Religious Freedom

Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical Libertas, says:

19. To make this more evident, the growth of liberty ascribed to our age must be considered apart in its various details. And, first, let us examine that liberty in individuals which is so opposed to the virtue of religion, namely, the liberty of worship, as it is called. This is based on the principle that every man is free to profess as he may choose any religion or none.

20. But, assuredly, of all the duties which man has to fulfill, that, without doubt, is the chiefest and holiest which commands him to worship God with devotion and piety. This follows of necessity from the truth that we are ever in the power of God, are ever guided by His will and providence, and, having come forth from Him, must return to Him. Add to which, no true virtue can exist without religion, for moral virtue is concerned with those things which lead to God as man’s supreme and ultimate good; and therefore religion, which (as St. Thomas says) “performs those actions which are directly and immediately ordained for the divine honor”,(7) rules and tempers all virtues. And if it be asked which of the many conflicting religions it is necessary to adopt, reason and the natural law unhesitatingly tell us to practice that one which God enjoins, and which men can easily recognize by certain exterior notes, whereby Divine Providence has willed that it should be distinguished, because, in a matter of such moment, the most terrible loss would be the consequence of error. Wherefore, when a liberty such as We have described is offered to man, the power is given him to pervert or abandon with impunity the most sacred of duties, and to exchange the unchangeable good for evil; which, as We have said, is no liberty, but its degradation, and the abject submission of the soul to sin.

21. This kind of liberty, if considered in relation to the State, clearly implies that there is no reason why the State should offer any homage to God, or should desire any public recognition of Him; that no one form of worship is to be preferred to another, but that all stand on an equal footing, no account being taken of the religion of the people, even if they profess the Catholic faith. But, to justify this, it must needs be taken as true that the State has no duties toward God, or that such duties, if they exist, can be abandoned with impunity, both of which assertions are manifestly false. For it cannot be doubted but that, by the will of God, men are united in civil society; whether its component parts be considered; or its form, which implies authority; or the object of its existence; or the abundance of the vast services which it renders to man. God it is who has made man for society, and has placed him in the company of others like himself, so that what was wanting to his nature, and beyond his attainment if left to his own resources, he might obtain by association with others. Wherefore, civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness-namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of one religion is necessary in the State, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic States, because the marks of truth are, as it were, engravers upon it. This religion, therefore, the rulers of the State must preserve and protect, if they would provide – as they should do – with prudence and usefulness for the good of the community. For public authority exists for the welfare of those whom it governs; and, although its proximate end is to lead men to the prosperity found in this life, yet, in so doing, it ought not to diminish, but rather to increase, man’s capability of attaining to the supreme good in which his everlasting happiness consists: which never can be attained if religion be disregarded.

Among other things, the Pope seems to be claiming, “There is one true religion, namely the Catholic religion, and it is easily recognized as such.” It is difficult to see a way in which this statement might be both true and fit well in this context. If the claim implies that the majority of honest, reasonable people would agree that Catholicism is true, then it seems to slander the human race, given the fact that only about one seventh of humanity accepts this, and surely the majority of these people were raised Catholic rather than being converts. If it means that “it should be easy to see that Catholicism is true, but in practice it is not, because of various impediments,” then it does not seem to fit well in this context, because the Pope seems to be making practical statements about how individuals and states should behave, so if it is not easy in practice, it is not easy in the way that is relevant here. In any case it is not necessary to consider this in detail at this time.

Later in the encyclical he discusses the idea of tolerance:

33. Yet, with the discernment of a true mother, the Church weighs the great burden of human weakness, and well knows the course down which the minds and actions of men are in this our age being borne. For this reason, while not conceding any right to anything save what is true and honest, she does not forbid public authority to tolerate what is at variance with truth and justice, for the sake of avoiding some greater evil, or of obtaining or preserving some greater good. God Himself in His providence, though infinitely good and powerful, permits evil to exist in the world, partly that greater good may not be impeded, and partly that greater evil may not ensue. In the government of States it is not forbidden to imitate the Ruler of the world; and, as the authority of man is powerless to prevent every evil, it has (as St. Augustine says) to overlook and leave unpunished many things which are punished, and rightly, by Divine Providence.(10) But if, in such circumstances, for the sake of the common good (and this is the only legitimate reason), human law may or even should tolerate evil, it may not and should not approve or desire evil for its own sake; for evil of itself, being a privation of good, is opposed to the common welfare which every legislator is bound to desire and defend to the best of his ability. In this, human law must endeavor to imitate God, who, as St. Thomas teaches, in allowing evil to exist in the world, “neither wills evil to be done, nor wills it not to be done, but wills only to permit it to be done; and this is good.”(11) This saying of the Angelic Doctor contains briefly the whole doctrine of the permission of evil.

34. But, to judge aright, we must acknowledge that, the more a State is driven to tolerate evil, the further is it from perfection; and that the tolerance of evil which is dictated by political prudence should be strictly confined to the limits which its justifying cause, the public welfare, requires. Wherefore, if such tolerance would be injurious to the public welfare, and entail greater evils on the State, it would not be lawful; for in such case the motive of good is wanting. And although in the extraordinary condition of these times the Church usually acquiesces in certain modern liberties, not because she prefers them in themselves, but because she judges it expedient to permit them, she would in happier times exercise her own liberty; and, by persuasion, exhortation, and entreaty would endeavor, as she is bound, to fulfill the duty assigned to her by God of providing for the eternal salvation of mankind. One thing, however, remains always true – that the liberty which is claimed for all to do all things is not, as We have often said, of itself desirable, inasmuch as it is contrary to reason that error and truth should have equal rights.

35. And as to tolerance, it is surprising how far removed from the equity and prudence of the Church are those who profess what is called liberalism. For, in allowing that boundless license of which We have spoken, they exceed all limits, and end at last by making no apparent distinction between truth and error, honesty and dishonesty. And because the Church, the pillar and ground of truth, and the unerring teacher of morals, is forced utterly to reprobate and condemn tolerance of such an abandoned and criminal character, they calumniate her as being wanting in patience and gentleness, and thus fail to see that, in so doing, they impute to her as a fault what is in reality a matter for commendation. But, in spite of all this show of tolerance, it very often happens that, while they profess themselves ready to lavish liberty on all in the greatest profusion, they are utterly intolerant toward the Catholic Church, by refusing to allow her the liberty of being herself free.

All of this looks very different from the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious freedom:

2. This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.(2) This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth. However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.

3. Further light is shed on the subject if one considers that the highest norm of human life is the divine law-eternal, objective and universal-whereby God orders, directs and governs the entire universe and all the ways of the human community by a plan conceived in wisdom and love. Man has been made by God to participate in this law, with the result that, under the gentle disposition of divine Providence, he can come to perceive ever more fully the truth that is unchanging. Wherefore every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience, under use of all suitable means.

Truth, however, is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth.

Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal assent that men are to adhere to it.

On his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious. The reason is that the exercise of religion, of its very nature, consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God. No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind.(3) The social nature of man, however, itself requires that he should give external expression to his internal acts of religion: that he should share with others in matters religious; that he should profess his religion in community. Injury therefore is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society, provided just public order is observed.

There is a further consideration. The religious acts whereby men, in private and in public and out of a sense of personal conviction, direct their lives to God transcend by their very nature the order of terrestrial and temporal affairs. Government therefore ought indeed to take account of the religious life of the citizenry and show it favor, since the function of government is to make provision for the common welfare. However, it would clearly transgress the limits set to its power, were it to presume to command or inhibit acts that are religious.

4. The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious which is the endowment of persons as individuals is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community. Religious communities are a requirement of the social nature both of man and of religion itself.

Provided the just demands of public order are observed, religious communities rightfully claim freedom in order that they may govern themselves according to their own norms, honor the Supreme Being in public worship, assist their members in the practice of the religious life, strengthen them by instruction, and promote institutions in which they may join together for the purpose of ordering their own lives in accordance with their religious principles.

Religious communities also have the right not to be hindered, either by legal measures or by administrative action on the part of government, in the selection, training, appointment, and transferral of their own ministers, in communicating with religious authorities and communities abroad, in erecting buildings for religious purposes, and in the acquisition and use of suitable funds or properties.

Religious communities also have the right not to be hindered in their public teaching and witness to their faith, whether by the spoken or by the written word. However, in spreading religious faith and in introducing religious practices everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which might seem to carry a hint of coercion or of a kind of persuasion that would be dishonorable or unworthy, especially when dealing with poor or uneducated people. Such a manner of action would have to be considered an abuse of one’s right and a violation of the right of others.

In addition, it comes within the meaning of religious freedom that religious communities should not be prohibited from freely undertaking to show the special value of their doctrine in what concerns the organization of society and the inspiration of the whole of human activity. Finally, the social nature of man and the very nature of religion afford the foundation of the right of men freely to hold meetings and to establish educational, cultural, charitable and social organizations, under the impulse of their own religious sense.

At the very least, there is a vast difference of attitude in the statements, and at the most, they might seem to be saying completely opposite things. Leo XIII says that “the tolerance of evil which is dictated by political prudence should be strictly confined to the limits which its justifying cause, the public welfare, requires,” while Dignitatis Humanae says that “all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.” Since both statements contain qualifications, they might be consistent in practice. However, the first seems to say, “We might have to allow someone to make this false statement, but it would be better if we could prevent it,” while the second seems to say, “We might have to prevent someone from making this false statement, but it would be better if we could allow it.” Understood in this way, the statements would not be consistent.

Thomas Storck discusses the apparent inconsistency:

“Since the Catholic Church has changed her authoritative teaching on more than one point of faith and morals, there is absolutely no reason why she cannot be expected to change it on others. And, this being the case, to silence dissenting theologians is very possibly to prevent the discovery and propagation of new truths, truths which the Church herself will eventually come to accept.” We are all likely familiar with arguments of this sort, arguments made in varying ways by theologians who refuse to accept all the teachings of the Church’s magisterium. When pressed for specifics, moreover, the two points on which they generally allege the Church has changed her doctrine are the licitness of usury and the question of religious liberty. And if the magisterium really has changed on these issues, then it is hard not to concede to them their point. For if the teaching of the ordinary magisterium on usury or religious liberty has changed over the centuries because of changing social conditions, then why not teaching on contraception or divorce? Therefore, it seems to me of the greatest importance for orthodox Catholics to be able to demonstrate that the Church has never changed any point of its magisterial teachings nor can she.

There is a kind of moral reasoning here: We cannot admit that the Church has changed its teaching on religious liberty, since that would provide an argument that the Church might change its teaching on contraception or other matters, and it would be bad to admit that.

Regardless of the prudence of this manner of reasoning, this is a bad way of trying to get at the truth of the matter.

Working out his solution to the apparent conflict, he says:

The apparent conflict here concerns public worship and proselytizing activities, since the papal teaching quoted earlier never contemplated suppressing private religious actions. But how far is the conflict real?

In <Dignitatis Humanae> itself there are two limitations of the right to religious freedom. First, this freedom is restricted “within due limits” and by “the just requirements of public order.” Second, the assertion of man’s right to religious liberty seems to be considerably qualified by a further statement in the declaration. This statement appears in the paragraph immediately preceding the section quoted, and runs thus:

So while the religious freedom which men demand in fulfilling their obligation to worship God has to do with freedom from coercion in civil society, it leaves intact the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ.

What do these reservations mean?

In regard to “the just requirements of public order,” at first glance this phrase might seem to mean things such as keeping civil peace, obeying health regulations, respecting morality and the like. But even Professor Wolfe implicitly acknowledges that it could include suppression of polygamy, although polygamy is a practice by no means necessarily contrary to civil peace.14 This also despite the fact that polygamy is or has been permitted by several major religions, and its prohibition would be a limiting of religious freedom. In other words, “the just requirements of public order” apparently mean more than merely keeping order in society, and extend to repressing socially harmful practices.

But I think one can go further than this. I suggest the following: That “the just requirements of public order” vary considerably between a Catholic state and a religiously neutral state. If a neutral state can prohibit polygamy, even though it is a restriction on religious freedom, then a Catholic state can likewise restrict the public activity of non-Catholic groups. “The just requirements of public order” can be understood only in the context of a people’s traditions and modes of living, and in a Catholic society would necessarily include that social unity based upon a recognition of the Catholic Church as the religion of society, and the consequent exclusion of all other religions from public life. Western secular democracies, committed to freedom of religion for all sects, find no contradiction in proscribing polygamy, although some religions permit it, because its practice is contrary to the traditions and mores of these nations. A Catholic country can certainly similarly maintain its own manner of life.

What about the repeated declarations in <Dignitatis Humanae> about religious freedom as a personal human right? The Council proclaims, I think, an abstract human right, but a right that is not necessarily fully applicable in any given circumstance or place. Because of the “dignity of the human person” man does indeed have a right to religious liberty, in fact, by giving us a free will God has necessarily given us a kind of religious liberty, including the liberty to err. But this does not mean that this liberty may be exercised without reference to anything else. There are many rights that are contingent upon circumstances. Man, for example, has a right to marry. But what of those who are impotent or who cannot find anyone to marry? The right is a right in the abstract and not necessarily in any given concrete situation. Furthermore, even in a Catholic confessional state there is a certain religious liberty, that is, a liberty to privately exercise one’s non-Catholic faith, to meet corporately but privately with one’s co-religionists. This is a real liberty, occasioned by the “dignity of the human person,” but also restricted within “the just requirements of public order.”

But what of the second limitation on religious freedom found within <Dignitatis Humanae> itself?

Usually the supposed contradiction in Church teaching on religious liberty is seen as a conflict between earlier papal teaching and <Dignitatis Humanae>. But if the text of <Dignitatis Humanae> is taken seriously this is not so. <Dignitatis Humanae> states, as I quoted above, that it “leaves intact the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of . . . societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ.” The moral duty of societies toward the true faith and Church, however, is precisely those propositions found in the traditional papal teaching supposedly at variance with <Dignitatis Humanae>. In other words, if an interpretation of the declaration is insisted upon that conflicts with Gregory XVI, Pius IX, <et al,> then <Dignitatis Humanae> conflicts with itself, for, as I just quoted, the earlier teaching, far from being changed, is explicitly left intact. If we keep this in mind when reviewing the declaration, we will see that the common interpretation, although at first glance seemingly obvious, must be based on a misunderstanding. Probably <Dignitatis Humanae> was intended to be irenic, and perhaps some of its framers wanted to change the teaching, but as Fr. Most points out, “we must confine ourselves to what the writer succeeded <in setting down on paper explicitly.>”15 No one will deny that <Dignitatis Humanae> says what it says in a curious way, but I think I have shown that one need not read it in such a way that it conflicts with former teaching.

I have tried to give full weight to the plain meaning of all the texts I have discussed, within the constraints imposed by logic and revealed truth. <Dignitatis Humanae> turns out to be a much more complicated document that usually supposed, but, when carefully examined, not in disagreement with what seems to be the previous teaching of the ordinary magisterium on the question of religious liberty.

In one way, this is mostly reasonable. One can understand the implications of the various statements to be mostly or even entirely consistent. The problem would be that this does not necessarily mean that the doctrine justifying these practices is the same, as I said regarding the statements on toleration and on immunity from coercion.

Storck however is probably putting undue weight on the statement that Dignitatis Humanae “leaves intact the traditional Catholic teaching.” Simply asserting that I am not contradicting myself, does not necessarily meant that I am not contradicting myself in fact. On the other hand, it is reasonable to read the teachings of the Church with as much truth and consistency as possible, just as one should in conversation with others.

However, Storck is going too far in the claim that it is necessary “to demonstrate that the Church has never changed any point of its magisterial teachings nor can she.” Fr. Brian Harrison and Orestes Brownson both claimed that if the Church changes any teaching, then Catholicism is necessarily false. Storck does not go this far, but he says that we must avoid admitting a change because we cannot admit that any teaching might be changed in the future. But there is a similar problem: both claims require something like a list of unchangeable teachings, and as we suggested a few days ago, no such list exists.

Yesterday we saw the teaching of Pope Leo X that it is moral to burn heretics. And since he calls the whole list of condemned propositions “against Catholic truth,” and says that “according to these errors, or any one or several of them, it clearly follows that the Church which is guided by the Holy Spirit is in error and has always erred,” one could easily understand him to be saying that his teaching is a definitive statement of the kind Harrison and Brownson are concerned with, such that changing that teaching would imply that Catholicism is false.

Of course, it is not necessary to read it in that way, but it is not impossible. In any case, his opinion is clear, and is an area where the Church has in fact changed her opinion. Nor is it reasonable to say that the Church believes that it is now wrong to burn heretics, but that it was not wrong in the past. The current belief is a universal one: thus for example Pope Francis commented a few days ago, “There were terrible times between us. Just think of the persecutions, among we who have the same baptism. Think of all the people who were burned alive.”

As we said earlier, there is necessarily a vague line between a substantial change in doctrine, and a development of doctrine. And while it would never be reasonable to call a contradiction as such a development, it might well be that the development of one doctrine might require contradicting an opinion on another matter. In this sense, a Catholic interpretation of this history would be that the Church has developed its understanding of humanity and freedom, and this development required changing its opinion on various details such as whether or not it is moral to burn heretics.

And indeed, as Storck says, and as I suggested a few days ago, this does mean that one should admit that other doctrines might change in various respects, and that the exact extent of this possibility is unknown.

Ineffabilis Deus

In 1854 Pope Pius IX defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception:

Wherefore, in humility and fasting, we unceasingly offered our private prayers as well as the public prayers of the Church to God the Father through his Son, that he would deign to direct and strengthen our mind by the power of the Holy Spirit. In like manner did we implore the help of the entire heavenly host as we ardently invoked the Paraclete. Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

Hence, if anyone shall dare — which God forbid! — to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should dare to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he think in his heart.

This doctrine was believed and celebrated in the Church long before this definition, and it would be seriously misleading to suppose that the definition represented any meaningful change in the general beliefs of Catholics. However, not all Catholics always held it, and St. Thomas in fact did not accept it:

I answer that, The sanctification of the Blessed Virgin cannot be understood as having taken place before animation, for two reasons. First, because the sanctification of which we are speaking, is nothing but the cleansing from original sin: for sanctification is a “perfect cleansing,” as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. xii). Now sin cannot be taken away except by grace, the subject of which is the rational creature alone. Therefore before the infusion of the rational soul, the Blessed Virgin was not sanctified.

Secondly, because, since the rational creature alone can be the subject of sin; before the infusion of the rational soul, the offspring conceived is not liable to sin. And thus, in whatever manner the Blessed Virgin would have been sanctified before animation, she could never have incurred the stain of original sin: and thus she would not have needed redemption and salvation which is by Christ, of whom it is written (Matthew 1:21): “He shall save His people from their sins.” But this is unfitting, through implying that Christ is not the “Saviour of all men,” as He is called (1 Timothy 4:10). It remains, therefore, that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified after animation.

Responding to the objection that in some places the feast of Mary’s Conception was already being celebrated, he says:

Although the Church of Rome does not celebrate the Conception of the Blessed Virgin, yet it tolerates the custom of certain churches that do keep that feast, wherefore this is not to be entirely reprobated. Nevertheless the celebration of this feast does not give us to understand that she was holy in her conception. But since it is not known when she was sanctified, the feast of her Sanctification, rather than the feast of her Conception, is kept on the day of her conception.

This is an unfair description of the feast, as those who wished to celebrate Mary’s conception in fact believed that she was sanctified in the first moment, even though St. Thomas denies it. And in this sense it is clear that there was in fact significant historical continuity. However, the suggestion, implied by the words of Brownson, even though elsewhere he admits it to be untrue, that all Catholics of good will have always believed all the doctrines accepted by the Church of the nineteenth century, simply cannot be maintained.

Brownson Apologizes to Newman

In Brownson’s Quarterly Review (October 1864), Orestes Brownson makes a sort of apology to Newman for his previous criticism of Newman’s theory of the development of doctrine. Brownson writes:

Faith, objectively considered, is infallible, and the Church is infallible, by the assistance of the Holy Ghost, in teaching and defining it. But the faith is to us practically as if it were not, save in so far as it is actively received and appropriated by our own minds. This, we presume, is what Dr. Newman meant when he said: Christianity came into the world a naked idea, which the mind develops or realizes by its own action. Now in realizing, in actively receiving and appropriating the Christian dogma, or the faith, our minds are not infallible. We never conceive it adequately, or take in explicitly all that is in it; and we may, and often do, under various aspects, even misconceive it. Here is, if we understand it, the basis of Dr. Newman’s Essay, and if so, our objections to it were irrelevant, and though well founded, as against the doctrine we deduced from it, they are not as against that which the author held, and intended to set forth, and perhaps did set forth to the minds of all who admired his book. We have long suspected that we did him injustice, though we have not changed our own views of the soundness of the theology we opposed to him, or thought we were opposing to him. The fact is, his book was profounder than we supposed, and was designed to solve theological difficulties which we had not then encountered in our own intellectual life and experience. This acknowledgement, spontaneously made, we hope will be accepted by the illustrious convert and his friends, as some slight atonement for any injustice we may have done him or them, since whatever injustice we may have done was done unwittingly and unintentionally.

On the fact of the inadequacy of our conceptions, and our liability even to wrong conceptions, Dr. Newman bases his doctrine of development on the one hand, and of the necessity, on the other, of a living and ever-present infallible authority in the Church, to preserve the original revelation in its integrity, and to define and condemn the errors which from time to time may arise in the process of development. We do not agree that the definitions of the Church give us new articles or even new dogmas of faith; they are negative rather than positive, and tell us what the faith is not rather than what it is, or what cannot be held without denying or injuring the faith. In other respects, we fully accept what was probably Dr. Newman’s doctrine. There is always in the Church an infallible authority to main the Symbol in its integrity, and to condemn all errors that tend to deny or impair it. But this authority, while it maintains the Symbol, cannot give me understanding, or render my conception of the dogma or even of the definition itself adequate or infallible. The human mind never in its efforts at appropriation or realization, whether in the individual consciousness or in society and civilization, takes in at once the whole Christian idea, and its realizations are always inadequate, and sometimes not unmingled with fatal errors. The Christian work in society and in the individual soul is to struggle to render the human conceptions of the Christian idea less and less inadequate, and to eliminate more and more the errors that mingle with them, so as to advance nearer and nearer to the perfect day, or to a full and complete realization in the understanding, in individual and social life, of the whole Christian idea, or, the perfect formation of Christ within us, and our perfect union with God, possible in its fullness only in the beatific vision, the consummation alike of Creation and Redemption.

Now, unless you can render the human mind as infallible as the Divine mind, there will always be more or less of imperfection and error in our understanding and appropriation of the Christian idea, or the faith as objectively revealed and proposed. Hence theology is not a divine and infallible science; and while the faith in itself is complete and invariable, theology, or its scientific realization, is always incomplete and variable. It may grow from age to age, and the theology which is too high and too broad for one age may be too narrow and too low for another. Hence, any attempt to bind the human mind, though, or reason back to the theology of any past age is hostile to the interests alike of religion and civilization. To require us to receive as authority not to be questioned or examined, not the faith, but the theology or philosophy of the medieval doctors, or even the great theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, is to suppose that the work of realization is completed, and human reason in this life has no farther work, which were intellectual death or mental stagnation; or, which amounts to the same thing, that no farther realization is practicable or permissible in Christian truth.

As can be seen, his apology is somewhat half-hearted. As I have said elsewhere, people do not like to admit that they have changed their mind, considering this to be embarrassing and humiliating. Brownson follows this pattern here. While he cannot avoid admitting that he was wrong about Newman, he claims that he has not changed his own theological opinions in any real way, saying that “we have not changed our own views of the soundness of the theology we opposed to him, or thought we were opposing to him.”

Nonetheless, in reality Brownson has changed his mind substantially, even if he may not have entirely accepted Newman’s theory. In this text, Brownson is basically admitting that the doctrine of sola me is false. Perhaps the Church is objectively infallible, but even if this is so, it does not mean that any individual is subjectively infallible in any of his opinions, even those about the teaching of the Church and the meaning of those teachings. But compare this with Brownson’s previous statement, “Christianity, if received at all, must be received, not as a theory, but as a revealed fact; and when we have established it as a revealed fact, no theory is needed or admissible, for we must then believe the fact precisely as it proposes itself.” This pretty clearly implies certainty about exactly what is proposed and in what way, and Brownson is now admitting that this is impossible. Likewise, Brownson had said that if opinions and theories are involved, “What foundation is there or can there be for faith!” Now he is admitting that these things can be and are involved in Christianity, and indeed must be, but he is not concluding that there can be no foundation for faith.

On one point Brownson has not changed his mind: Revelation consists of something like a list of statements which in themselves are fully complete and meaningful, and this list never increases or decreases. It is only people’s grasp of what is contained in this list that can change.

Of course, despite Brownson’s original objections to theories, this is a theory in itself, and it would need to be spelled out in detail in order to understand it. Where and when does this list exist, and in what sense?

We can clarify Brownson’s original idea by examining some of the discussion that followed his original criticism of Newman. The book Orestes A. Brownson’s Middle Life: From 1845 To 1855 contains a letter from William Ward to Brownson, written in 1847. Ward writes:

The idea you seem to have formed is that he [Newman] has devised a theory in a wanton sort of way, as a sort of intellectual exercise, instead of submitting himself humbly to the teachings of the Catholic Church as he found it. I cannot but think that a statement of some of the facts of the case will induce you, in some degree at least, to modify this opinion.

Now my reason for mentioning all this is to show that at that time he had been led by his natural and legitimate course of studies to feel very strongly the pressure of one particular objection against the modern Catholic system of doctrine. That these studies were very extensive no one can doubt who reads his works. I believe I am correct in saying that before he became a Catholic he had read through all the works of all the Greek and all the Latin Fathers at least three times, and that particular objection was that it was historically evident that certain doctrines considered by the present “Roman” church as Catholic were not so considered by the Early Church. This objection was stated most clearly and prominently in the work I have mentioned, and also in great numbers of other works. Any one may see them who will look at the “Tracts for the Times” or the various numbers of the “British Critic” from the time Mr. Newman undertook its editorship down to the year 1841.

Now here it is very important to observe that although many Catholics paid the greatest attention to these writings and various reviews of them appeared in Catholic journals, no real attempt whatsoever was made to meet this objection. The passages from Cardinal Fisher, etc., were not disavowed nor accused of spuriousness nor yet were they plainly adopted and proclaimed to be Catholic in this view. I, for one, felt this and keenly at the time; even so late as 1841, when I paid two days’ visit to Oscott, I could not get Dr. Wiseman to give me any definite answer at all on the subject one way or the other. He would neither say that Newman represented antiquity unfairly, nor that he represented it fairly. He said a great deal, and very well, in attack of Anglicanism, but I could get no light at all on this essential and prominent difficulty which one felt to be in the way of Catholicism.

But before the year 1841 a further change had taken place in Newman’s mind, as he has since informed a great friend of mine, an old Irish Catholic. This change was directly caused by Dr. Wiseman’s article which appeared, I think, in the year 1840, paralleling the Anglicans with the Donatists. From the time he read that article, he felt there was one most decided “screw loose” in Anglican theology; he felt, and strongly, that the Anglicans were in a position which the ancient church would have regarded as schismatic; from the time this view was presented to him the more he thought over the acts and words of the Fathers, the more they seemed to corroborate that view. This, however, only placed him in a most cruel state of difficulty; for it did not tend one step to remove his old objections to the “Roman” Church, though it infused new objections to the “Anglican.” No one can doubt that, from that time at least, he was most anxious to find some clew to extricate himself from the labyrinth, yet no Catholic was at hand to offer him any clew, and I cannot but feel it an extreme injustice and cruelty that Catholics who were silent when he was searching in their direction for some way of escape, should afterwards, when he has found a way for himself and actually brought himself to the Catholic Church by help of it, be loud in their objections to the legitimacy of that way. If this be not the right way, why did they not, years ago, find for him some other?

This observation, my dear sir, cannot be supposed to reflect upon yourself, because you were not, I believe, at that time a Catholic. But I do think that all who find fault with his theory, should ask themselves this plain question, “except for this theory, how could he possibly have become a Catholic?”

Here, then, I confess, I do think that Newman has some right to complain of your treatment of him. Here we have a person of ability and though, who has devoted himself to the study of the Fathers, and who is most anxious to find in them all possible agreement with the present Catholic Church, and yet cannot, for the life of him, read them any other way than as being either discrepant or ignorant, on various matters which are now ruled to be points of Catholic Faith. If on the one hand it is historically clear that the Catholic Church of the nineteenth century is the lineal heir of the Catholic Church of the fourth century, it is equally clear historically (so he thinks) that the doctrine of the first named church is in many particulars an addition upon the doctrine of the last named.

Brownson responded to Ward in September 1847:

You are mistaken in supposing that I proceed on the idea that Mr. Newman “has devised his thory in a wanton sort of way, as a sort of intellectual exercise.” Such an idea never entered my head. From my first reading of the Essay on Development, I have taken substantially the very view of his case which you unfold and confirm in your letter; and if I had not, I should hardly have hazarded my strictures. I have never questioned his sincerity, or that of his friends; I have never for a moment doubted that they really believe the historical assumptions, which seem to them to demand this theory, are well founded; and if well founded, I have not been unable to understand that they must naturally feel that some such theory as they put forth is absolutely necessary for their explanation. I have not arraigned their motives, and I have supposed myself to be treating them, especially Mr. Newman, with great personal respect and even tenderness. I have certainly intended so to treat Mr. Newman; for I have looked upon him as having devised his theory, not as a Catholic, but as an Anglican, and have not doubted that he would abandon it in proportion as he became acquainted with Catholic faith and Catholic life.

I certainly did think, and do still, that he and his friends made a serious mistake in their theory, and even in supposing any theory at all to be necessary. Their inability to accept the church without their theory has, I own, seemed to me to detract somewhat from the simplicity of their faith; and their demand that she should accept their theory, as the condition of their accepting her, I have not been able to reconcile with that entire self-surrender, which I have been taught she requires of all who would be owned as her children. They seem to me to have surrendered only on condition, – to have in their theory stipulated that they should be permitted to retain their side-arms and to march out with the honors. Or, in other words, you seem to me not to have believed the church simply, but only inasmuch as you have believed your theory, and therefore you do not seem to me to have surrendered unconditionally. If I am right in this, you have been unjust to God, unjust to the faithful, unjust to yourselves, and may find it not amiss to ask if after all your conversion does not, unhappily, remain inchoate.

You began by taking a certain view of the primitive teaching of the church; between that view and her present teaching you have found a difference, a “discordance,” as you express it. What then more natural, you may ask, than that we should be unable to submit to the church without some expedient for explaining that discordance, and showing that after all it makes nothing against her claims as the church of God? What more natural, or more justifiable even, than that having found such an expedient, we should insist on it, and urge it upon the attention of our former friends, and of the Doctors of the church, previously ignorant of it, or afraid to adopt it? So, I doubt not, reason the friends of the Theory to themselves, and you may ask me, what I find in this to censure.

I will tell you, my brother. It is that you being with the assumption that your view of the primitive teaching of the church is unquestionably the true view, that in forming it you cannot possibly have erred. But that view is only the common Anglican view; you have adopted it, not as Catholics, but as Anglicans. Anglicans for these three hundred years have been urging it against us, and for three hundred years our own divines have, with one voice, denied it. Now, my brother, how is it that it has never occurred to you that the Catholic understanding of the Fathers may be deserving of as much confidence as the Anglican; that it is possible, after all, that you may be wrong in your view of the primitive teaching of the church, and that, therefore, it is possible that there is, in fact, no such discordance as you pretend? What I complain of is your assumption of the infallibility of your private judgement in determining the primitive teaching of the church, and that since there is a discordance between her present teaching and your view of her primitive teaching, collected from your private interpretation of the Fathers, there must needs be such discordance in fact, really existing, and to be accounted for.

Where, my brother, did you or your friends get that view of ante-Nicene doctrine? From the church, from her authoritative teaching today? You will not pretend it. Whence then? Evidently from your private interpretation of the Fathers. Having thus obtained it, you made it the criterion of ante-Nicene doctrine. Allow me to ask, by what right? Whence, as a Catholic, are you bound to take the doctrine of the church, not in one age only, but in every age? Unquestionably, from the church herself who is always and everywhere the infallible authority by which to determine what she always and everywhere teaches, as well as by which to determine that what she teaches is the word of God. As a Catholic you cannot distinguish between what she teaches in one age and what she teaches in another. For you the church can have no ages. She is one and Catholic in time as well as in space, and, like eternity, she has duration, but no succession. You must go to her, as she is today, to learn what she taught before the Council of Nice, no less than to know what she teaches now. If you assert the alleged discordance, it must be on her authority; you cannot say that she has varied from age to age in her doctrine, taught in one age what she did not in another, in one age doctrines repugnant to those she has taught in others, unless she tells you so. If she tells you so, that is enough; she then confesses her own fallibility, abdicates her throne as the church of God, and you need no theory, for none can save her. If she denies it, teaches the reverse, you cannot assert the discordance, without ceasing to be Catholics. Here, my brother, is my objection to your method, which, as I understand it, is essentially uncatholic.

According to Ward, Newman’s study of the Fathers led him to conclude that there were discrepancies between what the Fathers believed in the early Church and what the Catholic Church, in the nineteenth century, believed to be revealed by God. Brownson’s response here is that the Church teaches that there is no such discrepancy, and therefore that Newman should either reject the Church, or conclude that his opinions about the Fathers were mistaken.

There is a fatal flaw in this reasoning. Brownson says that Newman is exercising private judgment about the opinions of the Fathers; but Brownson himself is equally exercising private judgment about the current teaching of the Church, in saying that it teaches that there is no such discrepancy. And the Church did not in fact teach this, even at the time; as Ward pointed out, Catholics such as Wiseman did not respond to Newman by saying that he was wrong about the beliefs of the Fathers, but by avoiding the discussion.

In any case, Brownson’s claim here is that the Church has definite teachings about what it has believed throughout history, and that those teachings imply that the early Fathers explicitly believed everything which the Church of the nineteenth century held to be definitive. So his implication that there is a specific complete list of Catholic doctrines is quite specific: such a list has to exist in the mind of each of the Fathers, and probably within the mind of most Catholics throughout history.

The problem with this thesis, of course, is that it is obviously false, and it is clear from his apology that by 1864 he no longer believed this theory, although still asserting that he believes in the existence of such a list in principle. But it is no longer clear where that list is located.

Orestes Brownson vs. John Newman on the Development of Doctrine

Not all Catholics were pleased by Newman’s theory of the development of doctrine. Many were hesitant regarding it, or rejected it outright as completely mistaken. Orestes Brownson provides an example of the latter opinion. Not long after the publication of Newman’s book, he writes:

The book before us [Newman’s Development of Christian Doctrine] appears to have been designed to indicate, to some extent, the process by which its gifted author passed in his own mind from Anglicanism to Catholicity, and to remove the principal objections to the Catholic Church, which he himself had raised in his previous publications. As the production of a strong, active, acute, and cultivated mind, enriched with various but not always well digested erudition, brought up in the bosom of heresy and schism, nurtured with false learning, false philosophy, vague and empty theories, gradually, under divine grace, working its way to the truth which gleams from afar, but which the intervening darkness renders fitful and uncertain; it is a work of more than ordinary interest, and one which the enlightened and philosophic few, fond of psychological researches, and of tracing the operations of sectarian or individual idiosyncrasies, may read perhaps with profit. A Protestant, ignorant, as Protestants usually are, of Catholicity, may even fancy the work substantially Catholic, and regard its theory as a convenient one for the Church, and one which she may, without prejudice to any of her claims, if not accept, at least tolerate. It is evident, from the first page of the work, that the author has made up his mind; that he is writing under the full conviction that he must seek admission into the Roman Catholic communion; and that, in his judgment, the theory he is putting forth in justification of the step he has resolved to take is, to say the least, perfectly compatible with Catholic authority and infallibility. He frankly accepts, and in some instances elaborately defends, the principal dogmas and usages of the Catholic Church, and especially those which are in general the most offensive to Protestants; and so little suspicion has he of the unsoundness of his work, so orthodox does he hold it, that he does not scruple, even after his conversion, to publish it to the world. And yet we presume he himself is now prepared to concede, that, when he was writing this book, he was still in the bonds of Protestantism; that he had not as yet set his foot on Catholic ground; that he had not crossed the Jordan, had not even surveyed the promised land from the top of Mount Pisgah, and that he knew it only by vague rumor and uncertain report. All, to his vision, is dim and confused. He stumbles at every step and stammers at every word. He puts forth a giant’s strength, but only to wrestle with phantoms; and gives us learned and elaborate theories to explain facts which he himself shows are no facts, — ingenious and subtle speculations, where all that is needed, or is admissible, is a plain yes or no. From first to last, he labors with a genius, a talent, a learning, a sincerity, an earnestness, which no one can refuse to admire, to develop Protestantism into Catholicity. Vain effort! As well attempt to develop the poisonous sumach into the cedar of Lebanon.

There is an extremely black and white view of Catholicism and Protestantism here. According to Brownson, Catholicism is pure truth while Protestantism is pure error. So there is no reasonable way to get from one to the other. Protestants and Anglicans are simply stumbling around in the darkness. If they end up in the light of Catholicism, it is by pure chance, or at best by divine providence, but either way, it is not because there was anything valid about their previous opinions which could have led them there. You could be virtually certain, then, in advance of reading Newman’s book, that it must be false, at least in its essential aspects. And Brownson is quite sure of this:

It is but simple justice to Mr. Newman to say, that it is not for his sake that we are about to point out some objections to his theory of developments. The circumstances under which he wrote, his acknowledged learning and ability, the presumption that he had thoroughly surveyed his ground, and the apparent favor with which his essay has been received by the Catholic press in England, are not unlikely to convey to Protestant, and perhaps to some partially instructed and speculative Catholic minds, the impression, that, if the theory set forth is not exactly Catholic, it at least contains nothing which a Catholic may not accept. The fact, that the author – whether legitimately or not – comes to Catholic conclusions, that he ends by entering the Catholic communion, that he puts forth his theory expressly for the purpose of removing the obstacles which others may find in following his example, and with this view publishes it to the world even after his conversion, can hardly fail to produce in many minds the conviction that the theory and conclusions are necessarily or at least legitimately connected. And several Protestant reviewers seem actually to entertain this conviction; and they, therefore, hold the theory up to condemnation as the “Romanist” theory; or, as they express themselves, “as the ground on which modern Rome seeks to defend her manifest corruptions of Christian doctrine.” It is therefore due both to the Church and to Protestants to say, expressly, – and we do so with the highest respect for Mr. Newman, and with warm admiration for the truth, beauty, and force of many of the details of his work, – that his peculiar theory is essentially anti-Catholic and Protestant. It not only is not necessary to the defence of the Church, but is utterly repugnant to her claims to be the authoritative and infallible Church of God. A brief examination of some of the principal features of the theory will justify this strong and apparently severe assertion.

In the first place he objects to the very idea of formulating a theory concerning Christianity:

We waive, here, all considerations of this theory so far as it is intended to apply to Christian discipline and theology, and confine ourselves to it solely as applied to Christian doctrine. Under this last point of view, we object to the theory that it is a theory, and not a revealed fact. The truth of an hypothesis can never be inferred from the fact that it meets and explains the facts it is invented to meet and explain; and therefore the admission of any hypothesis into Christian doctrine would vitiate the doctrine itself. Mr. Newman begins his work by telling us that:

“Christianity has been long enough in the world to justify us in dealing with it as a fact in the world’s history. It may legitimately be made the subject-matter of theories: what is its moral and political excellence, what its place in the range of ideas or of facts which we possess, whether it be divine or human, whether it be original or eclectic or both at once, how far favorable to civilization or to literature, whether a religion for all ages or for a particular state of society, – these are questions upon the fact or professed solutions of the fact, and belong to the province of opinion.”

But in this he must be mistaken. Whether Christianity be divine or human is not a question of opinion, but a question of fact, and so is it with all the questions he enumerates. Christianity is a fact in the world’s history; this is a fact. But is Christianity what it professes to be? Is this a question of opinion, to be answered only by a theory? or is it a question of fact, to be taken up and settled, one way or the other, as a fact? If it is a matter of opinion, and if it is answerable only by a theory, what foundation is there or can there be for faith! Christianity is a fact, not only in the world’s history, but in itself, or it is not. If it is, it cannot legitimately be made the subject matter of theories, any more than may be the fact that it is a fact in the world’s history. Christianity, if received at all, must be received, not as a theory, but as a revealed fact; and when we have established it as a revealed fact, no theory is needed or admissible, for we must then believe the fact precisely as it proposes itself.

To some extent the disagreement here is a verbal one. Newman distinguishes between fact and opinion in a fairly common manner where a fact is something established so definitively that there is no substantial disagreement about it, and opinion is something where there is a substantial amount of disagreement. In this sense, whether Christianity is divine is a matter of opinion because large numbers of people believe that it is, and large numbers of people believe that it is not. But there is no significant disagreement concerning whether Christianity exists and has a history. When Brownson says that, “Christianity is a fact, not only in the world’s history, but in itself, or it is not,” on the other hand, he means that the doctrines of Christianity are either true or they are not. Of course this is true, but it does not follow that Newman’s distinction is invalid.

Verbal disagreements, however, typically result from diverse motives of the speakers, and less often because one speaker understands the language and the other does not. It is unlikely that Brownson does not understand the typical distinction between fact and opinion, and it is unlikely that Newman does not know that “this is a fact or it is not,” sometimes means, “this is true or false.”

In this particular case, Brownson speaks the way he does because he wishes to draw the conclusion that Christianity “cannot legitimately be made the subject matter of theories.” And here he has a real disagreement with Newman. Newman had stated, “An argument is needed, unless Christianity is to abandon the province of argument; and those who find fault with the explanation here offered of its historical phenomena will find it their duty to provide one for themselves.” Brownson’s response is that Christianity should indeed abandon the province of argument. According to him, if it is subject to arguments, faith is impossible: “What foundation is there or can there be for faith!” At the end of his critique, Brownson says:

But we say not this for Mr. Newman’s sake. He is no longer outside of the Church, seeking to find reasons to justify him in asking admission into her communion. His doubts and misgivings, his advances and his retreats, have given way to firm faith and filial confidence. He does not now, as in his book, believe the Church because by private reason he has convinced himself of the truth of her teachings; but he believes what she teaches because he believes her, and he believes her because she has received the formal commission from Almighty God to teach all nations to observe whatsoever Christ commanded his apostles, and because he has received, through divine grace, the virtue of faith. He has broken with the past, and sees that his present is not a continuation of his former life; for he now understands that Catholicity is not Protestantism developed. His present and his past are separated by a gulf which grace alone can bridge over; and he needs not that we tell him he can more effectually serve those he has left behind by his prayers than by his hypotheses, however ingenious or elaborate. We take our leave of him with the assurance, that, if we have criticised his book somewhat severely, it has been with no improper feeling towards him; and that, when he shall be disposed to address the public again, and from his new position, he will find us among the most willing, the most eager, and the most respectful of his listeners. This elaborate essay belongs to his past life; let it go with all that Protestantism he abjured before he was permitted to put on the livery of Christ. It belongs not to his Catholic life, and is only accidentally connected with it, either in his own mind or in that of others. The essay he will write hereafter, out of the fullness of his Catholic heart, will breathe a different tone, and fetch another echo. It will refresh the Catholic soul, strengthen his faith, confirm his hope, and warm his charity. A noble career opens before him. May God give him grace to run it with success!

The idea is that if a person’s belief is caused by the grace of faith, it cannot be caused by a reason, and so arguments are irrelevant. Likewise, if they are thought to be relevant, faith becomes impossible. The problem with this is that grace, understood as he understands it here, would be a kind of efficient cause. And as we have seen, it is a mistake to suppose that having an efficient cause for a belief is in contrast to having reasons. And Brownson’s account is also problematic for various other reasons which we have looked at elsewhere.

Newman proposes a number of tests to determine whether a development is a reasonable development of Christian tradition. Brownson objects to the possibility of such a test:

Furthermore, before we can proceed to apply tests to determine whether this or that is a development or a corruption of Christian doctrine, we must have a clear, distinct, and adequate knowledge of Christian doctrine itself; for how can we say the original type or idea is preserved, if we do not know what it is? If we do know what it is, what is the use of the tests or their application? The whole process of the historical application of the tests is, then, at best, regarded as an argument, a mere paralogism. We need all the knowledge of Christian doctrine as the condition of concluding any thing from the application of the tests, which their successful application can give us; for there can be nothing in the conclusion not previously in the premises. Mr. Newman, like professors of natural science, has been misled by what in these times is called “Inductive Philosophy,” – a philosophy which had never had “a local habitation or a name,” more than other “airy nothings,” if it had been borne in mind that we have no logic by which we can conclude the unknown from the known. When your conclusions go beyond what you have established in the premises, they may, sometimes be a guide to observation, but they have in themselves no scientific validity.

Induction, of course, is not meant to establish a conclusion demonstratively. It establishes a probability. In any case, this is not his main objection. He continues:

But, waiving these considerations, we object to Mr. Newman’s theory, that it is an hypothesis brought forward to explain facts which are not facts. His problem is no problem; for it presupposes what no Catholic can concede, and what there is no warrant in the facts of the case for conceding. Mr. Newman proceeds on the assumption, that there have been real variations in Christian doctrine.

After quoting and discussing various passages from Newman regarding such variations, he says:

Now, in regard to all this, we simply ask, Does the Church herself take this view? Does she teach that she at first received no formal revelation, – that the revelation was given as “unleavened dough,” to be leavened, kneaded, made up into loaves of convenient size, baked and prepared for use by her, after her mission began, and she had commenced the work of evangelizing the nations? Does she admit her original creed was incomplete, that it has increased and expanded, that there have been variation and progress in her understanding of the revelation she originally received, and that she now understands it better, and can more readily define what it is than she could at first? Most assuredly not. She asserts that there has been no progress, no increase, no variation of faith; that what she believes and teaches now is precisely what she has always and everywhere believed and taught from the first. She denies that she has ever added a new article to the primitive creed; and affirms, as Mr. Newman himself proves in his account of the Council of Chalcedon, that the new definition is not a new development, a better understanding of the faith, but simply a new definition, against the “novel expressions” invented by the enemies of religion, of what, on the point defined, had always and everywhere been her precise faith. In this she is right, or she is wrong. If right you must abandon your theory of developments; if wrong, she is a false witness for God, and your theory of developments cannot make her worthy of confidence. If you believe her you cannot assert developments in your sense of the term; if you do not believe her, you are no Catholic. This is sufficient to show that Mr. Newman cannot urge his theory as a Catholic, whatever he might do as a Protestant.

Brownson does not give any particular support for these statements about the teaching of the Church about itself, but takes them for granted. Of course Brownson does not have the right to determine that Newman is “no Catholic,” no matter how strongly he disagrees with his opinions. And the Catholic Church evidently disagreed with this assessment, since he was made a Cardinal in 1879, and after his death, he was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.