On August 16, 1967, John Courtney Murray—Jesuit priest, theologian, and public intellectual—passed away less than a month before he would have turned 63. For the final three decades of his life, he taught at Woodstock College and edited the Jesuit journal Theological Studies. Celebrated on Time magazine’s cover (December 12, 1960) for contributions to American domestic and foreign policy debates and for sympathetic, if critical, understanding of religion in American public life, he later helped compose Vatican II’s “Declaration on Religious Liberty” (Dignitatis Humanae).
From Georgetown’s introductory Theology course, “The Problem of God”—named after Murray’s 1962 Yale Lectures—to the mission of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Murray’s influence can be seen throughout the university’s programming. This year, Georgetown celebrates John Courtney Murray’s legacy in the fiftieth anniversary year of his passing with a day-long event examining Ignatian practice and Catholic and Jesuit identity.
This event is co-sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Office of the President.
Thursday, November 16 (Copley Formal Lounge)
9:00 a.m. | Welcome Address
9:15 a.m. | Session One: John Courtney Murray: Jesuit, Churchman, and Public Theologian
Gerry Fogarty, S.J., University of Virginia
Francesca Cadeddu, University of Bologna
Leon Hooper, S.J., Georgetown University (moderator)
10:30 a.m. | Break
10:45 a.m. | Session Two: John Courtney Murray and the Role of Public Theology Today
Bryan Hehir, Harvard Divinity School
Robin Lovin, Southern Methodist University
Shaun Casey Georgetown University (moderator)
12:00 p.m. | Lunch
12:30 p.m. | Lunch Keynote: Murray's Fundamental Insights as Framing Principles for the Current Moment
Bishop Robert W. McElroy
1:30 p.m. | Third Session: Global Dimensions of Religious Liberty and the Common Good
David Hollenbach, S.J., Georgetown University
Paul Heck, Georgetown University
Terrence Johnson, Georgetown University
3:15 p.m. | Break
3:45 p.m. | Fourth Session: John Courtney Murray—Resource for Just War and Just Peace in the Nuclear Age?
Drew Christiansen, S.J., Georgetown University
Laurie Johnston, Emmanuel College
Maryann Cusimano Love, Catholic University of America
Anthony Arend, Georgetown University (moderator)
5:30 p.m. | Reception—Riggs Library, Healy Hall
While Murray's academic specialties were the theology of grace and the Trinity, his major contributions were in public theology, especially concerning church, state, and society. His prevailing theme was the compatibility of American constitutionalism and Roman Catholicism. Indeed, according to Murray, freedom's catalyst in the West was the church's claim of independence from the state. The principle of limited government follows closely upon the recognition of this claim; consequently, large areas of human activity and experience are given the legal and moral space in which to flourish apart from the state. As he states, “The dualism of mankind's two hierarchically ordered forms of social life had been Christianity's cardinal contribution to the Western political tradition.”
The specifically American contribution, then, was to establish this principle by means of a written constitution. In his words, ““The American thesis is that government is not juridically omnicompetent. Its powers are limited, and one of the principles of limitation is the distinction between state and church, in their purposes, methods, and manner of organization.” Further, this thesis “asserts the theory of a free people under limited government, a theory that is recognizably part of the Christian political tradition, and altogether defensible in the manner of its realization under American circumstances.”
Murray's public theology troubled his ecclesiastical superiors, who restricted his freedom to write and lecture throughout the 1950s. His ideas gained a measure of vindication, however, upon his invitation to the Second Vatican Council, where he made crucial contributions to its statement on religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae.
Source: The Acton Institute
- John Courtney Murray (1904-1967) First Principles Journal. February 20, 2009.
- Symposium: John Courtney’s Murray’s We Hold These Truths at 50. The Catholic Social Science Review Volume XVI 2011.
- Introduction, by Kenneth L. Grasso
- The Enduring Influence of We Hold These Truths, by John F. Quinn
- Getting Murray Right, by Kenneth L. Grasso
- We Hold These Truths and the Pluralist Civilization, by William Gould
- Holding These Truths Today, by Michael Novak
- Murray After Fifty Years: Five Themes, by Gary D. Glenn
- We Hold These Truths and the Problem of Public Morality, by Gerard V. Bradley
- Introduction, by Kenneth L. Grasso
- The Church and the Public Forum: John Courtney Murray's Method by Mary Eastham. Austrialian EJournal of Theology. Pentacost 2006.
- The Civic University, by Stephen M. Fields, S.J. First Things 161 (March 2006): 12-15.
- He Held These Truths, by Robert W. McElroy. America February 7, 2005.
- John Paul II, John Courtney Murray, and the Relationship Between Civil Law and Moral Law: A Constructive Proposal for Contemporary American Pluralism, by Gregory A. Kalscheur, S.J.. Journal of Catholic Social Thought, Vol. 1 (Summer 2004): 231-75. [.pdf format]
- "American Catholics and the State: John Courtney Murray on Catholics in a Pluralistic Democratic Society", by Gregory A. Kalscheur, S.J. America Vol. 191 No. 3, August 2, 2004.
- Does John Courtney Murray's Defense of Freedom Extend to Economics? An Austrian Perspective. Markets & Morality Vol. 5, No. 2. Fall 2002. The Acton Institute.
- Citizen Murray, by J. Leon Hooper, S.J. Boston College magazine. Winter. 1995.
- Religious Freedom, Truth & American Liberalism: Another Look at John Courtney Murray, by David Schindler. Communio Winter 1994.
- What would John Courtney Murray say? On abortion & euthanasia, by Todd David Whitmore. Commonweal, Oct 7, 1994.
- John Courtney Murray and the American Catholic Experience, by Michael Tortolani. 1993 Lord Acton Essay. The Acton Institute.
- John Courtney Murray, S.J., and Religious Pluralism. Panel discussion on "the formative influence that religion and American political life have on each other" with J. Leon Hooper, S.J., Woodstock fellow and Murray scholar; Os Guinness of the Trinity Forum; and Michael J. Perry of Northwestern University Law School & moderated by Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, editor of Commonweal. Woodstock Report, March 1993, no. 33.
- A Contested Legacy, by James Finn. Book review of John Courtney Murray and the American Civil Conversation, ed. by Robert P. Hunt & Kenneth L. Grasso. First Things 30 (February 1993): 54-57.
- "John Courtney Murray: Reliable Interpreter of Dignitatis Humanae?", by Fr. Brian W. Harrison. Part I Living Tradition No. 33, Jan. 1991.; Part II Living Tradition No. 34, March 1991.;
- Religious Freedom: John Courtney Murray, S.J. and Vatican II, by Francis Canavan, SJ. Faith and Reason Summer 1987.
- Man of the City Time Magazine [obituary]. August 25, 1967. An Unfinished Argument: John Courtney Murray, Dignitatis Humanae and the Catholic Theory of the State, by Professor Kenneth L. Grasso, Department of Political Science, Southwest Texas State University. [Lecture Series].
- John Courtney Murray and Reinhold Niebuhr: Natural Law and Christian Realism [Draft], by Thomas C. Berg. Lectures on John Courtney Murray's The Problem of God by Alfred J. Freddoso. Professor of Philosophy, Notre Dame.
- Economic Justice for Some? - Is Murray's Discourse Ethic a Serious Alternative to Class Warfare, as an instrument of Public Policy Formation?, by Dennis P. McCann. DePaul University, Chicago, IL.
- Religious Freedom: John Courtney Murray, S.J. and Vatican II, by Francis Canavan, S.J. Faith & Reason Summer 1987.
- We Hold These Truths and More: Further Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition, by Donald D'Elia. Chap. 5 in We Hold These Truths and More: Further Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition The Thought of Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J. and its Relevance Today. 62-76. Steubenville, OH: Franciscan University Press, 1993.
- The Truths They Held: The Christian and Natural Law Background to the American Constitution, by Robert R. Reilly. Chap. 6 of We Hold These Truths and More: Further Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition. The Thought of Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J. and its Relevance Today. Edited by J. D'Elia & Stephen M. Krason. Steubenville, OH: Franciscan University Press, 1993.
We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. (September 2005)
The 1960 publication of We Hold These Truths marked a significant event in the history of modern American thought. Since that time, Sheed and Ward has kept the book in print and has published several studies of John Courtney Murray's life and work. We are proud to present a new edition of this classic text, which features a comprehensive introduction by Peter Lawler that places Murray in the context of Catholic and American history and thought while revealing his relevance today.
Religious Liberty: Catholic Struggles with Pluralism, by John Courtney Murray and J. Leon Hooper.
Westminster John Knox Press; (June 1993)
[From the Publisher:] John Courtney Murray is renowned for his contributions to American ethical debates and well known for his defense of civil religious freedom. He strongly felt that religion should be taught in public schools and universities. Murray had a decisive influence on juridical, political, and social theories. This intriguing volume includes, in addition to two of Murray's most important statements on religious freedom, two essays newly made available to the reading public: one on religious freedom originally suppressed by the Vatican and published here for the first time, and a discussion of human dignity - how it is defined and how it functions as the philosophical foundation of religious freedom - newly translated into English. This fascinating collection will help readers look back at past struggles over religious liberty and forward to dilemmas presently facing the church.
Bridging the Sacred and the Secular: Selected Writings of John Courtney Murray, edited by J. Leon Hooper.
Georgetown University Press (October 1994)
The Problem of God, by John Courtney Murray.
Yale University Press (1964)
[From the Publisher]: In an urbane and persuasive tract for our time, the distinguished Catholic theologian combines a comprehensive metaphysics with a sensitivity to contemporary existentialist thought.
The Believer As Citizen: John Courtney Murray in a New Context , by D. Thomas Hughson
Paulist Press (July 1993)
[From the Publisher]: In recent years religious leaders of mainline Christian and Jewish groups have been calling on their adherents to play a larger role in the creation of a just social order. One of the most publicized of these was the declaration of the American Catholic bishops, Economic Justice For All. It remains to be seen whether believers raised in an era of affluence are deeply committed to the plight of the needy, and whether religion itself can mark out a path between social activism and conventional party politics. John Courtney Murray (1904-1967) was a pioneer in the ongoing dialogue about the role of believers in public life. For all of his contributions, however, Murray spoke in a patrician manner to a social order that was stable and structured. How useful are his ideas in an age of multiculturalism, when the strongest pressure for justice comes from grassroots organizations of the poor and marginalized? The Believer as Citizen proposes a fresh view of Murray's public philosophy in a way that makes it applicable to today's conditions.
John Courtney Murray and the Growth of Tradition, by J. Leon Hooper.
Sheed & Ward (November 1, 1996)
[From the Publisher]: John Courtney Murray was the most significant figure in bring together Catholic and American tradition in the 1940s, 50s, and '60s. This volume brings together twelve of the foremost Murray scholars to plumb his work for resources to respond to today's questions.
Catholic and American: The Political Theology of John Courtney Murray, by Thomas P. Ferguson.
Sheed & Ward (July 1, 1993)
John Courtney Murray and the American Civil Conversation, edited by Robert P. Hunt and Kenneth L. Grasso.
Eerdmans Pub Co (June 1992)
John Courtney Murray and the American Civil Conversation - Review by Neal Fuller The Acton Institute.
The Search for an American Public Theology: The Contribution of John Courtney Murray, by Robert W. McElroy.
Paulist Press (May 1989)
[From the Publisher]: A synthesis and critical evaluation of Murray's social writings which argues that Murray's life work still represents the best starting point for public theology in the United States of America.