The Gregorian Blog
American Catholic Hall of Fame: Greatest Intellectuals
Benedictine College's Gregorian Institute hosts the online Catholic Hall of Fame.
The Catholic Hall of Fame votes are in; here are the 10 greatest Catholic intellectuals in American history, according to today's Catholic thought leaders.
To celebrate Catholic identity in public life, the Catholic Hall of Fame will present you with Catholic innovators who were the highest achievers in their fields, according to the top Catholic thinkers of our time. The Gregorian Institute at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, hosts the online Hall of Fame.
In early October, we surveyed top Catholic commentators, editors and scholars to ask: "Who were America's greatest Catholic intellectuals?" The 10 included here represent those who received the most nominations.
Since future categories in the Hall of Fame will recognize novelists and bishops of dioceses, nominees such as Flannery O'Connor and Archbishops James Gibbons and Charles Chaput are not included here. The work of those represented here mainly concerns the world of ideas and academic scholarship.
The Catholic Hall of Fame's Greatest American Catholic intellectuals, in the order of their birth:
Orestes Brownson (1803–1876), New England public-spirited intellectual. He wrote: “Catholics are better fitted by their religion to comprehend the real character of the American constitution than any other class of Americans.”
John Courtney Murray (1904-1967), New York Jesuit theologian. He wrote: “America has raised the standard of living to historically unknown heights. …We have multiplied our needs endlessly and thereby multiplied our sorrows."
John Senior (1923-1999). Columbia University student of Mark Van Doren whose University of Kansas great books program “made converts without proselytizing.” Kansas' state motto “To the stars, through difficulty” inspired him.
Avery Dulles (1918-2008), convert Jesuit theologian and cardinal, son of John Foster Dulles. Warning against “excessive and indiscreet accommodation," he said, "Catholicism will be well-advised to cultivate a measured, prudent counterculturalism.”
James Schall (1928-) Prolific Jesuit political philosopher. Schall wrote: “No one will seek the highest [things] if he believes that there is no truth, that nothing is his fault, and that government will guarantee his wants.”
Ralph McInerny (1929-2010) a philosophy professor, novelist, poet and translator of Aquinas. Said McInerny: “It is the writing, producing a well-made story, that counts. All the rest is gravy.”
Richard John Neuhaus (1936-2009) Canadian-Texan public-spirited intellectual. “Once religion is reduced to nothing more than privatized conscience, the public square has only two actors in it — the state and the individual,” Neuhaus wrote
Mary Ann Glendon (1938-) Harvard law professor, former Vatican ambassador. She wrote: “All who are ... committed to the advancement of women can and must offer a woman or a girl who is pregnant, frightened, and alone a better alternative than the destruction of her own unborn child."
George Weigel (1951-) papal biographer, public-spirited intellectual. He wrote: “Ideas are not intellectuals' toys: ideas have consequences, for good and for ill, in what even intellectuals sometimes call ‘the real world.’”
Robert P. George (1955-) Princeton jurisprudence professor. He wrote: “The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture.”
The Gregorian Institute at Benedictine College, Kansas, is promoting Catholic identity in public life at a time when Pope Benedict XVI is raising the alarm that the Church needs to raise its voice in the public square. We are named for Pope St. Gregory the Great, the leading intellectual in Benedictine history, who laid the groundwork of Western Civilization as we know it by combining practical leadership and intellectual depth.
Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by the Cardinal Newman Society, U.S. News & World Report and First Things magazine. Benedictine College prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.