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How apparently opposing viewpoints might be reconciled through explanation

4 min • Digitized on April 30, 2023

From A Defense of the Teachings of Mary, page 16
By St. John Henry Newman

Dr. Wiseman (as he then was), in particular, with the keen apprehension which was his characteristic, at once saw in it a basis of accommodation between Anglicanism and Rome.

He suggested broadly that the decrees of the Council of Trent should be made the rule of interpretation for the 39 Articles, a proceeding, of which Sancta Clara, I think, had set the example; and, as you have observed, published a letter to Lord Shrewsbury on the subject, of which the following are extracts:—

“We Catholics must necessarily deplore [England’s] separation as a deep moral evil,—as a state of schism, of which nothing can justify the continuance. Many members of the Anglican Church view it in the same light as to the first point—its sad evil; though they excuse their individual position in it as an unavoidable misfortune. …

“We may depend upon a willing, an able, and a most zealous co-operation with any effort which we may make, towards bringing her into her rightful position, in Catholic unity with the Holy See and the Churches of its obedience,—in other words, with the Church Catholic.

“Is this a visionary idea? Is it merely the expression of a strong desire? I know that many will so judge it; and, perhaps, were I to consult my own quiet, I would not venture to express it. But I will, in simplicity of heart, cling to hopefulness, cheered, as I feel it, by so many promising appearances. …

“A natural question here presents itself;—what facilities appear in the present state of things for bringing about so happy a consummation, as the reunion of England to the Catholic Church, beyond what have before existed, and particularly under Archbishops Laud or Wake. It strikes me, many. First, &c. …

“A still more promising circumstance I think your Lordship will with me consider the plan which the eventful Tract No. 90 has pursued, and in which Mr. Ward, Mr. Oakeley, and even Dr. Pusey have agreed. I allude to the method of bringing their doctrines into accordance with ours by explanation.

“A foreign priest has pointed out to us a valuable document for our consideration,—‘Bossuet’s Reply to the Pope,’—when consulted on the best method of reconciling the followers of the Augsburg Confession with the Holy See.

“The learned Bishop observes, that Providence had allowed so much Catholic truth to be preserved in that Confession, that full advantage should be taken of the circumstance; that no retractations should be demanded, but an explanation of the Confession in accordance with Catholic doctrines.

“Now, for such a method as this, the way is in part prepared by the demonstration that such interpretation may be given of the most difficult Articles, as will strip them of all contradiction to the decrees of the Tridentine Synod. The same method may be pursued on other points; and much pain may thus be spared to individuals, and much difficulty to the Church.” — Pp. 11. 35. 38.

This use of my Tract, so different from my own, but sanetioned by the great name of our Cardinal, you are now reviving; and I gather from your doing so, that your Bishops and the opinion of the public are likely now, or in prospect, to admit what twenty-five years ago they refused. On this point, much as it rejoices me to know your anticipation, of course, I cannot have an opinion.

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