Catholic theology as a means of evangelization: The witness of Francis Joseph Sheed

Christopher M Carr, Marquette University


This dissertation offers the first critical analysis of Frank Sheed's theological work. It argues that, in addition to Sheed's reputation as a popular theological educator, he deserves recognition as a legitimate twentieth century Catholic theologian. The dissertation's argument proceeds in two parts. The first part is historical. Sheed (20 March 1897--20 November 1981) is placed in his historical context through studies of his religious education as a youth in Australia, apostolic work as a street corner orator with the Catholic Evidence Guild, the fortunes of the Sheed and Ward publishing company, and his written works in theology. The origins and history of the seminary manual tradition in apologetics (c.1563-1964) are then described in order to introduce the standard against which Sheed's theology is measured. Part two is an analytic comparison that shows how Sheed advances beyond the apologetics of the seminary manual tradition. Unlike the manualists, Sheed's method of communicating faith takes into account the full range of obligations incumbent upon the evangelizer and those being evangelized in the conversion process, especially with regard to issues of subjectivity. His treatment of the traditional topics in Catholic apologetics, namely the credibility of divine revelation, Scripture and Tradition, and the teaching Church, also moves beyond that of the manualists. In terms of apologetic content, the manuals adhered to principles confirmed at the First Vatican Council (1869-1870), while Sheed's written work exhibits theological developments approved in the dogmatic constitutions of Vatican 11 (1962-1965). The dissertation concludes that Frank Sheed is an exemplar for aspiring educators in Catholic theology. The apologetic manuals, too, have pedagogical virtues, but Sheed's evangelic theology has several advantages. It puts into practice the ideas espoused by fundamental theology, the twentieth century offshoot of traditional Catholic apologetics; it is better suited to meet new challenges in the perennial effort to explain and justify faith; and it shows how critically sound theological reflection and the Church's teaching mission mutually serve one another.

Recommended Citation

Carr, Christopher M, "Catholic theology as a means of evangelization: The witness of Francis Joseph Sheed" (2005). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3231316.