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In many of his later writings Bernard Lonergan speaks of what he calls the
"startling" event of intellectual conversion. Virtually all of
Lonergan's writings point to the nature and implications of this foundational
event. Lonergan indicated that he himself experienced this radical event while
studying in Rome in the mid-1930's.
What is intellectual conversion?
This book will try to answer this question by focussing on this event in
Lonergan's early life. It traces the early influences on his work and the stages
of his developing thought up to 1935-1936. It highlights what we know of this
major event in his thinking at that time. In addition, it sets out the
developing expression of his intellectual conversion in his writings during the
late 1930's and the 1940's. It brings Lonergan's early story up to the clearest
expression of the meaning of intellectual conversion in his major work, Insight:
An Essay on Human Understanding, written between 1949 and 1953.
Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following who have allowed me to
reprint selected passages from Bernard Lonergan's writings:
The trustees of the Lonergan Research Institute, Toronto, Canada, for
permission to quote from Lonergan's unpublished writings.
The University of Toronto Press for permission to quote from The Collected
Works of Bernard Lonergan: Insight (Volume 3); Collection
(Volume 4); and Understanding and Being (Volume 5); and
also Method in Theology.
The Thomas More Institute, Montreal, Canada, for permission to quote from Caring
The Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, for permission to
quote from A Second Collection.
I would also like to express my gratitude to the many benefactors who have
helped me and encouraged me in this work. In the first place, I want to thank
all my friends and family who have trusted that in some way these several years
of study and research in a seemingly esoteric project were worthwhile. I would
like to thank the recent Archbishops of Newark under whom I have served who have
allowed me to continue my own studies in and around other pastoral assignments:
the Archbishop Emeritus, Peter L. Gerety and my present Archbishop, Theodore E.
McCarrick. Also, Seton Hall University for allowing me a sabbatical year during
which much of the writing of this work took place. A special word of thanks to
Rev. Joseph Flanagan, S.J., and his colleagues at Boston College for the
post-doctoral fellowship in Lonergan Studies during the year 1990-1991. I would
also like to thank Fr. Richard Conway and Fr. Paul Holmes for their invaluable
computer expertise. Also, Rev. George Lawless, O.S.A., for his insights into
Saint Augustine. Also, Afra Maffey and my local "Lonergan Group" for
convincing me of the "existential" importance of Lonergan's work.
Also, I would like to thank my sister, Therese Liddy, and various friends who
have proof-read and commented on various sections of the manuscript. Finally, I
would like to thank Fr. Frederick Crowe, S.J., whose personal interest in this
project and gentlemanly example has exemplified for me "what it's all
Most of all, I am grateful to the mysterious ways of our Father in heaven for
allowing my path to cross that of Bernard Lonergan and, through him, for
allowing me to meet so many other, "great people" both in the present
and in the past.