I am a senior lecturer in Theology & Religious Studies at York St John University; I have worked there as Head of Department and Head of both B.A. and M.A. programmes, but I am now semi-retired and concentrate on teaching and writing. I am married to Natalie.
I gained a PhD at the University of Leeds in 1991, on the apparitions of Mary in modern European Roman Catholicism. Since then I have written several journal articles on the European apparitions of Mary, culminating in a monograph published by Oxford University Press in 2016: Our Lady of the Nations: Apparitions of Mary in 20th-Century Catholic Europe. This is a detailed, scholarly overview which discusses apparitions in general and how they are interpreted in Catholicism. The role of women and children as visionaries is considered, given that they have comprised the greater majority of famous visionaries in the modern period. While the book covers cases that are well known and approved by the Church, and others that are well known but not approved, many more obscure cases are also discussed, such as those in Belgian Flanders or Nazi Germany in the 1930s, or in France, Italy or Germany after the Second World War. Therefore the book will inform even the most well-read student of apparitions. Resources include academic studies of particular apparitions, some Catholic theological and devotional literature, and occasionally travel writing where it sheds light on apparitions in their original context. There is also coverage of material in French which is not known to the English-speaking reader.
My interest in Mary has led me to be a founder member of a society which promotes the academic study of Mary in a variety of disciplines and organises the gathering of scholars and students. This is the Centre of Marian Studies in the United Kingdom, which was formally instituted as a charitable association in 1996. I am the chair of trustees. Working with Sarah Jane Boss, the director, I contributed to her edited volume, Mary: the Complete Resource (Continuum, 2007), and edited my own, based on a conference run by the Centre in York: Origins of the Cult of the Virgin Mary (Continuum, 2008). I am now editing a new Oxford Handbook of Mary (publication date: 2019) which will include many established specialists on various aspects of the cult of Mary throughout history. Whilst being a scholar of Catholic popular religion in my professional life, I am also passionate about Marian shrines as a personal interest, visiting them across Europe and helping to maintain my local shrine, a 15th century rock chapel in Knaresborough, Yorkshire.
I was asked in the mid-1990s to edit a new volume of Henry Bettenson’s collection, Documents of the Christian Church, familiar to many undergraduates. He died in 1979 and the first two editions were published before Vatican II, the advent of liberation theology and feminist theology, and many of the new issues that have presented a challenge to churches in the second half of the twentieth century. Therefore, a new edition was needed. Oxford University Press published my third edition in 1999 and my fourth edition in 2011. The selection of a limited number of documents amongst so many potential inclusions is not easy, and the result will never please everyone. However, after first having added a section on the documents of Vatican II, I decided that the churches’ response to the social issues of contemporary life, such as poverty, race, gender, sexuality, the environment, disability, interfaith relations and new technologies merited a good proportion of the space available.