George Tyrrell

1861-1909. Roman Catholic modernist. Born in Dublin of an Anglican family, he studied briefly at Trinity College there before conversion to Roman Catholicism led to his entering the Jesuit Order in 1880. Ordained in 1891, he taught philosophy at Stonyhurst College (1894-96), then was called to his order's English headquarters in Farm Street, London. There he produced acceptable orthodox publications until 1899 and was remarkably successful in spiritual counseling. Among those he helped was the daughter of F. von Hügel,* who introduced Tyrrell to the works of French modernists.

An article on “Hell” in the Weekly Register (1899), in which be began overt questioning of Roman Catholic theology, led to his transfer to a provincial mission house, but Tyrrell maintained an active devotional life; and though superiors were uneasy about his tendencies, his books up to and including Lex Orandi (1903) were published with the Imprimatur.* His Lex Credendi (1906), with its oblique criticism of the church, was overshadowed that same year by a pseudonymous Much Abused Letter which led to dismissal from his order. Undeterred, Tyrrell wrote two letters to The Times in 1907, replying to Pius X's condemnation of modernism, and this led to his being refused the sacraments. In his publications he made the distinction between the “prison of theology” and the “liberty of faith.”

When he died at forty-eight, having been plagued by ill- health all his life, he still considered himself a Catholic, but was unrepentant about his works. He was refused a Catholic burial, and lies in an Anglican churchyard in Sussex. Von Hügel, who ignored the virtual excommunication and continued to address Tyrrell as “Father,” admitted his recklessness in correspondence, his bitterness, and his excessive reaction against extremism in others, but added: “if to be a saint is to be generous and heroic, to spend yourself for conscience and for souls, then T. is a saint.”