As we saw in Although the members of the Movement were not the only ones objecting to Hampden, they were the only ones singled out as having “persecuted” him., the victory of orthodoxy (more or less) in the matter of the appointment of the Reverend Renn Dickson Hampden, while the high water mark of the Oxford Movement, came at what eventually proved to be a high price.
|Rev. John Keble
What turned the tide, so to speak, and drove a wedge between the Movement and the rest of the coalition that worked to defend the Church of England against encroachment of “Broad Church” doctrines (Liberals, orthodox Low Church, and Evangelicals) was that accusations of “Romanism” changed from a suspicion, to what amounted to an all-out campaign. What made it successful, of course, and allowed latitudinarian, Broad Church beliefs to become entrenched in the Church of England was the fact that the intellectual center of the effort to return the Anglican communion to traditional Christian beliefs and practices was concentrated in the Movement — so the effort was focused on neutralizing people such as John Henry Newman, John Keble, and Edward Pusey.
In an effort to scotch the rumors, Newman began a series of lectures in 1836 intended to calm the fears of creeping Romanism which, from an intellectual point of view and taking into consideration Anglican assumptions, were nothing short of brilliant. The lectures, “Romanism and Popular Protestantism” (later a book with the same title) were, however, a tactical mistake.
|John Henry Newman
Painstakingly honest, Newman — who had never surrendered his belief that the “Roman” Catholic Church, while admirable in many respects, was seriously in error and of necessity condemned — also insisted on giving the Devil his due, and admitted errors in the Church of England, especially the ones that had inspired the Movement in the first place. While condemning the “Church of Rome,” then, at the same time Newman also made of point of mentioning what he considered its “magnificent virtues.” As R.W. Church described Newman’s position at this time,
What now presented itself to Mr. Newman’s thoughts, instead of the old notion of a pure Church on one side, and a corrupt Church on the other, sharply opposed to one another, was the more reasonable supposition of two great portions of the Divided Church, each with its realities of history and fact and character, each with its special claims and excellences, each with its special sins and corruptions, and neither realising in practice and fact all it professed to be on paper; each of which further, in the conflicts of past days, had deeply, almost unpardonably, wronged the other. (Church, The Oxford Movement, op. cit., 143-144.)
Fuel was added to the fire when Newman, Keble, and Pusey began a project to translate the Early Church Fathers into English. While a tremendous scholarly effort and successful from that standpoint (although taking many decades to complete), the material was initially used to support the theory that orthodox Christianity prior to the schism with the Oriental churches in the eleventh century and the Reformation in the sixteenth century was in agreement with the modern (i.e., early nineteenth century) position of the Oxford Movement.
|Richard Hurrell Froude
To do that, of course, required that the commentators, notably Newman, demonstrate that a particular doctrine held by the Early Fathers, the Catholic Church, and the Church of England were in full agreement. At the same time, it was also necessary to show that a doctrine that the Church of England did not currently hold was either not really a doctrine but a discipline (i.e., an application of a doctrine) and therefore subject to legitimate change and differences, or that apparent agreement between the Early Church Fathers and the Catholic Church on a point with which the Church of England disagreed was not really agreement, but a profound difference. The type of theological and historical hairsplitting this required convinced many that Newman and other leaders of the Movement were being “Jesuitical” and Romanists in disguise.
Another blow came with the death of Richard Hurrell Froude and the subsequent publication of his papers by Newman and Keble. Froude had been possibly the strongest supporter of the Catholic-but-not-Roman position, even to the point of adopting many specifically Catholic practices as well as doctrine, but also being equally strong on rejecting papal supremacy and “everything” that came after the Council of Trent held from 1545 to 1563.
This was a fine distinction many people were not prepared to make. To the majority of people in England, you were either Church of England or Catholic if you were Christian. The Orthodox Churches were not considered by anyone except theologians, and “Catholic” meant the Church headed by the pope. When people adopted Catholic usages, they tended to go virtually the whole way, stopping only at papal supremacy. As Froude exclaimed at one point, “There are wretched Tridentines everywhere!”
Thus, when Newman and Keble edited and published Froude’s papers in two volumes, many people were honestly shocked at the degree to which Froude seemed to have gone “papistical,” despite his constant and firm declarations to the contrary. It also did not help that Froude’s diaries were candid, to say the least, and extremely frank in their treatment of popular figures.
That Froude was found to have expressed many religious difficulties in his journals also undermined the image the public had of a man so rock-solid in his faith that nothing could shake him. To this day discussion continues as to whether the publication of Froude’s Remains was all part of a Machiavellian plot by Newman to undermine the Church of England or a foolish act undertaken without consideration of the damage it could (and did) do.
It was probably not the latter, although authorities friendly to Newman attribute it to Newman’s presumed unworldliness, and it was certainly not the former, although to this day that is the standard line by those who view Newman as a traitor to the Church of England. In all probability, it was an example of Newman’s painstaking honesty in everything he did, but most of all in religion. It probably never even occurred to Newman that anyone could be confused over the difference between Anglo-Catholic and Roman Catholic, offended by the fact that someone expressed himself frankly about other people and his own religious difficulties, or outraged about the fact of their publication.