Sulpician Participation in Academics

Historically, from the beginning of the founding of the Society of Saint Sulpice, members of the Society have been involved in academic discussions of spirituality and theology. Over the centuries, many Sulpicians have published theological, spiritual and philosophical works, some of which have become virtually enduring “classics”. One thinks of the works, for example, of the publications in Scripture of the late Sulpicians Henri Cazelles (France), or Olivier Maurault (Canada), or Raymond Brown (USA).

While this article cannot explore this contribution globally, it will point out three recent publications, indicating that the academic tradition of Saint Sulpice continues.

In the last few months three Sulpicians living in France have published books, two in French and one in English. First among them is Msgr René Coste, pss, former professor of theology at the Catholic Institute of Toulouse and former head of Pax Christi France. Now living in an active “retirement” at Le Foyer de la Solitude in Issy-les-Moulineaux, Msgr Coste worked for decades in the area of the social teaching of the Church. A prolific author, having written some forty books, Msgr Coste has in recent years turned his scholarly attention to spiritual themes, especially those flowing from the Johannine tradition of the New Testament.

His latest book is entitled L’amitié avec Jésus (Paris: Cerf, 2012) explores the theme of Jesus’ desire to be the friend of all people. Based on the intimacy with his heavenly Father, Jesus set out to share that intimacy during his ministry. The book explores this theme of friendship by examining in detail Jesus’ multiple friendly relationships (disciples, women, children, the poor, the sick, the marginalized) seen especially in the Gospel of John.

Another Sulpician whose book has just appeared is Pierre de Martin de Viviés, pss, a theologian in the history of religions and religious anthropology at the Faculty of Theology in Lyon. He also teaches biblical exegesis and serves on the formation team of St. Irenaeus Seminary, the provincial seminary of the Lyon region.

His book, titled Oracle du Seigneur: Amos – Osée – Isaïe (Lyon: Profac-Théo, 2012), is a study of three important 8th-century prophets of the Old Testament, Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah. This popular exploration offers an analysis of each prophet in his context, underlining especially the rich literary quality of the prophets’ teachings and their ongoing value for people of faith today.

The third and final book we consider is the most recent publication of the Superior General of the Society of Saint Sulpice, Ronald D. Witherup, pss. A biblical scholar whose specialty in recent years has been the study of the writings of Saint Paul, Father Witherup, author of multiple books and articles, has turned his attention in this book to the priesthood and the current challenges the priesthood faces in the aftermath of the sexual abuse scandal that became critical especially after 2002.

Currently only available in English, Witherup’s book, Gold Tested in Fire: A New Pentecost for the Catholic Priesthood (Collegeville: Liturgical, 2012), offers an exploration of the contemporary theology of the priesthood viewed from a biblical and pastoral perspectives.

These three publications are a mere indication that Sulpicians continue, and desire to continue, participating in the larger theological discussions of our time. This aspect of the Sulpician tradition enriches both the Society of Saint Sulpice and universal Church. We congratulate these authors and thank them for their ongoing research and writing!

Note that all three books are widely available in bookstores and on the Internet at the publishers’ direct sites or