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Newman's Strong Reservations on Devotion to Our Lady

After the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854 (see Ineffabilis Deus), there was an enormous increase of devotion to Our Lady throughout Christendom. In that atmosphere, nothing was more normal than that St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, the great apostle of her devotion, should become better known. In England, the translator of St. Louis de Montfort's main work - The Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary - was Fr. Frederick Faber. He also became a strong promoter of this devotion through his sermons and writings.

Many Anglicans rose up against that new wave of Marian devotion as being foreign to the English spirit. Among them was Edward B. Pusey who wrote a book in 1865 - Eirenicon - ridiculing that devotion.

Newman, who was good friends of Pusey, was also outraged by many aspects of this new enthusiasm for Our Lady. With the publication of Eirenikon, he found an opportunity to enter the picture to express his opposition for this increase of devotion.

In his public response to Pusey, Newman declared himself in agreement with him and condemned the "excesses" of Fr. Faber as reported by Pusey. Among those "excesses" that Newman attacked, however, are many of the principles set out by St. Louis de Monfort in his True Devotion.

Newman's public letter is titled Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching. In it he declared that he would not follow the new wave of devotion to Our Lady, but would remain with the simple devotion to her practiced by the Church Fathers. He praised some beautiful texts of Fathers and Saints in order to appear impartial, and then went on to strongly attack various points of the Monfortian doctrine.

Below, we reproduced an excerpt of his book intercalated with a summary by Ward of the points Newman indicated in his book. The summary is marked with an orange line at left. In the letter we highlighted in yellow Newman's emphatic expressions of rejection; in the summary, we highlighted the points that are characteristics of True Devotion to Mary.

These documents are in The Life of John Henry Cardinal Newman by Wilfrid Ward, vol. II, pp. 106-107.

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Posted on March 6, 2010

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