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Liberal religion Print E-mail
By Fr. Stanley L. Jaki   
Thursday, 07 March 2013
 
One can gather from unimpeachably conservative authorities some high praise for liberalism. According to one such authority, “it must be borne in mind, that there is much in the liberalistic theory which is good and true; for example, not to say more, the precepts of justice, truthfulness, sobriety, self-command which are among its avowed principles, and the natural laws of society.” The one who said this is none other than John Henry Newman. Further, he uttered these words at the very moment when he was formally notified in Rome on May 12, 1879, that the next day he would be created a Cardinal.

In reply to that notification Newman gave a brief speech in which he summarized the chief motivation of his public life as something most anti-liberal:
For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of Liberalism in religion ... it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth; . . . Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion.
Did then Newman oppose liberalism in theology or religion alone, but not the socio-political applications of liberalism? In the same speech he gave to this question an answer which again strikes one with its markedly anti-liberal tone:
Hitherto, it has been considered that religion alone, with its supernatural sanctions, was strong enough to secure submission of the masses of our population to law and order; now the Philosophers and Politicians are bent on satisfying this Problem without the aid of Christianity. Instead of the Church’s authority and teaching, they would substitute first of all a universal and thoroughly secular education, calculated to bring home to every individual that to be orderly, industrious and sober is his personal interest.


 
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