Msgr. William H. Shannon is no stranger to Rochester, N.Y., Catholics. An emeritus professor of theology at Nazareth College, a stronghold of radical feminism in the diocese, Msgr. Shannon has been a founding president of the "International Thomas Merton Society", and the author of articles on liturgy and catechetics, and "The Future of the Papacy". He is known for criticizing efforts of Roman Congregations to curb doctrinal and liturgical abuses in the Church, warning repeatedly against a "creeping papal infallibility."

A staunch ally of Rochester's even more notorious dissenter, Fr. Charles Curran (the latter described by his Bishop Matthew Clark as "a priest in good standing"), Msgr. Shannon has also enjoyed a reputation as an avowed dissenter from "Humanae Vitae". In the National Catholic Reporter (April 11, 1986), he wrote a long article defending Fr. Curran's and Fr. Bernard Haring's "new vision of moral theology", observing that "Roman Catholic moral theology cannot be understood in the 20th century apart from the influence of Haring and Curran."

Following the lead of his favorite theological mentors, Msgr. Shannon once again declared the legitimacy of dissent by theologians and married couples from the teaching of Christ and His Church prohibiting the moral evil of contraception. In April 1987, he defended his erroneous view at a luncheon held at Buffalo's Christ the King Seminary. There, Auxiliary Bishop Donald Trautman (now bishop of Erie, Pa.) expressed strong disagreement with Shannon's presentation by declaring:

"Church doctrine is at stake here. It is the right and need of the Church to correct erring theologians."
(Western New York Catholic, April 1987)

In April 2000, Bishop Clark wrote a personal tribute to his "dear friend":

"One of the joys of this week was the opportunity to join other alumni of St. Bernard's Seminary [Rochester's once famous seminary now defunct] in honoring Msgr. William Shannon. The event was sponsored by St. Bernard's Institute which presented Bill with its President's Award in recognition of his lifetime of distinguished theological work and his generous pastoral service to the Church"
(Catholic Courier, April 13, 2000).

Another honor received by the Rochester theologian, who has denounced those "overzealous defenders of papal authority who identify the Holy Father with the Holy Spirit," has been the establishment of a "William H. Shannon' Chair in Catholic Studies" at Nazareth College.

In a recent issue of "Catholic Update" published by St. Anthony Messenger, Msgr. Shannon has given another example of his "distinguished theological work":

"What happened when Jesus was raised from the dead? It is noteworthy that none of the Gospels attempt to describe the Resurrection. They do describe the Crucifixion, for that is something that humans did to Jesus and as such it is a part of human history and therefore capable of being verified empirically. The Resurrection, on the other hand, is something that God did and therefore not a part of human history in the same sense. It is something that truly happened, but it is a trans-historical event, that is, a divine intervention into human history, and therefore an event that the historian as historian can neither prove nor disprove. God's actions are not the subject of a historian's study. Historians can study only what humans do, not what God does. They may believe or disbelieve the Resurrection. But when they make that choice, they have moved out of their field of expertise. They have left the discipline of history."

Here we have a blatant echo of the modernism condemned by St. Pius X who denounced the falsehood that:

"The Resurrection of the Savior is not properly a fact of the historical order. It is a fact of merely the supernatural order (neither demonstrated nor demonstrable)."
(Lamentabili Sane, - July 3, 1907, n. 36)

Similarly, "The Catechism of the Catholic Church" refutes Msgr. Shannon's denial of the historical nature of the Resurrection event:

"The mystery of Christ's Resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified.... Given all these testimonies [by the Apostles and other eyewitnesses], Christ's Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as a historical fact."
(The Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 639 and 643)

The Catechism goes on to note that Christ's Resurrection was indeed a "transcendent event," and "as something that transcends and surpasses history," but stresses without any ambiguity that it constituted "a historical event that could be verified by the sign of the empty tomb and by the reality of the Apostles' encounters with the Risen Christ" (n. 647).

In his own catechesis on the Resurrection given in 1989, Pope John Paul II re-affirmed the faith of the Catholic Church against modern skeptics and unbelievers:

"Those hypotheses are untenable which seek in different ways to interpret Christ's Resurrection by abstracting It from the physical order in such a way as not to recognize it as a historical fact."

Giving full recognition to the fact that "the risen Body of Christ passed from death to another life beyond time and space" and that therefore there is a sense in which "Christ's Resurrection is beyond the purely historical dimension," the Chief Pastor of the Church insists that "in line with what has been handed down by those ancient sources, the Resurrection is, in the first place, a historical event" (see his addresses of January 25 and March 1, 1989, collected in "Jesus, Son and Savior: A Catechesis on the Creed", vol. II, Pauline Books, 1996).

Msgr. William H. Shannon remains a prime example of the doctrinal dissent that has been allowed to flourish [fester] in the Diocese of Rochester.

About James Likoudis
James Likoudis is an expert in Catholic apologetics. He is the author of several books dealing with Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations, including his most recent "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church." He has written many articles published by various religious papers and magazines.
He can be reached at:, or visit  Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage

Dissent from the Magisterium.... is not compatible with being a "good Catholic".
- Pope John Paul II -