Resources/Links to a Sample of Modern Catholic Theologians / Historians / Writers/Activists Religious Reformers The modern Catholic tradition contains an array of distinguished scholars who have major contributions to diverse disciplines: theologians, philosophers, political theorists, social scientists, and scientists. In the arts there have been many noteworthy painters, sculptors, architects, poets, novelists, musicians, etc. In the public square, there have been important activists, social reformers and statesmen. In the domain of spirituality and religious reform, there has been an array of important religious reformers. Converts to Catholicism have played a remarkably prominent role in shaping modern Catholic culture. The following list is selective and dependent, in part, on the availability of significant web resources for particular authors.
1. Theology/Philosophy/History/Social Studies
- Karl Adam (1876-1966): A prominent early 20th century German theologian, Karl Adam authored the influential study The Spirit of Catholicism (1924). Adam is also known for his courageous stance against the German religion promoted by National Socialism.
- Elizabeth Anscombe (1919-2009): A leading British analytical philosopher, Anscombe, a convert to Catholicism, developed a form of analytical Thomism.
- Christopher Dawson (1889-1970): Dawson, a convert to Catholicism, was a major 20th century Catholic historian who developed a grand narrative emphasizing the critical role of Catholicism in Western history. Books available online: The Making of Europe and Dynamics of World History.
- Avery Dulles (1918-2008): Avery Dulles converted to Catholicism and entered the Jesuits shortly after the Second World War. A noted theologian, Dulles was elevated to the position of Cardinal in 2001.
- Etienne Gilson (1884-1978): Leading authority on medieval philosophy and founder of the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies (PIMS) at Toronto. His 1947 Speech to the Liberal Party convention is said to have inspired a generation of post-war liberal social democratics. Honored as an “immortal” by the Académie Française. Online works of Gilson.
- Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984): Born in Quebec, Lonergan is widely recognized as one of the leading Catholic philosophers and theologians of the 20th century. His major works include Insight: A Study in Human Understanding (1957) and Method in Theology (1972).
- Jacques and Raissa Maritain (1882-1973): Converts to Catholicism, Jacques and Raissa Maritain were a major force in 20th century Catholicism. Jacques Maritain was a Catholic political theorist and philosopher who played a key role in the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Available online texts: The Twilight of Civilization (1943); studies on philosophy, culture and art.
- Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980): A convert to Catholicism, McLuhan (Canadian) was a seminal figure in communications and media studies. On the influence of his faith see: Passion and Precision: The Faith of Marshall McLuhan
- John Courtney Murray (1904-1967): An American Jesuit scholar noted for his contributions to Catholic teaching on religious freedom.
- John Henry Newman (1801-1890): Newman, a leading Anglican theologian, entered the “Roman” church in 1845. Newman’s life and work has had a profound influence on the development of modern Catholicism.
- Nouvelle Théologie: an influential movement of theological renewal that aimed at rediscovering the sources of Catholic faith (“ressourcement”). Theologians associated with this movement include: Yves Congar (1904-1995), Marie-Dominique Chenu (1895-1990), and Henri de Lubac (1896-1991), among others. For an overview see: Ressourcement: A Movement for Renewal in Twentieth Century Catholic Theology, eds. G. Flynn and P. Murray (This link is only accessible to McGill Library users).
- Karl Rahner (1904-1984): German Jesuit who was one of the most prolific theologians of the 20th century. The most comprehensive statement of his theology can be found in Foundations of Christian Faith (German ed., 1976)
- Edith Stein: (1891-1942) A Jewish convert to Catholicism, Edith Stein made major philosophical contributions to the modern tradition of phenomenology. Stein urged the Vatican to break its silence and confront Nazism (1933 Letter to Pius XI). She died in Auschwitz in 1942 and was canonized in 1998. Online texts: Essays by Edith Stein.
- Urs Von Balthasar (1904-1988): A Swiss theologian, Von Balthasar is hailed as one of the most important Catholic theologians of the 20th century. In contrast to Rahner and Lonergan, Balthasar offers a more critical stance towards modernity.
- George Bernanos (1888-1848): Bernanos’s novels and essays combine devotion with a critical realism about the state of the church and the world. For online editions of his work: Œuvres de Georges Bernanos (domaine public au Canada)
- Léon Bloy (1846-1917): Provocative French Catholic writer known for his culture-shock brand of mysticism and his acerbic critiques of modernity. Cited by Francis in his first papal address to the Cardinal electors. Online editions of his works can be found at: Léon Bloy – Achive.org, and Léon Bloy: Tout Gallica
- G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936): Journalist, apologist, novelist, biographer, lay theologian, and convert to Catholicism. In Orthodoxy (online) Chesterton defended the paradoxical genius of Catholic faith.
- Paul Claudel (1868-1955): Poet, playwright, and diplomat, Claudel was a major force in 20th century French literature. His literary vision was shaped by a modern form of Catholic ‘traditionalism.’ Select online writings by Paul Claudel (English and French).
- Shusako Endo: (1923-1996) A convert to Catholicism, Endo became a prominent figure in post-war Japanese literature. His historical novel, Silence (1966) is one of his most celebrated works. See: “Endo’s Silence” (Robert Coles).
- Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889): Catholic convert who entered the Jesuit order. Hopkins was one of the most innovative poets of the 19th century. Online works: Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
- Flannery O’Connor (1925–1964): An American Southern writer whose short stories and novels, in her words, explore “the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil.” “A Good Man is Hard to Find” read by O’Connor (1959)
- Charles Péguy (1873-1914): A convert from agnosticism, Péguy was a complex figure in the renaissance of Catholic thought and literature in 20th century France. Online editions of his work: Œuvres de Péguy
- J.R. Tolkein (1892-1973): Tolkein, a “cradle convert,” stated that his magnum opus, “The Lord of the Rings was a “fundamentally religious and Catholic work”. C.A. Coulombe explores these connections in “Lord of the Rings: A Catholic View.”
- Sigrid Undset (1882-1949): Norwegian novelist and Noble Laureate, Undset converted to Catholicism in 1924. A unique Christian realism shapes her understanding of faith, human relationships and her critiques of twentieth century ideologies. Online editions: Undset’s Early Novels.
- Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955): Jesuit, paleontologist and geologist. His theological work on science, evolution and mysticism has been both influential and controversial (the focus of a Warning by the Vatican in 1962). For a significant online selection of Teilhard’s writings see: Works of Teilhard de Chardin.
- John Eccles (1903-1997): Noble Prize Laureate and neurophysiologist who contributed to broader philosophical debates about the relationship of the mind and brain,and his defence of the compatibility of Christian theism with science.
- Sir Alexander Fleming (1881-1955): Biologist, pharmacologist, and Noble Prize Laureate, best known for his discovery of penicillin. Fleming served as a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science. See The Life of Sir Alexander Fleming by André Maurois
- Georges Lemaître (1894-1966) Jesuit priest and originator of the theory of the “big bang” and the expanding universe. Lemaître developed a series of core concepts in physics misattributed to Edwin Hubble (Hubble’s Law and Constant). He served as president of the Pontifical Academy of Science (1960-66). See: Georges Lemaitre and Big Bang Theory, also The Scientific Work of Georges Lemaître by Noble Prize winner, P.A.M. Dirac.
- Gregor Mendel (1822-1884): Augustinian friar widely hailed as the founder of the modern science of genetics. Mendel served as the abbot of St. Thomas Augustine Abbey (Czech Republic). The abbey also hosts the Mendel Museum. For an online selection of his works see: Writings of Gregor Mendel.
- Louis Pasteur: (1822-1895) hailed as one of the founding fathers of microbiology. The online collection of the complete works of Pasteur: Oeuvres de Pasteur, volumes 1-4.
4. Social / Political Reformers
- Fr. Pedro Arrupe: (1907-1991) Jesuit who served in Hiroshima Japan, survived the atomic bomb (1945) and ministered to the wounded. Superior General of the Jesuit order from 1965-1983, Arrupe was noted for his focus on mission to the poor. See his address Men for Others (1973). Also: Video on the life and legacy of Fr. Pedro Arrupe.
- Dorothy Day (1897-1980): An American Marxist and atheist, Dorothy Day converted to Catholicism during the 1920s. She was the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. Selected online writings: Dorothy Day Collection
- Gustavo Gutierrez (b.1928): Peruvian Dominican theologian regarded as one of the main founders of the liberation theology movement.
- Claude Ryan (1926-2004): Quebec-Canadian, politician and public intellectual. Ryan was a significant figure in Quebec’s Quiet Revolution.
- Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997): founded a major religious order working with the dying and the marginalized.
- Archbishop Romero (1917-1980): Archbishop of San Salvador known for his outspoken stance against social and political injustice. Romero was assassinated while celebrating mass in 1980. For an online English translation of a selection of Archbishop Romero’s sermons see: Romero, The Violence of Love.
- Thomas Merton (1915-1968): American convert, Trappist monk, well-known author in contemporary spirituality. Spearheaded interreligious dialogue.
- Jean Vanier (b.1928): Canadian, founder of the L’Arche movement, an international federation of communities that includes persons with intellectual disabilities. His Catholic Aristotelian approach offers a unique approach to human vulnerability.
- Lech Walesa (b.1943): Noble laureate, Catholic human rights activist, and former leader of the Solidarity movement that played a central role in the liberation of Poland from communist dictatorship.
5. Modern Art
- Paul Cézanne (1839-1906): Hailed by Matisse and Picasso as the father of modern art. For one account of the ways in which Cézanne’s Catholic faith shaped his art see: “Paul Cézanne, Catholicism and the Modern” (1996).
- William G. Congdon (1912-1998): Major figure in the American “Action Painting” movement. Congdon moved to Italy and converted to Catholicism in the 1950s . On Congdon’s faith see: Steve Scarpa, “Art as the Image of God.”
- Salvador Dali (1904-1989) Spanish surrealist painter with a complex artistic relationship to Catholicism. See Milliner’s essay “God in the Gallery”.
- Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926) Celebrated Spanish architect and founder of Catalan Modernism. His magnum opus is the Sagrada Familia basilica Also see CBS’s documentary, God’s Architect: Antoni Gaudi’s Glorious Vision.
- William Kurelek (1927-1977) William Kurelek — Ukranian Canadian, painter, convert to Catholicism. His well-known Northern Nativity depicts Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus in native and working-class Canadian settings. On the relationship of faith to his art see: John O’Brien, “The Resurrection of William Kurelek.”
- George Rouault (1871-1958): French expressionist painter whose passionate commitment to faith shaped his art. See Thomas Hibbs, “Rouault as Modernist Christian Artist”
- Andy Warhol (1928-1987) Celebrated icon of American Pop Art with a largely hidden, but stubbornly present, Catholic streak that began to shape his work in the final years of his career. See Milliner’s essay “God in the Gallery”