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John Henry Newman: Biography, Facts & Books

Instructor: Rahman Johnson

Rahman is a TV News Anchor with a Master's Degree in Strategic Communications and Leadership.

In the UK, the Church of England is the most common religion. However, one guy decided that he wanted to worship in the way that was best for him. He took a big step and converted to Catholicism. His decision and his writing helped to define religion and bring people together. That is the story of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman.

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman was a religious leader whose theological beliefs helped to change modern religious thought. He was born in 1801 in London, England, the oldest of six children. His father was a banker and his mother was a socialite from a prominent family. Newman attended the Great Ealing School as a child. While most kids were focused on playing games, he was constantly reading and theorizing.

At age 15, Newman converted and became an Evangelical Calvinist. At that time, one of the early traditional teachings of Calvinism was that the Pope, leader of the Catholic Church, was the Anti-Christ. As you'll soon read, Newman's thoughts on this matter would change drastically.

College and Ordination

After graduating from Ealing, Newman started Law School at Lincoln's Inn but later left to study at Trinity College, Oxford. He graduated from there with a BA in 1821, focusing his studies on intellectualism and philosophy.

After continued study, Newman was ordained an Anglican Deacon in 1824. After two years of holy work and writing at St. Clement's Church in Oxford, he was made a priest in 1825. He spent a year as vice principal of St. Alban's Hall at Oxford and in 1828 was appointed vicar of St. Mary's University Church.

Some of Newman's writing during this time is credited with spearheading what became the Oxford movement, or the start of Anglo-Catholicism, which sought to bring some Catholic traditions back to the Church of England. It was during this time that Newman's views about Evangelicalism began to change. As his views evolved, so did his relationships with some of the leaders of the church.

Newman left his post and decided to tour the Mediterranean, visiting North Africa, West Greece and Italy. His travels gave him a deeper understanding and respect for divinity. He began to think that there needed to be some type of restoration of the church in England. During this period, he also wrote many poems.

Once he returned to England, Newman continued writing and study and eventually resigned from the Anglican Church in September 1843. He then made a decision that was considered drastic at that time. He decided to convert to Catholic. That's a pretty bigdecision to make even today.

After more study and continued writing he was accepted into the Roman Catholic faith on October 9, 1845 and traveled to Rome to be ordained a priest.

Rise to Leadership in the Catholic Church

As Newman rose to leadership in the Catholic Church, some of the other leaders doubted his intentions. Still he continued to write and speak out about his beliefs. This was pretty unheard of since most of England had been anti-Catholic since the 16th century.

During that time, the mindset in England seemed to be focused on keeping the Catholic Church out of England. This even caused people to attack Catholic clergy in the streets. Newman hosted a series of lectures in the summer of 1851 that he hoped would open the doors for understanding. Shortly after the lectures, one of the leaders of the Catholic Church, Achilli, left to become a part of the Anglican Church. When Newman spoke out on the things that Achilli said against the Holy See, he was charged with libel. After a three-day trial he was found guilty and fined £100.

In 1854, Newman went to lead the Catholic University of Ireland. He continued to write and lecture and fully retired after four years.

As time passed, there was a softening to some of the views of the English toward Catholics. Nevertheless, there were still those in the Catholic Church, like Pope Pius IX, who did not trust former Anglicans like Newman. However, when Pope Leo XIII was elevated, he was encouraged by the Duke of Norfolk and other lay members of the church to make Newman a Cardinal. Newman accepted the position and became Cardinal on May 12, 1879.

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