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The Ecumenical Formation Newman Gave to Youth

Newman's great dream was to establish a College to form the minds of youth in a liberal way, without those militant characteristics he bitterly criticized in Rome and in the Church of his time. In fact, he would not found a College but the Oratory, which drew many young men seeking formation.

To understand the ecumenical orientation he planned to give these youth, we reproduce two letters, written respectively to Mrs. and Mr. William Froude regarding the formation of their son, Hurrel, who was leaving home to take lodgings closer to Oxford.

Following Newman's counsel, the family chose for him to stay in the lodgings of a Protestant, Mr. Donkin, who regularly hosted Oxford students.

In document 1 below - the main part of Newman's letter to Mrs. Froude (December 29, 1859) - we see him counseling the mother to tell her son not to defend any doctrine of his Catholic Faith with other students. He also discourages the mother and the son from tyring to convert any Protestant.

In document 2, Newman replies to an objection of the father, who complains that his son's attendance at the Protestant family prayers at Mr. Donkin's house is condemned by the Catholic Church. This would be communicatio in sacris [participation in the religious ceremonies of heretics] forbidden to Catholics under pain of excommunication.

In his answer, Newman presents a sophistic argumentation where he distinguishes between the text of the prohibition and its different interpretations. Then, he pretends to adopt the most traditional interpretation, but in fact ends by counseling the father the very opposite, that is, to let his son participate in those Protestant prayers.

It is an interesting example of how Newman was applying ecumenism with heretics already at that time when only very advanced liberal Catholics did so. The same policy was later adopted by Modernists and Progressivists. This is one reason why he is celebrated by the Conciliar Church, which is based on false ecumenism.

The source for these documents is the book The Life of John Henry Newman Based on His Private Journals and Correspondence (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1912, 2 volumes). The author is Wilfrid Philip Ward, the son of a William George Ward, a close friend of Cardinal Newman. The letters reproduced below are in pp. 646-647 of the Appendix of volume I.

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Posted on February 20, 2010

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