Murray SJ, John Courtney

Murray, John Courtney

Murray SJ, John Courtney

John Courtney Murray SJ was an American Jesuit priest and theologian, who was especially known for his efforts to reconcile Catholicism and religious pluralism, particularly focusing on the relationship between religious freedom and the institutions of a democratically structured modern state.

During the Second Vatican Council, he played a key role in persuading the assembly of the Catholic bishops to adopt the Council’s ground-breaking Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis humanae.

In 1943 he helped draft and promote the  Declaration on World Peace, an interfaith statement of principles for post-war reconstruction, and successfully recommended a close constitutional arrangement between the restored German state and the Church, including the dispersal of state-collected taxes to German churches.

In 1966, prompted by the Vietnam War, he was appointed to serve on Lyndon Johnson’s presidential commission that reviewed Selective Service classifications. He supported the allowance of a classification for those opposed on moral grounds — a recommendation not accepted by the Selective Service Administration.

Toward the end of his life, he suggested greater reforms, including a restructuring of the Church, which he saw as having overdeveloped its notion of authority and hierarchy at the expense of the bonds of love that more foundationally ought to define Christian living.

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