17 August 2022

Newman and Liberalism and Satan in Gucci

When Saint John Henry Newman received the biglietto signifying his elevation to the rank of Cardinal, he made a speech which has often been quoted; 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, from his Calvinist conversion onwards. 

And, at the end, I will draw attention to a very important realisation of Newman's which is not so often quoted or appreciated because it sits so uneasily with Bergoglian relativism. 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; S John Henry 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 ... Saint John Henry goes on:

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

Snap! Gotcha! Don't even bother to wriggle!

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, nearly a century and a half later, face the devices of the Enemy in our own time.


  1. "...it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth..."

    Perfect word, "snare".

    Masterfully put, heavenly wisdom.

  2. Spot on, dear Reverend Fr. Hunwicke.

    Deo Gratias.

  3. The genesis of the modern horrors of Communism, Fascism, and Socialism in "Enlightenment" liberalism should be very clear to informed people of good will---malgre the obvious simplification of this genealogy.