George Tyrrell revisited

February 3, 2009 in General, News

heythrop_01.jpgFr George Tyrrell SJ, born in Dublin but a member of the English Province, died in England 100 years ago, expelled from the Society and excommunicated from the Church for his Modernist theology. A conference to mark the centenary of his death will take place on 19-20 June in Heythrop College (pictured here). Tyrrell was a man of penetrating intellect and deep concern for the state of theology in the Church, and his pioneering work has made a positive contribution to theology since Vatican II. Sadly he was refused Catholic burial, though he did receive last rites. For more about Tyrrell and the conference, read below.


A conference to mark the centenary of the death of one of the most remarkable Jesuits ever produced by the English Province, as it then was, will be held at Heythrop College on 19th and 20th June, 2009. George Tyrrell was born in Dublin in 1861, in many ways a typical product of the Anglo-Irish Protestant ascendancy. He converted to Catholicism and joined the Jesuits in London in September 1880.

After a conventional noviceship at Manresa and philosophy studies at St Mary’s Hall, Stonyhurst, Tyrrell was sent for regency to Malta where he taught in the school run by the English Province. He studied theology at St Beuno’s were he became friendly with such outstanding individuals as Herbert Thurston SJ and William Roche SJ. It was there that he also met the French Jesuit Henri Bremond S.J., who was to be excommunicated during the Modernist Crisis.

In time Tyrrell was to become one of the leading Catholic theologians in England. Described as a man of ‘religious genius’, his views became increasingly radical and in the context of the ‘Modernist Movement’ he was dismissed from the Society in 1906 and deprived of the sacraments, in effect excommunicated from the church, in 1907 following his public dissent from the teaching of the papal encyclical condemning Modernism, Pascendi. Two years later he was refused Catholic burial since he had given no public indication of the recantation of his views. He had, however, received the last rites from the superior of the Premonstratensian Priory at Storrington West Sussex.

A man of considerable pastoral gifts and possessed of a penetrating intellect, Tyrrell was held in high esteem both among the English Jesuits of his day, and by his wide circle of friends which included all the leading Modernists: Baron Frederick von Hugel, Maude Petre, and Alfred Loisy, to name but a few.
Tyrrell’s thought not only posed a challenge to the sterility of much of Catholic scholastic theology, but his emphasis on the immanence and transformative power of Christ has arguably influenced a good deal of Catholic theology since Vatican II.

This conference seeks to analyse Tyrrell’s history, theology and legacy. It will be addressed by Prof. Claus Arnold of the Goethe University, Frankfurt, Clara Ginther from the University of Freiburg, Andrew Pierce from the Irish School of Ecumenics – Trinity College Dublin, and three members of the Heythrop faculty, Tony Carroll SJ, Michael Kirwan SJ, and Oliver Rafferty SJ. The Irish and British provinces have each contributed to the costs of a reception on the two nights of the conference. Further details can be had from Tyrrell Conference, Heythrop College, Kensington Square, London W8 5HQ or by e-mail: