Chadwick, Owen
OUP (1983)

After you have plunged into the inevitable torrent of writing consequent upon Pope Benedict XVI's long overdue expediting of the canonisation of Cardinal < John Henry Newman > you could do much worse than take a couple of hours to read Owen Chadwick's cool and warm essay on Newman's significance to the Churches of England and Rome in his lifetime and in the 20th Century.

Chadwick's central thesis is that in spite of the apparent disjuncture of his abandonment of the Church of England’s < Oxford Movement > in 1845 to join the Roman Catholic Church, the cast of his mind and the development of his theology were organic. He sought to understand the Christian heritage in the context of the organic development of theological insight and for that reason he was better equipped than any of his Christian contemporaries to: re-orient the Church of England from Protestant exceptionalism into a more coherent understanding of its Christendom self; face head-on the challenge of empirical science in general and Darwin in particular; and to bring the post Vatican I, ultramontanist Roman Catholic Church back in touch with its own, less prescriptive and proscriptive origins.

By remaining steadfast to the principle that theology is the greatest of the disciplines, he was able to be generous, within their limits, to the physical sciences and history and he therefore saved Rome from ridicule until it elected Leo XIII who made Newman a Cardinal as part of his long-term strategy to integrate dogmatic and social questions.

This book is no starting point for understanding Newman - it is, curiously and unforgivably, silent, given the overall soundness of Chadwick's estimation of Newman's mind, on the  mental processes which took Newman in less than five years from being the intellectual power house of the Oxford Movement to being a humble Priest of Rome - but it is an illuminating synthesis of The Cardinal's life and writing, not least because it exposes Newman's own self delusion on such issues as his self supposed anti liberalism. Chadwick also effectively demonstrates the confusion which arose because of the apparent dichotomy of his spiritually fired intellect and his spiritually ingrained humility.

Chadwick's conclusion, which we will have the opportunity to test in September this year, is that in spite of his desertion of the Church of England and his constant boundary probing within the Catholic Church which led one member of the Curia to dub him "the most dangerous man in England" the two denominations which he graced are unsparing in their rivalry to love him most.