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The Dublin Review and Ourselves

Brownson's Quarterly Review, April, 1848

Art.   VII.- The  Dublin   Review,   No.   XLVL, Art.  VI.   London: Richardson & Son.   January, 1848.

This is the first part of an attempted reply to the papers we have pub­lished against Mr. Newman's theory, especially to the article in this jour­nal for last October, entitled The Dublin Review on Developments. We have read it, as far as it goes, with attention, and as little prejudice as possible; but we have found it exceedingly unsatisfactory. It is written after the manner of an Oxford student or an Anglican controversialist, rather than after the manner we are accustomed to in Catholic theologians.

The author evades the real questions in debate, and seeks to make up a foreign issue, not necessarily involving either the truth or the falsehood of the theory to which we have objected. He evidently wishes to aban­don the defence of the theory to itself, and to make the whole controversy turn on the exactness or inexactness of our statement of Catholic teaching; in other words, to abandon the defensive and assume the offen­sive. This undoubtedly is creditable to him as a strategist, but it can be of little avail. It is not difficult either to see through his manoeuvring, or to meet and thwart it. Too much art sometimes defeats itself, and fails, when a simple and natural method would lead on to victory.

As far as proving us to have been inexact is proving the truth of the theory of development, the method of the Reviewer is legitimate enough, but no farther. Perhaps we might be inexact in our statement of Catholic teaching, and yet that theory not be true; and if so, proving us in the wrong would not be proving the Reviewer in the right. If we arc right in our statement of that teaching, the theory is most unquestionably false ; but we are much mistaken, if we may not be decidedly in the wrong on the points on which the Reviewer labors to prove us so, and yet the theory be wholly inadmissible. To all he alleges against us, possibly we could reply,  Concedo, quid hide?

But it is necessary to bear in mind that the doctrine which the Re­viewer ascribes to us, and against which alone he brings his heavy artil­lery to bear, does not happen to be ours or any body's we ever heard of. It is his own invention, and he has the exclusive right to it. If we under­stand him, he asserts that we maintain, or would persuade his readers that we maintain, that the whole Christian doctrine has been explicitly believed from the first, not only by the Church, but also by all the faith­ful, and that nothing can be defined of faith which has not been so be­lieved from the beginning by every one, whether simple or learned, a rustic or a doctor. But this is a grave mistake. We hold no such doctrine; we have said nothing, fairly interpreted, to authorize the sup­position that we do, but enough to warrant the assertion that we do not, as the Reviewer cannot be unaware, if he has done us the honor to read the articles on which he professes to comment. We are exceedingly humbled that any one should suppose us either so ignorant or so disin­genuous as to deny, what every Catholic of ordinary intelligence knows, that large portions of Christian doctrine are believed by the rude and simple only implicitly, or that there are many things not explicitly be­lieved at all times and in all places, by every one of the learned even. To say that we do not deny this would seem to us very much like saying that wo do not deny that a triangle is not a circle.

The doctrine we have opposed to the theory of developments is, that the revelation made to and through the Apostles was an explicit and perfect revelation of the whole Christian faith, -save, as Suarez main­tains, certain things which in the times of tho Apostles had not yet hap­pened, and which were formally revealed in the explicit revelation, as the particular in the universal, or the part in the whole, - and that this reve­lation was explicitly and completely delivered over by the Apostles to their successors, and has been at all times explicitly held and believed by the Church. This is the doctrine we have set forth as that of all our theologians, and this is the precise doctrine to be disproved, before we can be convicted of inexactness in our statement of Catholic teaching. But, thus far, the Reviewer has not disproved this doctrine, nor has he succeeded in adducing a single authority, respectable or otherwise, against it. Some of the authorities he cites, undoubtedly, disprove the doctrine he is pleased to., tell his readers is ours ; but to disprove what we do not hold is not precisely to disprove what we do hold.    Nevertheless, the Reviewer must disprove this doctrine before his offensive opera­tions can begin to avail him any thing, Not as yet having done this, ho has as yet made no advance in the argument, either against us or for himself.

It is clear now what the Reviewer must da in order to place us in the wrong ; let us see what he must do in order to place himself in the right, or to defend the theory of development in the sense in which we have set it forth and objected to it, He must maintain, - 1. The original reve­lation committed to the Apostles, and through them to the Chinch, was imperfect, inchoate, containing gaps to be filled up in the process of time by the uninspired action of the human mind ; 2. It is impossible to make a revelation wliich the uninspired human mind can take in or apprehend, except through long and laborious processes of thought, which can go on only successively, and be completed only-after a considerable lapse of time ; 3. Christian doctrine, or the object embraced in the act of be­lieving, is not the revealed fact, but the mind's idea of it, always more or less inadequate, or the form which the mind by its own uninspired action imposes upon it; 4. It is no objection to a theory, that it degrades Chris­tianity to the level of sects and human philosophy ; 5. No provision was made in the Apostolic revelation, as originally delivered to the Church, for Infant Baptism, or post-baptismal sins ; 6. The Sacrament of Penance was not an original Apostolic institution, but a development effected after the establishment of the Church, and after the faithful had become corrupt; 7. Purgatory was a development effected subsequently to the iirst ages, as a form of Penance due for sins committed after Baptism ; 8. The doctrine of the Trinity was only imperfectly understood by the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and not fully formed till the fourth century, and that of the Incarnation remained imperfect till the sixth; 9. Excepting some of the elements of the principal mysteries, nothing is formally of faith till controverted, and judicially defined and declared by the Church. These and many other propositions hardly less startling to the Christian are contained in that theory of development which we have opposed, and these, or the theory in the sense of these, the Reviewer must defend, or he does not defend that to which we have objected. To defend develop­ments in some other sense, or some other theory of developments, is nothing to the purpose; for it is only this theory, or developments in the sense of this theory, that we have opposed.

We regret to perceive that the Reviewer overlooks this fact, and pro­ceeds as if the question turned on developments in general, and as if he could conclude against us in case he should prove developments any­where, in any sense, and on no matter what ground. But this is a grave error. We object to developments in a specific subject, in a specific sense, asserted on a specific ground, and to certain particular develop­ments. If he shows that we misapprehend the theory, that it does not assert the particular developments to which we object, nor developments in the subject, in the sense, and on the ground to which we take excep­tions, well and good ; we have nothing more to say ; for then he shows that the theory contended for is something which we have not opposed, and to prove it is to prove nothing against us. He must take one of two courses. He may disavow the theory in the sense in which we oppose it, or he may attempt to defend it from the objections we bring against it; but he must do the one or the other. He cannot prove it in one sense, and con­clude its truth in another.    If he will not disavow it in the sense objected to, he must defend it in that sense. No evasion, no manoeuvring, will avail him. He must come at last to one or the other, or forfeit all claims to he considered a fair and honest controversialist.

And why should he hesitate to do it! He either holds the theory in the sense of the propositions we have given, or he does not. If he does, is it necessary to tell him that he must defend it in that sense, and that to defend it, as he seeks to do, in some other sense is nothing to his pur­pose ? If he does not, can he not say so, and tell us precisely what it is he does mean to defend under the head of developments? Why not meet the question directly, fairly, honestly, like a good Christian 1 Is not truth his object] Would it be just to conclude that he loves his theory more than truth, or that he would rather play the sophist than acknowledge that he has erred? Is there any hardship or humiliation in saying that we have been in the wrong? Who is there that has not erred? and what more manly, when convinced that we have erred, than to say so, frankly, and without a wry face? Out upon the contemptible pride that would make us blush to confess our errors! It is a privilege, a precious privilege, to be allowed to confess our errors; for by doing so we may make some reparation for the injury they may have done.

In looking over the Reviewer's article, we cannot perceive that he has made the least advance, either in proving what we objected to, or in dis­proving what we asserted to be the Catholic doctrine. He remains where we placed him last October. He introduces no additional authorities, adduces no new arguments, and fails utterly to vindicate to himself those of his own authorities which we turned against him. In the very few instances in which he may appear to some of his readers who are not also our readers to have clone something, his apparent success is due solely to his keeping the true issue out of sight, to his misrepresenting our doctrine, and his representing what we adduced to prove one point as ad­duced to prove another, to prove which we did not adduce it or rely on it. This is especially true of his reply to our exposition of the long ex­tract from Suarez. Some of his assertions are so extraordinary as to tran­scend the bounds of sophistry, and, unless he retains the old Tractarian habit of using words in "a non-natural sense," are downright-mis-statements. His boldness, not to say unscrupulousness, surprises us not a little. If he believes he has truth on his side, how can he believe it necessary to resort to sophistry, to misrepresentation, and misstatement ? All men of ordinary morality prefer, when they can, to maintain their cause by fair and honorable means ; and whenever one resorts to other means, he raises a suspicion that his cause is weak, and that he feels it to be so.

Thus far we have simply stated what the Reviewer must do in order either to refute what we maintain or to defend what we oppose, and given our estimate of the character and value of his reply as far as it has proceeded. A more particular examination we reserve till we receive the concluding portion of his article, in which we shall rejoice to find something definite and to the purpose. We hope in that we shall find what it is he really wishes to defend, and be relieved of our present un­certainty, whether it is the theory we oppose, or something else, to which we may or may not object.

There are, however, a few incidental topics introduced by the Review­er, of no great importance.,in themselves, indeed, which we wish to dis­pose of now, that we may have nothing to divert our attention hereafter from the main issue. The Reviewer represents us as mistaken in regard­ing his former article as intended to be a reply to us. He did not profess, he says, to reply to us. That he did not profess to do so in just so many words is true; that he did substantially, we thought, and we still think, we had reason for supposing. He placed our article at the head of his, and gave as his reason for doing so his " wish to offer a few comments on " it, which, according to our understanding of editorial usage, is equivalent to expressing an intention "to offer a reply." Moreover, he assigned as his reason for commenting on our article at all, the fact that we had included in the censure wo bestowed certain gentlemen besides Mr. Newman, and " these had a right to be heard in their own defence." This either was a reason, or it was not. It would not be respectful to say it was not. If it, was, the purpose of the Reviewer was to defend these gentlemen from the censure in which we had included them. But we had included them in no censure except that which we bestowed upon Mr. Newman's theory, and in that only so far as they embraced it. The only possible way of defending them from that censure was either to show that they did not embrace the theory in the sense in which we censured it, or by defending the theory itself against us. The Reviewer did not defend or attempt to defend them in the former way, and there­fore must have attempted to do it in the latter way; which was to at­tempt a reply to us. That he waived Mr. Newman's Essay and Mr. Newman's name is true, but this amounted to nothing ; because what we objected to in Mr. Newman was not his name or his book, as a mere book, but the theory we found in a book bearing his name. That he did not undertake to defend that theory as Mr, Newman's, we grant; but he either did undertake to defend it against us as the theory of certain other gentlemen, and therefore to reply to us, or he made an unwarrant­able use of our name. If he proposed simply to defend some other theo­ry, a tbeory we had not assailed, and against other opponents, what in the world had we to do with the matter, and by what right did he make an article of ours the subject of his comments 1

The Reviewer complains that we expressed a regret that the task of replying to us had not been committed to some learned Catholic doctor, and adds, rather tartly, - " Surely, what a layman and a recent convert is at liberty to write, a layman and a recent convert is at liberty to answer." Unquestionably ; yet a certain layman and recent convert may be compe­tent to write what another may not be competent to answer. The ques­tion is not as to the liberty, but as to the competency. But the Reviewer mistakes the source of our regret. We did not wish for a Catholic doc­tor because we thought ourselves entitled to an opponent of a higher grade than the Reviewer; we did not dream of instituting a comparison between him and ourselves, for we have long been of Dogberry's opinion, that "comparisons are odorous." We wished the doctor in the place of the recent convert, because we wished the truth to be elicited and the controversy brought to a speedy and satisfactory termination; because the learned Catholic doctor would have studied, not to darken, but to elu­cidate, the subject; because he would have understood his authorities, perceived the precise points on which the controversy turns, and have spoken to them directly and logically ; because it was error, not defeat, we dreaded, - truth, not victory, we desired. The Reviewer's second article, we are sorry to say, has served only to justify and increase the re­gret we expressed.
The Reviewer complains, also, of the tone in which we wrote, and thinks we too frequently and too severely referred to his various disquali­fications for the task he had undertaken. He may be right in this. We are subject to infirmity as well as other men, and are neither infallible nor impeccable. Hut we speak plainly, without reticence or circumlocution, on principle. We write usually with earnestness, but if with severity, it is the severity of truth and argument, never that of passion. We may have expressed too frequently our conviction of the Reviewer's disqualifi­cation for his task, but we certainly expressed it far less frequently than we felt it. The Reviewer, we can believe, is an amiable, and in some respects a learned, man ; but, if we may judge from his articles against us, he is a stranger to severe mental discipline, and has failed to digest the materials collected from his various reading. He has looked over, perhaps through, some valuable tracts on Catholic theology, but he does not appear to have mastered them. As a writer, he seems to us to retain the principle said to have been avowed by the Tractarian school to which he formerly belonged, of seeing how much one may say in a given direction, so plainly that every reader shall be morally certain of his meaning, yet so adroitly as never, in express words, to commit himself, or rende" it possible to reproduce his meaning without changing his phra­seology,- a principle of writing very necessary to men occupying the position of Traclarians, seeking to reform or essentially modify a church whose authority they acknowledge, but as unnecessary as disingenuous in a Catholic. We had no unkind feelings towards him, and we aimed to be respectful; but we could not always feel respect, and we are poorly skilled in the art of expressing what we do not feel. Moreover, we re­garded ourselves as defending Catholicity against a novel theory, which, if admitted, would subvert it, and we did not and could not treat him as we would and should have done, if the subject in dispute had been only one of those scholastic questions on which Catholics are free to difTer. When the foundations of the faith are attacked, we cannot stop to con­sult the delicate sensibilities of those who attack them, however uncon­scious they may be of what they are doing.

The Reviewer, again, accuses us of unfairness ; but as we are not con­scious of having treated him unfairly, and as he points out, as we can see, no instance of unfairness on our part, we must consider this charge - a de­velopment. We aimed to be fair, and we had no motive for being other­wise. We did, indeed, take the liberty of giving to the points he made a little more precision than he had given them, and of holding him to the strict logic of the case; but in this there was no unfairness, and we did it for his sake much more than for our own. We thought then, and we still think, that if he and his friends would define their views to them­selves, study to give precision to their statements, and adhere to the strict rules of logic in developing them, or, in other words, if they would adopt the rigid scholastic method of our theologians, instead of retaining the loose rhetorical method they learned at Oxford, they would immedi­ately abjure their theory, and wonder how they could ever have enter­tained it. But a charge of unfairness from the Reviewer is rather amusing. He has himself no fairness; he does not treat us, in a single instance, with common justice. We have discovered no instance in which he states our doctrine correctly, no instance in which he reproduces one of our arguments without perverting it, none in which he has treated with ordinary civility a single authority we have introduced.    He meets fairly not a single point we have made, treats all our arguments with contempt or with silence, and his own citations are frequently made with an unfairness which would surprise us even in a Protestant controver­sialist. Yet ho talks of our unfairness, and takes great credit to himself because he presumes it to he unintentional unfairness.

The Reviewer thinks he has detected a contradiction in our assertions with regard to the Developmentists. We denominate them a school, and yet represent them as disagreeing- among themselves. Therefore we as­sert them to be a school and not a school, - a flat, contradiction. Wo deny the consequence. A school is where a certain number of persons adopt the peculiar principles of some master, and is not destroyed by their disagreeing among themselves as to certain matters which do not involve the truth or falsity of those principles. Wo call the Developmentists a school because they adopt the principles as to development set forth by Mr. Newman. And tins they can be, we should suppose, although they may differ among themselves as to the fact whether this or that particu­lar dogma is to be considered a development, or as a dogma explicitly contained in the Apostolic revelation. If the Reviewer thinks otherwise, he is welcome to his opinion ; the matter is not worth disputing about.

We were not quite exact, it seems, in our references. The Reviewer complains of two of them, - one to Tournely, the other to Melchior Cann. The one to Tournely is correct. The Reviewer will find it De Locis Theologian, Dc Censuris, Art. 2, where we referred him. The edi­tion is that of Paris and Venice, Pezzana, 1705. The reference to Cano, the Reviewer says, is wrong as to the chapter, and omits the book. The first part of the charge is not true, according to our edition of the Do Lo­cis T/ico/ogicis. The second part is true. By an inexcusable blunder in transcribing for the press, we omitted to specify the book, and did not dis­cover it till it was too late to rectify it. We of course were mortified, but our regret, was not so great as it might have been, for we had given the title of the chapter, and so accurately marked the position of the pas­sage cited, that the Reviewer could have had no serious difficulty in find­ing it, if he knew where to look for his own citations from the same author.

But the Reviewer himself is not immaculate in this matter of refer­ences. He referred us to Moehler, Vol. I. pp. 60, 07, Robertson's Trans­lation, without specifying the edition : and having only the American edition, in one volume, we had no little difficulty in verifying the citation. He referred us to Bellarmine, De Pur gat or io, I. 15, meaning, we sup­pose, Book I. and chapter 15 ; but, unhappily, that book, in our edition of Bellarmine, contains only eleven chapters in all! Of his references to Cano, more than one half were incorrect, according to our edition of the work referred to, and he did not name the edition he used. These errors will offset our blunder. They were all in his former article, yet we did not think it worth our while to point them out. Part of them, we presumed, came from his using a different edition of the works cited from the one we used, and the remainder were pardonable oversights in a periodical writer. In such matters it is well for every one to practise generosity, for every one in turn may need it, After all, these are small matters. We have never doubted the ability of our contemporary to make quota­tions, and we always presume that he makes them at first hand, unless he informs us to the contrary. Whether he can or cannot say as much of U3 is a matter of no moment.    Having never set up to be a scholar, making no pretensions to learning in any department whatever, we are free from the ambition of acquiring, and from the fear of losing, the repu­tation of scholarship. Indeed, all these incidental topics we have touched upon look to us as mere trifles, and unfit to engage the attention of two grave Reviews, and we assure the Dublin Reviewer that we can waste no more time upon similar topics, and if he continues to introduce them, he must pardon us if we pass them over in silence.