Date of Award

Fall 2008

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Hughson, Thomas

Second Advisor

Dobbs, Darrell

Third Advisor

Carey, Patrick


The topic for this dissertation came out of a casual conversation with Fr. Thomas Hughson one day after class. After expressing my frustration with several of Murray's recent critics, I remarked with a fair amount of exasperation, "Can't they see that he was a Christian humanist?" Fr. Hughson replied that they did not, and with his encouragement the thesis for this dissertation was conceived. Of course, this insight into Murray's thought did not occur in a vacuum. It could come only after years of studying, and at times haphazardly, the great classics of Western thought in the context of the history of Western civilization. Little did I know that I had become a Christian humanist in the process. Considering Murray's scholarship from within the tradition that we both shared allowed his thought to resonate with me in a way that it does not seem to for those who approach him from outside the tradition. My frustration with Murray's opponents and critics has not lessened over the (far too) many years that I have been working on this dissertation. But I have learned, in the process, that the truly great humanists have, from the time of Socrates, always been opposed by those who should have been their allies. Such, I suppose, is the price of answering the divine call to serve one's fellows in a world weighed down by ignorance and sin. I do not suppose that I shall ever be ranked among them, but it will be enough for me if I can play some small role in furthering the cause. John Courtney Murray was, quite simply, the greatest American Catholic theologian that the Church has thus far seen. Those who knew him have testified to the integrity and authenticity with which he lived the Catholic faith. He was a great and humble man whose piety and erudition are to be emulated. His insightfulness into the American regime and the spiritual-cultural mission in which Catholic scholars are called to share should be put into practice. And yet, there are those Catholics who insist on viewing Murray with suspicion. Instead of continuing the Christian humanist Renaissance in America, they put forward criticisms based on a limited sample of Murray texts, that ignore the polemical-occasional nature of his scholarship, or that ignore Christian humanism as the horizon of his thought. My hope is that this contribution to the debate will encourage those who have been influenced by these critics to look again to John Courtney Murray as a source and ally in the Christian humanist mission to spread the Gospel to every facet of American society so that our great and terrible country can become internally animated by the creative-providential and redemptive-providential action of the incarnate Logos within the one real order of human history through the fundamental and integral unity between faith and reason. Anything less can only mean that real Americans will continue to suffer from the absence of meaning in their lives and that our country will continue to lumber "lost and mad" through human history.



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