Sean Brennan

University of Scranton
Candidate for Executive Council, 2022-24 (Seat A)

Candidate statement

Sean Brennan
Sean Brennan

I am very honored to accept a nomination as a candidate for the Executive Council of American Catholic Historical Association.  I have been a member of the ACHA since my days as a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame, and over the years I have presented papers and organized panels at both the national and spring meetings of the ACHA, which have been among the most rewarding experiences of my academic career.  I feel the ACHA plays a vital role not only in promoting the history of Catholicism, from the institutional church to the diverse experiences of its laity all over the world, but also in emphasizing the importance of the question of religion in all fields of historical inquiry 

I have had the good fortune to teach at the University of Scranton, a Catholic, Jesuit university, since 2009, recently achieving the rank of full professor. Throughout my academic career, I have focused my scholarship on religious history, including that of the Catholic Church, as well as the complex interaction between religious institutions and political movements, both democratic and dictatorial, throughout the twentieth century.  My first book, The Politics of Religion in Soviet-Occupied Germany: The Case of Berlin-Brandenburg 1945-1949 examined, in part, how the Catholic Church in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany interacted both with Soviet military authorities and the various newly formed political parties, including the Christian Democratic Union and the Socialist Unity Party, in the brief period before a communist regime was imposed on East Germany.  My second writing was a biography of the Passionist priest Fabian Flynn, and his role first as an army chaplain during the Second World War in Europe, and second as a crucial member of Catholic Relief Services in postwar Austria, assisting ethnic, religious, and political refugees from the eastern side of the Iron Curtain.  Entitled The Priest Who Put Europe Back Together: The Life of Fabian Flynn CP, it used the career of Flynn to examine the role played by the American Catholic Church in events such as the Second World War and the Cold War.  My most recent completed project is under consideration by Catholic Education Press for publication in the fall of 2022, called The KGB vs the Vatican: Revelations of the Mitrokhin Archive, this work is a translation from Russian into English, with a historical introduction, of a series of documents from the Soviet secret police provided by a former archivist and later defector Vasili Mitrokhin.  The documents examine efforts by the Soviet regime, especially its intelligence forces, to limit the influence of the Catholic Church, especially for those who lived under Communism.

During my time at the University of Scranton, I have worked to provide primary sources for other scholars, and to create opportunities to present their own research, in addition to creating scholarship of my own.  Several years ago, I helped arranged for the transfer of the archival holdings of the American branch of the Passionists, from their facility in Union City, New Jersey, which was being sold off, to the Weinberg Library at the University of Scranton, where they would be safely preserved and available to researchers throughout the region who desire to learn more about this important missionary order of the Catholic Church.  I am also on the local program committee for the spring 2022 meeting of the ACHA at the University of Scranton, the first of its kind since 2019.

As we enter the beginning of a new decade, I greatly look forward to the opportunity to serve on the ACHA to promote cutting edge historical scholarship, the access to primary sources to create it, and the means to promote them to other scholars and the general public, continuing a tradition which began over a century ago.


Brennan CV