The Reverend David Coffey has played a major role in the development and renewal of Pneumatology and Trinitarian theology in the period following the Second Vatican Council. He graduated as Dux in 1951 from St. Patrick’s College (Christian Brothers), Strathfield, New South Wales, Australia. In 1958, he received the License in Theology from the Catholic Institute of Sydney; and in the same year, he was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Sydney. He received the Doctor of Sacred Theology magna cum laude from the same institution in 1960, and was appointed to the faculty of the Catholic Institute of Sydney in 1962. During the period 1964-1966 he pursued further theological studies with Michael Schmaus and Karl Rahner at the University of Munich, Germany. Father Coffey returned to the Catholic Institute of Sydney in 1967, where he served as Dean of the Faculty from 1970-1975, and President of the Faculty from 1976-1981. In 1975, he became a founder of the Australian Catholic Theological Association, and served as the Association’s President in that year and again in 1990.
In 1989, Father Coffey came to St. Louis at the invitation of the Catholic Theological Society of America, where he gave a presentation on his research in the Trinity Seminar at the Society’s annual Convention. In 1991, he returned to the United States, this time to the University of St. Louis, where he served as Visiting Professor in the Aquinas Institute. In 1995, he accepted an appointment to the Presidential Chair at Marquette University, renamed in 1999 to the William J. Kelly, S.J. Chair in Catholic Theology.
Father Coffey’s areas of research and publication reflect the living concerns of the ecclesiastic communities within which he has practiced the theologian’s craft. Not surprisingly, his theological interests go to the very heart of the Christian faith: Pneumatology, Christology, the doctrine of the Trinity. These interests are reflected quite accurately in the titles of his four books: Grace: The Gift of the Holy Spirit (Catholic Institute of Sydney, 1979); Believer, Christian, Catholic (Catholic Institute of Sydney, 1986); Deus Trinitas: The Doctrine of the Triune God (Oxford University Press, 1999); and The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Liturgical Press, 2001). His numerous articles range widely across these and related topics, and they have appeared in many books, as well as in such journals as: Australasian Catholic Record, Theological Studies, Irish Theological Quarterly, Faith and Culture, Colloquium, St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, Philosophy and Theology, and the International Journal of Systematic Theology.
The occasion of this lecture also marks the end of Father Coffey’s tenure as the holder of the Kelly Chair at Marquette University. He will be sorely missed by those of us who have come to know and value him as a colleague and friend, as well as by the students who have benefited from his great learning and keen insight. In the following essay, the reader will instantly discern the tight argumentation and intellectual tenacity that have marked Coffey’s work and made him a favorite among his peers. At the same time, even as he works to illuminate the Trinitarian realities of mutual love, appropriation, common action, and the like, one will observe his profound reverence for the mystery of the Triune God. As a guide for this exploration of the agency of the Holy Spirit, we could hardly ask for one with better knowledge of the terrain or a surer step than our own David Coffey. We thank him for taking us along on the journey.