Chenu, Marie-Dominique



Chenu, Marie-Dominique

Given name

Marcel Léon

Family name


One-line bio

Marie-Dominique Chenu was a French Dominican theologian, who worked closely with the early JOC in France and Belgium during the late 1920s and 1930s.


Marcel-Léon Chenu was born on 7 January 1895 at Soisy-sur-Seine, Essonne, south of Paris.

He entered the French Province of the Dominican Order in 1913, taking the name Marie-Dominique and studying at Le Saulchoir, which at the time was located at Kain in Belgium.

With the outbreak of World War I and the suspension of teaching at Le Saulchoir, Chenu travelled to Rome in 1914 to study at the Pontificium Collegium Internationale Angelicum, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum.

While here, he was ordained in 1919 and completed his doctorate in theology in 1920 under the direction of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange with a dissertation entitled De contemplatione, which studied the meaning of contemplation in Thomas Aquinas.

In 1920 Chenu was appointed Professor of the History of Dogma at Le Saulchoir. Chenu served as regent of studies at Le Saulchoir from 1932 to 1942, and was therefore very involved in the move of Le Saulchoir from Belgium to Étoilles, near Paris, in 1937.

It was during this period that he learned of the JOC. Like other Dominicans, he assisted in hosting retreats for JOC leaders and chaplains at Le Saulchoir. He also grew close to Cardijn during this period.

In 1937 Chenu privately published a book entitled Une école de théologie: le Saulchoir. In February 1938 he was called to Rome and reprimanded for this work. Then, in February 1942, Une école de théologie was placed on the Vatican's "Index of Forbidden Books" because of its ideas about the role of historical studies in theology. He was removed as rector of Le Saulchoir.

He was eventually rehabilitated and became the peritus for a bishop from Madagascar during Vatican II, where he played a significant role, initiating the Council's Message to the World during the First Session in 1962 and later publishing an influential article insisting on the need for the Council to read "the signs of the times."

He also worked closely with Dominican worker priests and taught liberation theology, Gustavo Gutierrez at the Institut catholique de Paris.


Country of origin

English France

Birth date

January 7, 1895

Birth place

Soisy-sur-Seine, Essonne

Death date

February 11, 1990

Death place


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