Skip to main content

Loome Catholic Modernism Collection

Identifier: MSE/MD 3824

Scope and Contents

The Loome Catholic Modernism Collection consists largely of the research materials gathered by Thomas Loome for his doctoral dissertation on George Tyrrell and Catholic Modernism, which he defended at the University of Tübingen (Germany) in 1975. Items related to Catholic Modernism and to the gathering of these materials by Loome and others form the remainder of the collection. The vast majority of the items are photocopies of manuscript, typescript, and published documents, of which the originals remain in approximately 45 different collections, some in private hands, some in institutional archives or libraries in Europe and the United States. A notable exception is the collection of letters from Friedrich von Hügel to his niece Gwendolen Plunkett Green, consisting of 90 original manuscript letters, many with their original envelopes.

Particular strengths of the collection include photocopies and microfilms of a wide range of unpublished correspondence, especially by and about George Tyrrell and Friedrich von Hügel but including many others, on matters to do with Catholic Modernism. Of note are copies of items from the Southwark Archives, added to the collection ca. 1980 by John D. Root, which document the final years, excommunication, death, and funeral of George Tyrrell. Some letters are arranged in large notebooks, which carry annotations of referenced persons and events by Loome. This collection reflects nearly all of the extant correspondence for Tyrrell and von Hügel. Articles by and about Modernists and the Modernist movement, as well as newspaper debates and other items to the same effect, also make up a large portion of the collection. Because this is a research collection, reflecting the research interests and efforts of Thomas Loome in preparing his doctoral dissertation on the Modernists, the collection also includes approximately 500 original letters received by Loome about Modernism research from almost all of the international scholars of Catholic Modernism between 1968 and 1974.

Much of the collection features writings by and about George Tyrrell and Friedrich von Hügel, the most prominent voices in the Modernist movement in England. Tyrrell (1861-1909) was born in Dublin and was a member of the Anglican church until he converted to Catholicism in 1879. He joined the Jesuits the following year and taught philosophy at a Jesuit college in the 1890s. Considering himself to be a liberal Catholic thinker, he advocated Modernist perspectives such as the necessity of re-assessing religious belief in light of contemporary knowledge. By 1901 he was in open conflict with his Jesuit superiors because of his views. Through the influence of Friedrich von Hügel, Tyrrell was exposed to Modernist works from the continent, and he published pseudonymous works attacking religious authoritarianism before being expelled from the Jesuits for his views in 1906. Following the papal encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis in 1907, Tyrrell published a letter denouncing it and was excommunicated. He died in 1909. Baron Friedrich von Hügel (1852-1925), of Austrian descent, was born in Italy and lived most of his life in England. He was a philosopher and author who kept contact with many major thinkers of his time, including many prominent in the Modernist movement such as Tyrrell and Alfred Loisy. However, despite his distaste for efforts towards further centralization of power in the Catholic Church, von Hügel accepted the supremacy of the Pope and rejected Modernist perspectives that undermined papal authority or traditional Catholic teachings. His thought and writings covered such topics as mysticism, free will, the relationship between religion and science, and the historical development of theology and religious teaching. He died in 1925.

Other people who figure prominently among the collection include:

Maude Petre (1863-1944), a Catholic religious sister from 1890 to 1907, a Modernist author, and close friend and biographer of George Tyrrell;

Henri Br?mond (1865-1933), a French Modernist writer and member of the Jesuits from 1882 to 1904;

Alfred Leslie Lilley (1860-1948), an Anglican theologian and canon of Hereford Cathedral;

Lady Charlotte Blennerhassett (1843-1917), a German writer best known for her biography of Madame de Stael;

Edward Ingram Watkin (1888-1981), an English writer on Catholicism and mysticism;

Wilfrid Ward (1856-1916), an English Catholic writer and editor of the Dublin Review from 1906;

Rudolf Eucken (1846-1926), a German philosopher and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1908;

Franz Xaver Kraus (1840-1901), a German Catholic priest, historian of art and the church, and ecclesiastical critic;

Albert Ehrhard (1862-1940), a German Catholic priest, theologian, church historian, and Byzantinist;

Joseph Sauer (1872-1949), a German Catholic priest, theologian, and art historian, and pupil of Franz Xaver Kraus;

Alfred Loisy (1857-1940), father of the Catholic Modernist movement, a Catholic priest from 1879 until his excommunication in 1908, and a biblical scholar and philosopher.

Loome's manuscript collection on Modernism complements the printed book portion of the collection, which contains about 1500 printed volumes on Catholic Modernism, also held at Notre Dame's Hesburgh Libraries. Loome's research on Catholic Modernism has resulted in articles, chapters, and books by Loome, including the publication of his doctoral dissertation: Liberal Catholicism, Reform Catholicism, Modernism: A Contribution to a New Orientation in Modernist Research (Mainz: Gr?newald-Verlag, 1979).

What is Catholic Modernism?

Catholic Modernism was a movement at the turn of the twentieth century to reinterpret traditional Catholic teaching in the light of contemporary knowledge, including advances in science and philosophy, and the historico-critical methods of reading Jewish and Christian scripture that gained prominence in 19th-century liberal Protestantism. Modernists held that the authors of the biblical books were products of their historical period, and they rejected readings of the biblical canon that did not allow for an understanding of historical context in modern comprehensions of biblical teaching and of a development over time of religious beliefs based on the scriptures. Related to the rejection of traditional Catholic readings of the scriptures was a rejection of traditional papal authority, which had become more centralized during the later half of the nineteenth century (though a notable exception to this tendency was Friedrich von Hügel, who accepted papal authority). Modernism had manifestations in England, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. Many Catholics who were most vocal about promulgating Modernist perspectives, including Loisy and Tyrrell, suffered suspensions and expulsions from the Catholic institutions with which they were associated. Modernist impulses also concerned the reformation of church institutions as well as church teaching. Reactions from the Vatican included the publication by Pope Pius X of Lamentabili sane exitu (3 July 1907), listing 65 propositions ascribed to Modernist thinkers that were to be rejected by the Catholic faithful; and the encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis (8 Sept 1907) against Modernism, which in section 39 defined Modernism as "the synthesis of all heresies." Pascendi also listed the following as the means of combatting Modernism: the study and practical application of Scholastic philosophy, episcopal vigilance over publications, censorship, congresses and other gatherings of intellectuals, diocesan watch committees to oversee publications and teaching, and triennial returns. Modernism as a philosophical movement died out with the generation that propagated it in the early twentieth century, but its influences continued well into the twentieth century.


  • Creation: 1874-1987
  • Creation: Majority of material found in ( 1890-1925; 1967-1972)


Language of Materials

Collection material in English, German, French, Italian, Latin

Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

Thomas Michael Loome was born in Watertown, New York in 1935 to James T. Loome and Margaret Harrington Loome. He attended elementary and secondary schools in Colorado, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and California, before attending St. Mary's College of California, a small liberal arts college outside of San Francisco run by the Catholic Lasallian Brothers. He joined the Brothers in 1952 and took his final vows in 1956, the same year he graduated from St. Mary's with a B.A. in Philosophy and a minor in Classical Languages. From 1956 to 1964 he pursued graduate studies during the summers in English and Education at University of California Berkeley, Stanford University, and the University of San Francisco while also working in secondary school teaching and administration. In 1965, Loome began his doctoral studies in the Faculty of Roman Catholic Theology at the University of T?bingen, Germany, under the direction of Max Seckler (Loome's "doctoral father"). His teachers at T?bingen included Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), Hans K?ng, and now-Cardinal Walter Kasper. His doctoral research continued until 1973 and took him also to France and Great Britain. This research makes up the bulk of the Loome Catholic Modernism Collection. Loome's dissertation, Liberal Catholicism, Reform Catholicism, Modernism: A Contribution to a New Orientation in Modernist Research, co-sponsored by Max Seckler (Professor of Philosophical Theology) and Rudolf Reinhardt (Professor of Church History), was awarded summa cum laude in 1974; and in 1975 Loome was awarded the degree of Doctor of Theology magna cum laude following the successful completion of the "Rigorosum," or oral comprehensive exams. His dissertation was published in 1979 by Gr?newald-Verlag in Mainz, Germany, under the same title.

Loome's book on Modernism attempted to place the "question" of Modernism within the historical context of Roman Catholicism in the nineteenth century while also offering a guide to the available research materials on the subject. Many of the research materials compiled in sections 2 and 3 of his book are included in the present collection. As Loome explained in the book, his project was less a history of Modernism than an exploration of "the pre-conditions for such a history" (p. 193). His analysis was based on the assumption that two strains of Catholic thought existed in the two centuries preceding the "Modernist crisis," and that Modernism should be read as but one development in the ongoing "liberal Catholic" strain. The book was widely reviewed upon its publication and became the subject of a formal scholarly discussion and critique when the Roman Catholic Modernism group hosted a panel on the subject at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in 1980. Five of the papers were then published in 1982 in the collection A Critical Discussion of Thomas Michael Loome's Agenda for a New Orientation in Modernist Research, edited by Hans Rollmann and Ronald Burke, and it includes a short "Concluding Remarks to his Critics" from Loome at the end of the collection.

From 1973 to 1975, when he left the Christian Brothers, Loome was assistant professor of Religious Studies and the Integral (Great Books) Curriculum at St. Mary's of California, where he taught courses on the philosophy of religion and the history of Western religious thought. From 1976 to 1979 he held a post as assistant professor of theology at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. In 1979 moved to Minnesota to take up a post as professor of Theology at St. Catherine's College, a private Catholic liberal arts college in St. Paul, where he taught until 1985.

Loome is also known for his role in the Catholic book trade, which he pursued until his retirement in 2008. His interest in the Catholic book trade began while he was still a doctoral student. While pursuing research in Britain, he spent time working in the antiquarian book trade at Richard Booth Booksellers. It was there that he encountered the phenomenon of large Catholic religious institutions selling their library collections due to downsizing, closures, or mergers. He began to become more involved in the book trade with a focus on these religious libraries, either buying items and collections on his own, or acting as an agent to connect the sellers of these collections with potential buyers, with the aim of keeping the collections intact insofar as possible. Loome left his university post in 1985 to pursue the book trade full-time. His bookselling company, Loome Theological Booksellers, still in operation in Stillwater, Minnesota, specializes in the acquisition and sale of secondhand rare and specialized books relating to Catholic and other Christian theology. His other bookselling venture, Loome Antiquarian Booksellers, closed in 2007, and the collection has been transferred to Chestnut Street Books in Stillwater. Loome retired from his bookselling business in 2008.

Thomas Loome married Karen Merrill in 1981. They have five children, of whom their daughter, Cecilia, also works in the bookselling business. The couple remains active in the Catholic community in Stillwater, Minnesota.


13 Cubic Feet (11 containers; 267 folders )


The Loome Catholic Modernism Collection consists mainly of research on Catholic Modernism that Thomas Loome gathered for his doctoral dissertation ca. 1968-1974. It is a compilation of thousands of pages of correspondence, publications, and personal papers by and about Catholic Modernists ca. 1890-1925, especially George Tyrrell and Friedrich von Hügel. The items are mainly photocopies of manuscript and printed materials, but originals, microfilms, and photographs are also included. The collection makes accessible in one place materials on Catholic Modernism that are held as originals in over 45 repositories across Europe and the United States. The manuscript collection complements a book collection of approximately 1500 volumes relating to Catholic Modernism that is also held at the Hesburgh Libraries.


The collection is arranged in six series: 1. George Tyrrell; 2. Friedrich von Hügel; 3. Other Catholic Modernists and Modernism; 4. Loome Research: Methods and Materials; 5. Collection Related Items; 6. Miscellaneous Materials. Typically, there are multiple items per folder, with groups of items arranged biographically and thereunder chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Loome Catholic Modernism Collection was acquired by the Gleeson Library at the University of San Francisco in 1975. It was reacquired by Loome Booksellers in 2013, and purchased by the University of Notre Dame in 2015. Arranged by Kathryn Rose Sawyer, 2015; finding aid by Kathryn Rose Sawyer, 2017.

Related Materials

The original research collection compiled by Thomas Loome comprised both a manuscript and a printed book portion. Both the manuscript and the book collection are held by the Hesburgh Libraries; the printed materials bear the descriptor "Loome Catholic Modernism Collection" in their records.

Kathryn Rose Sawyer
March 2017
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556