James Carroll (author)

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James Carroll
Born (1943-01-22) January 22, 1943 (age 77)
Chicago, Illinois United States
OccupationFormer Catholic priest, novelist, journalist
GenreFiction, history, religion and politics
SpouseAlexandra Marshall

James P. Carroll (born January 22, 1943, Chicago, Illinois, United States)[1] is an American author, historian, and journalist. A Roman Catholic, he has written extensively about his experiences in the seminary and as a priest, and has published, besides novels, books on religion and history.

Youth, education, and service as a priest[edit]

Carroll was born in Chicago, the second of five sons of late U.S. Air Force General Joseph F. Carroll, and his wife Mary. At the time, his father was a Special Agent of the FBI, which he remained until being seconded to, and later commissioned by, the U.S. Air Force as the first commander of the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations in 1948.[2] After this, Carroll was raised in the Washington, D.C. area and in Germany. He was educated at Washington's Priory School (now St. Anselm's Abbey School) and at an American high school (H.H. Arnold), in Wiesbaden, Germany.[3] He attended Georgetown University before entering St. Paul's College, the Paulist Fathers' seminary, where he received his B.A. and M.A. degrees.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969. Carroll served as Catholic chaplain at Boston University from 1969 to 1974. During that time, he studied poetry with George Starbuck and published books on religious subjects and a book of poems. He was also a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter (1972–1975) and was named Best Columnist by the Catholic Press Association. For his writing on religion and politics he received the first Thomas Merton Award from Pittsburgh's Thomas Merton Center in 1972. Carroll left the priesthood and the Paulist Fathers in 1974 to become a writer, and, in the same year, was a playwright-in-residence at the Berkshire Theater Festival. On May 20, 2013, he received the honorary Doctor of Letters from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.[4]

Literary career[edit]

Carroll's plays have been produced at the Berkshire Theater Festival and at Boston's Next Move Theater. In 1976 he published his first novel, Madonna Red, which was followed by nine others. He has written for numerous publications, including The New Yorker, and his op-ed column appears weekly in The Boston Globe. He won the 1996 National Book Award for Nonfiction for An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us,[5] a memoir about the Vietnam War and his relationships with his father, the American military, and the Catholic Church. In an interview with The New York Times, Carroll explained why he wrote it: "I thought I would feel better. One of the effects of telling the story as I experienced it was for it to be redeemed, made meaningful. At the end, I found myself deeply in touch with the tragic aspect of the life we live. It's a highfalutin word, but there's something tragic to the story I told." Nevertheless, after completing it, he said instead of feeling relief, "I put my head down, and I wept."[6]

He is the author of other books on religion and politics, including House of War, which won the first PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for non-fiction. Mr. Carroll's other works include the novels Secret Father, The City Below, Memorial Bridge, Prince of Peace, Mortal Friends, and Madonna Red, in addition to various plays and Forbidden Disappointments, a book of poetry published in 1974. Carroll's work has received the Melcher Book Award, the James Parks Morton Interfaith Award, and has frequently been named among the Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times.

Carroll has been a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a Fellow at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at the Harvard Divinity School. He is a trustee of the Boston Public Library, a member of the Advisory Board of the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life at Brandeis University, and a member of the Dean's Council at the Harvard Divinity School. Carroll is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a member of the Academy's Committee on International Security Studies. He worked on his 2006 history of the Pentagon, House of War, as a Scholar-in-Residence at the Academy. Carroll is also a Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Suffolk University in Boston, where he wrote his latest book, Practicing Catholic, published in 2009.

Constantine's Sword[edit]

Carroll wrote a history of Christianity, specifically Roman Catholicism, anti-Semitism and treatment of Jews, titled Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews (2001). In this book, he connects many personal experiences, especially his boyhood trips to Catholic pilgrimage sites in the Rhineland, and as a seminarian and priest, to the places and events that he analyzes.

Although it got mixed reviews, Constantine's Sword was a New York Times Best Seller. The book also earned Carroll several accolades from national newspapers, including The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. It won the 2002 National Jewish Book Award in Jewish History.[7]

Carroll co-wrote and presented the 2007 documentary Constantine's Sword with filmmaker Oren Jacoby.

Practicing Catholic book[edit]

In a 2009 book, he denounced Pope Benedict XVI as "the chief sponsor of the new Catholic fundamentalism, enforced with no regard for the real cost to human beings."[8]

Abolishing the Priesthood[edit]

In a 2019 cover piece for The Atlantic, Carroll advocated for abolishing the priesthood in order to “return the Church to the people”.[9]


Carroll married the novelist Alexandra Marshall in 1977. They have two grown children.



  • Tender of Wishes: Prayer Poems for Here & Now (1969) (poetry). LCCN 73-92219
  • Elements of Hope (1971) (poetry)
  • The Winter Name of God (1975) (memoir)
  • Madonna Red (1976) (novel)
  • Mortal Friends: A Novel (1978)
  • Fault Lines (1980) (novel)
  • Family Trade (1982) (novel)
  • Prince of Peace (1984) (novel)
  • Supply of Heroes (1986) (novel)
  • Firebird (1989) (novel)
  • Memorial Bridge (1991) (novel)
  • The City Below (1994) (novel)
  • An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us (1996)
  • Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews – A History (2001). ISBN 978-0-395-77927-9
  • Toward a New Catholic Church: The Promise of Reform (2002). ISBN 978-0-618-31337-2
  • Secret Father: A Novel (2003). ISBN 978-0-618-15284-1
  • Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War (2004). ISBN 978-0-8050-7843-5
  • House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power (2006). ISBN 978-0-618-18780-5
  • Practicing Catholic (2009). ISBN 978-0-618-67018-5
  • Jerusalem, Jerusalem (2011). ISBN 978-0-547-54905-7
  • Christ Actually (2014). ISBN 978-0-670-78603-9
  • The Cloister (2018). (novel) ISBN 978-0-385-54127-5



  1. ^ Byrne, James Patrick; Coleman, Philip; King, Jason Francis (2008). Ireland and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History : a Multidisciplinary Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781851096145.
  2. ^ This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain."BG Joseph F. Carroll Air Force Biography". U.S. Air Force. August 1, 1966. Retrieved January 8, 2019.
  3. ^ House of War, p. 146 and passim
  4. ^ "HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENTS NAMED". 4.lehigh.edu. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  5. ^ "1996 National Book Awards Winners and Finalists, The National Book Foundation". Nationalbook.org. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  6. ^ John Tagliabue, "Exorcising Demons From a Long-Ago War," New York Times, November 14, 1996, p. B1.
  7. ^ "Past Winners". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  8. ^ "Book Reviews". The New York Times. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  9. ^ https://amp.theatlantic.com/amp/article/589987/

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