This is enough to make one’s head spin. In fulfillment of the late Bishop Dunn’s wishes, the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University has reportedly raised £2.1 million to endow a new Bede Chair in Catholic Theology. The university announcement was made in the post, “Durham Centre for Catholic Studies is UK first” (Durham University News, March 3, 2008). Fr. Michael Brown, a priest of Newcastle upon Tyne, offers a brief synopsis of the news in his post, “Bede chair of Catholic Theology at Durham” (Forest Murmurs, April 24, 2008), and mentions that Fr. Joseph O’Leary was one of four candidates invited to Durham for interviews and to offer a public lecture. As an update to his post, Fr. Brown writes: “I understand that Prof. Ayres got the job.”


The details concerning each of the four candidates and their respective lectures and positions are derived, according to Fr. Brown, from a post by James Mawdsley, “Church and University: Durham’s New Chair of Theology” (Ecce Mater Tua, April 21, 2008). “As part of the selection process,” says Mawdsley, “yesterday the four candidates for the Bede Chair each gave presentations to a packed room of local clergy, academics, parishioners and students. One candidate had travelled from London, two had flown in from the USA, the fourth from Japan.” The candidate from Japan, of course, was none other than Fr. Joseph O’Leary, the notorious dissident who has insinuated himself into numerous blog discussions under the monaker of “Spirit of Vatican II,” or “Joe O’Leary,” or simply “Fr. Joe.” Mawdsley reports his ‘take’ on the four candidates as follows:

  • Prof. Lewis Ayres — solid and interesting
  • Prof. Christina Beattie — [apparently] the best of the candidates, both in content and communication [but see up-date at the top]
  • Prof. Rev. Paul McPartlan — interesting but his overall point(s) unclear
  • Prof. Rev. Jospeh O’Leary — I think he is theologically dangerous

We certainly concur with his ‘take’ on Fr. O’Leary. Australian blogger John Heard, “Notorious Dissident Priest Father Joseph O’Leary Bound For Durham University’s New Bede Chair in Catholic Theology?” (Dreadnought, April 26, 2008) gives a more detailed report of the history of Fr. O’Leary. He reportedly sent an email to the heads of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University, as well as to the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, the Diocese of Westminster, and Catholic theologians, writers and bloggers across the English-speaking world, warning them about O’Leary’s background. Excerpts from Heard’s correspondence:

It was with some alarm that I read that Father Joseph O’Leary was being considered for the new Bede Chair at Durham University. Father O’Leary is well-known, indeed quite notorious, within the online Catholic community:- The Case of Father O’Leary; and- The Perplexing Sayings of Father O’Leary.He is especially infamous for consistently and domineeringly pushing his arguments against Catholic teaching on human sexuality, and denying the historicity of the Resurrection.

… On two occasions I have had cause to report Father O’Leary’s comments to me (on my blog) and about me (on his blog and other blogs) – in relation to the Church’s teaching on human sexuality – to the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney for further investigation. I can forward the correspondence. Other scholars, bloggers and priests have also apparently reported specific examples of Father O’Leary’s heterodoxy to their local ordinaries. However, I understand that, owing to the details of Father O’Leary’s position in Japan, not much has been done so far.

That would change if Durham and the Centre seriously considered giving Father O’Leary the Bede Chair. He would become a lightening rod for dissent and controversy. Far from presenting the Catholic Church to the secular university, Father O’Leary’s appointment would reward the worst kind of secularist ideas and the people who hold them with the official title ‘Catholic’.

The history of my own interaction with Fr. O’Leary, who was a classmate of mine in graduate school at Duquesne University back in the early 1980s, is reported by Christopher Blosser in “The Perplexing Sayings of Fr. O’Leary” (Against the Grain, August 2, 2005). O’Leary is very bright, learned, and diabolical. He is obsessed with portraying active homosexual relations in a positive light, as reported in “What homosexuals do” (Musings, June 26, 2006) (his combox comments alone are sufficient to indict O’Leary here, not to mention his obscene discussion of the cult of the divine prepuce [foreskin] in another venue). We banned him from the comment boxes on this blog, even though he continued to post by logging onto different computers, as we noted in “Obstinate O’Leary refuses to be banned” (Musings, August 14, 2006). He denies the historicity of the Resurrection, even while cleverly appearing to affirm it in some trans-historical spiritual sense. He buys into the assumptions of the most skeptical traditions of German higher criticism of the Bible. My own critical analysis of his claims to Chalcedonian orthodoxy in his Christology may be found in the following posts:

We hope that Fr. Michael Brown is right and that Fr. O’Leary was not given the Bede Chair in Catholic Theology at the University of Durham. For O’Leary to receive that chair would be a hideous blight upon the future of that venerable institution and a flagrant disregard to all the canons of Catholic theological responsibility. As it is, we continue to be deeply troubled that Fr. O’Leary continues to hold a teaching position in the Department of English Literature at Sophia University in Japan. Fr. Al Kimel justly raises the question “Is the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ Christian” (Pontifications, quoted in Against the Grain, August 2, 2005). His nefarious influence is not only obnoxious. It is doing great harm.

Update 4/29/08

It has been officially confirmed that Professor Lewis Ayres, an English lay Catholic theologian currently teaching at Emory University in Georgia in the USA, has been appointed as the first Bede Chair of Catholic Theology in Durham University. (Courtesy of Volpius Leonius, Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle, United Kingdom)


An interesting assessment of Jap Joe obviously form a Conservative position

The two criticisms of Joe are:

1. He disagrees with the teaching of the RCC on human sexuality.

2. He denies the historicity of the Resurrection.

Well, I agree with him on the RCCs teachings on human sexuality.

But I am shocked that a priest of Cork and Ross denies the historicity of the Resurrection and gets away with it

And why is a priest of Cork and Ross, ordained 49 years ago to serve the Faithful of Cork and Ross teaching English Literature in Japan?

How has Jap Joe got away with abandoning his true calling for nearly 50 years?

Is he being paid anything by Cork?

Is he on the priests private health scheme for Cork?

Will he get a priest’s pension from Cork?

I’m also wondering if Joe is gay and actively so?