Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Synodality, Doctrine on Catholic Priesthood, Part 5

(Twelve Apostles, photo by BarBus)

John Henry Newman was concerned about corruption of doctrine. Therefore, he sought a way of distinguishing a good development from an erroneous one. In addition to the two Notes or Tests ,identity of type and continuity of principles, discussed in the previous blog post, Newman laid out five other Notes to examine developments in doctrine. After a brief mention of these Notes we will indicate  how the ordination of women to the clerical state, one of the topics discussed at the Synod on Synodality, does not meet Newman’s criteria for a genuine development in doctrine. 

The third Note is Power of Assimilation. The assimilation of a doctrine into an existing body of belief involves a long process of meditation and dispute, “a diligent, patient working out of one doctrine from many materials” by Popes, Councils and Church Fathers. This was the case with the doctrines on Christ’s consubstantiality to the Father, on Purgatory, and on prayers for the faithful departed.

 The fourth Note is Logical Sequence or character. Ideas develop one step at a time, but at some point, looking back, one can see antecedent probability, application of principles, congruity and expedience. An example of this would be the forgiveness of post-baptismal sin by means of Penance and Purgatory.

The fifth Note is Anticipation of Its Future. There are often ideas that occur early on but are not found until later in the course of history. Belief that matter is good and capable of being united to the divine, as in the case of the Incarnation, anticipates belief in the resurrection of the body and the practice of venerating relics.

 The Sixth Note is Conservative Action upon Its Past. Newman explains that a genuine development ‘illustrates, not obscures, corroborates, not corrects,’ and he offered devotion to Mary as an example.

 The last or Seventh Note is Chronic Vigor (Duration in time) A corruption, if vigorous, is of brief duration, runs itself out quickly, and ends in death; on the other hand, if it lasts, it fails in vigor and passes into a decay. 

 Applying Newman’s theory, it seems clear that the notion that women’s ordination to the diaconate, or as some would wish to the priesthood, would not maintain the type of the early Church which did not have women priests. The ordination of women would also constitute a discontinuity of principles since Jesus chose only to ordain men to the priesthood. In addition, it is not plausible that women priests could assimilate to a system of priests who are men and from whom bishops are chosen as successors of the Apostles. If women were ordained to the diaconate, why should they not be ordained to the priesthood and later to the episcopacy? Furthermore, the existence of a variety of gifts in the Church suggests that there does not exist a logical requirement for women to be ordained to the priesthood. Women exercise their own gifts in the Church without requiring ordination. The fact that in the early centuries of Christianity some women called deaconesses assisted in the baptism of women in a non-sacramental manner is no anticipation of later ordination of women to the diaconate. Lastly, rather than effect a conservative action on the past or vigorous effect on the future, it is very likely that the ordination of women would undermine the sacramental symbolism between Christ as spouse and the Church as bride, and the biblical understanding of the complementarity of the sexes.

 In her book, The Catholic Priesthood and Women (2006), theologian Sara Butler, writes that ultimately Newman argued how the teaching office of the Church must discern and judge doctrines to establish if they are developments or corruptions. 

 Butler explains how for the last half-century some Catholic theologians have advanced the acceptance of the ordination of women to the diaconate and priesthood. The context for this was the Protestant acceptance of women ministers, a feminist theology that argues against the anthropology in St. Paul’s writings, and more recently the Anglican ordination of women priests. In 1977, Pope Paul VI promulgated an instruction by the Congregation of the Faith teaching that the Church is not authorized to admit women to priestly ordination. Less than twenty years later, in 1994, Pope John Paul II issued the Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis in which he pronounced the solemn judgment the “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.” Pope John Paul II’s decision was based on the Tradition of the Church but in his encyclical letter Mulieris dignitatem he offers theological arguments for understanding the dignity and equality of women as persons which counters arguments about the unequal treatment of women as the basis for admitting women to the priesthood.

 Thus, using reasoning found in Newman’s Notes for genuine development of doctrine, the Church’s Magisterium has passed judgment regarding the ordination of women to the clerical state and given the Church settled teaching on this matter. As the Synod on Synodality was coming to an end, Pope Francis reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on this matter during an interview for a book on his pontificate.






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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

The true light of Christ’s divinity was made visible to the Apostles at the Transfiguration.

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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

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A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

Review by Catherine Maybanks
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Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.

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I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

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What is a Classical Liberal Arts Education? Why is it so important for the development of a person?

Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

A wonderful book that every parent should also read way before your children are College bound. A Liberal Arts education can start earlier in life, even from home.

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In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

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Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
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