley replies: "You said it, Reverend Sir, in a Sermon which you preached, when a Protestant, as Vicar of St. Mary's, and published in 1844; and I could read you a very salutary lecture on the effects which that Sermon had at the time on my own opinion of you."
I make answer: "Oh … Not, it seems, as a Priest speaking of Priests;—but let us have the passage."
Mr. Kingsley relaxes: "Do you know, I like your tone. From your tone I rejoice, greatly rejoice, to be able to believe that you did not mean what you said."
I rejoin: "Mean it! I maintain I never said it, whether as a Protestant or as a Catholic."
Mr. Kingsley replies: "I waive that point."
I object: "Is it possible! What? waive the main question! I either said it or I didn't. You have made a monstrous charge against me; direct, distinct, public. You are bound to prove it as directly, as distinctly, as publicly;—or to own you can't."
"Well," says Mr. Kingsley, "if you are quite sure you did not say it, I'll take your word for it; I really will."
My word! I am dumb. Somehow I thought that it was my word that happened to be on trial. The word of a Professor of lying, that he does not lie!
But Mr. Kingsley re-assures me: "We are both gentlemen," he says: "I have done as much as one English gentleman can expect from another."
I begin to see: He thought me a gentleman at the very time that he said I taught lying on system. After all, it is not I, but it is Mr. Kingsley who did not mean what he said. "Habemus confitentem reum."
So we have confessedly come round to this, preaching without practising; the common theme of satirists from Juvenal to Walter Scott! "I left Baby Charles and Steenie laying his duty before him," says King James of the reprobate Dalgarno: "O Geordie, jingling Geordie, it was grand to hear Baby Charles laying down the guilt of dissimulation, and Steenie lecturing on the turpitude of incontinence."
While I feel then that Mr. Kingsley's February explanation is miserably insufficient in itself for his January enormity, still I feel also that the Correspondence, which lies between these two acts of his, constitutes a real satisfaction to those principles of historical and literary justice to which he has given so rude a shock.
Accordingly, I have put it into print, and make no further criticism on Mr. Kingsley.
J. H. N."
For all of the above from the Apologia, see the online version.
Is this not priceless, and a picture of so much of Catholic vs. Anti-Catholic discourse? Would that I could find theological opponents as clever and conniving, at least, as Charles Kingsley. I don't have to look far to find anti-Catholics casting aspersions on my honesty and truthfulness and apologetic competence (see the sidebar for the "dissing" remarks) — I even have one of such opinions continually hounding me on my own blog as I write —, but they entirely lack Kingsley's presumptuous and perverse charm, chutzpah, and mettle. At least Kingsley stuck around for the correspondence . . .
I think he knew who he was up against early on, and that he couldn't succeed in his purpose, so he quickly retracted. But as Newman shows, the man was lying from the beginning, and couldn't even document the charges he made that Newman cared little for truth. Reading the exchange provides some high comedy and irony indeed. Converts who get accused of ridiculous and outrageous things and whose every move and opinion is scrutinized from cynics who show only scant comprehension of the intellectual, emotional, and psychological dynamics in the process of conversion — let alone understanding of Catholic theology —, can readily relate. Add to that Newman's delightful prose and sometimes gut-bustingly hilarious satirical bent, and you have one of the greatest masterpieces in English and theological literature.
* * *
Anti-Catholic author David T. King has tried to cast aspersions on Cardinal Newman also, by citing his former anti-Catholic opinions and suggesting (ever so subtly) that he "should have known better" (wink, wink) than to convert.
He does this in a paper called "A Discussion on Newman's Pre- and Post-Conversion Positions on the Historical Legitimacy of Roman Catholic Patristic Work" — originally from a discussion on Eric Svendsen's NTRMin Areopagus Discussion Board. The Internet Archive was able to provide me a copy of this paper, which also speaks volumes about the anti-Catholic psyche and mentality.
"Newman came to realize that Rome's claims could not be substantiated on the basis of patristic evidence or the history of the early Church. Thus he found refuge in his "development of doctrine," which got Rome off the hook from having to substantiate its claims by means of the early Church.
[translation of the condescending rhetoric: "Newman (sharp as he was) knew the Fathers and the early Church precluded belief in Catholicism, so he came up with this rationalization and canard of 'development of doctrine' to explain away facts which should have kept him Protestant"]
"But if development proceeds from the seed to the tree (e.g., acorn to the Oak), there has to be the seed from the beginning. But the anachronistic planting of seeds that were never there in the first place is just as barren as the field in which they are imagined."
[translation: "I will engage in self-serving circular reasoning and simply deny that there were even seeds of Catholic doctrines in the early Church, and forget by an act of willful blindness that if I am looking for absence of beliefs in the early Church, my own Protestant view vis-a-vis Church history is doomed to shipwreck. But we mustn't ever apply the same standards to ourselves as we do to dreaded, deceitful Rome."]
This is the same guy who was trying to argue (quite laughably and ridiculously) that Cardinal Newman was a modernist and that Pope St. Pius X thought him to be so. That was, until I showed up and produced a letter from the saintly pope proving otherwise. See:
Protestant Contra-Catholic Revisionist History: Pope St. Pius X and Cardinal Newman's Alleged "Modernism" (Dave Armstrong vs. David T. King)
And this is the guy who wrote about Catholics in Svendsen's forum:
"I already have a very low view of the integrity of non-Protestants in general, and you aren't helping to improve it."
". . . most of you are too dishonest to admit what you really think."
". . . those who wish to ignore the evidence of the fathers themselves, which I have repeatedly found to be typical of the average Roman apologist like yourself. Ignore the evidence and belittle it. I guess that's what works in the world of Roman apologetics."
"It is a typical Roman Catholic tactic to misrepresent one's opponent purposely in order to "name and claim" a victory."
Finally, in the last section of the following paper, I have collected dumb things that anti-Catholics have stated about Cardinal Newman:
Historical Development in the Understanding of Doctrinal Development of the Apostolic Deposit
Dr. Eric Svendsen:
"[Newman's theory of development is] a concept pulled out of the hat by Newman . . ."
". . . this clear lack of patristic consensus led Rome to embrace a new theory in the late nineteenth century to explain its teachings — the theory initiated by John Henry Newman known as the development of doctrine."
"Romish advocates . . . are now content to exchange tradition, which their predecessors had made the basis of their system, for this new foundation of development . . . The starting of this theory exhibits plainly the total rout which the champions of the Roman Church experienced in the battle they attempted to fight on the field of history. The theory of development is, in short, an attempt to enable men, beaten off the platform of history, to hang on to it by the eyelids . . . The old theory was that the teaching of the Church had never varied . . . Anyone who holds the theory of Development ought, in consistency, to put the writings of the Fathers on the shelf as antiquated and obsolete . . ."
Bishop James White:
"You said that usually the Protestant misunderstands the concept of development. Well, before
Newman came up with it, I guess we had good reason, wouldn't you say? . . . those who hang their case on Newman and the development hypothesis are liable for all sorts of problems . . . And as for Newman's statement, "to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant," I would say, "to be deep in Newman is to cease to be an historically consistent Roman Catholic."
Pastor David T. King
"I think Newman's theory is rejected by Pius X. And simply assuming he's not condemning the
theory of development of dogma under the language of "the evolution of dogma" is avoiding
reality. I can't play in that kind of fantasy world."
"Contrast Newman's theory of development with the words of Pius X as given in The Oath Against the Errors of Modernism . . . You'll do your best to explain away these words of Pius X, and do you want to know why? Because you have a precommitment to your erroneous theory, and no amount of historical evidence is going to pry you loose."
"It's a case [of] historical reality vs. historical fantasy. You keep making claims you know nothing about, . . . repeated exposure of grandiose claims made in ignorance . . . It's this kind of posture that is so typical of the average Roman apologist."
"You can weave the web all you desire, but the theory of development is denied and condemned
under the language of "the evolution of dogma" by Pius X."
". . . to be deep into history is to cease using the arguments of Cardinal Newman. If Roman Catholicism is as deeply rooted in history as it claims to be, why do its apologists appeal to development of doctrine so frequently and to such an extent? . . . The argument for development of doctrine, as it's used by today's Catholic apologists, is unverifiable, irrational, and contrary to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It's a nebulous excuse for Roman Catholic teachings being absent and contradicted in early church history."
So much nonsense (filled with factual errors and misrepresentations of Catholic teaching) from small minds against a great man and theological genius . . . It reminds one somewhat of Luther's irrational, asinine rantings against St. Thomas Aquinas and some of the Fathers.