The Teaching Heart of J.A. Zahm, C.S.C.

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A . in Religious Studies


Department of Religious Studies


William L. Portier


The Vatican's condemnation of Fr. John Augustine Zahm's most famous work, Evolution and Dogma, in the autumn of 1898 has traditionally been the subject of great interest among religious scholars and historians. This thesis describes several coalescing factors that negatively affected the book's fate: the neo-Thomists' critical reaction to Zahm's use of Saints Augustine and Aquinas in defense of evolutionism; the author's Americanist connections; the release of the French translation of Walter Elliott's The Life of Father Hecker; and the Church's resistance to the advancements of liberalism in European society, especially after the French Revolution. However, this thesis also takes a step further and argues that Fr. Zahm's writing and teaching career did not cease after the condemnation of his book. His passion for imparting an intelligent faith to his Catholic readers and audiences did not cease; his expansion efforts at the University of Notre Dame as Provincial of the Congregation of Holy Cross and his later publications, such as the trilogy of South American travelogues and the apologetic work Woman in Science, are testaments to his enduring "teaching heart" -- his passion for pursuing knowledge and communicating new understandings to others. This thesis emphasizes the importance of acknowledging Fr. Zahm's life holistically, in broad strokes. His contribution to American Catholic history need not be limited to the intrigue surrounding Evolution and Dogma.


Religion, Religious History, Science History, Theology, American History, John Augustine Zahm, J.A. Zahm, H.J. Mozans, Evolution and Dogma, evolution, evolutionism, science and faith, science and religion, Catholic Church, Americanism, Americanists, special creation, Woman in Science, Up the Orinoco and Down the Magdalena, Theodore Roosevelt, liberalism, The Life of Father Hecker, neo-scholasticism, neo-Thomism, Leo XIII

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