Herbert McCabe

Herbert McCabe

Herbert McCabe
Born (1926-08-02)2 August 1926
Died 28 June 2001(2001-06-28) (aged 74)
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Analytic philosophy
Main interests
Philosophy of Religion

Herbert John Ignatius McCabe, OP (2 August 1926  28 June 2001)[1] was an English-born Irish Dominican priest, theologian and philosopher, who was born in Middlesbrough in the North Riding of Yorkshire.[1] After studying chemistry and philosophy at Manchester University, he joined the Dominicans in 1949, where under Victor White he began his lifelong study of the works of Thomas Aquinas. He was also a student of Columba Ryan.

He became editor of the journal New Blackfriars in 1965 but was removed in 1967 following a now-famous editorial in that journal in which he criticised the theologian Charles Davis for having left the Catholic Church. Davis left publicly, denouncing the church as corrupt. McCabe countered that of course the Church was corrupt but that this was no reason to leave it. He was reinstated three years later, and began his editorial that month in characteristically combative style: "As I was saying, before I was so oddly interrupted..." He spent many years teaching at Blackfriars, Oxford University, writing four books, The New Creation, a study of the Sacraments, in 1964; Law, Love and Language, on the centrality of language in ethics, in 1968; The Teaching of the Catholic Church, a short catechism, in 1986; God Matters in 1987; and God Still Matters, a collection of his articles, in 2002.

He was a member of the Slant group, and unafraid of criticising what he perceived as erroneous applications of the Roman Catholic tradition, such as the ban on contraception in Humanae Vitae, and the reservation of priestly ordination to men. He combined a commitment to the thought of Aquinas and Wittgenstein with a socialist political stance, influenced by Marxism. The latter is evident, for example, in his article The Class Struggle and Christian Love.

McCabe's sermons were carefully prepared and delivered with great intelligence and wit. A major theme was a caution against making God a god, of reducing the Creator to an object within this world, and thus committing idolatry. In 1974 McCabe became an Irish citizen.[2]

McCabe died at Oxford on 28 June 2001, and was buried at Wolvercote Cemetery on 5 July.[3]

Bibliography (selection)

See also


  1. 1 2 "Father Herbert McCabe". The Times. London, England. 11 July 2001. p. 19.
  2. Obituary in the Telegraph
  3. "Personal Column: Deaths". The Times. London, England. 3 July 2001. p. 16.
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