A journal of academic theology

June 2001 editorial

Theological Studies was founded in 1940 when the condemnation of Catholic Modernism still lingered in the air, when Europe was already in the throes of World War II, and the United States was arguing, before Pearl Harbor, whether or not it should enter the war. Could the American Jesuits manage a journal on their own? Would there be enough readers willing to pay five dollars for a total of four issues each averaging some 200 pages? Still there was no U.S. counterpart to the European Jesuit journals such as the Nouvelle revue thologique (1869), Zeitschrift fr katholische Theologie (1876), Recherches de sciences religieuses (1913), Gregorianum (1920) or Bijdragen (1938). Surely the six theological faculties then manned by the Society of Jesus in the United States: Alma College (California); St. Marys (Kansas); West Baden (Indiana); Weston College (Massachusetts); and Woodstock College (Maryland), as well as the diocesan seminary in suburban Chicago, St. Mary of Lake (Mundelein), could sponsor a first-rate theological journal. One was especially needed since several academic voices of American Catholic theological scholarship had been silenced by the suppression of the short-lived The New York Review (1905-1908), an academic journal published out of St. Josephs Seminary, Dunwoodie, N.Y., and the suspension, at least temporarily, of the American Ecclesiastical Review (1889-1903). In the first issue of Theological Studies there was no editorial outlining its mission statement. But already in the early issues there appeared the typical cross section of articles on systematic and moral theology, Scripture, patristics, liturgy, and even canon law and archeology.

During its first 56 years Theological Studies had only four editors. The first editor was William J. McGarry, S.J., who two years previously had been appointed president of Boston College. He was promoted to be the first editor 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 Yorks Broadway subway.

The second editor from 1942 until his death in 1967 was John Courtney Murray, S.J., well-know champion of religious freedom and one of the first U.S. Jesuits to move American Catholics from their intellectual ghetto into the modern world. Murray moved the editorial offices to the theologate at Woodstock College in rural Maryland, where he was teaching. He was not shy about publishing his own material in the journal during the early years. Some 21 articles by him appeared up to 1966. In fact, one of the longest articles ever published in Theological Studieswas his own two-part 81-page study on religious freedom (6 [1945] 85-113, 229-80). Courtney Murray strongly criticized the received Catholic teaching that since the Catholic Church was the only true religion, it alone has a strict right to public existence and expression. Error has no rights, in that view he criticized. Wherever possible, so it was argued by his opponents, Catholicism should be recognized as the sole religion of the state and public expression of religious error should be repressed by governmental intervention. This view was championed by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani of the Vatican’s Holy Office. Thus, from 1955 on, for some seven years, Murray was banned by Rome from writing on the topic of religious freedom, although, as we know, ultimately Catholic official teaching was formally rejected by the Second Vatican Councils decree on Religious Freedom sketched in part by Murray himself and promoted at the Council by Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York. 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, S.J., now 86 and still an active lecturer and writer, was Murrays 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 briefly moved back to Manhattan from 1969 to 1974 (located in headquarters of the National Council of Churches, the so-called God Box in Morningside Heights) 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.

Following the retirement of Burghardt, the editors position was taken by Robert J. Daly, S.J., of Boston College who published the journal from 1991 to 1995 (20 issues). My joining the staff as editor occurred in 1996, theoretically for a five-year term only, but this has since been expanded for a second five-year term.

Theological Studies is truly international with subscribers in 88 different 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 U.S., many in far-flung countries such as Lithuania, Fiji, Greenland, Lesotho, and Eritrea..

As we bring another academic year to a close, our prayer is that the journal will continue to prosper, either in its present format or in an on-line version.

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