Thursday, May 20, 2010


The Mystery of Lonergan
Richard M. Liddy | OCTOBER 11, 2004

A student of Lonergan’s thought—obviously a fan—said to me not so long ago: “There hasn’t been anyone like him since Aquinas, and there won’t be anyone like him for the next 200 years.” Certainly, most of us who had him in class in Rome in the 1950’s and 60’s did not think of him as “epochal,” but it looks, at the beginning of the third millennium, as if his stature will continue to grow. The key to the “mystery” of Lonergan’s appeal is that he has provided a language that makes it possible for persons of faith to move through the welter of contemporary movements toward an understanding of themselves, the universe—and God. As he put it in Insight, “Thoroughly understand what it is to understand, and not only will you understand the broad lines of all there is to be understood but also you will possess a fixed base, an invariant pattern, opening upon all further developments of understanding.”

Great teachers in the church, like Augustine, Aquinas, Teresa of Avila and Thérèse of Lisieux, have been named “doctors of the church.” They have combined holiness with the ability to teach others and help others find their way in the world. In a day when English is the lingua franca of the world, there are still no English-speaking doctors of the church. I await with eagerness the naming of John Henry Newman as such a doctor, and I hope that Bernard Lonergan will not be far behind.

Msgr. Richard M. Liddy is director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J.

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