Joseph A. Komonchak

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

By this author

Archbishop Romero, martyrdom, and ecumenism

Pope Francis, early on, unblocked the cause for the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and it has recently been reported that theologians in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith concluded unanimously that he is rightly regarded as a martyr for the faith.

Attics (or closets)

I’m reading Marylynne Robinson’s “Home” and found this lovely description, which may evoke memories in others, too, or make them think of their own attics now, or closets....

Christmas paradoxes

I sent this in five years ago, and some liked it, so forgive me if I send it again:

The Word of the Father, through whom time was made, became flesh and made his birthday in time, and he willed a single day for his human birth without whose divine permission no day rolls round. With the Father he precedes all the spaces of ages; born this day of a mother he inserted himself into the courses of the years.

The maker of man was made man [homo factus hominis factor] so that

the ruler of the stars might suck at breasts,

Emile Poulat: Prayer, the poor, and peace

Emile Poulat died last Saturday at the age of 94. I do not know how well he is known by U.S. Catholics, apart, that is, from those who have taken a more than average interest in the sociology of 20th-century Catholics. They know him for his many works on the encounter between the Catholic Church and modern culture and society, especially in France.

Ordained a priest in 1945, he joined the ranks of the “worker priests” who departed from traditional ways of exercising the ministry and went to share the lives and fortunes of workers in factories and on docks.

Another anniversary: Unitatis Redintegratio

Today is also the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of Unitatis redintegratio, Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism. I’ll begin with a few personal anecdotes about relations between Catholics and Protestants in the 1940s and 1950s.

I grew up in Nanuet, a small town in New York State about twenty-five miles from Manhattan. I attended the small public grammar school where of the twenty-six in  my graduating class (1952) three were Jews, seven or eight were Catholics, and the rest were Protestants. We all got along very well. The atmosphere was generally Christian–this was before the Supreme Court banned prayer in public schools--and we learned and sang Christian hymns at Thanksgiving (“We Gather Together”) and a month later Christmas carols. (I do not know what the three Jews made of it.) My older sisters remember that in the public grammar school they had attended, the day opened with the common recitation of the Twenty-third Psalm, in the King James version, of course.

Fifty years ago: Lumen gentium

Tomorrow will be the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of Lumen gentium, Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, which by some standards can be said to be the most important document issued by the Council.

Everyone expected that the Council would attempt to redress the imbalance in ecclesiology caused by the premature closing of the First Vatican Council which prevented that body from issuing the full statement on the Church that had been planned. The only document produced on the Church defined the supreme jurisdictional primacy of the pope and the infallibility of certain exercises of his teaching role. This restricted focus guaranteed that subsequent ecclesiology would be skewed, and it contributed to what Fr. Yves Congar called “the incredible inflation” of the papal teaching role. Vatican II, it was hoped, would redress the balance, particularly by rehabilitating the role of bishops as something more than “legates of the pope.”


An Orthodox member of the North American Orthodox Catholic Theological Consultation sent us these reflections written by a graduate of Harvard Divinity School who after graduation spent a year in a woman’s monastery in Greece. The gems of wisdom often reminded me of the sayings of the Desert Fathers. Just a few of them:

"The monastery is a spiritual hospital. And as you can see, some of the patients are chronic." (JAK: Substitute “Church” for “monastery”...)

The best Christian books?

 In the 18 October issue of the London Tablet, Peter Stanford’s column draws attention to the list of the 100 Best Christian Books compiled by the Church Times, which claims to be “the world’s leading Anglican newspaper.” A sidebar explains the process: regular reviewers were asked to submit nominations, and from more than 700 titles, 120 were ranked in accordance with the number of mentions received. A panel of eight judges then met and decided on a final list of 100 titles.

A Church Divided

Dominique Greiner, editor of the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, has a column commenting on a new book by Yann Raison du Cleuziou, Qui sont les cathos aujourd’hui?  The book offers an interpretation of a study undertaken under the auspices of Confrontations: Association des intellectuels chrétiens

The instinct of faith

The International Theological Commission has just published an important text entitled Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church,” which discusses the topic in some detail and in its many implications. Key to its treatment is a distinction: