Wright, John Joseph

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American church leader, cardinal, preacher and theologian; b. Boston, Mass, July 18, 1909, of John Joseph and Harriet (Cokely) Wright; d. Aug. 1979. He was educated at Boston College (B.A. 1931) and the Gregorian University, Rome (S.T.L. 1936; S.T.D. 1939). While engaged in studies at North American College, Wright was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 8, 1935. Wright returned to his native Archdiocese of Boston after completing his studies and was assigned to teach at St. John's Seminar in Brighton until 1945, when he was named secretary to Cardinal William O'Connell, the archbishop of Boston. On June 30, 1947, Wright was consecrated titular bishop of Aegea and auxiliary bishop of Boston, where he served until his installation as the first bishop of Worcester, Mass. on March 7, 1950. On March 18, 1959 Wright was installed as the eighth bishop of pittsburgh.

He served as bishop of Pittsburgh until his creation as a cardinal priest on April 28, 1969, with the titular church of Jesus the Divine Teacher. Wright served in various capacities at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and was chairman of the drafting committee for the first two postconciliar collective pastoral letters of the American bishops, The Church in Our Day (1967) and Human Life in Our Day (1968). He was also elected by the American hierarchy as a delegate to the first two synods of bishops in 1967 and 1969. On April 23, 1969, Wright was appointed the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy by Pope Paul VI, and in 1971 the pope designated him one of three presidents of the Second General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. He was also appointed to two subsequent synods in 1974 on evangelization and 1977 on catechetics.

During the time of preparation for the Second vatican council, Bishop Wright was named a member of the Theological Commission of the Preparatory Commission of the Council. He later noted that the most lasting fruits of the commissions' work included the "seedideas" contained in the chapters on collegiality, the laity, and the Blessed Virgin in the Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, as well as in the sections on the person, Christian anthropology, dialogue with atheism, marriage, and peace and war. Bishop Wright was chairman of the subcommission that drafted the chapter on the laity in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. He also served on other subcommittees responsible for the chapters "Marriage and the Family," "The Signs of the Times," and "The Church of the Poor." Among Wright's most memorable interventions during the council was his address on the question "of religious liberty and its exercise" and its relationship to the question of "the common good."

During his tenure as head of the Congregation for the Clergy, the office issued the Circular Letter on Priest Councils (1969) mandating diocesan priest councils, the General Catechetical Directory (1971), and the Circular Letter on Pastoral Councils (1973), which was a landmark for practical lay involvement in the life and ministry of the local churches.

Cardinal Wright was urbane and witty and enjoyed a reputation, particularly in Europe, as an intellectual and theologian of considerable ability. He stressed in his teaching and preaching the need for theological clarity and continuity with the teaching tradition of the Church. In social issues he was one of the leading experts on Catholic social teaching and was a forceful and visible proponent of Catholic involvement in social justice and peace concerns. He was also one of the early leaders of the ecumenical movement in the United States.

In Rome, in addition to his responsibilities as head of the clergy office, Wright was also a member of various congregations including those for the doctrine of the faith, bishops, education, and evangelization, as well as a member of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law and the commission for Vatican City. In the latter years of his life, Wright became increasingly outspoken against what he saw as an abuse and misapplication or misinterpretation of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and called for a period of consolidation.

Cardinal Wright left his noted collection of material on St. Joan of Arc to the Boston Public Library, material which, in his interest and devotion, he had collected over a lifetime. His collection of books and material on both the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent five synods of bishops is housed at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh. The collected talks of Cardinal Wright covering his years in Boston, Worcester, Pittsburgh, and Rome are published in three volumes entitled Resonare Christum.

Bibliography: j. j. wright, National Patriotism in Papal Teaching (Boston 1942); The Christian and the Law: Selected Red Mass Sermons (Notre Dame, Ind. 1962); Meditations of the Church, Based on the Constitution of the Church (New York 1967); The Church: Hope of the World, ed. d. w. wuerl (Kenosha, Wis.1972).

[d. w. wuerl]

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