Writing to his friend and future biographer A. P. Stanley on 24 May 1836 "with regard to the Newmanites," Arnold tells him he doesn't think them bad men but people "of mixed characters, where the noble and the base, the good and the bad, are strangely mixed up together." Unfortunately, their undoubted sincerity has become fanaticism, and

fanaticism is idolatry, and it has the moral evil of idolatry in it; that is, a fanatic worships something which is the creature of his own devices, and thus even his self-devotion in support of it is only an apparent self-sacrifice, for it is in fact making the parts of his nature or his mind. which he least values, offer sacrifice to that which it most values. The moral fault, as it appears to me, is in the idolatry, — the setting up some idea which is most kindred to our own minds, and then putting it in the place of Christ. . . . Newman and his party are idolaters; they put Christ's Church, and Christ's Sacraments, and Christ's ministers, in the place of Christ Himself; and, these being only imperfect ideas, the unreserved worship of them unavoidably tends to the neglect of other ideas no less important; and thence some passion or other loses its proper and intended check, and the moral evil follows. Thus it is that narrow-mindedness tends to wickedness; because it does not extend its watchfulness to every part of our moral nature, for then it would not be narrow-mindedness: and this neglect fosters the growth of evil in the parts that are so neglected. [II, 41]

Essentially, Arnold is accusing John Henry Newman, Edward Bouverie Pusey, John Keble, and their followers for following the way of cupiditas rather than caritas, though they of course would hardly agree. According to St. Augustine and Dante, cupiditas (or cupidity) consists of loving things of this world for their own sake rather than following the path of caritas (charity), which is love of things of this world — knowledge, one's family, the Anglican Church — solely for the sake of Christ and that element of Christ that is in them. The old epigram, "Money is the root of all evil" is in fact a mistranslation of Radix malorum cupitas est, which means "Loving things of this world (instead of loving God) is the root of all evil." Doesn't sound as jazzy, but it makes a lot more sense.

Arnold frequently returns to the notion that emphasizing the importance of the clergy as opposed to the body of believers is not true religion but his "old enemy . . . priestcraft":

The Popish and Oxford view of Christianity is, that the Church is the mediator between God and the individual: that the Church (i.e. in their sense, the Clergy) is a sort of chartered corporation, and that by belonging to this corporation, or by being attached to it, any given individual acquires such and such privileges. This is a priestcraft, because it lays the stress, not on the relations of a man's heart towards God and Christ, as the Gospel does, but on something wholly artificial and formal, — his belonging to a certain so-called society: and thus, — whether the society be alive or dead, — whether it really help the man in goodness or not, — still it claims to step in and interpose itself, as the channel of grace and salvation, when it certainly is not the channel of salvation, because it is visibly and notoriously no sure channel of grace. Whereas, all who go straight to Christ, without thinking of the Church, do manifestly and visibly receive grace, and have the seal of His Spirit, and therefore are certainly heirs of salvation. This, I think, applies to any and every Church, it being always true that the salvation of a man's soul is effected by the change in his heart and life, wrought by Christ's Spirit; and that his relation to any Church is quite a thing subordinate and secondary: although, where the Church is what it should be, it is so great a means of grace, that its benefits are of the highest value. But the heraldic or Succession view of the question I can hardly treat gravely: there is something so monstrously profane in making our heavenly inheritance like an earthly estate, to which our pedigree is our title. And really, what is called succession, is exactly a pedigree, and nothing better; like natural descent, it conveys no moral nobleness [II, 68-69; to T. Pasley, 14 December 1836]

Elsewhere, Arnold refers to the Tractarian "exalting the Church and the Sacraments into the place of Christ, as others [Roman Catholics] have exalted His mother, and others in the same spirit [Jews] exalted circumcision" as "Judaizing" (II, 77) — a word that the High Church party must have found especially insulting since they applied it themselves to Evangelicals, He could do worse — and did, sometimes referring to "Priestcraft-Antichrist," which he found just as bad as "the Antichrist of Utilitarian belief" (II, 102). Or, as he wrote the Rev. T. J. Omerod, "That the Church System, or rather the Priest System, is not to be found in Scripture, is as certain as that the worship of Jupiter is not to be found in the Gospel" (II, 264; 19 June 1841).


Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn. The life and correspondence of Thomas Arnold, D.D., late head-master of Rugby school, and regius professor of modern history in the University of Oxford. 4th ed. 2 vols. London: B. Fellowes, 1845.

Victorian Overview Thomas Arnold of Rugby Victorian History

Last modified 20 July 2006