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Distinguished Catholic Spokesman and Author

Honorary Doctor of Laws



If every decade has a dominant characteristic, the 1960's are probably best portrayed as the decade of ecumenism. The genial inspiration of Pope John XXIII has not only opened the windows of the Vatican but also has thrown open the shutters of many minds. In the spirit of this ecumenical brotherhood, the University of Detroit today honors three men [Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J., Bishop Richard S. Emrich, and Rabbi Morris Adler] who have been outstanding exemplars of the religious ideals of John XXIII. Perhaps the greatest tribute which a theologian can receive is to have his early minority opinion become in his own lifetime the basis for a decree of an ecumenical council. This is what has happened to Father John Courtney Murray. In the very much pre-John XXIII atmosphere of the 1940's, his articles on the relationship between Church in a pluralistic, democratic society, expressed a clearly minority opinion. A storm of protest against his please for freedom came from the large body of conservative theologians. Today, twenty years later, these same ideas are embodied in Vatican II's statement on religious freedom. And Father Murray is generally recognized as the theological expert who drafted the statement presented to the Council. In more ways than one, the twenty years between Father Murray's first statements on religious freedom and the declaration of the Council are a chronicle of his anticipation of the spirit of Pope John XXIII. His lectures as a visiting professor at Yale in 1951-52; his work as a consultant to the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions; his leadership as a member and officer of the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion and of the Catholic Association for International Peace, to name but a few, all have manifested an ecumenical spirit which was to become the majority view under the inspiration of Pope John. Reverend President, Father John Courtney Murray, S.J. has lived ecumenism for the past twenty years. It is especially appropriate that the University of Detroit join in honoring him. It is my privilege, therefore, to present him for the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws. Commencement, University of Detroit, April 30, 1966.

University of Detroit

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