As we saw in the previous posting on this subject, the organizing members of the Oxford Movement were in general — though not specific or particular — agreement on fundamental principles of Christianity that they believed must be embodied in and taught by the Church of England. They were also in agreement on their opinion that the Church of England was in deadly peril. What they lacked, and what was to show up as the Movement progressed, was an appreciation of the importance of the phases of a movement, and the need to “secure” and continue each phase before going on to the next one.
|Rev. Wm. J. Ferree: the work of social justice is never done.|
All movements go through phases. Nor are any movements exempt from this, however low or high their goals and aspirations. It could even be argued that all movements, even or especially after they have achieved institutionalization, need to retain the essence of each phase without at the same time being held back by or stuck in any particular step or phase.
One of the characteristics of social justice, in fact, is that its work is never done. Even the oldest established and most venerable institutions need to be watched and monitored constantly to ensure that they both remain true to their fundamental principles and be responsive to the needs and wants of all the members of the institution.
Thus, not only must the effectiveness of a movement itself be constantly evaluated and corrective actions taken if it is found to be straying too far from established parameters, but each member of a movement must do the same for him- or herself, personally. Each member of a movement must adjust his or her level of expectations to the particular phase in which the movement finds itself:
· Guerilla War. This is the beginning of the movement as a movement. People come together on the basis of shared ideas and common principles, organize, study, teach, and internalize the principles, methods, and goals of the movement, that is, build solidarity, all with the goal of reforming their institutions — their “social tools” — to conform to what is good and enable those institutions to assist people to attain the good. This phase is primarily concerned with “acts of social charity,” that is, people loving their institutions as they love themselves. At the same time, there may also be “targets of opportunity,” that is, situations in which acts of social justice will be effective, even if not far-reaching in their effects, at least not initially.
· Beachhead. Once a determinant number of people have come together in solidarity and formed a core group, then a systematic program of social justice can be implemented. This involves not merely seeking out or waiting for targets of opportunity but implementing institutional restructuring as a regular program of reform. The effects of reform at this stage may still be limited, but they should be having a material effect on other institutions within a particular milieu and also beginning to affect the common good of all society, that is, the vast network of all institutions of life.
· Campaign. Once a milieu, e.g., Academia, the financial system, organized religion, has been materially reformed (no institution will ever be completely reformed and thus perfect in every way), the movement can begin reaching out beyond the milieu within which it started, and work to bring all the institutions of the common good into material conformity with good principles, viz., the fundamental precept of the natural law, “good is to be done, evil avoided.”
· Victory. Although, as we will see below, the term is somewhat misleading, “victory” is achieved for a movement when a determinant number of institutions of the common good are in material conformity with the natural law, that is, with the good that is human nature and from which the natural law is discerned. It is essential to specify the natural law consisting of the four cardinal or natural virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and — above all — justice, because material conformity with these virtues is the only thing that other individuals and society itself have the right to demand, and the legitimate power to coerce. Conformity with the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and — above all — charity must always be completely voluntary and a matter of free will. Attempts to coerce any supernatural virtue by any authority, civil, religious, or domestic, is a fundamental attack on the dignity and sovereignty of the human person. All forms of socialism, for example, by attempting to substitute charity for justice as the first principle of civil society, violate and degrade essential human dignity by altering, ignoring, or overriding the natural law, the very thing that defines human beings as human beings made in the image and likeness of God.
· Institution Building. Having achieved a state of society in which a determinant number of the institutions of the common good are in material conformity with the precepts of the natural law with respect to their basic structures, the task becomes to “institutionalize” the reforms so that they become “social habits,” that is, true institutions, social tools, that assist people in attaining the good life as members of society within the bounds of the common good, just as individual habits of doing good — virtues (vices are habits of doing evil) — assist people in attaining the good life as individuals. Ultimately, there should never be any conflict between being a good member of society and being a good person. When a conflict between the two appears, then the whole process of social justice begins all over again, although if the initial restructuring and ongoing movement phases are being carried out properly, such corrections will be relatively minor matters.
These phases of a movement help us understand what the members of the Oxford Movement did right and, often more importantly when seeking to duplicate a success, what they did wrong. The latter, as became clear as the Movement progressed, was a failure to build a true solidarity, to agree upon and internalize the fundamental principles that defined the Church of England as a unique and viable institution. Among the former was a shared conviction that there was a serious danger that threatened the Church of England, and decisive action was not only desirable, but essential to the survival of the Church of England as a genuinely Christian body.
|Otto von Bismarck|
Thus, although he is generally marginalized in the history of the Oxford Movement, Hugh Rose was both one of the participants in that first meeting at Hadleigh Rectory (it was, after all, his parish), and a light and intellectual guide of the Movement in its early stages. Rose appears to have awakened to the danger and the need for reform in the mid-1820s when he traveled to the Germanies.
It is important to note that the modern unified country we think of today as “Germany” did not exist prior to 1871 and unification. Under “the Iron Chancellor,” Prince Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck (1815-1898), this created what amounted to two nations in one. This gave a “Prussian Character” to the new nation, engendering something of a schizophrenia that so baffled people trying to reconcile Prussian militarism and the art, music, and literature of the “other” Germany.
Nor did Prussianism come out of nothing. What Rose found in the Germanies was the doctrines of the New Christianity and European type liberalism spreading throughout the Lutheran Church. Appalled at “the rationalizing temper and methods which had supplanted the old Lutheran teaching” (Church, The Oxford Movement, op. cit., 71), Rose realized that the situation in England was moving rapidly in the same direction.
The danger was all the more imminent due to the fact that the clergy of the Church of England, especially the bishops, had lived in a little world of their own for so long that they were completely unprepared for the revolution that was already upon them. As Rose said, “That something must be done is certain. The only thing is, that whatever is done ought to be quickly done.” (Ibid., 75.)
|Edward Bouverie Pusey|
In 1827, after his return, Rose and Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882) engaged in a debate over the seriousness of the danger represented by the “new things” Rose saw in the Germanies, which were, admittedly, only a part of what was spreading throughout Europe at this time. As Pusey downplayed the danger and thought Rose overly concerned about nothing, the debate became acrimonious as Rose’s outrage was met with Pusey’s indignation.
Ironically, after Rose’s death Pusey came to share the former’s views on the danger represented by the “new things,” and became after the departure of Newman the principal champion of Christian orthodoxy in the Church of England. Such was his reputation for learning and scholarship that his involvement beginning early in 1834 was a great gain both within and without the Movement. When Pusey died, he left strict instructions in his will that his writings on the debate between him and Rose were not to be republished.
Unfortunately, although Rose was only a little older than the others in the core group, he may already have been in failing health at the inception of the Movement. He was to die at the relatively early age of forty-three in 1838. Although others such as Newman and Froude were to be more forceful in advancing the Movement, and members like Keble and Pusey to be more in the public eye as champions of the Church of England (at least as far as they were permitted by the powers-that-be), Rose’s intellect, learning, and moderating influence formed the essential character of the Movement in the critical early stages. Something certainly would have been done without him, but it probably would not have had anywhere near the same effect.
Another member of the core group who was critical in the early stages was William Palmer. The idea of forming an association (or, more accurately, a network of affiliated associations) was probably his, and — as we have seen in the laws and characteristics of social justice — organization is an essential feature of effective social action directed to the reform of institutions.
The problem was that Palmer seemed to think that organization was sufficient in and of itself to do what had to be done, and yet at the same time was persuaded to give up the emphasis on forming associations. This caution of Palmer’s (almost debilitating according to Maisie Ward) may have contributed to the failure of the association scheme, which in turn led to the eventual unraveling of the Movement itself once the key man, Newman, was removed.
In social justice, it is not sufficient to have a good idea or sound principles. Because social justice is something specifically social, organization is essential not only to be able to engage in effective action, but also to build solidarity among the core group.
As we have suggested in previous postings on this subject, however, while there was general agreement on principles among the members of the core group of the Movement, there was not the specificity and internalization of the fundamentals that would have enabled all members of the group to act as members of the group. They continued to act primarily as individuals and began forming parties not only in addition to the ones that already existed within the Church of England (and which they were attempting to unify), but within the Movement itself.
|Msgr. Ronald Knox|
This is, in fact, one of the greatest difficulties in effective acts of social justice. Members of the group must come together in solidarity, but without being subsumed into the collective, that is, the group itself. When that happens (all too frequently, especially when social justice and socialism become confused), what is called social justice may remain something social, but it ceases immediately to be justice. In strict justice, the rights and personality of any member of the group, all members of the human race, in fact, must not in any way be violated or degraded, even to gain the greatest good.
At the same time, no member of the group can insist on his or her rights to the exclusion of those of other members of the group (or anyone else, in or out of the group, for that matter), or seek to impose his or her personality on the group to the detriment of other members of the group or the group as a whole. Even outsiders and those who are not members of the inner circle of a group have rights, despite the tendency that Monsignor Ronald Knox observed in cases of “enthusiasm” in which “the ungodly” (i.e., anyone with whom anyone in power disagrees) have no rights, or at least no rights that need be considered.
In any event, a number of plans for forming a network of associations were drawn up and almost immediately rejected. The problem was that apart from the fact that changes in doctrine (fundamental principles) and discipline (applications of doctrine) were a grave and present danger, there was a general inability to decide just how strict and specific the message of the Movement ought to be.
Keble, whom Newman regarded as the true leader of the Movement, held out for an uncompromising statement of orthodox doctrine and a punctilious observance of discipline. Newman and Rose argued for strict adherence to both orthodox doctrine and established disciplines of the Church of England but declared and explained in a less confrontational manner.
It should be noted that none of the members of the Movement was normally aggressive or unkind — although Newman was eventually viewed with trepidation for his habit of unleashing his pent-up sarcasm if he thought it warranted, as he would decades later in his literary altercation with Charles Kingsley. They did, however, advance their views and argue the Movement’s case in a manner that G.K. Chesterton, in reference to the methods of Saint Thomas Aquinas in debate, would describe as “combative.”
|Richard William Church|
As Pope Leo XIII would explain in one of his first encyclicals (Æterni Patris, § 4),, the fact is the Oxford Movement was dealing with the rise and spread of unreason, and the only effective weapon against unreason is reason, forcefully and systematically presented. As Chesterton said, however, “This . . . did not mean bitterly or spitefully or uncharitably; but it did mean combatively.” (G.K. Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas: The “Dumb Ox”. New York: Image Books, 1956, 126.)
Unfortunately, there was “jealousy” (probably a euphemism for suspicion) entertained against the proposal in “high quarters.” (Church, The Oxford Movement, op. cit., 77.) It also didn’t help any when Froude insisted that any association must include the entire church, and thus not a network of individual associations, while Newman, innately shy, had what amounted to a “horror” (Church’s word) of committees and “great people in London” (ibid.).
Still, Palmer’s influential connections and efforts to spread word about the effort to organize associations helped alert the clergy of the Church of England to what was afoot. “Addresses” — petitions — to the Archbishop of Canterbury by both the clergy and the laity (represented by male heads of households), although much watered down, at least served to notify the ecclesiastical authorities what was intended.
What persuaded the group to give up on the proposal to form associations, however, was the unfortunate — at least from the standpoint of social justice — desire to focus on the immediate danger to the Church of England. As Church quoted the decision in his book on the Movement, probably unconsciously echoing similar language coming out of the Vatican,
Every one who has become acquainted with the literature of the day, must have observed the sedulous attempts made in various quarters to reconcile members of the Church to alterations in its doctrines and discipline. Projects of change, which include the annihilation of our Creeds and the removal of doctrinal statements incidentally contained in our worship, have been boldly and assiduously put forth. Our services have been subjected to licentious criticism, with the view of superseding some of them and of entirely remodeling others. The very elementary principles of our ritual and discipline have been rudely questioned; our apostolical polity has been ridiculed and denied. (Ibid., 76.)
Even at this early date, however, it can be seen that discipline and ritual — “safe” subjects” — took a slight precedence over changes in doctrine, which being more fundamental, was also more serious.