As we saw in As G.K. Chesterton would note a century or so later, the “Hampden Affair” revealed the profound differences between traditional religion (Orthodoxy, 1908) and the invention of a new religion under the name of Christianity (Saint Francis of Assisi, 1923)., the adherents of the “democratic religion” of socialism — which also encompassed what became known as modernism and the New Age — became adamantine opponents of John Henry Newman and the Oxford Movement when it became obvious that the tenets of the New Christianity could in no way be reconciled with orthodox beliefs.
|Chesterton: C of E as long as he could.|
The Hampden Affair also led to development of the specific strategy that would bring the Oxford Movement to an effective end as a force for traditional Christianity and the restoration of a social order based on the natural law. Newman had to be eliminated, and the Broad Church (New Christian/socialist) faction knew exactly how to do it: accuse Newman of being a secret papist. As R.W. Church explained the situation that led to the downfall of Newman and the Movement,
The formation of a strong Romanizing section in the Tractarian party was pro tanto a verification of the fundamental charge against the party, a charge which on paper they had met successfully, but which acquired double force when this paper defence was traversed by facts. But the divergence became clear only gradually, and the hope that after all it was only temporary and would ultimately disappear was long kept up by the tenacity with which Mr. Newman still recognised the gifts and claims of the English Church. (Church, The Oxford Movement, op. cit., 182 [edited].)
Despite the contention on the part of Catholics and Anglicans that Newman exhibited doubts about the claims of the Church of England, there is no real evidence to support it. Honest to a fault (if there can be such a thing) Newman would instantly have resigned his “living” in the Church of England the moment he had any doubt at all regarding the Church of England’s validity — which in point of fact he did.
|Young Mister Newman|
The problem was that there were individuals in the Oxford Movement who began looking at the program not as a way to restore the Church of England, but to return to the Catholic Church. Since these individuals, as was the case with virtually everyone else in the Movement, had been strongly influenced by Newman, they naturally gave the impression that New thought exactly the way they did, even though there was no evidence to support it. It did, however, give the Broad Church party the ammunition they needed to convince the suspicious Evangelical party that the ultimate goal of the Movement was reunion with Rome.
This idea was communicated to the Oxford authorities as well as to the hierarchy of the Church of England, both more political than academic or religious, respectively. Objective truth of any religious doctrine or discipline was therefore not as important as its political considerations — which was one of the chief complaints of the Movement, e.g., the elimination of the Irish bishoprics that began the effort in the first place.
Objectively speaking, the problem with the Oxford Movement as far as the Broad Church faction was concerned was not that it was trying to return to Rome, but to return the Church of England to orthodox Christian belief. The accusation of Romanizing was, frankly, just a useful tool to whip up panic among the Evangelicals and worry among the hierarchy. Whether the Church of England was Anglican or Catholic was a matter of complete indifference to the New Christian Broad Church.
|De Lamennais: hero of the New Christianity|
What mattered was the fact that an effort was being made to counter socialism, modernism, and the New Age, and the establishment and maintenance of the Kingdom of God on Earth. As the work of Dr. Julian Strube of Heidelberg University has demonstrated, this was the goal of “the democratic religion” of socialism, modernism, and the New Age that was a new religion under the name of Christianity.
All that was needed was an excuse to launch a full scale attack to bring down the Movement, and with someone as sincere and as honest as Newman, that would be easy. In fact, it was Newman himself who gave the Broad Church faction all the ammunition they needed.
It revolved around the contention of Newman and others in the Movement that the Church of England is Catholic, but not Roman. Whatever one thinks of this theory, the fact remains that Newman and the others believed it, as do Anglo-Catholics to this day. Newman’s Via Media argument remains a persuasive, even brilliant defense of the theory.
It cannot be stressed enough that although Newman was in a sense driven out of the Church of England as the result of the actions of the Broad Church faction and the subservience of the Anglican hierarchy to the government, nothing on Earth would have caused him to leave the communion into which he had been born had he not been convinced that it was not completely true.
Yes, the machinations of the Broad Church faction engineered the situation, but they could not engineer Newman’s commitment to truth. This would also be the case with other “high profile” conversions over the next century, notably Robert Hugh Benson, Ronald A. Knox, and G.K. Chesterton. It also explains why William H. Mallock did not convert, although he may have been on the verge when he died in 1923.
All of these converted to Catholicism because they became convinced that while the Church of England has a great deal of the truth, something convinced them that only the Catholic Church has the “fullness” (i.e., non-contradictory) of truth. Mallock did not convert because he continued to believe, for all its faults and the distortions forced on it by the socialists, modernists, and New Agers, the true doctrine of the Church of England was orthodox.
Of course, while orthodoxy was the real issue, the Broad Church faction had to divert it into other areas. This was because Evangelicals feared that “Catholic” was de facto “Roman,” and “Roman” meant “non-Christian” or worse. Even though Evangelicals were suspicious of the Broad Church faction — justifiably so, as it turned out — they genuinely feared Rome.
Thus, the Broad Church faction played on the fears of the Evangelicals even though (or especially because) Evangelical Christianity was much closer to Catholicism than it was to Broad Church latitudinarianism. What the Broad Church faction feared and hated was orthodoxy, Anglican or Catholic, since their version of “Christianity” often bore no resemblance to traditional Christianity in fundamental assumptions.
It was at this point Newman made his fatal tactical error: his attempt to reconcile the Thirty-Nine Articles with orthodox Christianity, specifically the doctrines of the Catholic Church that, as Newman and others claimed, were identical to those of the Church of England. Nor was this disingenuous as generations of both Anglicans and Catholics have assumed. Newman believed with all his heart that, although his opinion of “Roman Catholicism” had become somewhat less negative and the church headed by the pope was in error, its doctrines, in common with the Church of England were without error, despite differences in discipline.
The stage was set for what R.W. Church would call “the Catastrophe” within the Church of England.#30#