Vol 3, No 1, 2004

AeJT Vol 3

From the Editor

The AEJT dedicates this issue to Fr John Thornhill, SM. He is rightly acclaimed as the doyen of Australian theologians.

View the full editorial

Editorial: A Tribute to John Thornhill

Tony Kelly, CSsR

The AEJT dedicates this issue to Fr John Thornhill, SM. He is rightly acclaimed as the doyen of Australian theologians.

His formal teaching career begins in the late 1950s and reached well into the 90s.  From his putative retirement in 1998, he has continued writing and lecturing as the "people's theologian," based until recently in Brisbane, and now in Perth. From there he continues to record the EMMAUS series of theological reflections for use in parishes and adult education.

Over the years he has been an influential lecturer, first, in the Marist Scholasticate in Toongabbie, NSW, and then at the Sydney's Catholic Theological Union.  For five years he was the Director of the famed Aquinas Academy (1975-1980), and served as a member of Rome's International Theological Commission.  His animating influence on the Australian Catholic Theological Association (elected President in the early 90s) has been of major importance to development of that now vigorous body.

His numerous articles have appeared in all type of journals, ranging from the formally academic (Theological StudiesThe ThomistThe Australasian Catholic RecordPacifica, etc.) to the more immediately pastoral and spiritual.  Besides, he also has at least four entries in the New Catholic Encyclopedia. 

The range of his books suggests a unique capacity to link theology to the life of the Church. Apart from his vocation as a Marist missionary and his alert personal concern to breathe inspiration into Christian life and practice, his interest in history and cultural developments are a clear dimension of his theological style and focus. This began with his doctoral dissertation of Arnold Toynbee's monumental A Study of History. The titles of other books underscore this point: The Person and the Group (in which he appealed to a tradition beginning with the classic Greek understanding of society); Sign and Promise (in which he articulated an ecclesiology relevant to a time of change); Christian Mystery in the Secular Age (where he deals with the methods and the task of theology itself in today's world); Making Australia (which is a significant example of an inculturated theology); Modernity (in which he takes us to the heart of the great cultural shifts that have occurred, to lead to a point of hope and reconciliation);  finally, in an explicitly pastoral and hope-inspiring vein, Questions Catholics Ask in a Time of Change. 

Future scholars, as they sift through the his published and unpublished works, will be able to document from these writings the workings of judicious, open and generous Christian mind as it enters into the spirit of the age and reads the signs of the times.  He is in the best sense of the word, a "Catholic theologian," ever immersed in the life of the Church, ecumenically aware, critically open to the culture, and prepared to speak with clarity and conviction into the struggles of Christian life eminently the "people's theologian" in this respect, though a "theologians' theologian" in his remarkable scholarly dedication and expertise.

The Journal, then, salutes him as an Australian "doctor of the Church."  Long may his grace nourish the lives of us all. In this regard, I draw attention to John's own reflection on his life and development as a theologian. I leave him to let us in on the significant influences that marked his journey and his abiding concerns throughout. His fellow Marists, Tom Ryan and Gerard Hall, add further interpretative comment and so increase our appreciation of the Thornhill contribution to theology in Australia.

The many other major articles in this edition fall into the following loose groupings:

Moral Theology and Ethics: themes treated are conscience (Brian Lewis, now retired, formerly of ACU), the ethics of the gift (Brian Johnstone, CSsR, of the Alfonsian Academy in Rome), private property (Paul Babie, University of Adelaide), Aristotelian Ethics and Critical Theory (Terry Lovat, Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Newcastle), Animal Transgenesis and Cloning (Yuri J. Koszarycz & Gary J. Curran, ACU), Ethics in Business (Nazir Butrous and Ellen McBarron, ACU), and Asylum Seekers (John Ozolins, ACU).

Missiology: Again, a wide range of themes, ranging from education in the context of globalisation and mission (Bill Burrows, Orbis, Maryknoll) to Inculturation and Ecclesia in Oceania (Philip Gibbs, SVD, Melanesian Institute, PNG).

Ecclesiology: the eucharist and eschatology (Paul Vu, SSS, now teaching in Vietnam), the history of Lumen Gentium (Brian Gleeson, CP, Yarra Theological Union), Edith Stein and Pius XII (Sophie McGrath, ACU).

Various feature articles treat Mel Gibson's The Passion (Matthew Ogilvie, University of Dallas), Michelangelo's depiction of the Hand of God (Lindsay Farrell, ACU), a Lonerganian reading of Julian of Norwich (Kerrie Hide, ACU), Augustine on education (Raymond Canning, ACU).

Amongst the distinguished reviewers from ACU, we are pleased to welcome especially Professor John O'Gorman, Head of the Queensland Campus of ACU and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Quality and Outreach (that makes two PVCs contributing to this issue, the other being Professor Terry Lovat of Newscastle University, mentioned above).

Once more we are pleased to feature some outstanding student essays/ work in progress, such as those submitted by Diana Carrigan, Kevin Liew and Greg Smith. Out interest in poetry is instanced in Jack Justice's Trinity series.

All in all, a rich and varied edition of the AEJT. Our thanks, as always, is unstintingly owed to Yuri Koszarycz for the artful, arresting and ever-generous way in which he gets these manifold offerings into the computer screen. My last word is to welcome Gerard Hall, Head of the Queensland ACU Theology School, back to Australia and back to the editorial chair, to continue the work he has so splendidly begun.

Tony Kelly, CSsR

Acting Editor

1st August 2004