"In verbo veritatis" (2 Cor 6:7)

June 22, 2022

J. C. Murray and the Everson and McCollum Cases

<p>The Church-and-State case decided by the Supreme Court yesterday, June 21, 2022, is sure to prompt interest in the Court’s decisions in two famous cases of the late 1940s, a time of great debate on the issue, particularly between Catholics and Protestants in the United States. The cases are known as “Everson” and as “McCollum.”<br />John Courtney Murray was very actively involved in presenting and defending the Catholic position, not only by several popular articles but also by helping the NCWC prepare amicus curiae briefs for the Supreme Court and by commenting on the Court’s eventual decisions. <br />Here is a history of Murray’s involvement as I was able to reconstruct it from considerable archival research. The essay is close to thirty years old and does not, then, take into account any secondary literature that may have appeared in the time since.</p>
<pre class="wp-block-syntaxhighlighter-code aligncenter"><a id="wp-block-file--media-7c7a2dd4-127d-4455-9ab9-4b9be1a4860a" href="https://jakomonchak.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/jcm-on-everson-mccollum-cases.pdf">JCM on Everson & McCollum Cases</a><a class="wp-block-file__button wp-element-button" href="https://jakomonchak.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/jcm-on-everson-mccollum-cases.pdf" aria-describedby="wp-block-file--media-7c7a2dd4-127d-4455-9ab9-4b9be1a4860a">Download</a></pre>

April 2, 2022

An interview

Filed under: Uncategorized — komonchak @ 3:58 pm

Kenneth Woodward, former religion editor for Newsweek, interviewed me at my home a couple of months ago. It’s now available on the website of the Jesuit magazine America.

March 23, 2022

Last day or first?

Filed under: Essays — komonchak @ 4:40 pm

 A couple of days ago, the NY Times had a piece on a nun who in recent years “has made it her mission to revive the practice of memento mori, a Latin phrase meaning ‘Remember your death.’ The idea is to intentionally think about your own death every day, as a means of appreciating the present and focusing on the future.” It is not morbid, she says, to remind yourself that you will die. It can, instead, intensify your living, focus your attention, sharpen your insights, balance your judgments, inspire your decisions.  

And now another column in the Times discusses turning 80–”the new 60″, someone said.  Those of us who have passed that milestone, and those hurtling towards it, will find a good deal of the essay resonates with them.  One remark struck me:

“I was still in high school when my mother died of cancer at age 49, and her premature loss became a lesson for me to live each day as if it’s my last with a keen eye on the future in case it’s not.”

That lesson goes back at least to Marcus Aurelius: “Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretence.” But it was also anticipated by Plato and his injunction, “Practice dying.”

I wonder if that ancient maxim might be reversed and say: “Live everyday as if it were your first.” I was reminded of this by recalling a medieval poem that imagined how Adam and Eve, taken to have been created as adults, must have been astonished at everything they encountered as they wandered around in Eden, seeing everything for the first time, delighting in it all, giving names to the thrilling variety of creatures their eyes encountered, until evening came and the sun disappeared and they had no way of knowing whether it would return and they experienced their first night, and then their joy when they welcomed their first sunrise….
Living everyday as if it were our first is also a way of practicing the wonder that Aristotle said is the beginning of philosophy. We can see that wonder at work in little children as they thrill at new things and pester us with the countless questions by which they are trying to make sense of things, by which they are assembling their world. So, it’s not too late, even for octogenarians: “Practice wonder!”

One of the desert Fathers said each day: “Today I begin again, start again!”

July 30, 2021

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 25, 2021 – St. John’s, Goshen
The other day I sent a priest-friend a note that the second reading today is “providential,” meaning that St. Paul’s exhortation to unity is more than ever needed in our Catholic Church these days. The controversy these days over the restrictions Pope Francis has placed on the celebration of the old Latin Mass is only one among many others on which Catholics have disagreed since the Second Vatican Council. These disagreements, as you certainly can see from the Internet websites, sometimes become passionate, even angry, even ugly, with dismissive adjectives. Sometimes they are over internal Church matters; sometimes they’re over matters in our everyday world, like political issues; sometimes they’re over the intersection between Church and world. Sadly it often seems that positions on all such matters become more important than what Catholics hold in common.

Other letters of St. Paul, as well as other NT writings, reveal that in the early Church there were divisions, some of them as crucial and as passionate as the ones we see in our Church today. So we shouldn’t idealize the early Church as if it were some sort of golden age. Those early writings also reveal, however, how the apostles tried to deal with division, and we have a beautiful example of that in our second reading. It is worth going over somewhat slowly.
St. Paul begins with a general exhortation: “Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,” he says. He is setting out the criterion, the standard, by which to decide how they are to live their lives. That criterion is set by what God has done for them: they have received a “call”, or putting it the other way around, God has called them, called them into a new relationship with him–all those blessings we have heard described in the last few Sundays–peace and reconciliation with God, the overcoming of enmity between Jews and Gentiles, a new relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters. This is God’s gift in Christ, and Paul wants the Ephesians to “live in a manner worthy of the call they have received.” The initiative is with God and his grace: their responsibility was to live up to the gift already given.

What such a life must be is then described: “with all humility and gentleness and patience.” Humility, gentleness, and patience: three virtues that are not self-assertive, but the contrary: humility–not putting ourselves above others; gentleness–not acting harshly toward others; patience–putting up with others, tolerating them, “bearing with one another through love.” And the three virtues are for the sake of preserving “the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.” There does not seem to have been a single issue that was threatening that “unity of spirit”, but St. Paul was sure that there could be moments when it would be in danger.

And that is why he sets out the grounds of that unity. Listen to them again: “one body and one Spirit, one hope; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” These are the things that made that group of men and women a community: it wasn’t their race or their ethnic background; it wasn’t their economic condition; it wasn’t their political status–then, as now, there could be great differences among them in all these respects. But something brought them together, despite all such differences, across such differences, something made this group of people more than a hap-hazard group such as the people who might find themselves in the same subway car or on the same elevator. These many people, despite all such differences, were a community, a unity on the level of meaning and value, because they believed the same things about themselves, about the world, about God and because they wished to try to live lives in accord with what they believed.

They were, then, one body enlivened by one Spirit and with one hope; they had one Lord, Christ, who had reconciled them to the Father; through one baptism, they enjoyed a new life in the one Spirit; they aspired to the one goal of salvation; they had the one and same God whom they could call their one Father. They had all these things in common, and in virtue of all these blessings, they were a community which Paul did not hesitate to call the Body of Christ. St. Paul wanted them to live lives worthy of such blessings.

Let’s go back to those three virtues: humility, gentleness, patience. Let’s not assume that we are always correct but learn to listen and learn from others; let’s speak gently, respectfully; let’s be patient, tolerant, toward those with whom we disagree. If we had more of these virtues, if we focused more on what we have in common than on what divides us, if we recognized that others have been as blessed as we, with the same blessings–then we would have, we would be, a Church worthy of the God who has been so generous to us, to us all.

March 30, 2021

Homily for Bernard Lonergan’s 70th Birthday

Filed under: Homilies — Tags: — komonchak @ 4:22 pm

I do not remember how it happened that I was asked to preach at the Mass celebrating the seventieth birthday of Fr. Bernard Lonergan, S. J. It was held at Regis College, Toronto, on January 4, 1975, and there were all manner of Jesuits and of other students of Fr. Lonergan more worthy to take on the task, first among them, perhaps, Fr. Frederick Crowe, S. J., faithful companion and disciple. I am somewhat ashamed to say that I have no memory of how I was invited, and I don’t believe I have any correspondence about it. Obviously, Fr. Lonergan must have either thought of me or agreed to the suggestion of me, for which I am now grateful and awed because in 1975 I was barely started on a theological career and still teaching at Dunwoodie. In any case, here is the homily I gave:


January 30, 2021

Defending the Catholic Common Ground Initiative

The Catholic Common Ground Initiative promoted by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin turned out to reveal divisions within the hierarchy of the United States. The controversy soon involved theologians as well, two of whom, Fr. Avery Dulles and Prof. David L. Schindler, strongly criticized the notion of dialogue they believed to underlie the Bernardin proposal. Fr. Dulles’s essay was delivered as the McGinley Lecture at Fordham University on November 19, 1996, and then published as “The Limits of Dialogue” in Crisis (February 1997): 16-19, and then again, much later, in Church and Society: The Lawrence J. McGinley Lectures, 1988-2007 (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008) 221-233. Professor Schindler’s critique was published as “On the Catholic Common Ground Project: The Christological Foundations of Dialogue,” Communio, 23 (1996): 823–5.

It may be that it was an article by Jim Cosgrove, “The Common Ground Project and the Art of Dialogue,” which appeared in the National Catholic Register, on April 6, 1997, that led me to get involved. I dimly recall that I communicated with the editor of the newspaper, Joop Koopman, who invited me to write about the controversy. The result was the following long essay which he published in full in the pages of a journal that had always been rather conservative editorially and in 1995 had been bought by the Legionaries of Christ. In my accompanying letter, dated April 25, 1997, I wrote to Koopman: “I thank you for the invitation to contribute this. I appreciate it that the Register is interested in this kind of ‘dialogue’.” It was not long afterwards that he was replaced as editor of the newspaper, and I wondered whether his publishing of my critique had anything to do with his departure.

JAK – In Defense of the Common Ground Initiative

June 20, 2020

Epistemology of Reception

Filed under: Foundations in Ecclesiology, Uncategorized — komonchak @ 8:48 am

This is the talk I gave at the third Salamanca Conference held in 1996.  I re-read it recently and found that it sets out, in what I confess is a very dense argument, themes that have occupied me ever since I started work in ecclesiology in the late 1960s.  In fact, the central thesis was supposed to be the subject of a major book, something that I fear is never going to be written. One way of putting it is that if God wills that there be a Church, he wills that certain events take place in the subjectivity and inter-subjective relationships of human beings. Here I draw upon Bernard Lonergan’s theorem of divine transcendence and extrinsic denomination to make the point.

Comments very welcome!

JAK Epistemology of Reception

April 20, 2020

Who are the Church?

Filed under: Foundations in Ecclesiology — komonchak @ 12:09 pm

In 2008 I was given the high honor of being asked to deliver the Père Marquette Lecture in Theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I decided to devote my talk to an exploration of the claim that anyone who makes a statement about the Church–what it is, what it is saying, what it is doing–should be prepared to say of whom the statement is true, in whom it is true. In this, as I indicate in the lecture, I am asking what St. Augustine asked when explaining the blessing the Psalmist says will come to those who walk in the ways of the Lord: “Your wife a fruitful vine on the sides of the house” (Ps 127[128]:3).  In whom, Augustine wanted to know, is the Church “a fruitful vine”?  It is the question that Yves Congar asked several times in his writings:  “To what, or to whom, does the word ‘Church’ refer?” The question may seem obvious, but I have found that many theologians seem not to have asked it, content to leave the subject of their statements about the Church and the subject of the actions they attribute to the Church unspecified,

JAK – Who are the Church

April 9, 2020

Triduum Homilies – 1972-1977

Filed under: Homilies — Tags: , , , — komonchak @ 11:40 am

These are Holy Week homilies delivered while I was on the faculty at Dunwoodie and serving as chaplain to the Ursulines at the College of New Rochelle:

Triduum homilies – 1972-1977

March 24, 2020

The Early Work of John Courtney Murray

Around 1990 I was given access to the diaries of Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton one-time professor and chair of the School of Theology at Catholic University. In the 1964 volume I found four propositions that, he wrote, were found to be erroneous. They concerned matters of Church and State and religious freedom, and I almost immediately surmised that they were the propositions that the Holy Office attributed to John Courtney Murray and condemned. To verify that this was the case, I embarked on a lengthy inquiry, which I can tell elsewhere, that led me into extensive research into the thought of the American Jesuit, some of which found its way into print.

I discovered that much of the secondary literature on Murray had been based upon his published work. Even most of the scholars who did some archival work confined that to Murray’s papers held at Georgetown University. Teaching at the time at Catholic University, I was able to expand my inquiry to include the CUA archives, the archives of the USCCB, the archives of the Baltimore Province of the Redemptorists, and later I visited archives of the archdioceses of New York, Chicago, and Cincinnati. I discovered that there was a great deal of material that could be used to tell in much more precise detail the story of the development of Murray’s thought.

The result was a whole set of essays that were supposed to become a very large book on Murray. For a variety of reasons, I have not been able to assemble them into a grand narrative–the first publisher whom I approached about the project asked me, “What is your story? Which left me almost speechless, because I had not imagined that I needed a story with a plot, but that it would be enough to set out individual pieces. In any case, it is now unlikely that I am going to be able to turn all this into a book, and so I have decided to send it out on the Internet to be of whatever interest it may be in general and of whatever help it can be to other scholars.

Please note that much of this research was done some twenty to thirty years ago and that in the meantime I have not kept as close a track of recent scholarship as I would have liked to. Here and there, as I would come upon some relevant books or articles, I would include them in a footnote, but I do not have time now to do the updating that may be required.

A few readers who looked at my stuff said that I had too many quotes and especially too many long quotations; but that is how I have worked, preferring to put too many original sources in my text than too few, and thinking some day I might prune them. But I set out many things that have not been adverted to before, and perhaps the essays could be considered as a mine of information. (I remember fondly that the publisher Michael Glazier, of beloved memory, read it all and said that, if he were still publishing, he’d publish every word of it. He thought it would be an indispensable reference-work.) In any case, here it goes.

The first batch of essays tells of the early writings of John Courtney Murray soon after he returned from Europe after having completed his doctoral studies in Rome. He was already intensely interested in what he would come to call “the spiritual crisis in the temporal order.” This is evident in two sets of lectures he gave in the early 1940s in which he lay out the doctrinal and theological grounds for the Church’s mission and activity in society and culture. The crisis was rendered more acute by the outbreak of the Second World War, and Murray was among those who thought it possible, indeed necessary, for Catholics to engage in inter-religious cooperation for believers to meet the crisis and to be able to take part in the restoration of order once the War was over. This proposal was not welcomed by many Catholic churchmen and theologians, and Murray had to engage in lengthy conversations, in published articles and in private conversations, to defend his position against the charge that it would lead to religious indifferentism. Many Protestants also were reluctant to cooperate with Roman Catholics who were, as they believed, ready, should they become a majority, to deprive them of their religious freedom.

From both sides, then, Catholic and Protestant, the issue of religious freedom became critical, and this explains why, beginning in the mid-1940’s, Murray turned his attention to that subject and began the series of publications that would lead him again into controversy, make him subject to high Roman censure, and end with his vindication at the Second Vatican Council. Whereupon, as he put it right after the Council, Catholics could “get on to the deeper issue of the effective presence of the Church in the world today”–which was, of course, the passion that first inspired him.

So here are five “chapters” as well as the transcribed text of the two set of lectures that Murray gave early In his career.

Comments, corrections, etc. are, of couse, very welcome.

1 – JCM -Early texts

2 – Initial Debate

3 – Theological Debate

4 – US Bishops Respond


JCM – Loyola Lectures 1940

Jewish Theological Seminary Lectures – 1942

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