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Biography of Francis X. Clooney

Francis X. Clooney, S.J., the inaugural Silber-Obrecht Lecturer, is the Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology at the Harvard Divinity School.

After earning his doctorate in South Asian languages and civilizations at the University of Chicago in 1984, Clooney taught at Boston College for 21 years before joining the Harvard faculty in 2005. From 2010 to 2017, he was the Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard.

Clooney’s primary areas of Indological scholarship are theological commentarial writings in the Sanskrit and Tamil traditions of Hindu India. He is also a leading figure globally in the developing field of comparative theology, a discipline distinguished by attentiveness to the dynamics of theological learning deepened through the study of traditions other than one’s own. He has also written on the Jesuit missionary tradition, particularly in India, on the early Jesuit pan-Asian discourse on reincarnation, and on the dynamics of dialogue and interreligious learning in the contemporary world.

Clooney is the author of numerous articles and books, including Thinking Ritually: Retrieving the Purva Mimamsa of Jaimini (Vienna, 1990), Theology after Vedanta: An Experiment in Comparative Theology (State University of New York Press, 1993), Beyond Compare: St. Francis de Sales and Sri Vedanta Desika on Loving Surrender to God (Georgetown University Press, 2008), The Truth, the Way, the Life: Christian Commentary on the Three Holy Mantras of the Shrivaisnava Hindus (Peeters Publishing, 2008), Comparative Theology: Deep Learning across Religious Borders (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), and His Hiding Place Is Darkness: A Hindu-Catholic Theopoetics of Divine Absence (Stanford University Press, 2013).

Recent books include Reading the Hindu and Christian Classics: Why and How It Matters (University of Virgina Press, 2019) and Western Jesuit Scholars in India: Tracing Their Paths, Reassessing Their Goals (Brill, 2020). His translation of the Hindu theologian Ramanuja’s Manual of Daily Worship (Nityagrantham) appeared in the International Journal of Hindu Studies in 2020. He is currently working on a memoir tentatively titled, Priest and Scholar, Catholic and Hindu: A Love Story.

In July 2010 he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy and has served as a Professorial Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University. His most recent honorary doctorate was awarded in November 2019 by Regis College, University of Toronto. He is currently President of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

He is a Roman Catholic priest and has been a member of the Society of Jesus for 50 years. He serves regularly in a Catholic parish on weekends. From 2007 to 2016 he blogged regularly in the “In All Things” section of America magazine online. On his personal blog, The Inner Edge, he wrote a series of 62 online homilies during the year of coronavirus pandemic-related church closures.