John Henry Newman: one step enough for me

Pope Benedict XVI today recognised the healing of Deacon Jack Sullivan in 2001 as a miracle resulting from the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God John Henry Newman. So with that slightly bonkers preamble, Cardinal Newman’s progress to sainthood seems assured. The former Oxford don and Anglican rector turned Roman Catholic prelate went on to found University College Dublin, a role which the college handsomely acknowledges. His idea of a university valiantly tried to reconcile the teaching of Revealed Truth with open enquiry rather than creating a narrow theological seminary. For that, Newman deserves much praise. In the mid C19, the idea of English ( but not Scottish) universities dominated by clergy was only starting to retreat, as in his beloved Oxford, so this was a seriously progressive move. It paved the way to the foundation of the great municipal universities which broke the Oxbridge duopoly. But Newman’s original ambition was just a bit more than today’s UCD acknowledges. It was to turn the Dublin college into the main place of learning for all Catholic “gentlemen” throughout the then United Kingdom. It never got to first base. This was never one of Cardinal Cullen’s aims.

  • I’m far from Cullen’s biggest fan Brian, but surely the failure of UCD to become the educational home of all Catholic gentlemen in Britain and Ireland is not in any way, shape or form his fault.

  • Brian Walker

    Garibaldy, I’ts not a question of blame, just a matter of speculation about what the mix of the mid to late 19th century intelligentsia of Dublin might have been like if the denizens of Ampleforth and Stoneyhurst etc had flocked to Earlsfort Terrace. Newman wasn’t too attuned to the priorities of the Irish hierarchy when he took up the job, and never really “got” Ireland, I don’t think.

  • I’d agree Newman never got Ireland. Nor do I think that elite English Catholics ever particularly wanted too. They were always English before they were Catholics. I don’t think that they were ever likely to abandon elite institutions for an Irish one. Trinity got some no doubt, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t Catholics at Oxford and Cambridge before they were officially opened in the 1850s.

    It’s an interesting speculation. I can’t see them forming a counter-weight to the native church, which was a machine that could easily have steamrollered them.

  • Rethinking Unionism


    I think Cardinal Cullen has to share some of the blame for the demise of the original UCD vision. It was rather a question of Newman believing that he had been properly commissioned to initiate the project while the Bishops, still rather ultramontane in outlook, took cold feet when they understood the full implications of what was required. Newman was ahead of his time because he met the intellectual challenge of the enlightenment with confidence and wisdom. Despite the attempts of some who seek to purloin his legacy to the cause of modern liberalism I think without doubt, he would have been with Benedict on the moral relativist debate.