From John Henry Cardinal Newman

November 5, 2011

I’m working on a longer post, but I came across this while reading John Henry Cardinal Newman’s Apologia today and thought it was really well said and a beautiful exposition of precisely why ‘private’ reason must be ‘governed’ as it were by tradition and scripture. Enjoy!

“It is the custom with Protestant writers to consider that, whereas there are two great principles in action in the history of religion, Authority and Private Judgement, they have all the Private Judgement to themselves, and we have the full inheritance and the superincumbent oppression of Authority. But this is not so; it is the vast Catholic body itself, and it only, which affords an arena for both combatants in that awful, never dying duel. It is necessary for the very life of religion, viewed in its large operations and its history, that the warfare should be incessantly carried on. Every exercise of Infallibility is brought out into act by an intense and varied operation of the Reason, both as its ally and as its opponent, and provokes again, when it has done its work, a reaction of Reason against it; and, as in a civil polity the State exists and endures by means of the rivalry and collision, the encroachments and defeats of its constituent parts, so in like manner Catholic Christendom is no simple exhibition of religious absolutism but presents a continuous picture of Authority and Private judgement alternately advancing and retreating as the ebb and flow of the tide;– it is a vast assemblage of human beings with wilful intellects and wild passions, brought together into ne by the beauty and the Majesty of a Superhuman Power, — into what may be called a large reformatory or training school, not as if into a hospital or into a prison, not in order to be sent to bed, not to be buried alive, but (if I may change my metaphor) to be brought together as if into some moral factory, for the melting, refining, and moulding, by an incessant, noisy process of the raw material of human nature, so excellent, so dangerous, so capable of divine purposes.”

(Newman, Apologia, 226).

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