The twentieth-century patristics movement that contributed theologically to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council is generally well known. Less well known, but no less important, is the similarly dynamic return to the ancient ecclesial sources that took place in nineteenth-century theology, which profoundly shaped the Catholic articulation of the relation of faith and reason, the development of doctrine, the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, and the nature of the Church.

In Engaging the Church Fathers in Nineteenth-Century Catholicism, Joseph Carola, S.J., tracks the theological movement of the Scuola Romana, a contemporaneous, interconnected return to patristic sources pursued by Jesuit theologians at the Roman College—Giovanni Perrone, Carlo Passaglia, Clemens Schrader, and Johann Baptist Franzelin—and their precursors, interlocutors, and intellectual progeny, including the Tübingen theologian Johann Adam Möhler, the Oxonian John Henry Newman, and the Cologne theologian Matthias Joseph Scheeben. Situating these seven theologians’ lives and labors within the broader historical context of nineteenth-century Catholicism, Carola introduces readers to a rich theological world rarely explored, providing both biographical depth and attentive distillation of their writings, methodologies, and impacts.

As Carola shows, these extraordinary theologians engaged the Church Fathers and the Church’s entire tradition with intellectual rigor, revitalizing the nineteenth-century Catholic Church at her very heart and providing, in turn, a refined patristic methodology and faithful theological vision that are just as vital for the Church in the twenty-first century as they were in the nineteenth.


Father Joseph Carola, S.J., entered the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus in 1980. He was ordained a priest on July 24, 1993. He took his final vows in the Jesuit Order on May 24, 2007 at the Church of the Gesù in Rome. He completed a doctorate in theology and patristic sciences in 2001 at the Patristic Institute Augustinianum. In 1997, he began directing various seminars in the theology faculty at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In February 2002, he began his full-time teaching at the same university where he is a professor of theology. Beginning in 2010, he served one five-year term as a consultor of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments. From 2011 until 2018, he moderated the first cycle of theology (S.T.B.) at the Gregorian University. His publications include the monograph Augustine of Hippo: The Role of the Laity in Ecclesial Reconciliation (2005), a study of non-Christians in patristic theology in Catholic Engagement with World Religions (2010), three volumes of meditations on the priesthood entitled Conformed to Christ Crucified (2010, 2015, and 2018), and various contributions to the Augustinus-Lexikon (2011) among other studies, articles, and reviews.


“An indispensable work for anyone wishing to delve into the study of the Scuola Romana and the Catholic theology of the nineteenth century.”
Valfredo Maria Rossi
Pontifical Gregorian University


“A tremendous gift. No other work on the Roman School is as theologically informative and historically gripping as Engaging the Church Fathers in Nineteenth-Century Catholicism. We can learn so much from the Roman School, and this book puts us in a position to do so.”
Andrew Meszaros
St. Patrick’s Pontifical University


“The fruit of decades of research, Engaging the Church Fathers in Nineteenth-Century Catholicism will soon become the standard work on the Roman School and its influence. It brings together lively biographical portraits of its figures, a thorough grasp of their intellectual networks (often established by little-known archival sources), and an expert’s knowledge of the patristic sources by which they attempted to rejuvenate the theology of their day.
Fr. Aaron Pidel, S.J.
Marquette University / Pontifical Gregorian University


Engaging the Church Fathers in Nineteenth-Century Catholicism introduces the reader to a still-relevant patristic methodology. In particular, its discussion of the consensus fidelium contributes notably to contemporary theological discourse.”
+ Luis Francisco Cardinal Ladaria


“The significance of the Roman School has long been underappreciated, but with this penetrating study, that is bound to change.”
Fr. Vincent L. Strand, S.J.
Catholic University of America

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Engaging the Church Fathers in Nineteenth-Century Catholic Theology: The Patristic Legacy of the Scuola Romana