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ND's Father McBrien publishes a synthesis of his work

Author: Arts and Letters

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For more than 40 years, Rev. Richard P. McBrien, Crowley-O’Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, has written a weekly column in the Catholic press. For almost as many years, he has been a frequent and occasionally controversial commentator for national media on Catholic Church issues.

A priest of the archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., and a member of the Notre Dame faculty since 1980, Father McBrien served as the theology department’s chair from that year until 1991, teaching graduates and undergraduates, lecturing nationwide and publishing a steady stream of books on Catholic teaching, the popes, the lives of the saints, and the relationship between religion and politics.

Throughout his career, Father McBrien’s principal scholarly interest has been, as he puts it, “theological reflection on the nature, mission, ministries and structures of the Church.” Ecclesiology, in other academic words.

His most recent work, “The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism,” just published by Harper One, concentrates solely on Father McBrien’s favorite subject.

“It’s really the culmination of a career of teaching, writing, and lecturing about the Church,” he said recently, adding that “ecclesiology has always been my specialty and this book represents a synthesis of all the work that I’ve done in that area of theology.”

An early review in Publisher’s Weekly had high praise for “The Church” and its author, noting that “in good academic fashion, McBrien organizes his material thoroughly, with frequent introductions, summaries, lists and cross-references that make this an ideal textbook.”

Father McBrien himself hopes that the book will, as he writes in its preface,
provide the first “comprehensive, up-to-date, one-volume, English-language ecclesiology that individuals, teachers and students can turn to for private study, reference, or formal course work at the graduate and undergraduate levels in colleges, universities, seminaries, and institutes of various kinds or in adult education programs in parochial and diocesan venues.”

If any early readers thought this an outsized ambition for an amply footnoted, indexed and glossaried 496-page tome, Notre Dame’s president emeritus, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., was not among them.

In a foreword to “The Church,” Father Hesburgh wrote that he had “no hesitation at all in warmly recommending this book to a wide and religiously diverse audience, whether in universities, colleges and seminaries, or in parish and diocesan adult education programs, or in more advanced high-school programs and especially to high-school teachers of religion.”

Father Hesburgh’s praise was echoed by Lord George L. Carey, former Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, who wrote that “in this immensely deep, timely and accessible book, McBrien probes the meaning of the Church through the centuries. It is a must for all Christians.”

Given that there are some 2 billion Christians in the world, Father McBrien should be particularly delighted by this ecumenical endorsement.

Contact: Father McBrien at 574-631-5151 or

Originally published by Michael O. Garvey at on September 02, 2008.