As we saw in the previous posting on this subject, back in the middle of the nineteenth century a man named Charles Kingsley, a successful and well-known Anglican clergyman, seemingly out of the blue attacked a semi-retired Catholic clergyman by the name of John Henry Newman, a convert to Catholicism who was regarded even by himself as a failure.
|John Henry Newman|
As far as Newman and others were concerned, everything had gone right for Newman when he was an Anglican clergyman and had gone horribly wrong when he became a Catholic clergyman. Kingsley’s attack came across to many people, even many of Kingsley’s friends, as kicking a man when he was down.
Newman made the matter public in his Apologia Pro Vita Sua after Kingsley published additional calumnies and heaped abuse on him and the Catholic Church. At that point, virtually everyone except those who were extreme bigots realized how unfairly Kingsley had treated Newman. Newman’s reputation soared, and public opinion of Catholicism reached a point that the old prejudices, if not eliminated, were at least seen as being in extremely poor taste.
The puzzle remains, however. Why did Kingsley attack Newman? Mere anti-Catholic bigotry might explain the initial sneering jibe in Kingsley’s review of James Anthony Froude’s History of England, but not the near-hysteria that followed. As Wilfred Philip Ward (father of Mary Josephine “Maisie” Ward, noted biographer of G.K. Chesterton and John Henry Newman) related,
|Wilfred Philip Ward|
How deep and habitual Kingsley’s feeling of animosity was, we see from some words written while his pamphlet [What Then Does Dr. Newman Mean?] was in preparation, to a correspondent who had called his attention to a passage in W.G. Ward’s “Ideal of a Christian Church” which appeared to justify Kingsley’s charge against Newman and his friends. “Candour,” Mr. Ward had written, “is an intellectual rather than a moral virtue, and by no means either universally or distinctively characteristic of the saintly mind.” If “candour” meant “truthfulness,” such an admission was surely significant. (Wilfred P. Ward, The Life of John Henry Cardinal Newman, Vol. II. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912, 7.)
It is interesting to note that the “W.G. Ward” (William George Ward) named was the father of Wilfred Ward and the subject of a biography by his son. Surprising many people, the circle of participants in the “Oxford Movement” and those directly interacting with it was, relatively speaking, very small, but of enormous influence.
|William George Ward|
For example, a politician’s “No comment” is often a more or less polite way of saying “None of your business” to people who have no right to know something or who will use knowledge of something to cause harm. That, of course, is not permission to lie, even by misdirection or mental reservation, but if relating a truth in a truthful yet indirect or more diplomatic manner will not result in harm or cause less harm, then prudence and charity may dictate doing so, just as remaining silent instead of volunteering information may be prudent or charitable. After all, if the Gestapo did not come to your door and ask if you are hiding Jews in your cellar, you are not obliged to run after them and inform them of the fact.
It is thus preferable in some instances to phrase things differently yet still tell the truth, or even remain completely silent out of charity and not express one’s self at all if it is not essential and the truth is not thereby endangered. Candor should be guided by prudence, while truthfulness should be guided by justice and charity. In any event,
Kingsley replied that he was using the passage from Ward’s book in his forthcoming pamphlet, and added: “I am answering Newman now, and though of course I give up the charge of conscious dishonesty, I trust to make him and his admirers sorry that they did not leave me alone. I have a score of more than twenty years to pay, and this is an installment of it. (Ibid., 8.)
In other words, Kingsley admitted that his original accusation against Newman was false; the concept of “conscious dishonesty” is interesting, if not entirely meaningful in ethics, as it implies unconscious dishonesty. Are you really lying if you think you are telling the truth?
|James Anthony Froude|
It is possible to be mistaken, certainly, but lying? In any event, Kingsley had failed to condemn Newman with a demonstrably false accusation. He therefore compounded his original injustice by stating his intention to keep on slinging mud at Newman and at the Catholic Church until something finally stuck.
At first glance this sounds like the whining of some kind of paranoid or psychotic. “Leave [him] alone”? The entire situation from start to finish had been instigated by Kingsley, whom Newman had never met and with whom he had never communicated!
Matters become a little clearer when we discover that James Froude, the author of the book Kingsley reviewed in Macmillan’s Magazine, was the youngest brother of Richard Hurrell Froude (1803-1836), and Hurrell was one of Newman’s best friends during his tenure at Oxford University, but who died young. Paradoxically, James Froude greatly admired Newman, even after Newman converted to Catholicism and Froude abandoned Christianity in any meaningful sense. As he said of Newman,
|Richard Hurrell Froude|
When I entered at Oxford, John Henry Newman was beginning to be famous. The responsible authorities were watching him with anxiety; clever men were looking with interest and curiosity on the apparition among them of one of those persons of indisputable genius who was likely to make a mark upon his time. . . . Both [Newman and Julius Caesar] were formed by nature to command others, both had the faculty of attracting to themselves the passionate devotion of friends and followers. (Quoted in John Moody, John Henry Newman. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1945, 58.)
(John Moody, 1868-1958, by the way, was the founder of Moody’s Investor’s Service, and like Newman, with whom he seems to have felt some affinity, a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism. He pioneered the rating of bonds so that investors could judge the soundness of their investments more easily.)
As a historian, Froude was more than a little slapdash. Rather ironically in light of Kingsley’s accusation against Newman, Froude’s habit of deviating from strict truth in his works led serious scholars to label his sort of fictionalized history “Froude’s Disease.”
And yet, as we shall see, Froude did not hate Newman — just the opposite, in fact.#30#