Feast of George Tyrrell (July 16)   1 comment

Above:  The Union Jack

Image in the Public Domain

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GEORGE TYRRELL (FEBRUARY 6, 1861-JULY 15, 1909)

Irish Roman Catholic Modernist Theologian and Alleged Heretic

Anyone who was on the wrong side of Pope St. Pius X (in office 1903-1914) had a high statistical probability of being closer to God than the Supreme Pontiff.

The tension between tradition and modernity has long been a controversial subject in organized religion.  Some have converted tradition into an idol.  Others have thrown it out like a proverbial baby with the equally proverbial bathwater.  Some have made modernity into an idol.  Others have thrown it out with the bathwater too.  There have always been many shades between the polar opposite.

George Tyrrell strove to find the balance of tradition and modernity.  He, born in Dublin, Ireland, on February 6, 1861, grew up an Anglican.  At the age of 18 years he converted to Roman Catholicism.  He joined the Society of Jesus in 1880 and a priest in 1891.  As a Jesuit Tyrrell took the mandatory course in Scholastic theology.  That theology he found unsatisfactory and inadequate.  Tyrrell’s reading of Church Fathers and Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890) led him to conclude that the Roman Catholic Church needed to teach the faith differently in the modern age.  Our saint accused Holy Mother Church of mistaking divine revelation for theology, resulting in the teaching of “truths” without connecting them to human experience.  Tyrrell also accused the Roman Catholic Church of committing the “dogmatic fallacy,” that is, turning prophetic mysteries into

principles of exactly determinable intellectual value.

Tyrrell, a friend of fellow Roman Catholic Modernists Baron Friedrich von Hügel (1852-1925) and Maude Dominica Petre (1863-1942), identified himself as a faithful Roman Catholic.  Pope St. Pius X and the Society of Jesus disagreed.  The Jesuits expelled Tyrrell in 1906.  The following year St. Pius X, a reactionary who cast a pall over Roman Catholic intellectual life for more than half a century, issued the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis.  He condemned Modernism as

the synthesis of all heresies

and required all priests to take an oath condemning Modernism.

Tyrrell, much like Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), another one of my favorite heretics who was not actually a heretic, was too caustic and sarcastic for his own good.  (In Tyrrell’s defense, how was he supposed not to be caustic and sarcastic when dealing with St. Pius X and his ilk?)  Tyrrell, a priest without a bishop and therefore lacking a ministry since 1906, was living and writing in a cottage that belonged to Maude Dominica Petre.  Our saint criticized the encyclical in strong terms.  He, alluding to the absolutist French King Louis XIV (r. 1643-1715), summarized the Pope’s position as,

The church, c’est moi.

St. Pius promptly excommunicated Tyrrell in 1908.  The excommunicated priest was defiant:

If, however, my offense lies in having protested publicly, in the name of Catholicism, against a document destructive of the only possible defense of Catholicism and of every reason for submitting, within due limits, to ecclesiastical authority–a document which constitutes the greatest scandal for thousands who, like myself, have been brought into, and kept in, the Church by the influence of Cardinal Newman and of the mystical theology of the Fathers and the Saints–for such a protest I am absolutely and finally impenitent.

–Quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (New York:  The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997), 305

Tyrrell, aged 48 years, died of Bright’s Disease in Storrington, England, on July 15, 1909.  A sympathetic priest had administered the last rites, heard Tyrrell’s confession, and granted absolution.  The Church refused to bury our saint in hallowed ground, so his corpse went to repose in an Anglican cemetery instead.

His grave marker reads:

Of your charity

pray for the soul of

GEORGE TYRRELL

Catholic Priest who died

July 15, 1909, Aged 48 years

Fortified by the Rites

of the Church

R. I. P.

Tyrrell was one of the Roman Catholic theologians who, had he lived long enough to witness the Second Vatican Council (1959-1965), would have found vindication during his lifetime.

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Loving God of timeless truth, we praise and thank you for George Tyrrell and all others who,

standing within tradition, have not idolized it.

May we faithfully engage the outside world,

regarding it as our neighborhood, not as the enemy camp,

and shining the light of Christ into it in effective and reverent ways, to the glory of your Name;

in the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Job 12:1-6

Psalm 84

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Matthew 5:13-16

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAW KUBSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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One response to “Feast of George Tyrrell (July 16)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Maude Dominica Petre (December 16) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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