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  • Doing the Truth:The Life and Religious Vision of Enda McDonagh
  • Linda F. Hogan (bio)

Enda McDonagh, moral theology, St Patrick's College, Maynooth, Second Vatican Council, George Steiner, social ethics, ecumenism, New Ireland Forum, Garret Fitzgerald, non-violence, Humanae Vitae

With the passing of Enda McDonagh in February 2021 Ireland lost one of its most original and important theologians. The second half of the twentieth century saw a flowering of theological creativity in Ireland, as around the world, and in this context Enda's brilliance shone through. His impact on the Irish theological landscape was profound, and his distinctive voice brought him international acclaim. Nor was his impact in Ireland and internationally confined to the worlds of theology and church. Rather, his wisdom was sought by politicians and diplomats, by business leaders, humanitarians and artists who recognised what the late Vincent MacNamara noted as his 'talent for humanity'.1 Each book, each essay, each lecture conveyed the greatness of his intellect, the subtlety of his vision and the depth of his compassion. He lived, ministered, taught and wrote through an incarnational lens that shaped his life and work.

Born in Bekan, County Mayo in 1930 to school-teacher parents, Enda studied at St Jarlath's College, Tuam and entered St Patrick's College, Maynooth in 1948, where he was ordained to the priesthood in 1955. At Maynooth he took a BSc, BD, and STL, followed by a DD in 1957. Following his degrees in Maynooth he studied at the Angelicum University in Rome and at the University of Munich. At Munich he completed a second doctorate in Canon Law (DCL), its subject being church–state relations in the Irish constitution. He had already been appointed as Professor of Moral Theology and Canon Law at St Patrick's College, Maynooth in 1958 when he was just twenty-eight years old – an indication that the leadership at Maynooth had recognised his intellectual brilliance and future promise. Apart from occasional short-term appointments at the University of Notre Dame (1979–82) and St John's University New York (1990) as well as time spent in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) (regularly between 1973 and 1978) on behalf of the Catholic Institute for International Relations, his career and retirement were mainly spent in Maynooth. Yet this rootedness in Maynooth belied an extraordinarily [End Page 26] cosmopolitan life and global orientation. He retired from the Faculty of Theology in 1995 and continued to write, teach, advise and advocate on behalf of those who are vulnerable until his death on 24 February 2021.

Enda's vision was deeply religious and incarnational. Even in his earliest writings, such as his 1964 essays 'Moral Theology: The Need for Renewal'2 and 'The Primacy of Charity'3, Enda was laying out a new vision for moral theology embedded in the gospel values of freedom, justice, peace and truth. These early writings show how deeply rooted and personal Enda's vision was. Indeed, although his vision chimed with the renewal of moral theology that was catalysed by the Second Vatican Council, one can see from these early writings that Enda drew mainly from his own moral sensibility to develop his distinctive theology of morality. Of course, he was influenced by the writings of moral theologians like Bernard Häring, Josef Fuchs, Franz Bökle and Gerard Gillemann, who were beginning to develop a more biblically based, virtue-oriented language to speak about Christian morality. He was also influenced by the spirit of renewal that was animating the church, including some parts of the Irish church, but from the beginning Enda's theological voice was unique and wholly his own. Moreover, even as his theological voice and vision developed over the decades its essential character was evident in his earliest writings.

Two festshcriften, Between Poetry and Politics4 and Beauty, Truth and Love5, honour Enda's contribution to theology, church and society and develop different dimensions of his preoccupations as a theologian. In these volumes distinguished theologian friends including Charles Curran, Gabriel Daly, Sean Freyne, Raphael Gallagher, Stanley Hauerwas, Patrick Hannon, James Keenan, Nicholas Lash, Vincent MacNamara, Terence McCaughey, James P. Mackey, Joseph O' Leary and Geraldine Smyth reflect on...