Rev. Michael Wimsatt successfully defended his dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology on Friday, March 18 at 10:00 am. His dissertation is titled “Ecclesial Themes in the Mediterranean Writings of John Henry Newman (December 1832 – July 1833)”.
Ecclesial Themes in the Mediterranean Writings of John Henry Newman (December 1832 – July 1833)
Director: Rev. John T. Ford, S.T.D.
A decade after becoming a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, in 1822, John Henry Newman decided in the fall of 1832 to accompany his close friend Richard Hurrell Froude (1803-1836), and Froude’s father, Archdeacon Robert Hurrell Froude (1771-1859) on a Mediterranean voyage that began in early December. Originally envisioned as an opportunity for Richard Hurrell, whose health was fragile, to avoid the harsh English winter, and for Newman to enjoy a brief respite from academic life, the seven-month voyage held much more in store for Newman on his first excursion outside his native England than he expected.
While abroad Newman wrote 85 poems and 47 letters documenting both the sites he visited as well as his oft-restless interior state. These letters and verses document a decisive evolution on the personal level as well as the theological. Developments in his thought during his voyage are particularly evident in his reflections on the Church. On the personal level, he was displeased with the educational situation at Oriel College; on the theological level, he was distressed by the doctrinal relativism that was then emerging in the Church of England. These issues found voice in his letters and verses through his reflections on the early Church as well as the universal aspect of the Church that Newman was seeing close at hand for the first time.
Although scholars have long recognized that Newman’s Mediterranean voyage was a pivotal time in his life, comparatively little study has been devoted to its importance for his theological development. This dissertation examines Newman’s theological reflections during this pivotal time with particular attention to the major ecclesial themes that surfaced while abroad and were later significant for the Oxford Movement. Accordingly, this dissertation makes a two-fold contribution: first, historical—by a detailed treatment of a neglected period in Newman’s life; second, theological—by investigating his theological thought during this period. In sum, by investigating oft-neglected writings, this dissertation highlights not only essential aspects of the Oxford Movement, but also sheds light on the ecclesial concerns that eventually prompted Newman’s conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1845.