21 May 2019

Newman and Liberalism and the Spirit of the Antichrist

When was there a more important time to have another look at Blessed John Henry Newman's teaching than this period when we are looking forward to his Canonisation? We need, in particular, to fortify ourselves against any attempted perversion of his teaching, contrived so as to make him appear as a proto-Brgoglian.

When Newman received the biglietto signifying his elevation to the rank of Cardinal, he made a speech which has often been quoted and was partially reproduced by me, a few weeks ago; and I am going to quote it yet again and not least because it beautifully enunciates the essential continuity of his life as a Catholic with his years as an Anglican. But, at the end, I wish to draw attention to a very important realisation of Newman's which is not so often quoted or appreciated. At the same time, we shall give ourselves the pleasure of analysing the rhetoric of this consummate stylist. So here he goes:

For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. ... the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are a matter of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. ... As to Religion, it is a private luxury which a man may have if he will; but which of course he must pay for, and which he must not intrude upon others, or indulge in to their annoyance.

[Note the deft, almost imperceptible skill - so characteristic - with which Newman points to us the paradox that this 'liberalism' is itself a doctrine, an imposed and inexorable dogma. But it is his next observation which, I feel, gives us tremendous material for thought; when he adds that:]

There is much in the liberalistic theory which is good and true ... justice, truthfulness, sobriety, self-command, benevolence .... 

[Ah, we incautiously surmise, Liberalism isn't too bad after all; he admits that Liberalism has its Good Side. But no. Newman has tricked us. He is playing exactly the opposite game. In the spirit of {Locke's} argumentum ad hominem, he is about to pounce. Let us watch carefully, and analyse, how this skilled and merciless cat jumps.

Remember that in his earlier years Newman had been preoccupied with the concept of Antichrist. At the heart of this biblical notion, there is a realisation that the greater an evil and the closer it comes to Ultimate Evil, the more sumptuously the Enemy adorns it with rags and tatters of the good and the true and the noble. An error will be so much more dangerous precisely because it has been made to look so beautiful. So ... Blessed John Henry goes on:]

There never was a device of the Enemy, so cleverly framed, and with such promise of success.

Snap! Gotcha!

Despite its superficial charms, indeed, because of its apparent beauties, Liberalism is diabolical, a trick of Satan.

There is a great warning for us as we, more than a century later, face the devices of the Enemy in our own time.

Despite the powerful protection promised to S Peter and his Successors, even PF has fallen a victim to Satan's tawdry and meretricious glories.

Poor, gullible old man.

1 comment:

Carlos said...

Liberalism is a doctrine, political correctness is its dogmatic body, abortion is its highest sacrament. The protection promised to Peter and his successors is still in effect for Peter and his successors (forgive the redundancy) but not for the thief that came not through the door. The invasion has to happen, that moment of fatuous glory allowed to those who for al practical purposes are already in Hell. In Matthew 16, the story begins with Peter in perfect consonance with the Father. Towards the end, Peter's horror of the Cross makes him recoil and seek refuge in the human ideas of his time: "the Messiah is a conquering general, not a humble miracle worker ..." but that is a diabolical temptation that ends with the words of Our Lord: "Vade retro, satana ..." Perhaps the cycle of the Papacy is represented there with its divine beginning and its ignominious human end. Just saying ...