US

Notre Dame theologian Rev. Richard McBrien, known for popular books and liberal stands, dies

In this undated photo provided by the University of Notre Dame is the Rev. Richard McBrien. McBrien, a Notre Dame theologian known for his unabashed liberal stands on various church teachings and his popular books on Catholicism, died Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015 in his native Connecticut, according to the school. He was 78. (AP Photo/University of Notre Dame)

In this undated photo provided by the University of Notre Dame is the Rev. Richard McBrien. McBrien, a Notre Dame theologian known for his unabashed liberal stands on various church teachings and his popular books on Catholicism, died Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015 in his native Connecticut, according to the school. He was 78. (AP Photo/University of Notre Dame)  (The Associated Press)

The Rev. Richard McBrien, a University of Notre Dame theology professor known for his popular books on Catholicism and unabashed liberal stands on various church teachings, has died. He was 78.

Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown says McBrien died Sunday in Connecticut after a lengthy illness.

McBrien was often a critic of the church, speaking in favor of the ordination of female priests and optional celibacy for priests. He also had liberal stands on artificial contraception.

University President Rev. John Jenkins says that while McBrien was often controversial, his work came from a deep love of and hope for the church.

Jenkins described McBrien as a "leading theologian and commentator" on the church.

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Associated Press religion writer Rachel Zoll in New York contributed to this report.