“I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well, that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.”Given that literally half (50%) of the population has an IQ below 100, it is also literally impossible for the laity to ever achieve such a lofty vision. Newman, of all people, should have understood that to different people are given different gifts, and that not all gifts are intellectual.
The beauty and strength of the Catholic Faith does not lie in how intelligent it is (though it is intelligent), nor how defensible it is (though it is eminently defensible).
Rather, the beauty and strength of the Catholic Faith rests only and completely in the fact that through it, any man breathing can be saved.
The rest is, as they say, gravy.
Cardinal Newman cannot want what cannot be. What he describes cannot be, for not all have the particular gifts that he holds up for admiration in the passage above. Rather, as Aquinas points out, the greatest grace lies in the uneducated peasant who can do none of the things Newman outlines, yet remains in the Faith because he cannot, in his bones, do anything but cling to the Truth which shines forth in his very being. It is not only the heavens that tell the glory of God. His glory shines forth in the simple and achingly beautiful existence of every human being. Human existence alone gives an account of the Faith, perhaps incomplete, certainly somewhat inchoate, but ultimately compelling nonetheless.
And that is the only laity Cardinal Newman, or any other ordained man, will ever truly have.
It is enough.