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  • George Tyrrell and Catholic Modernism
  • David G. Schultenover S.J.
George Tyrrell and Catholic Modernism. Edited and introduced by Oliver P. Rafferty. (Dublin: Four Courts Press. Distrib. ISBS, Portland, OR. 2010. Pp. 187. $65.00. ISBN 978-1-846-82236-0.)

This collection of strong contributions to Roman Catholic modernism studies originated from a laudable desire to commemorate George Tyrrell, a so-called modernist and former member of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, on the centenary of his death. Oliver Rafferty's chapter I historically contextualizes what follows. The book's centerpiece is Clara Ginther's superb essay on Tyrrell's seminal article, "The Relation of Theology to Devotion" (1899). Ginther smartly shows how this article gives his corpus coherence. Anthony Maher's equally superb essay on Tyrrell's ecclesiology flows from his understanding of "devotion" as rooted in religious experience, which, in Tyrrell's case, was grounded in his Ignatian spirituality and Christology. For Tyrrell, religious experience is what primarily authorizes, a view that coheres with Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman's view of authority: It is, first of all, internal. Out of a thorough knowledge of Tyrrell's writings, Maher shows how false was the ecclesiology of Pope Pius X and Cardinal Merry del Val compared to Tyrrell's, which inveighed against an idolatrous ultramontanism that led to abuse of authority such as virtually ignoring the religious experience of the laity and regarding bishops as mere delegates of the pope. Readers will find cogent resonances between Tyrrell's ecclesiology and what many Catholics today desperately long for. The richness of these two essays suggests that Ginther and Maher are working on monographs. They are to be strongly encouraged.

Andrew Pierce's essay on the relationship between Tyrrell and Newman is the very best of a substantial body of such literature. This work is especially helpful in showing how Tyrrell could emerge from a formation in neo-Scholastic philosophy and theology into a mode of thinking that was open to what could be most fruitfully mined of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thought for Catholic theology. However, Pierce's characterization as "bizarre" of my failure to include Newman under "greater and lesser lights" (in George Tyrrell, [Shepherdstown, WV, 1981], pp. 189-207) may be misguided. I think I made it clear that Tyrrell regarded Newman as not so much a greater or lesser light in his firmament, but as the supernova that guided him toward a more fruitful way of reflection than could be found in neo-Scholasticism.

The other essays in the collection are complementary. Certainly not to be missed is Anthony Carroll's "The Philosophical Foundations of Catholic Modernism." The essays by Michael Hurley and Michael Kirwan interestingly [End Page 842] relate Tyrrell's thought to "ecumenical spiritualty" and "the theology of Vatican II." Rafferty rounds off the collection with a poignant, if derivative, treatment of Tyrrell's relationship to the Jesuits of his English province.

This text is best suited for graduate students. Although uneven in terms of richness and marred by inconsistent copyediting, the essays are intelligently conceived and well written. This valuable collection belongs in every academic library.

David G. Schultenover S.J.
Marquette University


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