Francis X. Clooney, S.J.

Francis X. Clooney, S.J.
  • Harvard Divinity School
  • Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology
  • Academic Concentration: Comparative Theology
  • Residential Fellow (2017-2018)
  • "From (Hindu) Ritual to (Catholic) Theology: Two Exercises in Slow Reading Across Religious Borders"

Francis X. Clooney, S.J. is Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology at Harvard Divinity School. His primary areas of Indological scholarship are theological commentarial writings in the Sanskrit and Tamil traditions of Hindu India. Professor Clooney is also a leading figure globally in the developing field of comparative theology, a discipline distinguished by attentiveness to the dynamics of theological learning deepened through the study of traditions other than one’s own.

His scholarly publications include the Jesuit missionary tradition, particularly in India, the early Jesuit pan-Asian discourse on reincarnation, and the dynamics of dialogue and interreligious learning in the contemporary world. Professor Clooney is the author of numerous articles and books, including Thinking Ritually: Retrieving the Purva Mimamsa of Jaimini (1990), Theology after Vedanta: An Experiment in Comparative Theology (1993), Beyond Compare: St. Francis de Sales and Sri Vedanta Deshika on Loving Surrender to God (2008), The Truth, the Way, the Life: Christian Commentary on the Three Holy Mantras of the Shrivaisnava Hindus (2008), Comparative Theology: Deep Learning across Religious Borders (2010), and His Hiding Place Is Darkness: A Hindu-Catholic Theopoetics of Divine Absence (2013). He edited The New Comparative Theology: Voices from the Next Generation (2010) and co-edited European Perspectives on the New Comparative Theology (2014); The Future of Hindu-Christian Studies: A Theological Inquiry (2017); and How to Do Comparative Theology (2018).

He is a Roman Catholic priest and a member of the Society of Jesus, serves regularly in a Catholic parish on weekends, and from 2007–2016 blogged regularly in the "In All Things" section of America magazine online. In July 2010 he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy and has served as a Professorial Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University. From 2010 to 2017, he was the Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University.


  • Reading Religiously Across Religious Borders: A Method for Comparative Study

    Religions, 2018

    Francis X. Clooney, S.J.

    Oliver Freiberger has done us the great service of drawing our attention to how comparativists do their comparative work. Issues of method—the “methodical aspects”—of course matter greatly in the actual doing of comparison, even if the scholar is not interested in theoretical discussions of method per se. One has to know one’s craft, in order to do it well, and to be clear in practice about how to proceed: “How comparison actually works as a method in the study of religion has not been discussed in greater detail so far. With due deliberation we can, as Freiberger suggests, identify and isolate specific methodical problems, effectively confront wholesale criticism, and find opportunities to refine the methodology. His approach also allows committed comparativists to speak in more depth about what we are doing in our research and writing.

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  • Reading the Hindu and Christian Classics: Why and How Deep Learning Still Matters

    University of Virginia Press, 2019

    Francis X. Clooney, S.J.

    Clooney Reading Crop

    We live in an era of unprecedented growth in knowledge. Never before has there been so great an availability of and access to information in both print and online. Yet as opportunities to educate ourselves have greatly increased, our time for reading has significantly diminished. And when we do read, we rarely have the patience to read in the slow, sustained fashion that great books require if we are to be truly transformed by them.

    In Reading the Hindu and Christian Classics, renowned Harvard Divinity School professor Francis Clooney argues that our increasing inability to read in a concerted manner is particularly notable in the realm of religion, where the proliferation of information detracts from the learning of practices that require slow and patient reading. Although awareness of the world’s many religions is at an all-time high, deep knowledge of the various traditions has suffered. Clooney challenges this trend by considering six classic Hindu and Christian texts dealing with ritual and law, catechesis and doctrine, and devotion and religious participation, showing how, in distinctive ways, such texts instruct, teach truth, and draw willing readers to participate in the realities they are learning. Through readings of these seminal scriptural and theological texts, he reveals the rewards of a more spiritually transformative mode of reading—and how individuals and communities can achieve it.

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