Faithful Ferryman

JOSEPH CUNNEEN, 1923–2012

Joseph Cunneen, a longtime contributor to Commonweal, passed away in his sleep on July 29. He was eighty-nine years old. The son of an attorney and a teacher, Joe attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and served in France with the 101st division of Combat Engineers during World War II. It was there he discovered the theological renewal that would flourish in the postwar years and ultimately lead to Vatican II. This nouvelle théologie was very different from the theology to which he had been exposed in college, which was mainly a kind of apologetics.

In 1950, Joe founded a quarterly magazine, CrossCurrents, whose purpose was to introduce American Catholics to the new theological developments in Europe. The magazine published the work of people like Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, and Jean-Guenolé-Marie Danielou, and many of the articles were translated into English by Joe himself. During the early years of CrossCurrents, the main editorial office was Joe’s garage. His staff consisted of his wife, Sally, a writer and teacher who supported Joe wholeheartedly. In the early days, he would write out the addresses for each copy of CrossCurrents by hand, pile the magazines into his car, and deliver them to the local post office. CrossCurrents would become an important point of reference in the evolution of American Catholicism. Thomas Merton...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Jerry Ryan joined the Little Brothers of Jesus in 1959. He lived and worked with them for more than two decades in Europe and South America. He and his family now live in Massachusetts.