Cardinal Newman on Catholic Conversion & Converts

Cardinal Newman on Catholic Conversion & Converts November 19, 2020

Especially His Own & that of Anglicans Who Become Catholics

From my book, Cardinal Newman: Q & A in Theology, Church History, and Conversion (May 2015, 367p): Chapter Six (pp. 89-124). Only the words in blue below are my own (for the purposes of organization of material). You can purchase it for as low as $2.99 in various e-book formats. See the previous link. See also my other two collections of Newman quotations:

The Quotable Newman, Vol. II (Aug. 2013, 290p)



What Was Newman’s View of the Catholic Church in 1834?

Really, you must not suppose that I do not feel the force and influence of those parts of the Roman Catholic system, which have struck you. To express vividly what I mean, I would say, ’I would be a Romanist, if I could. I wish I could be a Romanist.’ But I cannot – there is that mixture of error in it, which (though unseen of course by many many pious Christians who have been brought up in it,) effectually cuts off the chance of my acquiescing in it. I admire the lofty character, the beauty, the sweetness and tenderness of its services and discipline – I acknowledge them divine in a certain sense, i.e. remnants of that old system which the Apostles founded. On the other hand I grieve to think of our own neglect in realizing the Church system among us, which our Reformers intended to be ours, . . . The more I examine into the R.C. system, the less sound it appears to me to be; and the less safely could I in conscience profess to receive it. . . . I feel the Roman Catholic system to be irreverent towards Christ, degrading Him, robbing Him practically of His sole honor, hiding His bounty; – i.e. so far forth as it is Roman Catholic – so far as it differs from ours. Its high points are our points too, if it would but keep them, and not give up our jewels. But, while what is good in it is reverent, solemn, and impressive, its corruptions practically undo all this excellence. Surely we shall be judged according to our conscience, and if we have a clear sight of what is wrong in Rome, we must not follow our inclinations, because Rome has what is attractive in some part of her devotions. (v. 4; To Mrs. William Wilberforce, 17 Nov. 1834)

How Far Was Newman from the Catholic Church in 1837?

It only shows how deep the absurd notion was in men’s minds that I was a Papist; and now they are agreeably surprised. Thus I gain, as commonly happens in the long run, by being misrepresented – . . . I call the notion of my being a Papist absurd, for it argues on utter ignorance of theology. . . . Any one who knew any thing of theology would not have confounded me with the Papists; and, if he gave me any credit for knowledge of theology or for clearheadedness, he would not have thought me in danger of becoming one. True it is, any one who by his own wit had gone as far as I from popular Protestantism, or who had been taught from without, not being up to the differences of things, and trained to discrimination, might have been in danger of going further; but no one who either had learned his doctrine historically, or had tolerable clearness of mind, could be in more danger than of confusing the Sun and the Moon. (v. 6; To [sister] Jemima Mozley, 25 April 1837)

Were High Church Anglicans in 1839-40 Enticed to Catholicism?

[O]ur Church has not the provisions and methods by which Catholic feelings are to be detained, secured, sobered, and trained heaven-wards. . . . I am conscious that we are raising longings and tastes which we are not allowed to supply – and till our Bishops and others give scope to the development of Catholicism externally and visibly, we do tend to make impatient minds seek it where it has ever been, in Rome. (v. 7; To Henry Edward Manning, 1 Sep. 1839)

Our practical difficulty is this – we are raising feelings and aspirations and (till our Church is reformed) Rome alone finds the objects for them. Thus we are educating persons for Rome somewhat in the way that Evangelicalism does for Dissent. At least this is what I fear when desponding. It is comparatively easy to get up a Catholic movement, it is not easy to see what barriers are to be found to its onward progress. (v. 7; To H. A. Woodgate, 20 Oct. 1839)

I have from the first thought that nothing but a quasi miracle, would carry us through the trial with no proselytes whatever to Rome . . . (v. 7; To William Dodsworth, 19 Nov. 1839)

Things are progressing steadily – but breakers ahead! the danger of a lapse into Romanism I think gets greater daily. I expect to hear of victims. (v. 7; To J. W. Bowden, 17 Jan. 1840)

I fear too that some persons will turn Roman Catholics, up and down the country; indeed how is this possibly to be helped as things are? they will be right in their major and wrong only in their minor – right in their principle, wrong in their fact – they seek the true Church, but do not recognize the Church in us. (v. 7;  To J. W. Bowden, 21 Feb. 1840)

What Was the Initial Troubling Blow to Newman’s Anglicanism?

Since I wrote to you, I have had the first real hit from Romanism which has happened to me . . .  Dr [Nicholas] Wiseman’s article in the new Dublin. I must confess it has given me a stomach-ache. You see the whole history of the Monophysites has been a sort of alterative, and now comes this dose at the end of it. It does certainly come upon one that we are not at the bottom of things. At this moment we have sprung a leak, . . . I seriously think this is a most uncomfortable article on every account, though of course it is ex parte. How are we to keep hot heads from going over? Let alone ourselves. I think I shall get Keble to answer it: – as to Pusey I am curious to see how it works with him. . . . there is an uncomfortable vista opened which was closed before. (v. 7; To Frederic Rogers, 22 Sep. 1839; the article was “Tracts for the Times: Anglican Claim of Apostolical Succession,” in the Dublin Review, Aug. 1839, 139-180)

I do not deny that it requires considering and has a claim upon us for an answer. . . . There either is something in what Dr W[iseman] says, or there is not. If not, all will reject it – if there is, all will accept it, i.e. at length. . . . going by my own judgment, even granting, which I do not exactly see, that Dr W’s argument is good on the other side, yet that same judgment tells me of arguments good on the other. (v. 7; To S. F. Wood, 29 Sep. 1839)

You should read the late article in the Dublin – it is the best thing Dr Wiseman has put out. It is paralleling the English Church to the Donatists; and certainly the parallel is very curious – . . . (v. 7; To J. W. Bowden, 4 Nov. 1839)

I have written an article . . . in reply to one of Dr Wiseman’s in the Dublin, which has fidgetted me a good deal. It is the only formidable thing I have seen on the Roman side but I cannot deny it is good and strong, and calculated to do harm, considerable harm. I have done what I can by way of an answer. But it is a large subject. (v. 7;  To [sister] Jemima Mozley, 29 Nov. 1839)

Since I read DrW’s [Wiseman] article I have desponded much – for, I said to myself, if even I feel myself pressed hard, what will others who have either not thought so much on the subject or have fewer retarding motives? (v. 7; To Edward B. Pusey, 15 Jan. 1840)

Was it “Thinkable” for Newman in 1839 to One Day Convert?

I really believe I say truly that, did I see cause to suspect that the Roman Church was in the right, I would try not to be unfaithful to the light given me. And if at any future time, I have any view opened to me, I will try not to turn from it, but will pursue it, wherever it may lead. I am not aware of having any hindrance, whether from fear of clamour, or regard for consistency, or even love of friends, which could keep me from joining the Church of Rome, were I persuaded I ought to do so. . . . Considering then the exceeding weakness of individual judgment and the great risk of one’s being swayed this way or that by impulses short of divine truth, I think I should never make up my mind to any overt act towards Rome, without giving up two or three years as a time of religious preparation towards forming a judgment. And next, I think I should not even then act, without having the sanction of one or two persons whom I most looked up to and trusted. I am far from saying that there is not a degree of conviction so strong as to supersede all advice from others, nay all delay. Nor would I deny that there may be supernatural guidances given in cases, of such a nature as to require prompt and unhesitating obedience. And if I felt either this conviction or this guidance, I should have to act in a way which others would call rash, and must leave my conduct in the hands of Him who had inspired it. But such dispensations of Providence seem to me rare . . . When one considers how very solemn a step it is to change our religion, what a responsibility we incur if wrong, what an obligation there is under ordinary circumstances to remain where God has placed us, it seems to me but reasonable to say that such a step should not be taken without the guidance of others, without a long season of deliberation, and serious exercises during it. It is surely a much less sin to remain in, than to change to, a wrong faith. (v. 7; To Robert Williams, 10 Nov. 1839)

What Was Newman’s View About Conversion in 1841-1845?

I have no thought whatever of going over to Rome, or letting others – but I have a great wish to make our Church more Catholic in its tone, and to introduce into it the good points of Rome – and if the consequence is a more friendly feeling between the Churches, it may tend to the improvement of Rome herself. I am quite sure that both Churches have their excellences, and both are injured by being so much at enmity . . . (v. 8; To Richard Westmacott, 8 April 1841)

That my sympathies have grown towards the religion of Rome I do not deny; that my reasons for shunning her communion have lessened or altered, it will be difficult perhaps to prove. And I wish to go by reason not by feeling. (v. 8; To Charles W. Russell, 5 May 1841)

[I]t is not impossible that our Church may lapse into heresy. I cannot deny that a great and anxious experiment is going on, whether our Church be or be not Catholic – the issue may not be in our day. But I must be plain in saying that, if it does issue in Protestantism, I shall think it my duty, if alive, to leave it. This does not seem much to grant – but it is much, supposing such an event to be at our doors, for one naturally tries to make excuses then, whereas one safely pledges oneself to what is distant. I trust it not only is distant, but is never to be. But the way to hinder it, is to be prepared for it. I fear I must say that I am beginning to think that the only way to keep in the English Church is steadily to contemplate and act upon the possibility of leaving it. . . . At all events I am sure that to leave the English Church, unless something very flagrant happened, must be the work of years. (v. 8; To J. R. Hope, 17 Oct. 1841)

I think that it still may be, that the English Church is not part of the Church Catholic, but only visited with over-flowings of grace – and that God may call some persons on to higher things. They must obey the calling; but that proves nothing against those who do not receive it. I have no call at present to go to the Church of Rome; – but I am not confident I may not have some day. (v. 8; To Henry Wilberforce, 8 Nov. 1841)

If people are driving me quite against all my feelings out of the English Church, they shall know they are doing so. (v. 8; To J. R Hope, 8 Dec. 1841)

R[obert] Wilberforce . . . thinks I am turning R C . . . I think you will give me credit, . . . of not undervaluing the strength of the feelings which draw one that way – and yet I am (I trust) quite clear about my duty to remain where I am. Indeed much clearer than I was some time since. If it is not presumptuous to say, I trust I have been favored with a much more definite view of the (promised) inward evidence of the Presence of Christ with us in the Sacraments, now that the outward notes of it are being removed. And I am content to be with Moses in the desert – or with Elijah excommunicated from the Temple. I say this, putting things at the strongest. (v. 8; To S. F. Wood, 13 Dec. 1841)

The simple case then, much as I grieve to say it, is this: – about two years and a half ago I began reading the Monophysite controversy, and with great concern and dismay found how much we were in the position of the Monophysites. I am not saying there is anything peculiar in their history, but merely that it put me into a new train of thought. After that I turned my mind to the Donatists, and there the same truth, or a parallel one, came out in the strongest colours. In the Monophysite history it is that the Church of Rome, in the Donatist that that body which spreads through the world, is always ipso facto right. I am not measuring my words as if I were arguing, but giving you my line of thought. Since then whatever line of early history I look into, I see as in a glass reflected our own Church in the heretical party, and the Roman Church in the Catholic. This is an appalling fact – which, do what I will, I cannot shake off. One special test of the heretical party is absence of stay or consistence, ever crumbling ever shifting, ever new forming – ever self consumed by internal strife. Our present state, half year by half year, the opposition of Bishop to Bishop, is a most miserable and continual fulfilment of this Note of error. . . . Another is a constant effort to make alliance with other heresies and schisms, though differing itself from them. . . . This has led me anxiously to look out for grounds of remaining where Providence has placed me . . . It has also forced me back upon the internal or personal Notes of the Church; and with thankfulness I say that I have received great comfort there. But, alas, in seeking to draw out this comfort for the benefit of others, who (without knowing my state) have been similarly distressed, eager inquisitive sensitive minds have taken the alarm, and (though I acted with the greatest anxiety and tried to do what I could to avoid the suspicion) they are beginning to guess that I have not an implicit faith in the validity of the external Notes of our Church. . . . One obvious consequence is to be mentioned besides – a growing dread lest in speaking against the Church of Rome I may be speaking against the Holy Ghost. This is quite consistent with a full conviction of the degraded state of that Church whether here or elsewhere. . . . my fears slept for very many months, and have only lately been re-animated by our dreadful divisions, the Bishops’ charges, and this Prussian affair, . . . You are the first person to whom I have drawn it out. . .  . Of course this painful thought comes into my mind – whether, if Rome be the true Church, the divinely appointed method of raising her from her present degradation be not to join her. Whether either she or we can correct our mutual errors while separated from each other. (v. 8; To Robert I. Wilberforce, 26 Jan. 1842)

I wish to be guided not by controversy but by ethos – so that (please God) nothing would seem to me a reason for so very awful and dreadful a step as you point at, but the quiet growth of a feeling through many years. I may sincerely say that no one has exerted himself more than I have to make a case for the English Church and theory, from the Fathers – perhaps (following our divines) I have succeeded – but I mean that I have honestly set myself to it and spared no pains. I really think I have examined and replied to more objections than most people. I don’t think argument will help me. (v. 8; To Robert I. Wilberforce, 1 Feb. 1842)

I advise you to be very much on your guard about the approaching visit of Dr Wiseman. You may be committed before you know where you are. Do consider that you are about to be submitted to temptation; that is, the temptation of acting, not on judgment but on feeling. Your feelings are in favor of Rome, so are mine – your judgment is against joining it – so is mine. Yet I would not trust myself among R[oman] Catholics without recollecting how apt feeling is to get the better of judgment – and I warn you of the same. I remind you, as I should wish to remind myself, of the necessity of keeping a strict watch over yourself. (v. 9; To Miss Mary Holmes, 8 Feb. 1843)

In June and July 1839, near four years ago, I read the Monophysite Controversy, and it made a deep impression on me, which I was not able to shake off, that the Pope bad a certain gift of infallibility, and that communion with the see of Rome was the divinely intended means of grace and illumination. I do not know how far I fully recognized this at the moment, – but towards the end of the same Long Vacation I considered attentively the Donatist history, and became quite excited. It broke upon me that we were in a state of schism. Since that [then], all history, particularly that of Arianism, has appeared to me in a new light, confirmatory of the same doctrine. In order to conquer this feeling, I wrote my article on the Catholicity of the English Church, as I have written other things since. For awhile my mind was quieted; but from that time to this the impression, though fading and reviving, has been on the whole becoming stronger and deeper. At present, I fear, as far as I can realize my own convictions, I consider the Roman Catholic Communion 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. (v. 9; To John Keble, 4 May 1843)

Do you know, though you need not say it, that I have taken to liking the Jesuits? (v. 9; To Henry Wilberforce, 9 June 1843)

There is no doubt at all that I am approximating towards Rome; nor any doubt that those who are very much about me see this, little as I wish it. (v. 9; To Mrs. William Froude, 28 July 1843)

My present views were taken up in the summer of 1839 upon reading the Monophysite and Donatist controversies. I saw from them that Rome was the centre of unity and the judge of controversies. (v. 9; To [sister] Harriet Mozley, 2 Oct.? 1843)

I think the Church of Rome the Catholic Church, and ours not a part of the Catholic Church, because not in communion with Rome, and feel that I could not honestly be a teacher in it any longer. This conviction came upon me last summer four years. I mentioned it to two friends in the autumn of that year, 1839. And for a while I was in a state of excitement. It arose in the first instance from reading the Monophysite and Donatist controversies; in the former of which I was engaged in that course of theological study to which I had given myself. . . . that wretched Jerusalem Bishoprick affair, no personal matter, revived all my alarms. They have increased up to this moment. . . . the various ecclesiastical and quasi-ecclesiastical acts, which have taken place in the course of the last two years and a half, are not the cause of my state of opinion; but are keen stimulants and weighty confirmations of a conviction forced upon me, while engaged in the course of duty, viz the theological reading to which I have given myself. (v. 9; To Henry Edward Manning,  25 Oct. 1843)

I am in no perplexity or anxiety at present. I fear that I must say that for four years and a half I have had a conviction, weaker or stronger, but on the whole constantly growing, and at present very strong, that we are not part of the Church. I am too much accustomed to this idea to feel pain at it. . . . At present I do not feel any such call. . . . It was the Monophysite and Donatist controversies which in 1839 led me to this clear and distinct judgment. (v. 10; To Edward B. Pusey, 19 Feb. 1844)

To remain in the English Church from a motive of expediency seems to me altogether unjustifiable both in a theological and a religious point of view. The English is either a true Church or it is not. If it is, it ought not to be left by any member of it, on any account – and if it is not, it ought to be left at all hazards. If a person doubts, whether it be or no, he is bound to remain in it, while he doubts. In no case is there room for expediency. (v. 10; To Charles John Myers, 25 Feb. 1844)

There was only one question about which I had a doubt, viz whether it would work, for it has never been more than a paper system. . . . One thing of course I saw clearly – that there was a great risk of Anglican principles running into Roman. . . . Nothing then but a strong positive difficulty or repulsion has kept me from surrendering my heart to the authority of the Church of Rome; a repulsive principle, not growing out of Catholic, Anglican, or Primitive doctrine, in the way in which I viewed that doctrine, but something antagonistic, arising from particular doctrines of the Church of Rome, particular historical views, etc etc. And this very circumstance led me to be violent enough against the Church of Rome – because it was the only way of resisting it. A bulwark or breakwater was necessary to the position of the English Church and theory. And in being violent, I was not acting on private judgment against so great a Communion, but I had the authority or rather the command of all our Divines, who, doubtless from the same constraining necessity have ever been violent against her also. To be violent against Rome was to be dutiful to England, as well as a measure of necessity for the English theory. . . . such were my feelings and views from 1833 to 1839. It was my great aim to build up the English system into something like consistency, to develop its idea, to get rid of anomalies, and to harmonize precedents and documents. I thought, and still think, its theory a great one. What then was my dismay . . . when in 1839 it flashed upon me in the course of reading the Fathers, which I had hitherto read with the eyes of our own Divines, that (not only was it a theory never realized) but a theory unproved or rather disproved by Antiquity? (v. 10; To Mrs. William Froude, 3 April 1844)

Unless anything happened which I considered a divine call, and beyond all calculation, I never should take any one by surprise – and therefore you need not alarm yourself, as if anything were happening. But if I judge of the future by the past, and when I recollect the long time, now nearly 5 years, that certain views and feelings have been more or less familiar to me and sometimes pressing on me, it would seem as if anything might happen. And I must confess that they are very much clearer and stronger than they were even a year ago) I can no more calculate how soon they may affect my will and become practical, than a person who has long had a bodily ailment on him (though I hope and trust it is not an ailment) can tell when it may assume some critical shape, though it may do so any day. (v. 10; To [sister] Jemima Mozley, 21 May 1844]

[F]or the last five years (almost) of it, I have had a strong feeling, often rising to an habitual conviction, though in the early portion of it after a while dormant, but very active now for two years and a half, and growing more urgent and imperative continually, that the Roman Communion is the only true Church – And this conviction came upon me while I was reading the Fathers and from the Fathers – and when I was reading them theologically, not ecclesiastically, in that particular line of study, that of the ancient heresies, . . . as far as I see, all inducements and temptations are for remaining quiet, and against moving. The loss of friends what a great evil is this! the loss of position, of name, of esteem – such a stultification of myself – such a triumph to others. It is no proud thing to unsay what I have said, to pull down what I have attempted to build up. And again, what quite pierces me, the disturbance of mind which a change on my part would cause to so many – the casting adrift, to the loss both of religious stability and comfort – the temptation to which many would be exposed of scepticism, indifference, and even infidelity. . . . But it does strike me on the other side ’What if you are the cause of souls dying out of the communion of Rome, who have had a call to join it, which you have repressed? What, if this has happened already?’ Surely time enough has been allowed me for wavering and preparation – I have fought against these feelings in myself and others long enough. . . . The time for argument is passed. I have been in one settled conviction for so long a time, which every new thought seems to strengthen. When I fall in with friends who think differently, the temptation to remain quiet becomes stronger, very strong – but I really do not think my conviction is a bit shaken. (v. 10; To John Keble, 8 June 1844)

[S]o it was in June or July 1839 reading the Monophysite controversy, I found my eyes opened to [a] state of things very different from what I had learned from my natural guides. The prejudice, or whatever name it is called, which had been too great for conviction from the striking facts of the Arian history, could not withstand the history of St Leo and the Council of Chalcedon. I saw that if the early times were to be my guides the Pope had a very different place in the Church from what I had supposed. When this suspicion had once fair possession of my mind, and I looked on the facts of the history for myself the whole English system fell about me on all sides, the ground crumbled under my feet, and in a little time I found myself in a very different scene of things. . . . towards the end of October, my attention was drawn to the subject of the Donatists, in the consequence of an article in the Dublin Review – The English explanations I found a second time unequal to the facts of the case – and for a time the great truth that the Anglican Church is in a state of schism had possession of my mind. (v. 10; “Memorandum in case of need,” 28 July 1844)

What am I to say but that I am one who, even five years ago, had a strong conviction, from reading the history of the early ages, that we are not part of the Church? that I am one whose conviction of it now is about as strong as of any thing else he believes – so strong that the struggle against is doing injury to his faith in general, and is spreading a film of scepticism over his mind – who is frightened, and cannot tell what it may end in, if he dares to turn a deaf ear to a voice which has so long spoken to him – that I am one who is at this time in disquiet when he travels, lest he should be suddenly taken off, before he has done what to him seems necessary. For a long time my constant question has been ’Is it a dream? is it a delusion?’ and the wish to have decisive proof on this point has made me satisfied – it makes me satisfied to wait still . . . (v. 10; To Edward B. Pusey, 28 Aug. 1844)

I do not say I have that certainty, but I am approximating to it. To judge from the course of my thoughts for five years, I am certain of reaching it some time or other. I cannot tell whether sooner or later. (v. 10; To Edward Badeley, 9 Sep. 1844)

It seems to me I have no call at present to take so awful a step, as you justly call it – but if I may judge by the past and present, I have very little reason to doubt about the issue of things. But the when and how are known to Him only from whom I trust both the course of things and the issue come. . . . I have a great dread of going merely by my own feelings, lest they should mislead me. . . . If you want to know plainly, I have little doubt where I shall be this time in two years, though my imagination cannot embrace the idea. (v. 10; To Miss Maria Rosina Giberne, 7 Nov. 1844)

I have no reason to suppose that anything is happening to me now, or will for I do not know how long. The pain I suffer from the thought of the distress I am causing cannot be described – and of the loss of kind opinion on the part of those I desire to be well with. The unsettling so many peaceable, innocent minds is a most overpowering thought, and at this moment my heart literally aches and has for days. I am conscious of no motive but that of obeying some urgent imperative call of duty – alas what am I not sacrificing! and if after all it is for a dream? (v. 10; To Mrs. William Froude, 12 Nov. 1844)

What a forlorn miserable prospect, humanly speaking, I have before me! but what hitherto has oppressed me, till all the complaints in the Psalms seemed to belong to me, has been the thought how I was perplexing, unsettling, frightening, depressing others . . . (v. 10; To Mrs. Elizabeth Bowden, 16 Nov. 1844)

I am going through what must be gone through – and my trust only is that every day of pain is so much from the necessary draught which must be exhausted. There is no fear (humanly speaking) of my moving for a long time yet. This has got out without my intending it, but it is all well. As far as I know myself my one great distress is the perplexity, unsettlement, alarm, scepticism which I am causing to so many – and the loss of kind feeling and good opinion on the part of so many, known and unknown, who have wished well to me. And of these two sources of pain it is the former is the constant, urgent, unmitigated one. I had for days a literal ache all about my heart, and from time to time all the complaints of the Psalmist seemed to belong to me. And, as far as I know myself, my one paramount reason for contemplating a change is my deep unvarying conviction that our Church is in schism and that my salvation depends on my joining the Church of Rome. I may use argument ad hominem to this person or that – but I am not conscious of resentment, or disgust, at any thing that has happened to me. I have no visions whatever of hope, no schemes of action, in any other sphere, more suited to me. I have no existing sympathies with Roman Catholics. I hardly ever, even abroad, was at one of their services – I know none of them. I do not like what I hear of them. And then how much I am giving up in so many ways – and to me sacrifices irreparable, not only from my age, when people hate changing, but from my especial love of old associations and the pleasures of memory. Nor am I conscious of any feeling, enthusiastic or heroic, of pleasure in the sacrifice – I have nothing to support me here. What keeps me yet, is what has kept me long – a fear that I am under a delusion – but the conviction remains firm under all circumstances, in all frames of mind. (v. 10; To Henry Edward Manning, 16 Nov. 1844)

What possible reason of mere ’preference’ can I have for the Roman Church above our own? I hardly ever, even abroad, was at any of their services. I was scarcely ever for an hour in the same room with a Roman Catholic in my life. I have no correspondence with anyone. I know absolutely nothing of them except that external aspect that is so uninviting. In the Tablet and Dublin Review, in radical combinations and liberal meetings, this is how I know them. My habits, tastes, feelings are as different as can be conceived from theirs, as they show outwardly. No – as far as I know myself the one single over-powering feeling is that our Church is in schism – and that there is no salvation in it for one who is convinced of this. . . . this time three years the conviction came on me again, and now for that long time it has been clear and unbroken, under all change of. circumstance, place, and spirits. Through this time my one question has been ’Is it a delusion?’ and I have waited, not because my conviction was not clear, but because I doubted whether it was a duty to trust it. I am still waiting on that consideration. . . . If I once am absolutely convinced that our Church is in schism, there is, according to the doctrine (I believe) of every age, no safety for me in it. (v. 10; To Edward Coleridge, 16 Nov. 1844)

For three full years I have been in a state of unbroken certainty. Against this certainty I have acted, under the notion that it might be a dream, and that I might break it or a dream by acting’ – but I cannot. In that time I have had ups and down[s] – no strong temptations to move, and relapses again, though of course at particular moments the (if so be) truth has often flashed upon me with unusual force. . . . You must not suppose, I am fancying that I know why or on what, on what motive, I am acting – I cannot. I do not feel love, or faith. I feel myself very unreal. I can only say negatively, what I think does not influence me. But I cannot analyze my mind, and, I suppose, should do no good if I tried. . . .   My sole ascertainable reason for moving is a feeling of indefinite risk to my soul in staying. This, I seem to ascertain in the following manner. I don’t think I could die in our communion – . . . I am kept first from deference to my friends – next by fear of some dreadful delusion being on me. (v. 10; To John Keble, 21 Nov. 1844)

I have gone through a great deal of pain, and have been very much cut up. The one predominant distress upon me has been the unsettlement of mind I am causing. This is a thing that has haunted me day by day – and for some days I had a literal pain in and about my heart, . . . Besides the pain of unsettling people, of course I feel the loss I am undergoing in the good opinion of friends and well wishers – though I can’t tell how much I feel this. It is the shock, surprise, terror, forlornness, disgust, scepticism, to which I am giving rise – the differences of opinion – division of families – all this makes my heart ache. . . . A clear conviction of the substantial identity of Christianity and the Roman system has now been on my mind for a full three years. . . . I am giving up everything. . . . I seem to be throwing myself away. Unless anything occurs which I cannot anticipate, I have no intention of an early step even now. . . . What keeps me here, is the desire of giving every chance for finding out, if I am under the power of a delusion. (v. 10; To [sister] Jemima Mozley,  24 Nov. 1844)

If I have a clear certain view that the Church of England is in schism, gained from the Fathers and resting on facts we all admit, as facts, (e.g. our separation from Rome) to rest on the events of the day is to put sight against faith. . . . as far as such outward matters go, I am as much gone over as if I were already gone. It is a matter of time only. I am waiting, if so be, that if I am under a delusion, it may be revealed to me though I am quite unworthy of it . . . (v. 10; To Edward B. Pusey, 25 Feb. 1845)

I would I knew how least to give you pain about what, I suppose, sooner or later must be. . . . I suppose Christmas cannot come again without a break-up – though to what extent or to whom I do not know. (v. 10; To Edward B. Pusey, 12 March 1845)

The unsettlement I am causing has been for a long while the one overpowering distress I have had. It is no wonder that through last Autumn it made me quite ill. It is as keen as a sword in many ways, and at times has given me a literal heartache, which quite frightened me. But in proportion as my course becomes clearer, this thought in some respects becomes more bearable. . . . I cannot master the idea of that being one Church, (if Church means Kingdom) which has two independent governments making war on each other. I cannot answer the question ’In what sense are we one Church with Rome?’ by the apostolical succession? then are the United States one Kingdom with England. A common descent is not a unity of polity. Again it has pressed most strongly on me that we pick and choose our doctrines. There is more, I suspect, in the first four centuries, or as much, for the Pope’s supremacy, than for the real Presence, or the authenticity of certain books of Scripture. . . . the Fathers would have said that we were not the Church and ought individually to join the Church . . . (v. 10; To Edward B. Pusey, 14 March 1845)

As to my convictions, I can but say what I have told you already, that I cannot at all make out why I should determine on moving except as thinking I should offend God by not doing so. I cannot make out what I am at, except on this supposition. At my time of life men love ease – I love ease myself. I am giving up a maintenance, involving no duties, and adequate to all my wants; what in the world am I doing this for, (I ask myself this) except that I think I am called to do so? I am making a large income by my Sermons, I am, to say the very least, risking this – the chance is that my Sermons will have no further sale at all. I have a good name with many – I am deliberately sacrificing it. I have a bad name with more – I am fulfilling all their worst wishes and giving them their most coveted triumph – I am distressing all I love, unsettling all I have instructed or aided – I am going to those whom I do not know and of whom I expect very little – I am making myself an outcast, and that at my age – Oh what can it be but a stern necessity which causes this. . . . Suppose I were suddenly dying – one may deceive oneself as to what one should do – but I think I should directly send for a Priest – Is not this a test of one’s state of mind? Ought I to live where I could not bear to die? . . . My resolution to move has grown so much stronger lately . . . Were persons never yet in a schismatical or heretical Church, and would not their trial, when they came to see their state, be exactly what mine is? Have Jews never had to turn Christians, and been cursed by their friends for doing so? Can I shock people so much as they did? Is the Church of Rome, can it be, regarded more fearfully than Jews regard Christianity, than Jews regarded St Paul? – was he not the prince of apostates? Has Nestorian, or Donatist, or Monophysite, never discovered that he was out of the Church, and had to break through all ties to get into it? Nay is not this the peculiar trial which happens in Scripture to be set upon a Christian . . . the quitting of friends and relations and houses and goods for Christ’s sake? . . . What right have you to judge me? have the multitude, who will judge me, any right to judge me? who of my equals, who of the many who will talk flippantly about me, has a right? who has a right to judge me but my Judge? (v. 10; To [sister] Jemima Mozley, 15 March 1845)

I wished to have waited seven years from my first conviction – which would bring it to the Summer of 1846 – but really my mind is getting so much more made up, that I don’t think I shall last so long.  As a great secret I wish to say that my expectation is that some move will take place with the end of the year – but to what extent or whom it will embrace, I do not know. (v. 10; To Henry Wilberforce, 20 March 1845)

I can’t help trusting that when I act I shall be much happier, both because the very fact of acting presupposes that my mind is made up – and next because doubt and suspence are so very depressing. I do trust I am undergoing the chief pain before I take any step – Also I trust that, much pain as you and others must feel, yet when it is over, you will find it less than you expect, and that things altogether will be more tolerable. (v. 10; To [sister] Jemima Mozley, 22 March 1845)

Now I will tell you just how things stand, and I am telling you more than any one in the world knows, except two friends of mine who are living here with me. My own convictions are as strong as I suppose they can be – only it is so difficult to know whether it is a call of reason or of conscience. I cannot make out if I am impelled by what seems to me clear, or by a sense of duty. You can understand how painful this doubt is. So I have waited on, hoping for light . . . My present intention is to give up my fellowship in October – and to publish some work or treatise between that and Christmas. I wish people to know why I am acting as well as what I am doing – It takes off that vague and distressing surprise ’What can have made him etc etc?’ and also what I feel myself as good reasons may have to strengthen and satisfy others who mean to take the same step, but want reasons put out for them. And I think people have a claim on me, since I said one thing formerly, now frankly to say the other. (v. 10; To Miss Maria Rosina Giberne, 30 March 1845)

All that is dear to me is being taken away from me. My days are gone like a shadow, and I am withered like grass. (v. 10; To James Bowling Mozley, 2 April 1845)

If I move, it will only and simply be on the ground that I fear to die where I am. (v. 10; To Robert Francis Wilson,  11 April 1845)

I am very much more made up both in steady conviction and in preparation of my feelings, to change my place – but am suffering from fatigue of mind, partly from former distress, partly from other causes. (v. 10; To Mrs. William Froude, 10 June 1845)

At present I will but say that the conviction that I am acting rightly increases continually – and if I were left to myself, that is, if it were not for my necessary anxiety about others, I think I should have no question or doubt whatever. (v. 10; To Charles Crawley, 14 July 1845)

I have no desire at all to leave the English Church. . . . My reason for going to Rome is this: – I think the English Church in schism. I think the faith of the Roman Church the only true religion. I do not think there is salvation out of the Church of Rome. This of course does not interfere with my thinking an exception is made for those who are in involuntary ignorance; . . . (v. 10; To [brother] Francis William Newman, 7 Aug. 1845)

I suspect my own change will be soon before or after the publication of my book – but I can’t tell. (v. 10; To Miss Maria Rosina Giberne, 24 Aug. 1845)

The nearest and dearest friends are, I think, (as they necessarily must) getting annoyed at me, and the stupid ungrateful feeling comes upon me in consequence that I am a trouble to anyone I address. All sorts of idle reports are afloat about me, and friends believe them as greedily as if they had never themselves laughed at the fictions of the Record or Morning Herald. And next it is of course unpleasant to me to be talking so constantly about myself. . . . when it [his Essay on Development] is out, I suppose a further step will take place very soon. (v. 10; To Mrs. Elizabeth Bowden, 31 August 1845)

I am convinced that, (to those who are enlightened see it) the Church of Rome is the only place of salvation. I do not think I can remain out of it, and yet remain in God’s favor. (v. 10; To Simeon Lloyd Pope, 18 Sep. 1845)

[N]o reason for leaving our Church for the Roman comes home to me as sufficient, except this, – the conviction that such a step is necessary for salvation. As I have never held that ’all Roman doctrine’ could be held in our Church, I have not myself been at all afflicted by recent decisions. The simple question to my mind is whether St Athanasius or St Augustine would have acknowledged us as a Church. (v. 10; To Edward Walford, 21 Sep. 1845)

Not only have I no doubts at all, but I have had a regularly increasing conviction, and am now more certain on the subject than I ever have been. To my reason it is as plain as day that we are not part of the great Catholic communion which the Apostles set up. . . . Considering then what the dreadful consequences are of being outside the Church, what can I do but obey a conviction . . . [?] (v. 10; To Robert Francis Wilson, 25 Sep. 1845)

[Newman was received into the Catholic Church at Littlemore on 9 October 1845  by Fr. Dominic Barberi, an Italian Passionist]

How Did Newman View His Conversion After 1845?

[D]uring the last half of that 10th year [1845] I was engaged in writing a book (Essay on Development) in favor of the Roman Church, and indirectly against the Anglican; but even then, till it was finished, I had not absolutely intended to publish it, wishing to reserve to myself the chance of changing my mind, when the argumentative views, which were actuating me, had been distinctly brought out before me in writing. (v. 13; To Frederick A. Faber, 6 Dec. 1849; Newman later commented on this letter, on 7 April 1863: “I had not finished my Essay on Development, when I became a Catholic. My convictions became too strong for my patience. Consequently the work is unfinished, and ends abruptly. I was received, and left it, where the argument stood, at the time of my reception.”)

You are under a mistake in conjecturing I am not at rest. I have not had a moment either of doubt or anxiety, ever since I became a Catholic. . . . Do you not think, forgive me for saying it, you have sent me enough Protests? By your making them, I conjecture you are not at ease yourself – nor will you be my dear Sir, take my word for it, till you are a Catholic as I am. (v. 14; To Archdeacon Allen, 10 Nov. 1850)

I assure you solemnly that I have not had a single doubt of the truth of the Catholic religion and its doctrines ever since I became a Catholic. And I have an intense certainty that the case is the same with my friends about me, who have joined the Church with me. (v. 14; To R. B. Seeley, 31 July 1851)

I should be loth to think I was not converted logically. I was converted by the manifest and intimate identity of the modern RC Church with the Antenicene and Nicene Church . . . (v. 15; To Francis Richard Wegg-Prosser, 22 Feb. 1852)

One after another, moving not as a party, but one by one, un- willingly, because they could not help it, men of mature age, from 40 to past 50, in all professions and states, numbers have done what I have done. since the date of W.F.’s [William Froude’s] letter; – such as Manning, R. Wilberforce, H. Wilberforce, Allies, Dodsworth, Hope Scott, Badeley, Bellasis, Bowyer, Monsell, Sir John Simeon, Dr Duke, Biddulph Phillips, Dean Madavori, Bishop Ives, the de Veres, H. Bowden, Mrs Bowden, Lady Lothian, Lady G. Fullerton, Lord H. Kerr, etc. I cannot help thinking it was dangerous for W.F. to have recourse to this argument. It is surely much easier to account for Keble and Pusey not moving, Catholicism being true, than for all these persons moving, Catholicism being not true. And, whereas it was the fashion at first to use this argument, as W.F. does in 1847 against us – I think it ought to have its weight now for us. It was the fashion then to say ’O, Newman is by himself. We don’t deny his weight – but no one else of any name has gone – and are we to go by one man?’ Times are altered now. . . . I do really think the character and variety of the converts to Catholicism of late in England form a most powerful argument, that there is such a thing as ascertainable truth in religion . . . (v. 16; To Mrs. Catherine Froude, c. Nov. 1854 or c. Nov. 1855)

I believe with all my heart and soul all that the Holy Roman Church teaches; and never have had one single doubt about any portion of her teaching whatever, ever since I became a Catholic. (v. 20; To the Editor of The Lincolnshire Express, 17 June 1862)

I have not had a moment’s wavering of trust in the Catholic Church ever since I was received into her fold. I hold, and ever have held, that her Sovereign Pontiff is the centre of unity, and the vicar of Christ. And I ever have had, and have still, an unclouded faith in her Creed in all its articles; a supreme satisfaction in her worship, discipline, and teaching; and an eager longing, and a hope against hope, that the many dear friends whom I have left in Protestantism may be partakers in my happiness. (v. 25; To the Globe, 28 June 1862; cited in a letter to Samuel Walshaw, 11 April 1870)

Dr. Newman . . . owes it to truth to assure the Editor that he has never had, nor has, nor (as he believes) ever will have, any, either wish or intention, of leaving the Church of Rome and becoming a Protestant again. (v. 20;  To the Editor of The Record, 29 June 1862)

Ever since I have been a Catholic, the regard and respect you speak of has been shown (I am not speaking in irony) only in one way; – in reports that I was coming back. Vivid manifestations, on my part, of my real state of mind have been the only method by which I have been able to clear the air, and destroy the popular anticipation. They have succeeded for a time; and then I have enjoyed a little peace. But my silence has encouraged its revival, and then I have had to make new manifestations. Hardly had I left Oxford, when the reports began. I had quarrelled with Dr Wiseman. I was suspended by ecclesiastical authority for my preaching. I had refused to be ordained. I had already come back to the Church of England, or at least my friends about me had done so. I had given up revealed religion altogether. I was an infidel. An Oxford friend of mine did not scruple in the Guardian to suggest this, that I was an infidel. There was something of a lull in these reports between 1852 and 1859, when they could not well stand their ground in the face of what I was then suffering or doing in the Catholic cause. Then they revived, and with a plausible minuteness of detail. I have had letters from strangers assuming I was a Protestant, or asking whether I was not returning to Protestantism, or telling me that it was only pride that kept me from returning, persons near conversion have been kept back by the assurance that I was on the point of returning; that I owned that Catholicism had its drawbacks as great as those of Protestantism; that I had recommended Protestants to stay where they were. It was stated that, if I did not return, yet I repented of going over, and was making the best of things; that I felt I never should have left the Established Church, if I had but waited; that I thought one religion as good as the other. All this so told upon some kind Protestants, that they wished to get me to their houses, by way of maturing and smoothing my change back again; and others have proceeded to discuss how I was to be treated, what was to be done with me, on my return. At length Catholics began to believe the reports also; to their own dis- tress, and to my grave dissatisfaction. I felt that, if I were to die, it was certain to be maintained by numbers of men, and to go down in history, that I had died a Protestant. I could not, as a matter of conscience, allow such reports to continue without a decisive contradiction; nor could this be given, till they appeared in the Newspapers. At last they made their way into them; and the question then arose, what was the most effectual mode of contradiction. There was but one real way of putting them down, and I adopted it. It was to show that I regarded Protestantism, not merely with disapprobation, but with aversion and scorn. . . . What I have said then in my letter in the Globe about Protestantism and the Anglican system, was, like these former statements, the deliberately chosen and studied means of effecting a necessary end. It was intended to force Protestants to put out of their minds the hope of my ever coming back to them. Tastes, sentiments, affections, are deeper, more permanent, more trustworthy, than conclusions in logic. Convictions change: habits of mind endure. Had I mildly and courteously said that my reason was antagonistic to Protestantism, I should have said what was true, but I should not have obliterated the general anticipation and instinctive suspicion that I should return to it. It would have been said that my words were dictated, nay written by someone else . . . (v. 20; To Charles Crawley, 21 July 1862)

I say to myself, if a mind can come to a solid immoveable conclusion, mine has done so – I have a clear anticipation that there is no possible argument which has a chance of interfering with my conviction that what is called the ’Roman communion’ is a continuation of that ecclesiastical body to which St Cyprian belonged, and which the Apostles founded. . . . I say the same, and I suppose you would do so also, as to the question of the Being of a God. Surely these are points on which we have a right to be certain. (v. 20; To Daniel Radford,  15 Oct. 1862)

[T]he doctrine of the necessity of communion with the Holy See was not the consideration which made me a Catholic, but the visible fact that the modern Roman Communion was the heir and the image of the primitive Church. (v. 23; To Edward B. Pusey, 9 Aug. 1867)

As to your second question ’Did you ever regret leaving the Church of England?’ I can answer sincerely ’Never, for a single moment.’ I have been in the fullest peace and enjoyment ever since I have been a Catholic, and have felt a power of truth and divine strength in its ordinances, which exists, I believe, nowhere else. (v. 24; To Albert Smith, 8 Jan. 1868)

My main reason for becoming a Catholic was that the present Latin communion was the only one which answered to the early Church in all substantial matters. (v. 25; To J. F. Seccombe, 2 Jan. 1870)

You do not, cannot know, the reality which Catholicism is to the mind, which is enlightened to receive it. I have stood where you stand; you never have stood where I stand. Since I have been a Catholic, it is my happiness, unmerited and the gift of grace, never to have had a single doubt of the divine origin and truth of Catholicism; did I ’re-consider’, as you advise, I should be most cruelly unthankful to Him who has so blessed and prospered my search after Him. No one should inquire or reconsider, who does not doubt – did I ever doubt, which God forbid, then certainly I should be obliged to reconsider – but such reconsideration would not, I am sure, lead me back to any form of Protestantism – for I have long been convinced that so far only is Protestantism true, as it has retained some grains of that Revealed Truth which is in its fulness in the Catholic Church. If there is no Church there is no revelation. What shall judge between us, whether you are in a delusion or I, but the Last day? (v. 25; To Edward Bishop Elliott, 16 June 1870)

For myself, what made me a Catholic was the fact, as it came home to me, that the present Catholics are in all essential respects the successors and representatives of the first Christians, such a remarkable identity in position and character in ages so widely separated and so strikingly dissimilar, being at the same time the note of a supernatural origin and life. (v. 25; To an Unknown Correspondent, 19 June 1870)

’Have I found’, you ask of me, ’in the Catholic Church, what I hoped and longed for?’ That depends on what I ’hoped and longed for?’ I did not hope or long for any ’peace or satisfaction’, as you express it, for any illumination or success. I did not hope or long for anything except to do God’s will, which I feared not to do. I did not leave the Anglican Church, as you think, for any scandals in it. You have mistaken your man. My reason was as follows: – I knew it was necessary, if I would participate in the grace of Christ, to seek it there where He had lodged it. I believed that that grace was to be found in the Roman communion only, not in the Anglican. Therefore I became a Catholic. This was my belief in 1845, and still more strongly my belief now, because in 1845 I had not that utter distrust of the Anglican Orders which I feel in 1870. . . . whether I have, since a Catholic, been treated well or ill, by high personages or confidential friends, does not touch the question of truth and error, the Church and schism. Be sure, if I can answer for myself in any thing, Anglican I can never be again. (v. 25; To Edward Husband, 17 July 1870)

I am as certain that the Church in communion with Rome is the successor and representative of the Primitive Church, as certain that the Anglican Church is not, as certain that the Anglican Church is a mere collection of men, a mere national body, a human society, as I am that Victoria is Queen of Great Britain. Nor have I once had even a passing doubt on the subject, ever since I have been a Catholic. I have all along been in a state of inward certainty and steady assurance on this point, and I should be the most asinine, as well as the most ungrateful of men, if I left that Gracious Lord who manifests Himself in the Catholic Church, for those wearisome Protestant shadows, out of which of His mercy he has delivered me. (v. 25; To Henry Thomas Ellacombe, 23 Aug. 1870)

I have never had a single doubt on the subject, thank God, since I have been a Catholic; and never the slightest, however transient, wish to return to the Church of England or regret at having left it. (v. 25; To Miss Alice Smith, 3 Nov. 1870)

[I]t is not at all the case that I left the Anglican Church from despair – but for two reasons concurrent, as I have stated in my Apologia – first, which I felt before any strong act had been taken against the Tracts or me, namely, in 1839, that the Anglican Church now was in the position of the Arian Churches of the fourth century, and the Monophysite Churches of the fifth, and this was such a shock to me that I at once made arrangements for giving up the editorship of The British Critic, and in no long time I contemplated giving up St. Mary’s. This shock was the cause of my writing [Tracts for the Times] Number 90 which excited so much commotion. Number 90 which roused the Protestant world against me, most likely never would have been written except for this shock. Thus you see my condemnation of the Anglican Church arose not out of despair, but, when everything was hopeful, out of my study of the Fathers. Then, as to the second cause, it began in the autumn of 1841, six months after Number 9o, when the Bishops began to charge against me. This brought home to me that I had no business in the Anglican Church. It was not that I despaired of the Anglican Church, but that their opposition confirmed the interpretation which I had put upon the Fathers, that they who loved the Fathers, could have no place in the Church of England. As to your further question, whether, if I had stayed in the Anglican Church till now, I should have joined the Catholic Church at all, at any time now or hereafter, I think that most probably I should not; but observe, for this reason, because God gives grace, and if it is not accepted He withdraws His grace; and since, of His free mercy, and from no merits of mine, He then offered me the grace of conversion, if I had not acted upon it, it was to be expected that I should be left, a worthless stump, to cumber the ground and to remain where I was till I died. (v. 25; To Mrs. Houldsworth, 3 July 1871)

Who can have dared to say that I am disappointed in the Church of Rome? ’dared,’ because I have never uttered, or written, or thought, or felt the very shadow of disappointment. I believe it to be a human institution as well as divine, and so far as it is human it is open to the faults of human nature; but if, because I think, with others, that its rulers have sometimes erred as fallible men, I therefore think it has failed, such logic won’t hold; indeed, it is the wonderful anticipation in Our Lord’s and St Paul’s teaching, of apparent failure [and real] success in the times after them which has ever been one of my strong arguments for believing them divine messengers. (v. 31; To Alfred Henry Spurrier, 11 Dec. 1886)

I will not close our correspondence without testifying my simple love and adhesion to the Catholic Roman Church, not that I think you doubt this; and did I wish to give a reason for this full and absolute devotion, what should, what can, I say, but that those great and burning truths, which I learned when a boy from evangelical teaching, I have found impressed upon my heart with fresh and ever increasing force by the Holy Roman Church? That Church has added to the simple evangelicism of my first teachers, but it has obscured, diluted, enfeebled, nothing of it – on the contrary, I have found a power, a resource, a comfort, a consolation in our Lord’s divinity and atonement, in His Real Presence, in communion in His Divine and Human Person, which all good Catholics indeed have, but which Evangelical Christians have but faintly[.] (v. 31; To George T. Edwards, 24 Feb. 1887)

Do Converts Sometimes Become Obnoxious and Lack Humility?

Of course the circumstance that God grants a change of heart is a just ground of hope and rejoicing, whatever our past offences may have been. I do not think that such feelings are at all incompatible with the deepest and most lasting humiliation. . . . It seems to me that there is great danger of any one who has experienced such a change of views . . .  becoming excited. She must not expect to have always the sunshine she now has – and the more she indulges her feelings now, the greater reverse perhaps is in store. . . . While God gives peace and joy, we have cause to be thankful, but let us rejoice with trembling. (v. 7; To Miss Mary Holmes, 10 June 1840)

Does God Provide Overwhelming Assurance to Converts?

Now is it not highly desirable in the case of anyone, that he should not change his religion merely on his private judgment? are you not, as all of us, very likely to be perplexed and deceived by argument? does Almighty God commonly require a man to go by private judgment? I think not. Three thousand souls were converted on the day of Pentecost; whereas when he asks of us singly to follow Him, He then usually gives overpowering evidence, as to St Paul. (v. 7; To W. C. A. MacLaurin, 26 July 1840)

[T]he sole reason we can have for leaving the Church in which God’s Providence has placed us is a call from God; not a mere wish on our part to be nearer heaven. (v. 8; To Miss Mary  Holmes, 15 Aug. 1841)

[I]t is a comfort to be assured that those who, when in religious perplexity, quietly commit their souls to God in well doing, who try to please Him and who pray for guidance, will gain, through His mercy a spiritual judgment for ’trying the spirits’ and deciding between the claims of opposite arguments, quite sufficiently for their own peace and their own salvation. (v. 8; To  Thomas Kirkpatrick, 6 March 1842)

With the convictions she has, it is her clear duty to submit herself to the Church at once; for who that knows he is external to it can for a moment delay, when he knows in his heart that the Catholic Church is the fold of Christ and the Ark of Salvation and that Rome is the necessary centre of it. She had better go to the nearest Priest. . . . She must frankly tell her husband who has a right to know what she is doing, and for what she can tell he will receive this in a far other spirit than you fear, and will understand she is called by God to do what at the moment will so much distress. I have known wonderful effects come of such straightforward courage and most unsuspected graces – sometimes husbands or wives have themselves been converted, when the question of religion has thus been brought home to them. (v. 23; To Anselm Bertrand Gurdon, 2 Oct. 1867)

Should One Convert Quickly?

[T]o all great changes, a season of thought and preparation is a necessary introduction, if we would know what God’s will is. Apply this to the case of a change of religion. . . . To any friend who asked me what to do, I should prescribe three years, during which his thoughts and prayers should be directed this one way, to learn God’s will. It is a comfort in a matter of religion to follow not to originate. (v. 8; To Miss Mary Holmes, 8 Aug. 1841)

Should a Person Convert Merely to Alleviate Persisting Doubts?

Not that I deny, of course not, just the contrary, that you must come to the Church to be taught, and with the intention of submitting to her teaching – and I grant that if that was the way in which you could rid yourself of your doubts, viz from a belief that the Church knew, as God’s oracle, what you did not, then you might safely let yourself be swayed by the desire of escaping from what is so painful – but there are those who believe in the Church simply from the wish to escape from doubt, and on them the doubts sometimes fall back, after they are in the Church. I have no definite cases before my mind – yes, as I write one comes into my mind – but at least I do not know of many such, but I see clearly there is a great risk of such cases. The question is, can I believe the Church have I reasons for believing the Church, so that I may fairly hope, with God’s grace, that my faith will be a match for those difficulties, which I still feel? Now there are those who say (e.g.) ’Nothing can make me believe in eternal punishment.’ Of course I should condemn such a sentiment – but, supposing they went on to say ’Nevertheless I will join the Church, for I will simply put the doctrine out of my thoughts,’ I could not approve such a course of action. I think they ought to say ’I will wait till by God’s grace I can feel it my duty to mortify and sacrifice this opinion or persuasion of mine to that word of His, which is truer than is, in this case, the thought of my heart.’ (v. 25; To Richard Holt Hutton, 16 Feb. 1870)

Do Converts Typically Have Last-Minute Jitters and Qualms?

’A person fast drifting towards Catholicism,’ but ’not seeing his way to become a Catholic at once’ either has some definite obstacle in the way of faith, as a distinct holding off from some particular doctrine or doctrines, or has a general and indefinite want of faith, a dim belief amid remaining doubt, such as to warrant or oblige him to wait till he has clearer views. (1) If the former, that obstacle ultimately falls on the doctrine of the Pope’s prerogatives – for if he believed that the Creed of the Pope could not be wrong, he would accept the difficult points in Catholicism on faith in the Pope – Therefore, since he does not accept them, this shows that he does not apply the ’Feed My Sheep’ to the Pope – or that he does not believe in the Pope’s universal jurisdiction. . . . (2) On the other hand, if, according to the latter supposition, he merely has not a clear view, and doubts which way the truth lies, though he inclines to believe Catholicism and thinks he shall do so, doubting in some sense every thing, . . . We give to the Pope and to the Church an authority above the law of the land in spiritual matters. (v. 24; To Richard Frederick Clarke, 21 April 1868)

Are Non-Catholics Sometimes Cynical About Catholic Converts?

It would be interesting if we all were obliged to bear testimony to the Catholic Church, as you are doing – yet, do what we would, our Anglican friends would not believe that in our secret hearts we were not woefully disappointed. (v. 13; To J. M. Capes, 1 July 1849)

Do Protestants Hope that Famous Catholic Converts Will Return?

[T]hey are always hoping that Dr Manning and I may come back; and from wishing and hoping, they proceed to maintain that it is likely; and those who hear them say that it is likely, misinterpret them, on account of their own similar hopes and wishes, and say that it is to be expected. And then the next hearer says that it is a fact which is soon to be, for he has heard of the expectation on the best authority. And then the next hearer says that he has the first authority for saying that Dr Manning or Dr Newman is coming back in the course of the next few months. And then, lastly, someone perhaps puts into the newspapers that he knows a person who was told by Dr Newman himself that he had discovered the unreality or hollowness of Romanism, and meant to return in the course of April, May, or June, to the bosom of the Establishment. Thus only can I account for the most absurd, and utterly unfounded, reports which, ever since I have been a Catholic, have been spread abroad about the prospect of my return from the Mother of Saints to the City of Confusion. (v. 19; To an Unknown Correspondent, 18 April 1859)

Can we Know Who is Likely to Convert to Catholicism?

As to deciding, who are in invincible ignorance and who are not, it is a point quite beyond us. Our great mistakes when we try to determine who are likely to be converted and who not, when we compare our anticipations with the events, are enough to show how little we know the minds of others. One alone knows the soul; He who made it and will judge. We, on the contrary, only make ourselves ridiculous when we attempt it. Let us set about creating, and summoning to judgment with the Archangel’s trumpet; and then we shall have a claim to the omniscience, which we are so disposed practically to attribute to ourselves. It is one thing to urge upon all Protestants the fearful peril of trifling with the grace of God; quite another thing, to assert that this or that person has actually done so. (v. 20; To A. J. Hanmer, 27 Sep. 1862)

Does God Use Curiosity to Bring in Converts?

It surprises me much to find that you are a convert. I do not recollect your saying so in any former letter. Truly do you say, that the ways by which souls arrive at the home of their true Mother are wonderfully various. That drawing of the heart to the Church, which you speak of, is very common, and most mysterious. It is wonderful the sort of innate curiosity which Protestants, who have no intention, and no ground of reason, to join the Church, feel when they come near Catholics. They cannot help asking questions, and showing an interest, as if from some inward impulse and sentiment, similar to that which is described in novels, when some unknown heir of a great family comes into the presence of his relations or is brought within the walls of his own castle. You speak of feeling drawn to the religion of Ireland by your love of Ireland; I felt something like this as regards the Fathers. After my conversion I had a sensible pleasure in taking down the Volumes of St Athanasius, St Ambrose ere in my Library – The words rose in my mind ’I am at one with you now.’ I had a feeling of family-intimacy with them then, the want of which I suffered from before, without recognising it. (v. 21; To W. J. O’Neill Daunt, 13 Aug. 1864)

Must Converts Get Used to Catholic “Strangeness” at First?

The greatest trial a Convert has to sustain, and to women it is often greater than to men, is the strangeness at first sight of everything in the Catholic Church. Mass, devotions, conversation, all may be a perplexity to you, so I am not at all surprised at what you say about the Mass. You must be brave and determined, and resolutely beg of God’s grace to carry you through your difficulties. Every nation, every body of people, has its own ways – Catholics have their own ways – we may not at first like them – and the question is where is religious Truth, where is salvation? – not is this habit, this fashion pleasant to me or not? (v. 24; To Miss Ellen Fox, 25 Feb. 1868)



Drawn from The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman

[excluding volumes 11-12, 27-30, 32]

Vol. 1 Edited by Ian Ker and Thomas Gornall, S.J.; Ealing, Trinity, Oriel: February 1801 to December 1826 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978).

Vol. 2 Edited by Ian Ker and Thomas Gornall, S.J.; Tutor of Oriel: January 1827 to December 1831 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979).

Vol. 3 Edited by Ian Ker and Thomas Gornall, S.J.; New Bearings: January 1832 to June 1833 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979).

Vol. 4 Edited by Ian Ker and Thomas Gornall, S.J.; The Oxford Movement: July 1833 to December 1834 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980).

Vol. 5 Edited by Thomas Gornall, S.J.; Liberalism in Oxford: January 1835 to December 1836 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981).

Vol. 6 Edited by Gerard Tracey; The Via Media and Froude’s Remains: January 1837 to December 1838 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984).

Vol. 7 Edited by Gerard Tracey; Editing the British Critic: January 1839 – December 1840 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995).

Vol. 8 Edited by Gerard Tracey; Tract 90 and the Jerusalem Bishopric: January 1841 – April 1842 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999).

Vol. 9 Edited by Francis J. McGrath, F.M.S. and Gerard Tracey; Littlemore and the Parting of Friends: May 1842-October 1843 (Oxford University Press, 2006).

Vol. 10 Edited by Francis J. McGrath, F.M.S.; The Final Step: 1 November 1843 – 6 October 1845 (Oxford University Press, 2006).

Vol. 13 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain; Birmingham and London: January 1849 to June 1850 (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1963).

Vol. 14 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain and Vincent Ferrer Blehl, S.J.; Papal Aggression: July 1850 to December 1851 (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1963).

Vol. 15 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain and Vincent Ferrer Blehl, S.J.; The Achilli Trial: January 1852 to December 1853 (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1964).

Vol. 16 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain; Founding a University: January 1854 to September 1855 (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1965).

Vol. 17 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain; Opposition in Dublin and London: October 1855 to March 1857 (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1967).

Vol. 18 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain; New Beginnings in England: April 1857 to December 1858 (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1968).

Vol. 19 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain; Consulting the Laity: January 1859 to June 1861 (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1969).

Vol. 20 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain; Standing Firm Amid Trials: July 1861 to December 1863 (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1970).

Vol. 21 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain and Edward E. Kelly, S.J.; The Apologia: January 1864 to June 1865 (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1971).

Vol. 22 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain; Between Pusey and the Extremists: July 1865 to December 1866 (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1972).

Vol. 23 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain and Thomas Gornall, S.J.; Defeat at Oxford. Defence at Rome: January to December 1867 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973).

Vol. 24 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain and Thomas Gornall, S.J.; A Grammar of Assent: January 1868 to December 1869 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973).

Vol. 25 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain and Thomas Gornall, S.J.; The Vatican Council: January 1870 to December 1871 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973).

Vol. 26 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain and Thomas Gornall, S.J.; Aftermaths: January 1872 to December 1873 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974).

Vol. 31 Edited by Charles Stephen Dessain and Thomas Gornall, S.J.; The Last Years: January 1885 to August 1890; With a Supplement of Addenda to Volumes XI – XXX (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977).


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