Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman and How His Protestant Background Enriched the Catholic Church with Vatican II

This Page is Under Construction.  However, a significant amount of material on this topic can be found back on the Vatican II Implementation webpage, in its subsection Becoming Part of the Solution to Christian Disunity Instead of Part of the Problem: The Great Protestant Contribution to Vatican II

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For the time being, the subsection is reprinted here:

Becoming Part of the Solution to Christian Disunity Instead of Part of the Problem: The Great Protestant Contribution to Vatican II

The Greatest Protestant Scholar of the 19th Century, and the Greatest Early Church Scholar Ever, Predicted the Widespread “Doctrinal Liberalism” and Unorthodoxy Within Protestantism Which in Fact Happened, as the Natural & Logical Result of Certain Protestant Reformation Deviations from the Norms of the Undivided Early Church, and Became Catholic Because the Catholic Church Despite its Own Problems Still Preserved All of Those Norms and Was Immune to Protestant “Liberal” Unorthodoxy.  Orthodox Protestant Christians Will Be Glad to Know That He Brought with Him into the Catholic Church All the Protestant Concerns about the Catholic Church, Found Resolutions to Them and Worked for Further Reform of the Catholic Church to Make it Even More like the Undivided Early Church.  The Fruit of His Effort Is Vatican Council II, Which He Has Been Called “The Father Of” Because of How His Unparalleled Early Church Research and Theological Development Based on it Prepared the Way for Vatican II’s Reforms Which Formally Pave the Way for the Reestablishment of the Structure of the Undivided Early Church with its Unity in Diversity, Though These Reforms Are Still in the Process of Being Implemented Within the Catholic Church. His Contributions, Coming from His Protestant Perspective, to the Catholic Church, Helping it to Become All it Is Meant to Be and as it Was in the Undivided Early Catholic Church, Are So Vast and So Respected by the Catholic Church That He Was Made a Cardinal in His Lifetime and Now Is Well on the Way to Being Named Both a Saint and a Doctor (Teacher) of the Catholic Church.

This most piercingly intelligent and piercingly honest of Protestant Christians, who brought the gifts of his wide Protestant background into the Catholic Church to help to truly reform it in ways both the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation had failed to do, is, many will have guessed, Cardinal John Henry Newman, who had long been named “Venerable” and in September 2010 was named “Blessed” by Pope Benedict XVI, the next-to-last step to being Canonized as a Saint.  Because of the exceptional nature of his theology, which has already become part of the dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church in Vatican II’s above-cited Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation as well as the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, he is likely to eventually also be named a Doctor (Latin: Teacher) of the Church, joining the select group of only 33 Saints throughout history who have been named Doctors, often for being the theologians who did the most to help the Early Church clarify and define what we now know as the “fundamental doctrines” or “essential dogmas” of Christian faith, resolving the earlier imprecision which had led to heresies and other major problems (including divisions!) within the Church.

It is important to note that although Newman later used his vast intellect to pointedly criticize the deficiencies of all of the major forms of Protestantism (all of which he had direct experience in, not just the Anglicanism he held before he became Catholic), he very much “took with him” into the Catholic Church the best of the Protestantism which had provided his Christian formation.  I myself have a similar wide range of Protestant experience in my background, and I know that like Newman I personally quite literally received “the best of both worlds” by having been raised (conservative “mainline” then Evangelical) Protestant but later becoming Catholic.  The world’s foremost Newman scholar, Father Ian Ker, who attended Newman’s Beatification in September 2010, in his book Newman and the Fullness of Christianity in a detailed way confirms the history that Newman had direct experience in all the major Protestant forms of Christianity, including becoming a devout Evangelical in his teens (as I did), as well as having a great familiarity with Eastern Orthodox Christianity.  He even came to love the Eastern Early Church Fathers much more than the Western although as the world’s foremost Early Church Scholar (as an Anglican) he came to understand very clearly they were all Catholic (Universal) Christians, not just Roman, nor merly Orthodox.  I have personally experienced the best of what each tradition has best preserved from the Undivided Early Church and so, although I am a thoroughly committed Catholic Christian (among the Eastern Catholic Rites not the largest, Roman Rite), I do not simply wish to promote Protestants becoming Catholic but rather I wish to promote their (in the long term) doing so by bringing with them their special gifts to greatly enrich the Catholic Communion to help make it all it was meant to be, as it was in the Undivided Early Catholic Church but better (the Undivided Early Church eventually lost its initial Unity in Diversity because it never consciously defined, as Vatican II has, the wonderful nature and structure of its Undivided Christian Communion which it lived unconsciously).  I also wish to promote Catholics getting ready to receive such Protestants returning to the Catholic Communion (in large numbers in their own new Sister Churches, “daughter” Rites of the ancient Roman Patriarchate, according to the Undivided Early Church model described in The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church) with open and loving arms, enriching their returning brothers with those vast treasures of Early Undivided Christianitywhich Catholics have never lost at the same time as being enriched by the evangelical zeal and great love for God’s Word in the Bible of their returning brothers and sisters. My professor, Protestant pastor turned Catholic scholar Scott Hahn, who like Newman and I has benefited greatly from having belonged to both traditions, wrote,

“in the writings of the early [Christian Church] fathers … I ran smack up against a Church I could only recognize as Catholic. It was liturgical, hierarchical, sacramental. It was Catholic, and yet it held all that I loved about the Reformation tradition too: a deep devotion to Jesus, a spontaneous life of prayer, a zeal to transform the culture, and, of course, a burning love for scripture”

– so it must be possible to genuinely reform the Catholic Church according to the Undivided Early Catholic Church model for reformers and Catholics to once again belong to one ChurchBlessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, Scott Hahn, myself and many others represent “becoming part of the solution to Christian disunity instead of part of the problem” – recognizing that our traditional Christian orthodoxy makes us “Catholic at Heart” already, bringing all the best of Protestant Christianity with us into the Ancient Catholic Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches known collectively as the Catholic Church, where we no longer have any concern about the creeping Protestant “doctrinal liberalism” or unorthodoxy which is the natural and logical long-term, mature result of the Protestant Reformation’s attempt to re-form the Church without certain key elements of the Undivided Early Church.

© 2010 Peter William John Baptiste, SFO

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