Often called "the father of the Second Vatican Council", Newman in his theological classic An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine teaches that the Church has to change or develop not in order to be different but to be the same. The Council, then, needs to be interpreted authentically in continuity not in rupture with the Church's tradition. Newman's theology of conscience that had such a deep effect on Pope Benedict XVI as a young seminarian after the horrors of Nazi totalitarianism reminds the Church of the distinction between a genuine conscience which hears the echo of the voice of God and a "counterfeit" conscience, which is no more than "a long-sighted selfishness ... a desire to be consistent with oneself". "When men advocate the rights of conscience", Newman wrote, "they in no sense mean the rights of the Creator, nor the duty to Him, in thought and deed, of the creature; but the right of thinking, speaking, writing, and acting, according to their judgment or their humour, without any thought of God at all". Accordingly, in a secularised society, he observed ironically, "it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations".
John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was a prominent figure in the religious history of England during the 19th century becoming nationally recognized by the mid-1830s. Originally an evangelistic Oxford scholar and clergyman in the Church of England, he was a leader in the Oxford Movement. This inspiring grouping of Anglicans wished to return the Church of England to the many Catholic beliefs and forms of worship. Newman left the Anglican Church and converted to Roman Catholicism, eventually acquiring the rank of Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. Development of doctrine is a term used by Newman to describe the way Catholic teaching has become meticulous and explicit over the centuries. "An Essay on the Development of Christinan Doctrine" presents Newman's idea of development of doctrine to defend Catholic teaching from attacks by Anglicans and Protestants who saw certain elements in Catholic teaching as corruptions or innovations. To him, this doctrine was the natural and beneficial consequence of reason to reveal a truth that was not obvious at first.
An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.
"Newman's Early Legacy: Giovanni Perrone and Roman Readings of an Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 1845-1854"
Mentor: Kenneth L. Parker
November 15, 2013