Shea, “Newman’s Early Roman Catholic Legacy”

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, whose Feast Day has just passed by (October 9–Newman.jpegthe date of his conversion), was one of the most interesting, penetrating, and important minds by which the Church has been graced. Cardinal Newman is the author of, among other things, one of the greatest explications and defenses of the university ever written (“The Idea of a University”), countless magnificent theological works (including many memorable sermons), a fascinating religious autobiography and defense of his views against attack (the “Apologia Pro Vita Sua,” containing one of my favorite lines: “I account it a gain to be surveyed from without by one who hates the principles which are nearest to my heart, has no personal knowledge of me to set right his misconceptions of my doctrine, and who has some motive or other to be as severe with me as he can possibly be.”), and many others. His influence was enormous and he is insufficiently studied today (perhaps one reason is that he so rarely wrote about politics). Here is a very interesting looking new work by C. Michael Shea on his early writing and impact on his Catholic contemporaries, Newman’s Early Roman Catholic Legacy, 1845-1854 (Oxford). Here is the description.

For decades, scholars have assumed that the genius of John Henry Newman remained underappreciated among his Roman Catholic contemporaries. In order to find the true impact of his work, one must therefore look to the century following his death. Newman’s Early Roman Catholic Legacy, 1845-1854 unpicks this claim. Examining a host of overlooked evidence from England and the European continent, C. Michael Shea considers letters, records of conversations, and obscure and unpublished theological exchanges to show how Newman’s 1845 Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine influenced a host of Catholic teachers, writers, and Church authorities in nineteenth-century Rome and beyond. Shea explores how these individuals employed Newman’s theory of development to argue for the definability of the new dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary during the years preceding the doctrine’s definition in 1854. This study traces how the theory of development became a factor in determining the very language that the Roman Catholic Church would use in referring to doctrinal change over time. In this way, Newman’s Early Roman Catholic Legacy, 1845-1854 uncovers a key dimension of Newman’s significance in modern religious history.

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