A journal of academic theology

About the Theological Studies Journal

A Brief History

Founded and sponsored by the Society of Jesus, Theological Studies is a quarterly, Catholic scholarly journal that serves the Church and its mission by promoting a deeper understanding of the Christian faith through the publication of research in the theological disciplines and through reviews of noteworthy books. The journal has been in continuous publication since 1940.

The following is based on a compilation of excerpts from both Michael A. Fahey, SJ’s 2001 presidential address to the American Theological Society, “A History Of Theological Studies,” and Walter J. Burghardt, SJ’s 1989 essay, “A Half Century Of Theological Studies: Retrospect And Prospect.”

Theological Studies was founded in 1940 when the papal condemnation of Catholic Modernism still lingered in the air, when Europe was already in the throes of World War II, and our country was arguing, before Pearl Harbor, whether or not we should enter the war. At the time, not every American Jesuit theologian was convinced that we should launch out into this particular theological deep.

Fairly early in its adolescence its masthead stated that the journal was “issued by the theological faculties of the Society of Jesus in the United States.” At that time the “theological faculties” in question were understood to be the six theological seminaries staffed by US Jesuits: Alma College in California, St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois (for diocesan seminarians), St. Mary’s College in Kansas, West Baden College in Indiana, Weston College in Massachusetts, and Woodstock College in Maryland.

During its first fifty years Theological Studies had only three editors. The first editor was William J. McGarry, SJ, who only two years previously had been appointed president of Boston College. He was “promoted” to be the first editor of the journal that was originally produced at the offices of the weekly America, then located on West 108 Street, New York City. But McGarry died suddenly only one year later on September 23, 1941, standing “on the hot 59th Street platform of New York’s Broadway subway.”

The second editor from 1942 until his death in 1967 was John Courtney Murray, SJ, under whose wing the editorial offices were moved to theologate at Woodstock College in rural Maryland, where he was teaching.  He was not shy about publishing his own material in the journal, and some twenty-one of his articles were to appear there during his tenure.  In fact,  one of the longest articles ever published in the journal was Murray’s own two-part 81-page study on religious freedom (6 [1945] 85-113, 229-280). When Murray died of a heart attack while riding in a taxi cab in Manhattan on August 16, 1967, this was the end of an era for the journal.

Walter J. Burghardt, SJ was Murray’s successor. He had already been involved with the journal for 21 years as its managing editor; he served as editor in chief for 24 more years from 1967 to 1990. This was a time of movement, both physical and theological. The journal moved briefly back to Manhattan from 1969 to 1974 and then, after the unexpected closing of Woodstock College, moved this time to the “Car Barn” located near Georgetown University, adjacent to the outdoor setting of the movie “The Exorcist.” This passage of theology from the old-time seminary to the university opened Catholic theology in ways that could not have been envisioned.

Upon the retirement of Burghardt, the editor’s position was taken by Robert J. Daly, SJ, of Boston College who published the journal from 1991 to 1995 (twenty issues), followed by Michael A. Fahey, SJ (1995-2005), David S. Schultenover, SJ (2005-2015), Paul G. Crowley, SJ (2016-2019), Philip J. Rossi, SJ (2020), and Christopher Steck, SJ (2021-present).

One of the journal’s most significant, original, and valued series of US contributions to moral and ethical discourse  has been the “Notes on Moral Theology,” recently renamed as “Notes on Theological Ethics.” For all its years of original contributions, a goodly portion of the journal’s influence and attractiveness would be lost without the full reviews and shorter notices that for many years now have covered 200 books annually. Among several merits, Theological Studies‘ reviews have brought foreign scholars to American attention, some even before English translations turned them into theological household words. We have made it stringent policy to be critical without being caustic, censorious when called for but never snide. If a book is worth reviewing in our pages, even unfavorably, the author merits professional courtesy.

The journal appears four times a year, averaging each issue about 200 pages: six or seven articles and some 50 books reviewed (either as reviews or shorter notices). Financially, unlike most other Jesuit periodicals, it receives no subsidy, but manages to operate on its subscriptions and on income from modest investments.

Theological Studies is truly international. It has subscribers in dozens of countries, including not only those nations where English is the dominant language, but also by individuals or centers of learning in Italy, Germany, France, Spain, and more surprisingly Brazil, Indonesia, China, and Japan. One out of four subscribers lives out of the US, many in far-flung countries such as Lithuania, Fiji, Greenland, Lesotho, and Eritrea.

Theological Studies was founded as an American Catholic largely in-house journal especially for seminary professors and future priests but it has been transformed into an international resource for women and men, mostly in university teaching, ecumenical, inter-faith in outreach, global in appeal.


Christopher Steck, SJ, Georgetown University

Associate Editors

Eugene R. Schlesinger, Santa Clara University
Annie Selak, Georgetown University

Book Review Editor

J. Matthew Ashley, University of Notre Dame

Office and Business Manager

Dawn Sjurset, Georgetown University

Board of Directors

James F. Keenan, SJ, Chair, Boston College Theology Department
Christopher Steck, SJ, President, Georgetown University
Thomas Massaro, SJ, Vice-president, Fordham University
Andrea Vicini, SJ, Secretary, Boston College Theology Department
Susan A. Ross, Treasurer, Loyola University Chicago
J. Matthew Ashley, University of Notre Dame (non-voting)
Catherine Clifford, Saint Paul University, Ottawa
Eduardo C. Fernández, SJ, Santa Clara University, Jesuit School of Theology
Anthony J. Godzieba, Villanova University
Michael C. McCarthy, SJ, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator SJ, Dean of the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
Stephen Schloesser, SJ, Loyola University Chicago

Board of Editorial Consultants

Francis X. Clooney, SJ, Harvard University
Celia Deane-Drummond, Campion Hall, Oxford
Mary Doak, University of San Diego
Brian Dunkle, SJ, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Peter Fritz, College of the Holy Cross
Natalia Imperatori-Lee, Manhattan College
Michael E. Lee, Fordham University
Vincent Lloyd, Villanova University
Jennifer Newsome Martin, University of Notre Dame
Peter De Mey, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium
Vincent J. Miller, University of Dayton
Paul D. Murray, University of Durham, UK
Neil Ormerod, Alphacrucis University College
Karen Peterson-Iyer, Santa Clara University
Emily Reimer-Barry, University of San Diego
Susan A. Ross, Loyola University Chicago
John E. Thiel, Fairfield University
Cristina L. H. Traina, Fordham University
Marcel Uwineza SJ, Hekima University College, Kenya
Joseph Wawrykow, University of Notre Dame

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