On the evening of September 9, 2010, Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., President of Fairfield University, delivered a lecture entitled “Two Cardinals: John Henry Newman, Henry Edward Manning and the Victrian Catholic Church” to commemorate the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman. The lecture, free and open to the public, was the first of the 2010-11 lecture series presented by the Center for Catholic Studies.
Dr. Paul Lakeland, Director of the Center for Catholic Studies, welcomed and introduced Fr. von Arx.
The President began by noting that Cardinal John Henry Newman and Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, the two most influential figures in the English Church of the Victorian period, were very different personalities, and had substantive differences of opinion over what the Church “is, should be, and should do,” differences of views which have left their mark on the character of English Catholicism. Newman was a scholar, concerned with the intellectual culture of Catholics, who sought to establish a Catholic College at Oxford for the higher education of a small, wealthy, and established minority of English Catholics and converts. Manning was more concerned with the public sphere, with building the infrastructure of the Church, and especially what he considered to be the greatest need faced by the majority of Catholics in England, who were recent Irish immigrants – and that was elementary and secondary education.
The two also disagreed over the question of authority in the Church. Fr. von Arx described Newman’s view of authority as “rich, complex, and deeply appealing to Catholics today.” Manning’s views were, by contrast, “firmly institutional, rigidly hierarchical, and highly centralized.” In effect, the men “lived in different Churches” – Newman believing in a balance of influence and interplay between pope and bishops, laity and theologians; Manning concerned that the Church should carry out its social mission in the world, believing that firm lines of authority and papal primacy were essential if this was to be done.
As a student with an interest in the history of Catholicism, I found this lecture intriguing and well thought out. Going into the lecture I didn’t know much about this time-period or anything about these two men, but leaving I understood who they were and why they fought so hard for their beliefs. It was easy for me to become engaged in the dialogue of the lecture, which I found absorbing.
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