John Henry Cardinal Newman was one of the greatest and most well known controversialist of Victorian England. He often found himself at the center of important debates and helped to affect the thinking of Victorian society. He was known to be very persuasive and charming in his language and rhetoric, which made him a difficult opponent in any debate.

Plot Summary

Apologia Pro Vita Sua was his spiritual autobiography in which he traces his religious development from his Protestant upbringing and childhood to his 1845 conversion to Roman Catholicism. In this section, he describes his time in Oxford College, where he was an Anglican clergyman and was briefly attracted to religious liberalism. However, he soon determined that religious liberalism placed too much reliance on individual reason, and therefore left the church open to attack. This realization caused him to shift to the High Church wing of the Anglican Church and become a leading member of what was then known as the Oxford Movement. Eventually, upset by constant criticism for his more conservative beliefs and his proximity to Catholicism, he retreated to isolation in 1842. By 1845, he entered the Roman Catholic priesthood and was eventually made Cardinal in 1879.

At the end of “On Liberalism,” Newman lists a total of 18 beliefs of religious liberalism that he believes are dangerous to preserving the traditional church.

From Apologia Pro Vita Sua: “Note A. Liberalism” (1864) by Caitlin Duffy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.