May 4, 1843 … At present I fear, as far as I can analyze my own convictions, I consider the Roman Catholic communion to be the Church of the Apostles, and that what grace is among us (which, through God’s mercy, is not little) is extraordinary, and from the overflowings of His dispensation. I am very far more sure that England is in schism, than that the Roman additions to the Primitive Creed may not be developments, arising out of a keen and vivid realizing of the Divine Depositum of Faith.” Apologia Pro Vita Sua, 300-301
Newman sought truth in religion at all cost. From an early age he made it a point to examine the truth claims of his religious beliefs and leave behind beliefs that he did not think were true. As he became a college Tutor at Oxford, he studied religious truths with particular attention to the content of Biblical revelation, study of the Church Fathers and logical reasoning.
From his youth, Newman adopted a doctrinal principle in religion. This principle holds that religion has set truths and rules inspired by God or derived from the former. These beliefs do not admit of subjective changes. Newman resisted changes in religion for any reason such as personal comfort, an easy agreement with other religious groups or political expediency.
Newman dedicated his life to discern which Christian beliefs were orthodox and which were not. As an Anglican Newman believed that the Catholic Church had three Branches: Anglicanism, the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholicism. He thought that each of the branches are true members of the Catholic Church. Initially he thought that Antiquity in religious beliefs was the proof of the orthodoxy of beliefs and evidence that a given Church was the one established by Jesus Christ. He later came to realize that Antiquity was not sufficient proof; it required additional proofs.
Newman accepted the teaching that Apostolic Succession or the direct connection with the Apostles was a requirement for doctrinal orthodoxy. Studying the early Church history, Newman realized that the doctrinal disputes of the fourth-sixth centuries were eventually settled by the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. The Anglican Church was lacking in this important source of doctrinal and spiritual unity provided by the Bishop of Rome.
The Oxford Tutor also came to realize that the Anglican Church had removed itself, like other Christian bodies in the first centuries, from the comm with the Church. The Anglican Church lacked in Catholicity, the sacramental and ecclesial unity with Christians throughout the world. Furthermore, the Anglican Church failed to act as a divinely instituted body independent of civil government. Newman was appalled by the usurpation of episcopal authority by the English government.
The voice of the Church Fathers, whom Newman had studied extensively urged him to follow the Church of Rome which possessed all the notes of the Church established by Christ: Antiquity, Apostolic Succession, Catholicity and Holiness. For some time, due to the errors and abuses of Catholics, Newman thought that the Roman Catholic Church lacked the note of Holiness, but he finally overcame this prejudice by which he had unjustly looked at the Church.
After six years of prayerful consideration, Newman decided to be received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. On October 9, 1845, Fr. Dominic Barberi heard Newman’s confession at Littlemore and received him in the Church. Newman was 43 years old.