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Newman and the study of the Church Fathers

by Thomas McGovern

It is not without significance that the Holy See felt it necessary to publish recently an instruction on the study of the Church Fathers, with special reference to the formation of future priests.[1] This is a fine document which deserves to be studied by anyone with a concern for the future of theology in the Church. It comes at a time when theology, perhaps dazzled by the prospect of a new beginning after Vatican II, seems to have severed its points of anchorage with its patristic heritage.

Vatican II urged that the formation of seminarians would give particular importance to the study of the Fathers of the East and the West.[2] In addition, the constitution on Divine Revelation drew specific attention to the importance of the patristic writers for the interpretation of Scripture today.[3] Nevertheless, twenty-five years on, in spite of some encouraging signs, the Congregation for Catholic Education draws little comfort from its survey and analysis of the place of the Fathers in theological studies at the present time:

"Today there are many theological concepts or tendencies which, contrary to the indications of the Decree, Optatum Totius (no.16), pay little attention to the Fathers' witness and, in general, to ecclesiastical Tradition, and confine themselves to the direct confrontation of biblical texts with social reality and life's concrete problems with the help of the human sciences. These are theological currents which do without the historical dimension of dogmas, and for which the immense efforts of the patristic era and of the Middle Ages do not seem to have any real importance. In such cases, study of the Fathers is reduced to a minimum, practically caught up in an overall rejection of the past."[4]

What often passes as theology today is little more than "Biblicism" on the one hand, or sociology on the other,[5] because it has been cut off f'rom the vital stream of Tradition, and no longer draws on the clear, deep, theological well-springs of the Fathers.

The Instruction draws attention to another negative consequence of the neglect of the Fathers, this time in the area of' biblical exegesis.

"Modern exegesis, that makes use of historical and literary criticism, casts a shadow on the exegetical contributions of the Fathers who are considered simplistic and, basically, useless for an in-depth knowledge of Sacred Scripture. Such positions, while they impoverish and distort exegesis itself by breaking its natural unity with Tradition, undoubtedly contribute to the waning of interest in patristic works. Instead,"

the Instruction affirms,

"the exegesis of the Fathers could open our eyes to other dimensions of spiritual exegesis and hermeneutics which would complete historical-critical exegesis and enrich it with profoundly theological insights."[6]

This is a view which, thankfully, is beginning to find greater acceptance among exegetes today.[7]

Study of the Fathers is necessary

The Instruction makes mention of the concern of the Magisterium to facilitate a better formation for seminarians in the period since the Council.
[8] Not least is the encouragement given by Paul VI and John Paul II to this area of studies. Paul VI stressed that the study of the Fathers

"is absolutely necessary for those who care about the theological, pastoral and spiritual renewal promoted by the Council and who wish to cooperate in it. In them," he affirms, are to be found "all the constant factors that are at the basis of any authentic renewal."[9]

More recently John Paul II pointed out how the Church has always been aware that
the contribution of the Fathers to theology and ecclesial life is unique and perennially valid:

"The Church still lives today by the life received from her Fathers and on the foundation erected by her first constructors she is still being built today in the joy and sorrow of her journeying and daily toil."[10]

The Fathers, according to John Paul II, have a permanent value for the Church in the sense that any developments in its teaching must always be consistent with patristic doctrine.[11]

To illustrate how the study of the Fathers, approached from this perspective, can achieve bountiful theological fruits, it is instructive to consider the case of the great English cardinal, John Henry Newman.

As a schoolboy he read a volume of early Church history, with the result that he acquired a deeply-felt attraction for the Fathers, who were to be a constant source of nourishment for his spiritual life, as well as providing a solid doctrinal foundation for his immense output of theological writing all during his life.[12]

One can see in Newman's writings the progressive influence of the teaching of the Fathers on him.[13] Men like "Origen, Tertulian, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Augustine, Jerome and Leo" are for Newman, "authors of powerful, original minds, engaged in the production of original works."[14]

During the years of the Oxford Movement, Newman tried to justify the apostolicity of the Anglican Church from his study of the Fathers and thereby establish it as the Via Media between Rome and Protestantism. He saw that it had a certain validity as a theology, but no counterpart in reality. The theory itself collapsed when he came face to face with the augustinian principle of Church government - "securus iudicat orbis terrarum."[15] In a compelling passage in the Apologia, he describes his reaction at this critical stage in his conversion:

"Who can account for the impressions which are made on him? For a mere sentence, the words of St. Augustine, struck me with a power which I never had felt from any words before . . . they were like the 'Tolle, lege, Tolle, lege,' of the child, which converted St Augustine himself. 'Securus judicat orbis terrarum!' By those great words of the ancient Father, interpreting and summing up the long and varied course of ecclesiastical history, the theology of the Via Media was absolutely pulverised."[16]

And so, many years later, he could write to a former colleague of the Oxford Movement who did not convert,

"I recollect well what an outcast I seemed to myself, when I took down from the shelves of my library the volumes of St Athanasius or St Basil, and set myself to study them; and how, on the contrary, when at length I was brought into the Catholic Communion, I kissed them with delight, with a feeling that in them I had more than all I had lost";[17]

and again:

"I am not ashamed still to take my stand upon the Fathers, and do not mean to budge . . . The Fathers made me a Catholic."[18]



The Fathers are privileged witnesses

Newman's great discovery was that the Catholic Church of the 19th century was the same as the Church of the Fathers.
[19] In September 1845, the Oxford don concluded his Essay on the Development of the Christian Doctrine, proving conclusively to himself that any doctrinal development which had taken place in the interim in the Catholic Church, was in homogeneous continuity with the teaching of the Fathers. He wrote the Foreword to the first edition on October 6th; [20] he was received into the Church three days later.

One of the reasons for the neglect of the Fathers of the Church is simply an attitude of mind which considers that anything old is by definition irrelevant from the point of view of progress or penetration to new horizons. It is also linked to a deep ignorance of the perennial values inherent in patristic literature.

To assimilate the doctrinal and spiritual riches of the Fathers requires regular and continual effort on the part of the student the Instruction reminds us that real commitment is required "to cultivate them seriously and lovingly,"[21] and provides the motivation for this study by identifying three very important reasons why knowledge of the Fathers is so necessary:

a) they are the privileged witnesses to the living Tradition of the Church;

b) they have passed down to us a theological method that is both enlightened and reliable; and

c) their writings offer cultural, spiritual and apostolic richness that makes them great teachers for the Church yesterday and today.[22]

The Magisterium has in the past given importance to the study of the Fathers for several reasons. However, the fact that they are privileged witnesses to Tradition is to identify their most important role:

"In the flow of living Tradition that continues from the beginning of Christianity over the centuries up to our present time, they occupy an entirely special place which makes them stand out compared with other protagonists of the history of the Church. They laid down the first basic structures of the Church together with the doctrinal and pastoral positions that remain valid for all times."[23]

Some of them, like St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp, were disciples of St. John the Evangelist, and thus witnesses of the apostolic tradition itself. [24] And so, rightly,

"the Fathers of the first centuries especially can be considered authors and exponents of a 'founding' tradition which was preserved and continuously elucidated in subsequent ages."[25]

A few years ago, John Paul II, in an outstanding address on St. Irenaeus of Lyons, drew attention to the contemporary relevance of the theology of this great second century apologist. [26] Irenaeus initiated a theological method which took due note of the interdependence of Tradition, Scripture and Magisterium in the theological enterprise, the full implications of which were articulated by the Vatican II constitution on Divine Revelation.[27] Among other things, the early Fathers defined the canon of Scripture; [28] they composed the basic credal professions of faith, and defined the depositum fidei in response to heresies and the needs of contemporary culture, thus giving rise to theology. [29] There was unity in variety as evidenced by the plurality of spiritual traditions, and theological schools such as Alexandria, Caesarea, Antioch, etc. As the Instruction eloquently points out,

"Tradition, as it was known and lived by the Fathers, is not like a monolithic, immovable block, but a multiform organism pulsating with life. It is a practice of life and doctrine. . . . To follow the living Tradition of the Fathers does not mean hanging on to the past as such, but adhering to the line of Faith with an enthusiastic sense of security and freedom, while maintaining a constant fidelity towards what is foundational."[30]


The Fathers teach facts

And so the document can say that the Fathers are

"witnesses and guarantors of an authentic Catholic Tradition and hence their authority in theological questions has been very great and always remains so."[31]

Down through the centuries the decrees of councils have constantly referred to the witness of the Fathers as definitive. It was precisely for this very reason that the Fathers of Vatican II were able to give expression to their understanding of the Church itself with a clarity and incisiveness not previously attempted.[32]

For Newman, too, the Fathers are primarily witnesses of Tradition,

"witnesses of an existing state of things, and their treatises are as it were, histories - teaching us, in the first instance, matters of fact, not of opinion."[33]

The strength of the Catholic Church by comparison with the Protestant communion is that

"she professes to be built upon facts not opinions; on objective truths, not on variable sentiments; on immemorial testimony, not on private judgement; on convictions or perceptions, not on conclusions."[34]

The Fathers being "witnesses" bring before us all the living truths of the Catholic faith which ever have been, and are accepted as realities by all in the Church.[35]

The second reason suggested by the Instruction as to why we should study the Fathers is because of their theological method. This exemplifies particular approaches and attitudes which are equally valid for contemporary theology and biblical exegesis. The Fathers were primarily and essentially commentators on sacred Scripture. While clearly they lacked the philological, historical and other resources available to modern scriptural scholarship, yet "they are still true teachers for us and superior in many ways to the exegetes of the modern era."[36] The Instruction goes on to point out that the example of the Fathers can

"teach modern exegesis a truly religious approach to sacred Scripture as well as an interpretation that constantly adheres to the criterion of communion with the experience of the Church proceeding through history under the guidance of the Holy Spirit."[37]

It is precisely because modern exegesis frequently neglects these two principles of scriptural interpretation the religious one, and the specifically Catholic criterion of exegesis in medio Ecclesiae that its results are often theologically impoverished, when they are not at variance with the norm of Catholic doctrine.

Christ speaks in Scripture

The Fathers show a great veneration for the inspired text; they are convinced of its divine origin, its inerrancy, and its inexhaustible sources for nourishment of piety. By contrast, the rationalistic spirit of much of contemporary exegesis betrays a great insensitivity to the supernatural wisdom of God's written word, and a consequent incapacity to communicate to the People of God a real sense of the great mysteries hidden in the inspired text.

Newman's attitude, on the other hand, is much more in keeping with the mind of the Fathers. This perspective, he says,

"keeps steadily in view that Christ speaks in Scripture and receives His words as if it heard them, as if some superior and friend spoke them, one whom it wished to please; not as if it were engaged upon the dead letter of a document, which admitted of rude handling, of criticism and exception. It looks off from self to Christ; and, instead of seeking impatiently for some personal assurance, is set by obedience, saying, 'Here I am, send me'."[38]

And what should we do if we find what seems to be a clash between human science and the content of Scripture? Again Newman points the way:

"This is the feeling I think we ought to have in our minds not an impatience to do what is beyond our powers, to weigh evidence, sum up, balance, decide and reconcile, to arbitrate between the two voices of God but a sense of the utter nothingness of worms such as we are; of our plain and absolute incapacity to contemplate things as they really are; a perception of our emptiness of the great vision of God."[39]

These are the spiritual dispositions required to approach the Bible fruitfully, attitudes which are in faithful continuity with those of men like Origen, Jerome or Augustine.

The Instruction reminds us that the exegesis the Fathers

"is entirely centred on the mystery of Christ to whom all the individual truths are referred in a wonderful synthesis. Rather than getting lost in numerous marginal problems, the Fathers embrace the totality of the Chrisistian mystery by following the basic movement of Revelation and of the economy of salvation that goes from God through Christ to the Church, sacrament of union with God and dispenser of divine grace, in order to return to God."[40]

There is thus a wholeness about the theology of the Fathers which contrasts with the often narrow selective approach of the contemporary theological enterprise; there is an integrity of perspective in exegetical style which shows up, by comparison, the atomization of the biblical text resulting from modern hermeneutical studies.

Since the Fathers received the Scriptures from the Church, they read and commented on them in and for the Church "according to the rule of faith proposed and illustrated by ecclesiastical and apostolic Tradition."[41] This is another aspect of patristic theology which was reaffirmed by Vatican II in the constitution on Divine Revelation: "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church."[42] Thus a valid hermeneutic of Scripture can only be achieved by respecting the intimate relationship which exists between it and the living Tradition of the Church.


Newman loved the early Church

Newman again throws considerable light on this principle. As his appreciation for the Fathers' contribution to the life of the Church deepened, he became more acutely aware of the inadequacy and insufficiency of the
sola Scriptura principle as the rule of faith, from several points of view: for teaching matters of discipline, for furnishing or transmitting the whole of the Faith, for a unanimous profession of the faith, etc.[43] Because of his great knowledge of the inspired text, he realized that it did not carry its own explanation with it. It is precisely because the Fathers are "witnesses" to the living Tradition of the Church from apostolic times, that their commentaries on Scripture are, for Newman, sure guides to its correct interpretation. They are incomparable "expositors of Scripture" because "they do what no examination of the particular context can do satisfactorily, acquaint us with the things Scripture speaks of."[44] The Fathers, instead of telling us the meaning of words in their etymological, philosophical, classical, or scholastic sense, communicate to us "what they do mean actually, what they do mean in the Christian Church and in theology."[45] It is from the Fathers we get the real, useful, intended meaning of the words of the Bible.

The early Church, as mediated by the Fathers and which Newman came to love, was in his eyes "a Revelation of the Blessed Spirit in a bodily shape, who was promised to us as a second Teacher of Truth after Christ's departure."[46] She represented the greatest possible identification with God's Revealed Word, and, inasmuch as she was a kind of embodiment of the Holy Spirit, she was constituted as the definitive and only authority on that Word. This perception of Newman's helps us to understand more clearly the rich theological implications of another hermeneutical principle articulated by Vatican Il that Scripture has to be interpreted with the same Spirit by which it was written.[47]

Newman consistently insists on the necessity of being led both by Scripture and Tradition in order to attain to the whole of revealed truth. It was more than evident to him that Scripture cannot, and does not, "force on us its full dogmatic meaning."[48] Therefore Scripture could never be used alone, i.e., without Tradition. But once this is accepted, then Scripture, the written word, serves as a powerful and clear indicator of the Truth. With Athanasius he considered Scripture, as interpreted by Tradition, to be "a document of final appeal in inquiry."[49]


Newman opposed rationalism

Early Christianity developed not only in a climate of physical persecution; it had also to weather the storms of intellectual assault from pagan philosophers on the outside, as well as from Gnosticism and other heresies originating within the community of the faith. The Church was blessed in having men of the intellectual calibre of Justin, Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, etc. in the second and third centuries to respond to this particular challenge. They demonstrated not only how the best of the human wisdom of the Greek philosophers could be put at the service of the Wisdom of the Word, but showed how revealed truths could open up undreamt of horizons to challenge the human intellect. Thus the Fathers protected the nascent Church from "
the ever recurring temptations both of exaggerated rationalism" on the one hand "or of a flat and resigned fideism" on the other.[50] In fact, as the Instruction points out, the Fathers "were the authors of a great advance in the understanding of dogmatic content"[51] and became an outstanding example

"of a rich encounter between faith and culture, faith and reason, which continues to be a guide for the Church of all ages that is committed to preaching the Gospel to people of such different cultures."[52]

One of Newman's great preoccupations was to provide a rational basis for the faith as a bulwark against the attack on religion from the rationalism of the day. In one of the Tracts of the Oxford Movement which he wrote in 1835, he outlines the dangers of the rationalist approach:

"To rationalize in matters of Revelation is to make our reason the standard and measure of the doctrines revealed; to stipulate that those doctrines should be such as to carry with them their own justification; to reject them if they come into collision with our existing opinions or habits of thought, or are with difficulty harmonised with our existing stock of knowledge."[53]

On the other hand he underlines clearly the just claims of reason in the theological enterprise:

"As regards Revealed Truth, it is not Rationalism to set about to ascertain, by the use of reason, what things are ascertainable by reason, and what are not; nor, in the absence of any express Revelation, to inquire into the truths of Religion, as they come to us by nature; nor to determine what proofs are necessary for the acceptance of a Revelation, if it be given; nor to reject a Revelation on the plea of insufficient proof; nor, after recognising it as divine, to investigate the meaning of its declarations, and to interpret its language. . . This is not Rationalism; but it is Rationalism to accept the Revelation, and then to explain it away; to speak of the Word of God, and to treat it as the word of man; . . . to put aside what is obscure as if it had not been said at all; to accept one half of what has been told us, and not the other half; to frame some gratuitous hypothesis about them, and then to garble, gloss and colour them, to trim, to clip, pare away, and twist them, in order to bring them into conformity with the idea to which we have subjected them."[54]

This is a strikingly eloquent and prophetic passage, describing with uncanny accuracy the thrust of much of contemporary biblical exegesis.

The Church fears no knowledge

One of Newman's greatest works, his
Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, is a seminal contribution to a rational defense of the Faith.[55] He was becoming more and more aware of the increasing secularization of society and of the need to provide an intellectual basis for assent to supernatural truths. As one student of Newman has succinctly explained,

"the Grammar was a defence of moral certitude, the certitude arising from a convergence of many probabilities, the type of proof on which our belief in everyday facts depends, and on which our proof of the claims of Christianity is based."[56]

It has been criticized on a number of grounds, but Newman himself was the first to admit that the Gramnar did not presume to say the last word about anything; he had stated a problem and mapped out some of the answer, which in itself, he felt, was something.[57] It was Newman's personal contribution to the ongoing dialogue between faith and reason, initiated by Clement and Origen in Alexandria, the cradle of the Catholic intellectual enterprise.

And so Pope John Paul II can say:

"In the contemporary cultural climate . . . there is an area of Newman's thought which deserves special attention. I refer to that unity which he advocated between theology and science, between the world of faith and the world of reason. He proposed that learning should not lack unity, but be rooted in a total view. . . . In this endeavour the path the Church must follow is succinctly expressed by the English Cardinal in this way: 'The Church fears no knowledge, but she purifies all: she represses no element of our nature, but cultivates the whole' (The Idea of a University, Westminster, Md., p. 234)."[58]

Because patristic literature is also distinguished for its great cultural, spiritual and pastoral values, after sacred Scripture the Fathers are one of the principal sources of priestly formation.[59] Their cultivation is recommended by Vatican II as ongoing spiritual nourishment for priests during their whole lives.[60] Many of the Fathers were men of immense human culture, totally conversant with the Graeco-Roman philosophical and literary heritage. As the Instruction points out, "by imprinting the Christian stamp on the ancient classical humanitas, they were the first to make a bridge between the Gospel and secular culture."[61] To mention but one example of this influence we need look no further than St. Augustine and the extraordinary impact he exerted on the Christian civilization of the West during the whole of the Middle Ages.

Newman responded to this very attractive characteristic of the Fathers with immense delight and with an enthusiasm which was to remain with him all during his life. This dimension of patristic literature struck a deep chord in Newman because his own intellectual interests, indeed the very cast of his mind, found a deep resonance in the writings of the Fathers. He is profoundly affected by them because they are saints who come alive in their writings and he is thus able to establish a very personal relationship with them. It is this very humanitas which makes him "exult in the folios of the Fathers."[62]

Newman nourished his soul, intellect and will, on all of these early Christian writers. However, he does not deny that St. John Chrysostom has first claim on his affections. The cardinal is rightly regarded as a master of English prose, yet it would be difficult to find anything in his writings which surpasses, in quality and style, the words evoked by his reflections on the personality of John Chrysostom:

"A bright, cheerful, gentle soul; a sensitive heart, a temperament open to emotion and impulse; and all this elevated, refined, transformed by the touch of heaven, such was St John Chrysostom; winning followers, riveting affections, by his sweetness, frankness, and neglect of self."[63]


Chrysostom inspired Newman

I don't think it is forcing the argument too much to suggest that Newman found in this great Father of the East a reflection of many aspects of his own rich personality, and, consequently, an inspiration for much of his life and work. It is not surprising then that Chrysostom's capacity to attract people and win friends impressed itself deeply on Newman's mind.
[64]

Why, he asks, has he such empathy with Chrysostom, when so many other great saints, although they command his veneration, yet "exert no personal claim" upon his heart?[65] After comparing him with a number of the other great Fathers,[66] Newman's considered response is that Chrysostom's charm lies

"in his intimate sympathy and compassionateness for the whole world, not only in its strength, but in its weakness; in the lively regard with which he views everything that comes before him, taken in the concrete. . . . I speak of the discriminating affectionateness with which he accepts every one for what is personal in him and unlike others. I

speak of his versatile recognition of men, one by one, I speak of the kindly spirit and the genial temper with which he looks around at all things which this wonderful world contains; of the graphic fidelity with which he notes them down upon the tablets of his mind, and of the promptitude and propriety with which he calls them up as arguments or illustrations in the course of his teaching as the occasion requires."[67]

Newman is particularly taken by Chrysostom's approach to the Bible, his "observant benevolence which gives to his exposition of Scripture its chief characteristic."[68] Having been trained in the School of Antioch, he approaches it primarily from the point of view of the literal meaning, and it is his capacity

"of throwing himself into the minds of others, of imagining with exactness and with sympathy circumstances or scenes which were not before him, and of bringing out what he has apprehended in words as direct and vivid as the apprehension,"[69]

which characterizes his biblical commentaries. We are reminded here of what Cardinal Ratzinger said in his recent Erasmus lecture in New York about the current crisis in the historico-critical methods of biblical exegesis. If this hermeneutical approach is to be effective, an essential pre-condition is that there should be "sym-pathia" between the exegete and the biblical text.[70] This is precisely the quality which Newman picks out as fundamental in the exegesis of St. John Chrysostom.[71]

Because Newman studied the Fathers in the original Greek and Latin languages, he had access to all the nuances of their literary and theological riches. Their sure doctrine brought him unerringly to the fullness of the Faith in the Catholic Church. By means of the light of grace, and as a result of his great fortitude in search of divine truth, Newman was ready to make all the sacrifices which intellectual honesty demanded in pursuit of his goal.

As John Paul II has pointed out, the mystery of the Church was always "the great love of John Henry Newman's life." His experience of the weaknesses in the human fabric of the Church did not undermine in any way his deep supernatural vision of her origin, purpose and effectiveness in the world.[72]

Newman is a guide for theologians

For a man of his intellectual genius and accomplishment, perseverance on his spiritual journey required a considerable degree of humility also. In this, as well as in his constant recourse to the theological well-springs of the Fathers, he is a sure guide and example for theologians of the present day.

It is also worth noting that when he started his research into the heritage of the Fathers, patrology had not yet acquired any significant profile in Catholic theological formation. He had, in a very real sense, anticipated the mind of the Church in this regard. The Fathers were everything, and more, for Newman, which Vatican II and the recent Instruction recommends them to be for the mind and heart of every theologian, for the life and work of every priest.


ENDNOTES

1. Congregation for Catholic Education, Instruction on the study of the Fathers of the Church in the formation of priests, 10 November 1989, published in L'Osservatore Romano (English edition), 15 January 1990.

2. Cf. Flannery, A. (ed), Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, Dublin 1981, "Decree on The Training of Priests" (Optatum
Totius
), no. 16, p. 719.

3. Cf ibid., Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum), no. 23, p. 763.

4. Instruction, no. 8. c).

5. Cf. ibid.

6 Cf. ibid., no. 9. d.

7. In this context, cf. the article by I. de la Potterie, "Reading Holy Scripture 'in the Spirit': Is the patristic way of reading the Bible still possible today?", in Communio, 4 (Winter 1986), pp. 308-325.

8. It refers to the documents: Ratio Fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis (1985), and The Theological formation of Future Priests (1976) of the Congregation for Catholic Education.

9. Paul VI, Letter to His Eminence Cardinal Michele Pellegrino, for the Centenary of the Death of J.P. Migne, I May 1975, AAS 67(1975) p. 471.

10. Instruction, no, 2, quoting John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Patres Ecclesiae, 2 January 1980, AAS 72 (1980) p. 5.

11. Cf. ibid., p. 6.

12. Cf. Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching (subsequently referred to as Difficulties), London 1872, p. 324.

13. Cf. Ker, I., Newman the Theologian, London 1990. In the introductory essays to selected texts, Ker gives a fine analysis of Newman's theological development and his dependence on the Fathers. Ker also communicates vividly the patristic influence on the English cardinal in his superb biography of Newman (John Henry Newman: A Biography, Oxford 1988). However, to appreciate fully the extent of this influence there is no substitute for reading some of Newman's own works such as Select Treatises of St Athanasius, The Arians of the Fourth Century, Historical Sketches, Vols. I and II, Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Apologia pro Vita Sua, etc.

14. Historical Sketches, Vol. II, London 1876, p. 475.

15. Newman's own free translation was: "The universal Church is in its judgements secure of truth"; cf. Ker, Newman the Theologian, p. 35.

16. Apologia pro Vita Sua, London 1886, p. 117.

17. Difficulties, p. 357.

18. Ibid., p. 376.

19. Cf. Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, London 1920, pp. 97-98.

20. Cf. ibid., page x.

21. Cf. Instruction, no. 17.

22. Cf. ibid.

23. Ibid., no. 18.

24. Cf. for example, St. lgnatius of Antioch, Letter to the Christians at Smyrna, III, 1-3.

25. Instruction, no. 19.a.

26. Cf. Address to the Faculté Catholiques de Lyon, 7 October 1986 (AAS 79 (1987) 334-340).

27. Cf. Flannery, ibid., Dei Verbum, no. 10, p. 755-756.

28. Cf. Instruction, no. 20.b, and Dei Verbum, no. 8

29. Cf. Instruction, no. 20.b.

30. Instruction, no. 22.d.

31. Instruction, no. 23.e.

32. Cf. Flannery, ibid., Dogmatic Constitution on The Church (Lumen Gentium), pp. 350-423; cf. in particular nos. 1 to 8.

33. Historical Sketches, Vol. 1, London 1878, p. 385.

34. Difficulties, p. 190.

35. Cf. ibid., pp. 242-243.

36. Instruction, no. 26.1.

37. Ibid.

38. Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. II, London, pp. 22-23. 1 am indebted to Louis Bouyer's study, Newman's Vision of Faith, Ignatius Press (San Francisco 1986), for this and the following reference.

39. Ibid., p. 208.

40. Instruction, no. 27.2.

41. Ibid., no. 28.3.

42 Flannery, ibid., Dei Verbum, no. 10, p. 755.

43. Cf. Griffin, P., Revelation and Scripture in the Writings of John Henry Newman, University of Navarre, Pamplona 1985, pp. 280-291.

44. Lectures on the Doctrine of Justfication, London 1874, p. 121.

45. Ibid.

46. University Sermons, London 1970, p. 17.

47. Cf. Flannery, ibid., Dei Verbum, no. 12, p. 758.

48. Essays Critical and Historical, Vol. 1, London, 1901, p. 115.

49. Select Treatises of St Athanasius, Vol. II, p. 51.

50. Instruction, no. 37.1,

51. Ibid., no. 33.1.

52. Ibid., no. 32.3.

53. Tract no. 73, as quoted in Newman the Theologian, p. 75.

54. Ibid., p. 76.

55. Cf. Ker, A Biography, pp. 618-650 for a discussion of its central themes.

56. Flanagan P., Newman: Faith and the Believer, London 1946, p. 15.

57. Cf. Ker, Ibid., p. 650.

58. Address to Newman Centenary Symposium, 27 April 1990, in L'Osservatore Romano, 30 April 1990.

59. Cf. Instruction, no. 41. This is the third reason suggested by the Instruction as to why the study of the Fathers is so worthwhile (cf. no. 17).

60 Cf. Flannery, ibid,, Decree on the Life of Priests, no. 19, p. 897.

61. No. 43.b.

62. Historical Sketches, Vol. II, p. 221.

63. Ibid., p. 234.

64. Cf.
ibid., pp. 237-238.

65.Cf. ibid., p. 284.

66. Cf. ibid., pp. 284-285.

67. Ibid., p. 285.

68. Ibid., p. 288.

69. ibid., p. 289.

70."Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: On the Question of the Foundations and Approaches of Exegesis Today," was the title of the Erasmus lecture given by Cardinal Ratzinger in New York, on January 27, 1988. It was subsequently published in Origins, February 11, 1988 (Vol. 17, no. 35), pp. 595-602, under the somewhat mutated title: "Foundations and Approaches of Biblical Exegesis." Ratzinger says that the exegete's approach to the scriptural text should not be dictated by presuppositions "of a so-called modern or 'scientific' worldview, which determines in advance what may or may not be." Rather he should be prepared to "open up to the inner dynamism of the word. This is possible only when there is a certain sym-pathia for understanding, a readiness to learn something new, to allow oneself to be taken along a new road" (p. 600). Also, exegesis, if it wishes to make a contribution to theology, "must recognise that the faith of the Church is that form of sym-pathia without which the Bible remains a closed book" (p. 601).

71. Cf. Historical Sketches, Vol II., p. 289,

72. Cf. John Paul II, address, ibid., 27th April 1990, in L'Osservatore Romano, 30th April 1990.


First published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, February 1992, pp 8-18.

Copyright ©; Fr Thomas McGovern 1992, 2003.


This version: 16th January 2003

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