James Alison

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James Alison
Born (1959-10-10) October 10, 1959 (age 60)
London, England[1]
Alma materJesuit School of Philosophy and Theology
  • Priest
  • theologian
ReligionChristianity (Roman Catholic)
ChurchLatin Church
Ordained1988 (priest)
Websitejamesalison.co.uk Edit this at Wikidata

James Alison (born October 10, 1959) is a laicized English Roman Catholic priest and theologian.[2] He was ordained in 1988[2] and was a member of the Dominican Order until his excardination in 1995.[3] He is noted for his application of René Girard's anthropological theory to Christian systematic theology and for his work on LGBT issues. He identifies as gay.[4][5]

Life and career[edit]

James Alison was born on October 10, 1959,[2] the son of Michael Alison and Sylvia Alison (née Haigh). He has a brother and a sister. In Faith Beyond Resentment he describes his family background as "conservative middle-class English evangelical Protestant".[6] His father was Michael Alison (died 2004), who, after leaving the University of Oxford, had spent some time studying theology at Ridley Hall and had gone on to become a prominent Conservative Member of Parliament (1964–1997) and Second Church Estates Commissioner (1987–1997).[7] Alison left the Church of England at the age of eighteen to join the Roman Catholic Church.[8] He studied at Blackfriars College at the University of Oxford, and earned his bachelor's degree and doctorate in theology from the Jesuit Theology Faculty in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Alison was a member of the Dominican order – his master's degree is a Dominican lectorate – from 1981 to 1995. In 1996, he wrote to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith telling them that he believed his vows to be null as they were based on his previously, but no longer, held belief that sexual activity between members of the same sex is sinful.[2] He offered to let them issue a decree saying his ordination was null, but they declined, saying it was valid.[2] Instead, the Congregation asked him to seek laicisation, but Alison declined believing that he would have to lie on the paperwork.[2]

More than 10 years later, a superior in the Dominican Order asked if Alison would object to his processing paperwork dismissing Alison from the Order.[2] Alison said he did not mind the paperwork, but would not participate as he believed he was never truly a member anyway.[2] He eventually received a letter stating that he was a priest in good standing, not currently incardinated but available to be incardinated if a bishop wished to have him.[2]

While living in Brazil, the local bishop asked for Alison's consent to be laicized.[2] Alison declined, but instead offered to be incardinated into the diocese.[2] The bishop declined that offer.[2] The bishop then began a process of laicization without Alison's consent.[2] A year later, a letter from the Congregation for the Clergy arrived announcing that Alison had been laicized, forbidding him from teaching, preaching, or presiding over any sacraments.[2]

A friendly bishop, who was once Alison's novice master, hand delivered a letter to Pope Francis in May 2017 appealing his laicization.[2] In the letter, Alison informed the pope of his intention to ignore the letter declaring him laicized and to carry on as before.[2] On 2 July 2017, Pope Francis called Alison directly.[2] According to Alison, Pope Francis told him, "I give you the power of the keys."[2] Alison believes that, by these words, Pope Francis granted him the authority to hear confessions.[2]

He told Commonweal magazine in 2012 that he was released from the Dominicans without penalty, and that he is uncertain of the validity of his vow of celibacy.[3] He has lived and worked in Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, and the United States. Currently he works as a travelling preacher, lecturer and retreat giver, based in Madrid, Spain.[9]


  • Knowing Jesus (1994) ISBN 0-87243-202-5, ISBN 0-281-04641-7 & 0281052220
  • Raising Abel, The Recovery of the Eschatological Imagination (1996) ISBN 0-8371-6434-6 (Also published under the title Living in the End Times: The Last Things Re-imagined ISBN 84-254-2097-0)
  • The Joy of Being Wrong, Original Sin Through Easter Eyes (1998) ISBN 0-8245-1676-1
  • Faith Beyond Resentment, Fragments Catholic and Gay (2001) ISBN 0-232-52411-4, ISBN 0-8245-1922-1
  • On Being Liked (2004) ISBN 0-232-52517-X, ISBN 0-8245-2261-3
  • Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of a Break-In (2006) ISBN 0-232-52676-1, ISBN 0-8264-1928-3
  • Broken Hearts and New Creations: Intimations of a Great Reversal (2010) ISBN 978-0232527964, ISBN 978-1441107114
  • Jesus the Forgiving Victim: Listening for the Unheard Voice (2013) ISBN 978-0-9818123-1-1, ISBN 0-9818123-1-7
  • Fé Além do Ressentimento - Fragmentos católicos em voz gay (2010) É Realizações Editora, Brasil [10]
  • O Pecado Original à Luz da Ressurreição- A Alegria de Descobrir-se Equivocado (2011) É Realizações Editora, Brasil [10]


  1. ^ "Oral History: James Alison". LGBT Religious Archives Network. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Alison, James (September 26, 2019). "'This is Pope Francis calling…'". The Tablet. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Salkeld, Brett (March 6, 2012). "An Interview with James Alison". Commonweal. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
  4. ^ "James Alison: Sexuality, Certainty and Salvation". RadioNational: Encounter. ABC.net.au. 8 January 2012. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  5. ^ "Theology as Survival – an interview with James Alison". www.jamesalison.co.uk.
  6. ^ "Introduction to Faith Beyond Resentment, by James Alison". jamesalison.co.uk.
  7. ^ "Michael Alison - Obituaries - News". The Independent. 2004-05-31. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
  8. ^ "Introduction to Faith Beyond Resentment, by James Alison". Jamesalison.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
  9. ^ "About James Alison". forgivingvictim.com. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
  10. ^ a b "É Realizações - Editora, Espaço Cultural, Livraria". www.erealizacoes.com.br.

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