Scheeben, Matthias Joseph

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Theologian; b. Meckenheim (near Bonn) March 1, 1835; d. Cologne, July 21, 1888. Having studied at the Gregorian University in Rome (185259), he was ordained on Dec. 18, 1858. He first served as director and teacher for the Ursulines in Münstereifel. From 1860 to 1888 he taught theology in the seminary at Cologne. Scheeben's great contribution was in speculative theology. He was influenced by Cardinal N. P. wiseman's methodology, and demonstrated exceptional mastery of the Fathers (especially the Greeks), the scholastics, and his own contemporaries. Moreover, anticipating by 100 years the concept of theology for the laity, he aimed at an audience beyond the trained theologian. He cherished the deep conviction that speculative theology is of supreme importance for the truest and highest formation of mind and heart.

Scheeben's works are the means and measure of his success. His first article, "Die Lehre von dem Übernatürlichen" [Der Katholik 3 (1860) 280299; 4 (1860) 657674], was a daring attempt to establish a new methodology for teaching theology. Natur und Gnade (Mainz 1861) was his first speculative work. A series of articles in Der Katholik [5 (1861) 257283, 567591; 6 (1861) 6590, 257281; 7 (1862) 4175, 528549; 8 (1862) 276298, 513540, 641674] prepared Scheeben for the greatest work of his earlier period, Die Mysterien des Christentums (Freiburg 1865). Die Herrlichkeiten der göttlichen Gnade (Freiburg 1863) was directed toward a lay audience. His devotional works include a Marian anthology, short lives of contemporary saints, popular articles, and a prayerbook.

Scheeben defended (187082) papal infallibility against J. J. I. dÖllinger's (d. 1890) attacks. His last great work was the Handbuch der katholischen Dogmatik, (3 v., Freiburg 187382). By June of 1888 Scheeben had almost completed a new edition of Die Mysterien des Christentums, but he died before it was finished. His notes for the new edition were used inadequately or not at all until Josef Höfer's 1941 edition scrupulously reproduced all Scheeben's revisions. C. Vollert faithfully translated this 1941 edition into English as The Mysteries of Christianity (St. Louis 1951). This second edition represents the work of Scheeben's best scholarship and the apogee of his theological development.

Bibliography: j. hÖfer, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 9:376379. g. fritz, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables Générales 1951) 14.1:127074. e. hocedez, Histoire de la théologie au XIXe siècle, 3 v. (Brussels-Paris 1947) 3:377384.

[c. m. aherne]