Marie-Dominique Chenu

Marie-Dominique Chenu OP (7 January 1895, Soisy-sur-Seine, Essonne – 11 February 1990, Paris[1]) was a progressive Roman Catholic theologian and one of the founders of the reformist journal Concilium.


Early life

Chenu was born on 7 January 1895 at Soisy-sur-Seine, Essonne, and grew up under the name Marcel-Leon. His parents were bakers near Corbeil.

Chenu entered the French Province of the Dominican Order in 1913, taking the name Marie-Dominique and studying at Le Saulchoir, which at the time was located (as a result of the French anti-Church laws of 1905-6) at Kain in Belgium.[2] With the outbreak of World War I and the suspension of teaching at Le Saulchoir, Chenu travelled to Rome in 1914 to study at the Pontificium Collegium Internationale Angelicum, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum. While at the Angelicum, Chenu was ordained in 1919 and completed his doctorate in theology in 1920 under the direction of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange with a dissertation entitled De contemplatione, which studied the meaning of contemplation in Thomas Aquinas.[3][4]


In 1920 Chenu was appointed Professor of the History of Dogma at Le Saulchoir (and in late 1921 turned down a request from his doctoral supervisor Garrigou-Lagrange's to return to the Angelicum as a lecturer).[5][6] He began to develop his theological perspective replacing the non-historical approach to Thomism that he had learned from Garrigou-Lagrange at the Angelicum with an historicist reading of Aquinas. At Le Saulchoir he was the teacher of Dominicans Yves Congar and Edward Schillebeeckx.

In 1930 Chenu founded the Institut d'Etudes Médiévales de Montréal.[1]

Chenu served as regent of studies at Le Saulchoir from 1932 to 1942, and was therefore very involved in the move of Le Saulchoir from Belgium to Étoilles, near Paris, in 1937.[7]

In 1937 Chenu privately issued a book entitled Une école de théologie: le Saulchoir. In February 1938 he was called to Rome and reprimanded for this work. Then, in February 1942, Une école de théologie was placed on the Vatican's "Index of Forbidden Books" because of its ideas about the role of historical studies in theology. He was removed as rector of Le Saulchoir.[7] He would never again teach there. Friends got him a post at the École des Hautes Études in Paris, and he subsequently taught at the Sorbonne and the Institut catholique de Paris.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s he became involved, as a friar-preacher, in the nascent worker-priest movement, and its attempts to evangelise the anti-clerical industrial suburbs of Paris. Eventually, in 1953, Chenu was among the French Dominicans disciplined by the Master of their Order, Suárez, supposedly to save them from worse treatment by the Vatican.[8] He was expelled from Paris and moved to Rouen, only being allowed to return to the Dominican convent of Saint-Jacques in Paris in June 1962.[9]

According to Christoph F. Potworowski, for Chenu the incarnation is the means by which God acts within and on behalf of creation.[10] Chenu was invited to be a peritus, or expert, at the Roman Catholic Second Vatican Council (1962–65) where he was influential in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes).[7]


Chenu was a forerunner of the ressourcement in theology that preceded the reforms of Vatican II. Chenu played a large role in the reappropriation of historic theological sources that led to the nouvelle théologie. In particular he promoted the return to Thomas Aquinas as a source, but rejected 19th century "modern scholastic" theology.[6]

Although his book Le Saulchoir: Une école de la théologie was put on the Index librorum prohibitorum in 1942 by Pope Pius XII and the Holy Office, he was later exonerated and his theology embraced by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council.[7]

Liberation theology

Chenu can be credited with being the grandfather of the liberation theology movement, since Gustavo Gutiérrez of Peru, who wrote the first book on Liberation Theology, studied with Chenu at the Institut Catholique de Paris, and cites him numerous times in his ground breaking book. Gutiérrez moved to France and become a member of the same Dominican community that Chenu belonged to.[11]

In addition, Pere Chenu was teacher to the American Dominican Matthew Fox, since expelled from the order by Cardinal Ratzinger and now an Episcopal priest, who is recognized as the launcher of the creation spirituality movement. It was Pere Chenu who introduced Fox to that tradition and who supported Fox for many years upon his return to America. Thus Chenu can also be called the grandfather of the creation spirituality movement.


  • A full bibliography can be found in Christophe F. Potworowski, "Bibliography of Marie-Dominique Chenu", Contemplation and Incarnation: The Theology of Marie-Dominique Chenu (Montreal, 2001), pp. 237–321

Selected works

  • "Position de la théologie," Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques 24 (1935): 252 ff., rpt. as La foi dans l'intelligence in Chenu's La parole de Dieu, vol. 1, pp. 115–138
  • Une école de théologie: le Saulchoir (Étiolles: Le Saulchoir, 1937; rpt. Paris: Cerf, 1985)
  • La théologie comme science au XIIIe siècle (Paris, 1943; 3rd ed., Paris: Vrin, 1957)
  • Introduction a l'étude de Saint Thomas d'Aquin (Montreal: Institut d'études médiévales, 1950), trans. Albert M. Landry and Dominic Hughes as Toward Understanding Saint Thomas (Chicago: Regnery, 1964)
  • La théologie au douzième siècle (Paris: Vrin, 1957), selection ed. and trans. Jerome Taylor and Lester Little as Nature, Man and Society in the Twelfth Century: Essays on New Theological Perspectives in the Latin West (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1968)
  • St Thomas d'Aquin et la théologie (Paris, 1959), trans. Paul Philibert as Aquinas and His Role in Theology (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2002)
  • La Théologie est-elle une science? (Paris: Fayard, 1959), trans. A. H. N. Green-Armytage as Is Theology a Science? (New York: Hawthorn, 1959)
  • Le Parole de Dieu, 2 vols. (Paris: Cerf, 1964), trans. Denis Hickey as Faith and Theology (New York: Macmillan, 1968)
  • "Pour une théologie du travail" (Paris: Seuil, 1965), trans. Lilian Soiron as The Theology of Work: An Exploration (Chicago: Regnery, 1966)
  • "A conversation with Père Chenu", Dominicana 50 (1965): 141 ff.
  • Peuple de Dieu dans le monde (Paris: Cerf, 1966)
  • Jacques Duquesne interroge le Père Chenu: un théologien en liberté (Paris, Éditions du Centurion 1975)


  1. ^ a b "André Narritsens". L'Humanité (in French). 1996-06-04. Retrieved 2019-05-14.
  2. ^ Kerr, F., "Chenu, Marie-Dominique", New Catholic Encyclopedia, accessed November 13, 2012
  3. ^ McInerny, Ralph (September 2010). Praeambula Fidei: Thomism and the God of the Philosophers. CUA Press. ISBN 9780813214580.
  4. ^ Boersma, Hans (2009-05-08). Nouvelle Théologie and Sacramental Ontology: A Return to Mystery. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191569951.
  5. ^ Mettepenningen, Jürgen. Nouvelle Théologie - New Theology: Inheritor of Modernism, Precursor of Vatican II, (London: T&T Clark, 2010), p48
  6. ^ a b Gray, Janette. "Marie-Dominique Chenu and La Saulchoir", Ressourcement, (Gabriel Flynn and Paul D Murray, eds.), (Oxford, 2012), p 208
  7. ^ a b c d McBrien, Richard P. (1995-05-12). The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism. Harper Collins. ISBN 9780060653385.
  8. ^ Kerr, F., Twentieth Century Catholic Theologians: From Neoscholasticism to Nuptial Mystery, (Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), p. 20
  9. ^ Mettepenningen, p. 50.
  10. ^ Potworowski, Christoph F., Contemplation and Incarnation, Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001
  11. ^ A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation, (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1988, 1st ed., Maryknoll: Orbis, 1973)


  • Mettepenningen, Jürgen. Nouvelle Théologie - New Theology: Inheritor of Modernism, Precursor of Vatican II, (London: T&T Clark, 2010)

External links

Alberto Melloni

Alberto Melloni (Reggio nell'Emilia, 6 January 1959) is an Italian church historian, primarily known for his work on the Second Vatican Council.

Catholic moral theology

Catholic moral theology is a major category of doctrine in the Catholic Church, equivalent to a religious ethics. Moral theology encompasses Roman Catholic social teaching, Catholic medical ethics, sexual ethics, and various doctrines on individual moral virtue and moral theory. It can be distinguished as dealing with "how one is to act", in contrast to dogmatic theology which proposes "what one is to believe".


Chenu may refer to:

Chenu, Iran, a village in Kurdistan Province, Iran

Chenu, Sarthe, a commune of the Sarthe département, in France

Jean-Charles Chenu

Marie-Dominique Chenu, progressive Catholic theologian

Chenu (aircraft engines), a French manufacturer of engines for aeroplanes and airships, in the early 20th century

Devotio Moderna

Devotio Moderna, or Modern Devotion, was a movement for religious reform, calling for apostolic renewal through the rediscovery of genuine pious practices such as humility, obedience, and simplicity of life. It began in the late fourteenth-century, largely through the work of Gerard Groote, and flourished in the Low Countries and Germany in the fifteenth century, but came to an end with the Protestant Reformation. It is most known today through its influence on Thomas à Kempis, the author of The Imitation of Christ, a book which proved highly influential for centuries.

Edward Schillebeeckx

Edward Cornelis Florentius Alfonsus Schillebeeckx (English: SKIL-ə-bayks, Dutch: [ˈsxɪləbeːks]; 12 November 1914 – 23 December 2009) was a Belgian Roman Catholic theologian born in Antwerp. He taught at the Catholic University in Nijmegen.He was a member of the Dominican Order. His books on theology have been translated into many languages, and his contributions to the Second Vatican Council made him known throughout the world.

Emmanuel Mounier

Emmanuel Mounier (; French: [munje]; 1 April 1905 – 22 March 1950) was a French philosopher, theologian, teacher and essayist.

Johann Baptist Metz

Johann Baptist Metz (born 5 August 1928) is a German Catholic theologian. He is Ordinary Professor of Fundamental Theology, Emeritus, at Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster, Germany.

Joseph Maréchal

Joseph Maréchal (1 July 1878 – 11 December 1944) was a Belgian Jesuit priest, philosopher, theologian and psychologist. He taught at the Higher Institute of Philosophy of the University of Leuven and was the founder of the school of thought called transcendental Thomism, which attempted to merge the theological and philosophical thought of St. Thomas Aquinas with that of Immanuel Kant.

Karl Rahner

Karl Rahner (5 March 1904 – 30 March 1984) was a German Jesuit priest and theologian who, alongside Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and Yves Congar, is considered to be one of the most influential Roman Catholic theologians of the 20th century. He was the brother of Hugo Rahner, also a Jesuit scholar.

Rahner was born in Freiburg, at the time a part of the Grand Duchy of Baden, a state of the German Empire; he died in Innsbruck, Austria.

Before the Second Vatican Council, Rahner had worked alongside Congar, de Lubac, and Marie-Dominique Chenu, theologians associated with an emerging school of thought called the Nouvelle Théologie, elements of which had been condemned in the encyclical Humani generis of Pope Pius XII. Subsequently, however, the Second Vatican Council was much influenced by his theology and his understanding of Catholic faith.

List of Catholic philosophers and theologians

This is a list of Catholic philosophers and theologians whose Catholicism is important to their works. The names are ordered by date of birth in order to give a rough sense of influence between thinkers.

Luigi Taparelli

Luigi Taparelli (born Prospero Taparelli d'Azeglio; 1793–1862) was an Italian Catholic scholar of the Society of Jesus who coined the term social justice.

Luis de Molina

Luis de Molina (; 29 September 1535, Cuenca, Spain – 12 October 1600, Madrid, Spain) was a Spanish Jesuit priest and scholastic, a staunch defender of free will in the controversy over human liberty and God's grace. His theology is known as Molinism.

Nicholas of Amiens

Nicholas of Amiens (Nicholaus Ambianensis) (1147 – c.1200) was a French theologian, a pupil of Gilbert de la Porrée.

He is known for a single major work, the De arte catholicae fidei; it is modelled after Euclid's Elements. Some still attribute it to Alain of Lille, a question that has divided scholars since the nineteenth century.

Peter Kreeft

Peter John Kreeft (; born 1937) is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King's College. He is the author of over a hundred books on Christian philosophy, theology and apologetics. He also formulated, together with Ronald K. Tacelli, "Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God".

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange (French: [gaʁigu lagrɑ̃ʒ]; 21 February 1877 – 15 February 1964) was a French Catholic theologian. He has been noted as a leading neo-Thomist of the 20th century, along with Jacobus Ramírez, Édouard Hugon, and Martin Grabmann. He taught at the Dominican Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelicum, in Rome from 1909 to 1960. There he wrote his magnum opus, The Three Ages of the Interior Life (Les Trois Ages de la Vie Interieure) in 1938.

In 1918 Garrigou initiated courses in sacred art, mysticism, and aesthetics at the Angelicum influencing future liturgical artists such as Marie Alain Couturier, who studied theology there from 1930 to 1932.


Le Saulchoir is a Dominican school of theology in the order's province of France, established 1904.

After the expulsion from France in 1880, French Dominican friars went into exile in Spain and Austria; they were allowed to return in 1895, establishing themselves in the convent of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain.

After the renewed expulsion in 1903, the Dominicans were exiled to Belgium, residing at Kain (now a part of Tournai).

Here, they established a studium generale in 1904, in a former Cistercian abbey called Le Saulchoir.

From there, they published two journals, Revue des Sciences philosophiques et théologiques (from 1907)

and the Bulletin thomiste (from 1924, not to be confused with Revue thomiste, a neo-Thomist journal established in 1893).

In 1939, the Dominicans were allowed back into France and they established themselves in Étiolles (Essonne département), retaining the name of Le Sauchoir for their school. They remained in Étiolles until 1971, in which year they moved to the couvent Saint-Jacques in Paris where the Centre d'études du Saulchoir was established in 1992.

Scott Hahn

Scott W. Hahn (born October 28, 1957) is an American Roman Catholic theologian. A former Presbyterian who converted to Catholicism, Hahn's popular works include Rome Sweet Home and The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth. His lectures have been featured in multiple audio distributions through Lighthouse Catholic Media. Dr. Hahn is known for his research on early Christianity during the Apostolic Age and various theoretical works concerning the early Church Fathers.

Hahn presently teaches at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, a Catholic university in the United States. He has also lectured at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. Hahn is married to Kimberly Hahn, who co-runs their Catholic apostolate, the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

Siger of Brabant

Siger of Brabant (Sigerus, Sighier, Sigieri or Sygerius de Brabantia; c. 1240 – before 10 November 1284) was a 13th-century philosopher from the southern Low Countries who was an important proponent of Averroism. He was considered a radical by the conservative members of the Roman Catholic Church, but it is suggested that he played as important a role as his contemporary Thomas Aquinas in the shaping of Western attitudes towards faith and reason.

Yves Congar

Yves Marie-Joseph Congar (13 April 1904 – 22 June 1995) was a French Dominican friar, priest, and theologian. He is perhaps best known for his influence at the Second Vatican Council and for reviving theological interest in the Holy Spirit for the life of individuals and of the church. He was created a cardinal of the Catholic Church in 1994.

Early Church
Early Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
Mysticism and reforms
19th century
20th century
21st century

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.