Father Frederick E. Crowe died peacefully on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012, at René Goupil House, Province Infirmary, Pickering, Ontario, in the 97 year of his life and 76 year of his religious life. Fred was born on July 5, 1915, in Jeffries Corner, New Brunswick, the son of Jeremiah Crowe and Margaret (Mahoney). He attended high school in Sussex, NB, and then received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Brunswick in 1934.
He entered the Guelph novitiate on September 6, 1936. He studied philosophy at the Jesuit Seminary in Toronto from 1940 to 1943, and did his regency in Halifax from 1943 to 1946. He then returned to Toronto for his theological studies at the Jesuit Seminary (1946 to 1950). He was ordained a priest in Toronto on June 27, 1949. Following his tertianship year, he did a biennium in theology at the Gregorian University in Rome from 1951 to 1953, receiving his doctorate at the end of this period. He joined the faculty of the Jesuit Seminary in 1953 and taught there and at Regis College until he retired from teaching at age 65, becoming Professor Emeritus and devoting his energies full-time to research and writing. He was also President of Regis College from 1969 to 1971. He became the first Director of the Lonergan Research Institute in 1985, and served in that capacity until 1992. From 1992 to 2006 he continued work at the LRI as one of the General Editors of the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan and as author of numerous writings. He lived in the Regis Jesuit Community until 2006, and specifically at Pedro Arrupe House since 1983.
Fred discovered his principal work during his years studying theology in Toronto in the late 1940s. For it was then that he became a student not only of theology but in particular of the work of Bernard Lonergan, who was on the faculty of the Jesuit Seminary at the time. When Fr Lonergan left Toronto for the Gregorian University in 1953, Fred assumed the task of preparing the index for Insight, a book that for all practical purposes was complete at the time, even if it was not published until 1957. Slowly he began the task of collecting the data on Lonergan’s work. Fr Lonergan gave a number of his papers to Fred in 1953, and another set in 1972. These became the first installments on the Lonergan Archive, which was the basic research source in the Lonergan Center that Fred established at Regis College in 1970. But the Center contained much more: dissertations, articles, and books written on Lonergan or using his work, along with audio recordings of lectures by Lonergan. In 1985 the Center grew into the Lonergan Research Institute. Fred oversaw the establishment of this distinct institution and was its Director in the early years of its existence. In 1986 Fred signed a contract with University of Toronto Press for the publication of the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, a project for which he served as General Editor together with Robert Doran. He will always be remembered as the foremost Lonergan scholar of the twentieth century and as the person without whom Lonergan’s work would never have become as accessible as it is. There will be a large international community forever grateful to him for what he did to make the Lonergan legacy possible. But his work is not limited to promoting the writings of his great teacher. His list of publications in his own name comes to roughly 200 items, including both books and articles. His work involved in teaching Trinitarian theology is legendary. Some of his writings are landmark interpretations of Lonergan’s work, but some are original contributions, including a few that will achieve status as permanent advances in systematic theology. Among the latter is the work he did interpreting and advancing Lonergan’s later thought regarding the Christian approach to world religions. He also owns the distinct achievement of having published an original book at the age of 90, Christ in History: The Christology of Bernard Lonergan from 1935 to 1982. This book is an indispensable guide to the development of Lonergan’s thought on Christology.
As a memorial to Father Crowe the Frederick E. Crowe Research Assistant Scholarship has been established by the Lonergan Research Institute. Please send contributions to The Lonergan Research Institute, 100 Wellesley Street West, Toronto ON M5S 2Z5. Tax receipts for the United States and Canada are available.
Remarks, Professor Michael Vertin, Wake Service, St. Joseph Chapel, Regis College
Remembering Frederick Crowe
It is obvious that many of Father Frederick Crowe’s relatives, Jesuit colleagues, and other friends knew him better than I did. That group undoubtedly includes some of you here this evening. Nonetheless, I was privileged to develop a moderately broad and deep familiarity of my own with Father Crowe during the 45 years that I worked closely with him on a variety of Lonergan projects. Those projects included the Lonergan Centre (later the Lonergan Research Institute), the Lonergan Trust Fund, and two different multi-year study groups investigating implementation of the functional specialties that Lonergan labelled “Foundations” and “Interpretation.”
However, perhaps the most distinctive dimension of my acquaintance with Father Crowe emerged during the 25 years that I served as his editor, helping him get four volumes of his essays printed or reprinted. I would like to draw upon those volumes this evening in order to highlight four (of the many) themes that he emphasizes in his writings. I will illustrate each theme by reading a paragraph from one of the four volumes. My hope is that by sharing with you a few of Fred’s most characteristic theological ideas, I can help you appreciate more fully both his scholarly acuity and his personal profundity.
For the first theme, let me quote from an essay originally written in 1959 and republished in 2000 in the volume Three Thomist Studies. In the following passage, Crowe draws upon Thomas Aquinas in order to reject vigorously the often-repeated idea that talking about human things in the best way means talking about them in a simple way. He says:
St. Thomas has a rather fully elaborated doctrine according to which the operations of earthly agents take on an increasing complexity as those agents rise in the scale of perfection, while angelic operations grow simpler as the spiritual being approaches the simplicity of God. Humans, standing at the confines of the material and spiritual worlds, are therefore the most complex of beings. In the measure in which this view is valid—-and I think the intervening seven centuries support rather than upset it … —-we can spurn complexity in the discussion of human questions only if we also abandon the claim that we know with accuracy what we are talking about. (114)
The second theme appears frequently in Father Crowe’s work. It is that teaching presupposes learning. Any individual or group that aims to teach must first learn. This requirement seems obvious enough when put in general terms, but we Catholics are prone to overlook the fact that it applies within the Church just as anywhere else. Even the magisterium must learn before it can teach. Neglecting that truth and its implications gives rise to distorted theories and deformed practices about teaching and learning in the Church. Hear what Crowe says in an article entitled “The Church as Learner,” written in 1987 and republished in 1989 in the volume Appropriating the Lonergan Idea:
… we have laid so much stress on the teaching Church … as an office belonging to certain people … that we have not attended to the learning function, though it is primary in regard to the Church as a whole … Thus, we are like a bird that has one wing hugely overdeveloped, while the other, through lack of exercise, has been allowed to atrophy: we can hardly take flight on wings of eagles in that condition. (373-74)
In my judgment, the third theme is one of Father Crowe’s most original theological ideas. Perhaps its clearest expression occurs in “Rethinking God-with-us,” a article first appearing in 1987 and republished in 2010 in the volume Lonergan and the Level of Our Time. An utterly familiar Christian claim is that God the Son is present to us in history. Further developing a contention made by Bernard Lonergan, Crowe argues in many of his writings that the Spirit is present to us in our interiority. But how is the Father present to us in this life? Crowe’s striking reply: in his absence. Listen:
… even more neglected than the role of the Spirit is the role of the Father in the divine threefold entry into our world. What needs to be thought out in the context of the presence of Son and Spirit, and our double experience of their presence, is the absence of the third element of God-with-us and the way to relate this to our experience of the presence of Son and Spirit. Like the long obscurity of the Spirit while the focus was on the Son, there has been an obscuring of the personal role of the Father, both in the final state of eternal life and in the present temporary state of the Father’s absence. This third area is that of the not-yet, but not merely of the not-yet; there is also the to-be, and a consciousness of the lack of what is to-be. There is a sense of our potential infinity, and therefore of an infinite emptiness. There is an experience of the dark night of the senses and of the human spirit. It is the absence, the lack, the need, the hunger, the emptiness, the longing, the abandonment, experienced in our human condition as long as we are separated from the presence of the Father in our world. (343)
Finally, one of Crowe’s most personal ideas dates from late in his working life as a professional theologian. Not surprisingly, he was pondering more concretely the prospect of his own death. He wrote a short essay entitled “Why We Have to Die” that appeared in 2004 in the volume Developing the Lonergan Legacy. His central thesis is that an essential part of our preparation for life with God is having the experience of our own relative nothingness. I quote:
If we led a relatively happy life on earth and, without ‘leaving’ it, without relinquishing any of its joys and comforts, went on without break or interruption to receive in addition the divine life, what prior sense of need would there be? Our universe, in which death was unknown, would be expanded by another universe for which we felt no really agonizing need. Of course, once the divine life became ours, we would see the relative nothingness of the human, of even the highest in the human, but we would see it somewhat abstractly, not having experienced it, not having in the prior life on earth longed for the other world … We would not have faced extinction, or a ghostly, shadowy existence in Sheol. In short it is intrinsic to human existence, as a creature of potency, to know the need that that potency is, and to desire its actuation; and the possibility of such knowledge and such desire is confrontation with extinction in death. (312)
Perhaps all of us who knew Father Frederick Crowe, whether well or even just a little bit, can join together in joyful thanks for the elegant written expressions of luminous meaning and holy value that he provided us in his writings—-and also for the inspiring incarnate expressions of the same that he provided us by his life.
Homily, Professor Robert Doran, S.J., Mass of the Resurrection, St. Joseph Chapel, Regis College
A recording follows the text of Father Doran’s homily below. To faciltate downloading it is split into three files.
‘What we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.’
I wish to thank the Province Committee that is so diligent in looking after funeral arrangements for their beloved brother Jesuits for very kindly asking me to preach the homily at the funeral of my friend and long-time collaborator Frederick Crowe.
Two biblical passages for this homily and this liturgy came to mind shortly after I woke up on Easter Monday morning, having gone to bed with the knowledge that Fred had passed on to God on Easter Sunday. They became the second and third readings that we have just heard: the reading from the first letter of John and the reading from John’s Gospel. The opening reading from Wisdom was suggested by Gordon Rixon, and very appropriately so. My remarks are based on the scripture readings and on the Fred Crowe that I lived and worked with for over twenty years.
Most people know Fred Crowe as the faithful and relentlessly persistent preserver, promoter, and interpreter of the work of Bernard Lonergan. There is a widespread international community, one that continues to grow almost daily in this age of electronic communication, that recognizes its tremendous debt of gratitude to Frederick Crowe. An enormous amount of very fruitful research in philosophy, in theology, in economics, and in many other fields is being done that was made possible because Fred Crowe started very early collecting and then editing materials written by Father Lonergan and preserving those materials faithfully and carefully. I worked with him for twenty years on the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, but by the time we started that project Fred had already assembled most of the materials that would be relevant for the collection.
People also know Fred as a trustworthy and at the same time creative systematic theologian, renowned for his courses espeially on the Trinity, courses that were crafted with a deft blend of systematic precision and pastoral sensitivity.
But in addition to his fidelity to his friend and mentor Bernard Lonergan and the responsibility that he took to make Lonergan’s work available, and in addition to his faithful stewardship regarding the central mysteries of our faith, which he taught with such diligence for so many years, there is something else that I want to bring home in this short homily. I want to stress the way in which, as Fred grew older, his attention turned more and more, not to the past that he had labored for so many years to understand, not even to the exegesis of more and more texts of Bernard Lonergan – though he never lost interest in either of these sources of his own wisdom – but rather to the future. The more he realized that his own life and work were drawing to an end – and I witnessed that realization incarnate in him over the last couple of years that he worked at the Lonergan Research Institute – the more he pondered the tasks that are in front of us today as we move into the uncharted territory that fascinated him so much in his later years. If someone had asked me ten or fifteen years ago, What have you learned from Frederick Crowe? I would have responded in terms of our common work on Lonergan. Today I respond to that question in a far more nuanced manner, with the conviction that perhaps Fred’s principal legacy to many of us, even beyond the fact that we owe to him the preservation of Lonergan’s legacy – and we would not have that legacy were it not for Fred – is the orientation that he took to the future, the conviction that he embodied regarding how we, and especially the church. are to move into that future. As he grew older, his mind and his interests literally grew younger, more in touch with the new things that God is doing in our world. Motivating that opening onto the future was the Christian hope expressed in the letter of John. ‘What we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.’
Some of what I am talking about is reflected in language that Fred started using in the 1980s about the church: about the church not just as the teaching church, but also and especially as the learning church, as a church that is happy at every level to learn especially from those that are somehow ‘other.’ Some of this direction in Fred’s orientation became clear to me in the essays that he wrote around the time of Father Lonergan’s death in 1984, essays especially on the presence of the one whom we know as the Holy Spirit in people of the other religions of the world. This is a belief that he was deeply convinced of and deeply committed to. The Second Vatican Council had affirmed the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world’s religions. That affirmation was repeated by Pope John Paul II. But I think Fred started the work of trying to understand that doctrinal affirmation. He started asking the question, How can this be? How are we to understand this? And he responded in a way that is unique and that cuts through many of the difficulties in other attempts to answer such questions. I believe his work in these directions will last. The clearest, perhaps the starkest, indication of what I am talking about appears at the end of the last book he published – at the age of 90, by the way – Christ and History, when he turned again to the relation of Christian faith to the other religions of the world and admitted frankly that we simply do not know the answer to the question of the final relationship of Christianity to the other world religions. The reason we don’t know that answer is that we are working it out, and it is our responsibility to work it out, and when we finally do work it out it may be very different from what we may have anticipated when we began to address the question.
This is not the time and place to belabor Frederick Crowe’s extremely rich theology, whether of the Trinity or of grace or of world religions or of anything else. But I think this is an appropriate time and place to bear witness to a spirit of trusting adventure that quietly and unobtrusively took over his mind and heart as he grew into old age. And it is definitely appropriate to say something about the inner sources of that ever new, ever revitalized, spirit of adventure and exploration.
I don’t think this trusting openness to the new and the unexpected came easily to Fred. I think he arrived at his boldness, which, however bold, was always faithful to the teaching of the church, through struggle with his own insecurities and propensity to anxiety. It was in that struggle that he found the Lord: the Lord who had called him into religious life in 1936, the Lord who had led him to work with one of the great theologians of the past century and preserve his work, the Lord who had inspired him to be the example of humble service and dedicated labor that he was to all of us over so many years. Frederick Crowe was opened to the radical uncertainty of the future as something to be embraced and welcomed because in the depths of his heart he saw just how much the Father has loved us, with a love so great that we are called God’s children because by God’s grace that is what we really are. He was opened to the radical uncertainty of the future because he took literally the next words in the first letter of John: ‘we are now God’s children, but it is not yet clear what we shall become.’ He welcomed the radical uncertainty of the future and taught us to do so because in faith he did know one thing: ‘What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.’
Again, Fred was able to be so inclusive of his brothers and sisters of other religious traditions and communities, not because he was naturally predisposed in this way but because he believed the Lord’s words that in the Father’s house there are many rooms. He never once stopped believing the further words in the same passage from John’s Gospel to the effect that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, but, in a manner similar to the Second Vatican Council – and perhaps he learned this from the Council – he knew that this means that the mystery of redemption embodied in the law of the cross, embodied in forgiveness of injuries and transcendence of violence, is nothing peculiar to Christians. It is found everywhere where the promptings of the Holy Spirit are acknowledged and consented to. It is revealed as the word of God and the key to the reign of God in the revelation given by Jesus, but it is something that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, is working everywhere. Fred was able to open himself and to open us confidently on a very uncertain future precisely because he prayed, and understanding was given him; he called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to him. He preferred her to scepters and thrones, and he accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her. All good things came to him along with her, and he rejoiced in them all. He learned without guile, and he imparted without grudging, for he had received the wisdom that obtained for him friendship with God.
He knew that the same gift and promise is offered to all. The more I absorb his contribution to the enterprise that he and I have both been a part of, the more convinced I become that this wisdom and the freedom that it brings to face the future unafraid of what it holds will be Frederick Crowe’s greatest legacy to that future itself. It will be a legacy left to those who knew him personally and remember how he lived it. But even more, and certainly more important, it will, I trust, be a legacy to the wider church as the church enters ever more fully into the mystery of the ‘other’ in its midst and discovers there, discerns there, the workings of the same Spirit who spoke through the prophets of Israel and descended upon Jesus at his baptism and was poured forth in the birth of the church at Pentecost. It would not surprise me if a central prayer of Fred Crowe’s was ‘Come, Holy Spirit,’ for it is clear to me that Fred’s work enables the rest of us to pray that prayer with deeper appreciation, with renewed hope, and with an ever more abiding trust in the Father who gives the Spirit to all whom the Father loves and calls to be children of God.
And so for this we give thanks and praise God, and commend our brother and friend to the God whom Fred knew intimately as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ‘What we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.’
Catholic Register Article, April 17, 2012
Fr. Crowe’s life Dedicated to Lonergan’s Philosophy
By Michael Swan, Tuesday
Jesuit Father Fred Crowe died Easter Sunday aged 96
TORONTO - Jesuit Father Fred Crowe’s long, happy and productive life came to a peaceful end Easter Sunday, April 8. He was 96 years old and had spent 76 years living the vows of a Jesuit.
“The last years of his life he just kept writing,” said Jesuit Father Gordon Rixon. “He was one of those Jesuits who was in the library by 5:30 in the morning.”
For most of the last 60 years, Fr. Crowe was in the library carefully collecting, editing, explaining and interpreting the work of his seminary professor, Fr. Bernard Lonergan. Lonergan was a Canadian Jesuit who became a towering figure in philosophy and theology.
Fr. Crowe was the 20th century’s foremost interpreter of Lonergan and “the person without whom Lonergan’s work would never have become as accessible as it is,” said the Toronto Lonergan Institute in a note on his death.
As a scholar, Fr. Crowe published at least 200 books and major articles, including Christ in History: The Christology of Bernard Lonergan from 1935 to 1982, which came off the press when Fr. Crowe was 90.
The fact that Fr. Crowe’s long and fruitful scholarly career was dedicated to the work of another man doesn’t detract from the originality or the importance of his own work, said St. Michael’s College Lonergan scholar Michael Vertin.
“It’s not simply Lonergan. It’s Lonergan’s take on the core of human history as manifested in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus,” said Vertin. “To help articulate that in a way that’s accessible to present-day people, that’s worth a life.”
Vertin knew and worked with Fr. Crowe for 45 years, helping to edit four of his books. He first met Fr. Crowe when he was a 28-year-old graduate student.
“After my parents he was probably the single most significant person in my life in terms of someone providing an example of how to live,” Vertin said.
Part of that example was Fr. Crowe’s basic happiness.
“He was radically joyful and radically content,” noted Vertin.
Fr. Crowe was born in 1915 in Jeffries Corner, N.B. Before entering the Jesuit novitiate in Guelph, Ont., he graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1934. His Jesuit life began Sept. 6, 1936 and proceeded through the usual stages until he was ordained a priest June 27, 1949. From there it was on to doctoral studies in theology at the Gregorian University in Rome, 1951 to 1953.
He came back to Toronto and taught theology to Jesuits and others until his retirement at age 65. He followed his teaching career up with almost another 30 years of research and writing.
He was general editor of the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, served as president of Regis College from 1969 to 1971 and was the first director of Toronto’s Lonergan Research Institute from 1985 to 1992.
He didn’t make it to the Jesuit infirmary in Pickering, Ont., until 2006 and continued to write and research from there.
Fr. Crowe’s long religious life was spent on both sides of the Second Vatican Council, said Rixon.
“The people who helped us through the transition, who knew both the pre-Vatican II and the Vatican II Church, they’re becoming precious and few. You think of Fred who has gone to God at almost 97. There aren’t many like Fred around,” he said. “You wouldn’t be wrong to talk about that as the passing of an era.”
Since Easter the Jesuit community at Regis College and friends like Vertin received a flood of e-mails from people around the world whose lives, minds and hearts were touched by Fr. Crowe.
Fr. Crowe’s funeral Mass was held on April 17 at Regis College, St. Joseph’s Chapel. He was buried in the Jesuit cemetery in Guelph, Ont.