Wednesday 17 February 2016

Phyllis Wallbank at 98



With an attendant

Phyllis Wallbank is now at Burnham House Care Home, Slough, now almost 98. I saw her on 16 February 2016, thanks to the kindness of Martin Casey who picked me up at the airport and drove me over to Slough.

Phyllis asked me to summarize Lonergan in 20 words - very difficult! - and to put it on the net. "Lonergan taught us to focus on method rather than directly on content. He insisted that method is teamwork, and that the work be divided not by areas or subjects but functionally, much the way things are done in physics or in the other empirical sciences." In theology, he proposed 8 functional specializations: research, history, interpretation, dialectic, foundations, doctrines, systematics, communications. Perhaps his greatest innovation lies in dialectic and foundations - not because these did not exist before him, but because he proposes a methodical way of handling radical disagreements.

Phyllis said that Fr. Timothy Russ had died, and when we checked the net - at her insistence - I found it was true. He died at the age of 69, after having retired from the parish of Great Missenden, was described as the confessor of Tony and Cherie Blair, and a Lonergan scholar. It appears he was writing a novel when he died, based on his own family history and the house he inherited from his mother. Tim Russ belonged to one of the old English Catholic families.

Phyllis was lucid most of the time, though extremely impatient because she is not able to get out of bed.

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