Reader's Retrospective: Charles Frazee

This story appears in the Reader's Retrospective feature series. View the full series.

by Julie Gunter

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Editor's note: Introducing NCRonline's blog series "Reader's Retrospective": A special project that commemorates NCR's 50th anniversary by telling the stories of readers who have been faithfully subscribing to the National Catholic Reporter since its beginning. ​Read about the project's origins here.​​​

To mark his daughter's wedding a few years ago, Charles Frazee presented the most creative of gifts: an autobiography describing his family's beginnings in small-town Rushville, Ind., his own "heady days" in Rome during the Second Vatican Council, and later adventures teaching and traveling with his wife, Kathleen Siegert, and their two children around the world.

Born in 1929, Frazee was ordained a priest in 1955 after earning a master's degree in history at The Catholic University of America. He spent many years as a professor at Marian University in Indianapolis. Awarded a Ford Foundation grant while enrolled in doctoral studies at Indiana University, he spent 1963-64 conducting research in London, Paris, Munich, Rome and Greece.

During his stay in Rome, Frazee roomed at a hospice run by nuns where "shakers and workers for change in the church," such as priest-theologians Hans Küng and John Courtney Murray, also stayed or visited. Frazee's "small contribution" to Vatican II came in response to an unexpected request by Murray, his next-door neighbor: Could he translate a working draft of the Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae) from Latin to English for the benefit of English-speaking bishops? Frazee excitedly obliged.

While in Rome, Frazee also visited the Greek Pontifical College, where he met the Byzantine-rite Catholic bishop of Athens. According to Frazee, when he explained his ongoing research on the Greek Orthodox church, the bishop offered to host him in Athens. He also suggested that Frazee "apply for permission to become bi-ritual" in the Byzantine Greek rite. Frazee accepted the invitation.

Upon returning home, Frazee discovered the National Catholic Reporter's first issue and became a lifelong subscriber. He also earned a doctorate in Eastern European history in 1965.

Choosing laicization in 1971 due to his increasing commitment to the peace movement, he would eventually become a husband, father and grandfather. Retired, Frazee continues to write and publish books and articles on Christianity in the Eastern Mediterranean.

A version of this story appeared in the Feb 13-26, 2015 print issue under the headline: NCR a reader's retrospective: Charles Frazee.

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