George Tavard

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George Henri Tavard
Born February 6, 1922
Nancy, France
Died August 13, 2007
Paris, France
Nationality French
Alma mater Faculties Theologiques de Lyon
Occupation Professor, Theologian
Religion Augustinians of the Assumption

Reverend George Henri Tavard (February 6, 1922 – August 13, 2007) was an ordained member with the order of the Augustinians of the Assumption, and lectured extensively in the areas of historical theology, ecumenism, and spirituality.

Early life[edit]

George Tavard was born on February 6, 1922, in Nancy, France. He entered a religious community known as the Augustinians of the Assumption and was ordained in 1947. At that point, Tavard began doctoral studies at the Faculties theologiques de Lyon. He held the Doctor of Sacred Theology from Lyons, and he taught theology at Capenor House in Surrey, England from 1949–1951 and the Princeton Theological Seminary from 1951-1952. He then came to the United States as a permanent resident in 1952, ascertaining full naturalized citizenship status in 1960.


Tavard accepted a teaching position at Mount Mercy College in Pittsburgh, where he would teach for six years. During his tenure at Mount Mercy College, Pope John XXIII named Tavard a peritus conciliaris at Vatican II, where he also served as a consultant to the Secretariat for the Promotion of Christian Unity. After departing Mount Mercy College, Tavard taught at Assumption College, Penn State University and Methodist Theological School in Ohio in Delaware, Ohio, where he retired in 1990.

Father Tavard was a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Joint Preparatory Commission ("Malta Report", 1968), and then of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC-1: "Final Report," 1983) until 1983, when he was assigned to the International dialogue of the RC Church and the World Methodist Council. He was part of ARC-USA (Anglican-Roman Catholic Conversations in the USA) and of Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the USA from the beginning. He lectured and written extensively in the areas of historical theology, ecumenism, and spirituality.

He was an official Catholic observer at the World Council of Churches's Conference on Faith and Order in Montreal, 1963, at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Denver, CO, 1980, and the delegate of the Catholic Church at the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Panama, 1997.

Controversial positions[edit]


Tavard was best known for his emphatic support of ecumenism, focusing on bridging the gaps between Roman Catholicism and Protestant sects of Christianity as well as between Christianity and Judaism. He voted for the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council, which constituted a starting point for bi-lateral dialogues between churches. While he recognized that the Papacy and many churches would be reluctant to fully embrace one another, he stressed the importance of education for church officials in pressing for rapprochement with Christians of all denominations. While he conceded that consolidation under one church was not feasible, he still implored theologians and lay Christians alike to discuss their views, seek as much common ground as they could find and leave it to God from there. He detested the manner in which the Catholic Church treated other sects and their leaders. For example, he beseeched the Catholic brass to cease with the hundreds of years of condemnations of Martin Luther and to accord him a place of honor instead.

Women’s role in the church[edit]

Tavard raised the issue of women’s roles within the Catholic Church in his 1973 book, Women in Christian Tradition, one of the first major theologians to do so. While he remained a part of the minority for his view that women needed a bigger role in the Catholic Church, he insisted that the ordination of women was not only fair but also necessary to the survival of the church. Tavard predicted that within fifty years of the book’s publication, women would be able to be ordained and priests would be allowed to marry. True to his ecumenist beliefs, Tavard cited the models of Protestant churches when prescribing a remedy for the waning numbers of Catholic vocations. While he acknowledged that a referendum allowing women to be ordained would fail in a referendum amongst American Catholics, he pointed out that it would succeed amongst French Catholics and thus was an unavoidable aspect of future Catholicism.

Vietnam War[edit]

Tavard opposed American policy in Vietnam, questioning the moral compass of those who supported American involvement there. He asserted that it was a civil war and that only the well-being of the people in that country should guide American policy with regard to Vietnam. He argued that the fact that one side was Communist did not matter and that the American government was using the “Communist” tag to exploit the fears associated with that term amongst the American public in order to wage a war he deemed immoral and unjust.



  • 1965 Honorary D.D., Bexley Hall Seminary at Kenyon College, Ohio
  • 1974 John Courtney Murray Award, Catholic Theological Society of America
  • 1981 Medal of St. Augustine of Canterbury, granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury
  • 1999 Catholic Press Association Book Award, for "The Spiritual Way of St. Jeanne d'Arc"
  • 2002 Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Archival Collections
  • Reverend George H. Tavard, A.A., Papers, Marquette University
  • Marquette University Archives and Special Collections contain much of Tavard's work. The collection includes his Published and Unpublished Works (1949–1999), Lectures (1948–1994), Correspondence (1952–1994), Correspondence, (1958-1967-Restricted)
  • Subject Files (1915–1998), Audio and Videotape Recordings(1958–1997), Second Vatican Council (1960–1968, 1970, 1982).