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Theology in a Catholic University: Newman's Significance for Today

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 September 2014

John R. Connolly
Loyola Marymount University


The article presents an analysis of Newman's understanding of theology and its role in the Catholic University of Ireland. In explaining Newman's understanding of university theology, the article focuses on two elements of Newman's thought. The first is Newman's understanding of theology as a form of liberal knowledge. An application of the elements of liberal knowledge to theology reveals the main characteristics of Newman's understanding of university theology. The second is Newman's understanding of the relationship between the church and the university. Newman distinguishes between the mission of the Catholic Church and the mission of the Catholic university. The distinct mission of the university indicates that the objective of university theology is different from the teaching mission of the magisterium. In the final section, the article examines the significance of Newman's ideas for Catholic universities in the United States today.

Copyright © The College Theology Society 2002

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1 Newman, John Henry, The Idea of a University, edited with preface and introduction by Harrold, Charles Frederick (London: Longmans, Green, 1947), xxviiGoogle Scholar; henceforth Idea. Also, in an essay entitled, “What is a University?” Newman defines a university as a “School of Universal Learning,” Historical Sketches (London: Longmans, Green, 1924), 6.

2 Newman, Idea, xxvii. Jaroslav Pelikan points out that this statement of Newman's is rooted in Aristotle's distinction between truth and duty: “… the law of truth differs from the law of duty, that duties change, but truths never” (Pelikan, Jaroslav, The Idea of a University: A Reexamination [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992], 45.Google Scholar

3 Culler, A. Dwight, The Imperial Intellect: A Study of Newman's Educational Ideal (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955), 180.Google Scholar

4 Ibid., 182.

5 Idea, 389.

6 Ibid., 53.

7 Ibid., 46.

9 Ibid., 389.

10 Ibid., 18–19.

11 Ibid., 46–47.

12 Ibid., 38.

14 Ibid., 18.

15 Ibid., 389.

16 Ibid., 47.

17 Ibid., 20.

18 Ibid., 96.

19 Ibid., 90, 95, 96, and 98.

20 Ibid., 111.

21 Ibid., 101, 107.

22 Ibid., 111, 121.

23 Ibid., 91. Newman writes: “Knowledge is capable of being its own end. Such is the constitution of the human mind, that any kind of knowledge, if it is really such, is its own reward.”

24 Ibid., 92.

25 Ibid., 95–96.

26 Ibid., 99.

27 Ibid., 113–15.

28 Ibid., 118–19.

30 Ibid., 119.

31 Ibid., 121.

32 Ibid., 123.

33 Ibid., 124.

36 Ibid., 119.

37 Ibid., 319.

38 Newman, John Henry, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, ed. Ker, Ian T., (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), 99. 119, 120, 147.Google Scholar

39 Idea, 313.

40 Newman, , Grammar of Assent, 147.Google Scholar

41 Moleski, Martin X. S.J., Personal Catholicism: The Theological Epistemologies of John Henry Newman and Michael Polanyi (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2000), 118, 134, 154–55.Google Scholar

42 Idea, 90.

43 Ibid, 106.

44 Ibid., 96.

45 Ker, Ian, John Henry Newman: A Biography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 392.Google Scholar

46 Idea, 205.

47 Newman, , Historical Sketches, 240.Google Scholar

48 McGrath, Fergal S.J., The Consecration of Learning: Lectures on Newman's Idea of a University (New York: Fordham University Press, 1966), 173.Google Scholar

49 Ibid., 108. See also Ker, , Newman: A Biography, 376–77.Google Scholar

50 Idea, 10–11.

51 McGrath, , Consecration of Learning, 194.Google Scholar

52 Ibid., 203.

53 Newman, John Henry, My Campaign in Ireland, printed for private circulation only (A. King & Co., 1896), 2324.Google Scholar Newman states that he has taken upon himself the entire cost of erecting and furnishing a temporary church.

54 Ibid., 42.

55 McGrath, , Consecration of Learning, 204.Google Scholar

56 Idea, 96.

57 Ibid., 135. Newman rejects the idea that a university education should result in some definite work, which can be weighed and measured.

58 Ibid., 147. Newman adds that the pursuit of liberal knowledge as an end in itself brings a power and a grace to every occupation and enables a person to be more useful and to serve a greater number of people (ibid., 148).

59 Newman, , Idea of University, 398.Google Scholar

60 Ibid., 398–99.

61 Ibid., 399. Adding to the ambiguity Newman states, in a footnote: “It would be plausible to call Theology the external form of the philosophical system, as charity has been said to be of living faith, vide. Bellarm. de Justif., but then, though it would not interfere with the other sciences, it could not have been one of them” (ibid).

62 Idea, 47.

63 Ibid., 399.

64 Ibid., 59.

65 Ibid., 46.

66 Ibid., 61.

67 Ibid., 60.

68 Ibid. Newman follows these comments with a brief demonstration of the universal character of theology, (ibid., 60–61).

69 Idea, 86.

70 Ibid., 59.

71 Ibid., 64.

73 Ker, , Newman: A Biography, 392.Google Scholar

75 Idea, 190, In fact, for Newman, it was the institutional control by the church, and not the teaching of theology, that made a university Catholic.

76 Ibid., xxvii.

78 Ibid., 190.

79 Gilley, Sheridan, Newman and His Age (Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1991), 295–96.Google Scholar

80 Idea, xxvii.

82 Ibid., 336.

86 Culler, , Imperial Intellect, 159.Google Scholar Culler points out that Newman did not think that it was practical to begin the school of theology immediately and so he did not make much of an effort to establish it.

87 Idea, 62. McGrath states that in the early discourses Newman wanted to rely upon reasoning that would not be linked to the tenets of Catholic theology, but that, in the last two discourses, Newman modified his plan and devoted them to the consideration of the Catholic Church and Catholic theology (Consecration of Learning, 3).

88 Idea, 55.

89 Ibid., 55–59.

90 Ibid., 319. Newman also refers to theology in this sense as “Theology proper” (ibid., 331).

91 Ibid., 310.

92 Ibid., 331.

93 Ibid., 190.

94 Newman, , Campaign in Ireland, 94.Google Scholar

95 Idea, 54. Here Newman states that these constitute a science supplemental to theology and, even though they are necessary in their place, they are not theology itself.

96 Paul, John II, Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 1990), 32.Google Scholar

97 See Bishops, U.S., The Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae for the United States (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 16.Google Scholar

98 Idea, 318.

99 Ibid., 342.

100 Ibid.

101 Ibid., 352–53.

102 Ibid., 350.

103 Ibid., 342.

104 Ibid.

105 Ibid., 350.