The World in Black and White? Michael Browne OP as Master of the Order (1955-1962)

In its 1971 obituary of Irish Dominican Cardinal Michael Browne, the New York Times characterized him as “Tradition’s voice at Vatican II.” Browne was considered a stern conservative by many of his contemporaries, but his work, as Hugh Fenning OP writes, “has yet to be evaluated by historians.”

This work is currently being undertaken by Sabine Schratz OP. Her study aims to contribute to this historical evaluation by investigating Browne’s role as Master of the Order (1955-1962). His term of office coincided with a time of change in Church and society. The years leading up to the Second Vatican Council were dominated by disputes over the question of a fundamental reorientation of the Church in its relation to modernity. The main scene was France where Dominicans played a leading role in the debate. Browne had decisive influence on the doctrinal decisions in these pre-conciliar years, both in his curial offices (not least as consultor to the Holy Office) and as Master of the Order. Various questions arise: How did Browne understand the universal mission of the Order at this time? How did he deal with Dominican “dissidents”? Who and what influenced his decisions? In addressing these questions, the study hopes to shed new light not only on the history of the Order but also of the Curia and the wider Church on the eve of Vatican II.

Project coordinator:

Dr. Sabine Schratz OP