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

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

March 11, 2019

ADAM shattered

Filed under: Lent with St. Augustine, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — komonchak @ 10:53 am

The idea of the Fall as the shattering of an original unity was a major theme in Henri de Lubac’s great book Catholicism, whose original subtitle was “The Social Aspects of Dogma.” He wrote it in part to overcome the idea that Christianity was a religion simply for private individuals, for a few blessed souls. The very first words of the book are taken from a criticism of the Christian who is so focused on his own joy that “in his blessedness he passes through the battlefields with a rose in his hand.” De Lubac amassed a host of patristic texts to show sin as a splintering and redemption as the restoration of unity, to demonstrate that “Fundamentally the Gospel is obsessed with the idea of the unity of human society.” John Courtney Murray was inspired by de Lubac’s book when in the early 1940s he delivered two sets of lectures on the contribution that the Church can and ought to make to address what he would a little later call “the spiritual crisis in the temporal order.” This text of Augustine illustrates the theme.

He shall judge the world with equity (Ps 95[96]:13). Not just a part of it, because it was not just a part of it that he bought. He is to judge the whole because he paid the price for the whole. You have heard the Gospel that says that when he comes he will gather his elect from the four winds (Mt 24:31). He gathers all the elect from the four winds, that is, from all around the world. As I once said, the name “Adam” in Greek signifies the whole world. In Greek the four letters A, D, A, M are the first letters of the names for the four parts of the earth: Greeks call the east Anatole, the west Dusis, the north Arktos, and the south Mesembria. So there you have it: ADAM. Adam was strewn all over the world. He once was in a single place, but he fell and was shattered and filled the whole world. But God’s mercy has gathered the broken pieces from all over and fused them together with the fire of charity and made what had been broken one again. That Craftsman knows how to do that. Don’t despair. Yes, It’s a difficult work, but consider who the Craftsman is. It is the one who made it in the first place who re-made it; the one who originally shaped it has reshaped it. He shall judge the world with equity, and the peoples by his truth. (Augustine, EnPs 95, 15; PL 38, 1236)

June 27, 2014

The Silencing of John Courtney Murray

Here is an essay, the fruit of a lot of research, that explains how it was that John Courtney Murray found his views, at least the views attributed to him, condemned as “erroneous” by the Holy Office and was then advised by his Jesuit superiors to pursue other areas of inquiry. “I suppose you may write poetry,” one of them wrote to Murray. Ten years after his silencing, of course, Murray was one of the major architects of Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom.

JAK Silencing of JC Murray

August 5, 2013

Identity and Mission in Catholic Universities

Filed under: Essays — Tags: , , — komonchak @ 4:01 pm

Here is the inaugural lecture which I delivered in 1996 upon assuming the Hubbard Chair in Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America.

Hubbard Lecture

January 6, 2013

J.C. Murray on “The Crisis in Church-State Relations in the U.S.”

In 1950, Msgr. Montini, number 2 man in the Vatican Department of State, asked John Courtney Murray to write a memorandum on Church-State relations in the United States, the subject of considerable controversy not only between Catholics and others but also among American Catholics. I discovered a copy of this memorandum in the papers of Clare Boothe Luce in the Library of Congress and another in the papers of Card. Stritch of Chicago. I published the text, with an introduction in The Review of Politics. Here it is.

August 27, 2011

Religious freedom and the confessional state

Filed under: Essays — Tags: , , , — komonchak @ 9:27 am

Here is an essay written, by commission, for the centenary of the Revue d’Histoire Ecclésiastique.

JAK Religious freedom & confessional state

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