Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Ministry of the Printed Word: Scholar-Priests of the Twentieth Century

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Ministry of the Printed Word: Scholar-Priests of the Twentieth Century

Article excerpt

The Ministry of the Printed Word: Scholar-Priests of the Twentieth Century. Edited by John Broadley and Peter Phillips. (Stratton-on-the-Fosse, Radstock, Bath: Downside Abbey Press. 2016. Pp. 381. ?35.00. ISBN 978-1-898-663782.)

This elegantly published and weighty (almost three pounds) book recounts the intellectual and spiritual contributions of eleven English scholar priests, one of whom became a bishop (Bernard Ward) and another a cardinal (Aidan Gasquet). Four were Jesuits (George Tyrrell, John Hungerford Pollen, Herbert Thurston, and Frederick Copleston); two were Benedictines (David Knowles and Christopher Butler, plus Gasquet). One was a parish priest (Adrian Fortescue), and two clerical scholars (Philip Hughes and Ronald Knox).

Each priest is given a separate and most readable chapter, with a general introduction by Broadley that is significantly entitled "The 'Eighth Sacrament' in the Life of a Priest." No Dominicans are mentioned, because Aidan Nicholas has recently published on the English Dominican scholars. The scholarly contributions of American, French, Australian, German, Dutch, or other clergy are not the focus of this book, though many of the priests mentioned did study in Rome, Louvain, Paris, Germany, or other places where there was a tradition of Catholic intelligence. The English Church in the Reformation survived because of Douai and other places of exile. In fact, both Stonyhurst and the Downside Abbey have connections to Belgium, something that comes up in several chapters.

The place of intelligence in the Church has suddenly become a lively issue under Pope Francis after the intense philosophical and theological reflections we became accustomed to under John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The tradition of the scholar-priest has often been at odds with the notion of a pastoral role among diocesan priests or an exclusively contemplative role among the religious orders.

The worthiness of a scholarly vocation was evident in the lives of all the men recorded in these pages. Their very existence was often the living refutation of the notion that Catholics were uneducated or uninformed about both temporal and ultimate things. …

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