During and since the Second Vatican Council both liberal and conservative Catholics have claimed Newman as their own. But his life and work resist any easy labeling. Conscience & Conversion reveals within Newman’s many facets a singleness of self, a self driven through a series of far reaching conversions by the creative force of a dynamic, unifying conscience. It analyzes the complexities of Newman’s famous move from Oxford to Rome, his ecclesial conversion from the Anglican Church to the Roman Church, and suggests a new interpretation of this move in terms of a distinction between negative deconversion and positive conversion, and a delineation of three two-year phases specified respectively by intellectual analysis and judgment, discernment and judgment of conscience, and deliberation and decision. Newman’s conversion from the Church of England to Roman Catholicism changed the direction of his life in many important ways, but it was neither his first nor even his most personally profound conversion. While acknowledging the enormous impact of this 1845 conversion, this study places it in the context of a series of conversions Newman experienced.
Walter Conn has written brilliantly on Christian conversion. It is more than fitting that he turn his considerable intelligence to John Henry Newman who was a convert in more than the usual sense. Indeed, Newman’s whole life was one of unceasing conversion as Conn shows in this perceptive and welcome study.
Lawrence S. Cunningham, John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology, The University of Notre Dame
When great people with great minds undergo great personal changes, it fascinates. Walter Conn indulges our fascination by probing the various conversions Newman underwent. Neither by debunking nor lionizing Newman’s story, Conn carves a thoughtful middle path by identifying the story’s consistent key within a life of momentous conversions: that Newman’s conscience was always being God-driven in its desire for Transcendence, with Whom alone Newman’s true identity resided.
Edward Jeremy Miller, Gwynedd Mercy College Board Member, Newman Association of America