Wadding, Peter (1583–1644), Jesuit priest, theologian, and chancellor of the University of Prague (1629–41), was born in July 1583 in Waterford, son of Thomas Wadding and Mary Wadding (née Walsh). On entering the Society of Jesus in 1601 he recorded that both of his parents were of the catholic nobility. Five of his brothers also became Jesuits, and his cousins included Fr Luke Wadding (qv), Archbishop Thomas Walsh (qv) of Cashel, and Bishop Nicholas French (qv) of Ferns. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that he chose a priestly career, and after initial schooling in Ireland he travelled to Douai (1587), where he studied classics and philosophy, graduating MA. On 24 October 1601 he entered the Jesuit noviciate at Tournai, aged 18. Further studies in philosophy, rhetoric, and theology followed, and in October 1609 he was ordained priest.
Completing his theological studies at Louvain, he seemed destined to return to Ireland. Hugh O'Neill (qv), the exiled earl of Tyrone, had tried to secure his services for the Irish mission but Wadding's superiors wished to keep him in the Low Countries. He therefore remained there, taught theology at Louvain, and was also a professor of philosophy at the Jesuit college in Utrecht from 1615. One of his students at Utrecht was John van Bolland, founder of the scholarly Bollandist movement in the Society of Jesus. Around 1616 Wadding took up the chair of moral theology at the Jesuit college in Antwerp. In 1620 he engaged in a series of private discussions with Simon Bischop or Episcopius, a leader of the Arminians, in the hope of converting him to catholicism. He later sent Bischop two letters (published after his death), one on the rule of the faith, the other on the worship of images. In June 1621 he chaired a public theological debate where the Irish Jesuit, Peter Darcy, defended his theses on grace and predestination.
In 1629 he succeeded Fr Adam Tanner, SJ, one of the most renowned Jesuit theologians of the period, as professor of theology and chancellor of the University of Prague. He was immediately drawn into the controversy surrounding the concord signed between the pope and Ferdinand II, the Contractus Salis. In 1629 he replied to the attacks on the papacy and the Society of Jesus in an anonymous pamphlet, Disceptatio placida. In 1630 he was appointed to the archiepiscopal consistorium and was declared consistorial theologian, the first Jesuit to be appointed to that position in Bohemia. He lived in Prague during the height of the thirty years war and, after the defeat of the catholic army at Breitenfeld (1631), was forced to flee to Olmutz (Olomouc) in Moravia, where he served briefly as chancellor of the university, returning to Prague in 1632. In 1633 he was appointed as a member of the third provincial congregation of the Jesuit province of Bohemia.
His period at Prague was somewhat overshadowed by a long-running controversy with the archbishop of the city, Count Ernest Adalbert von Harrach. Prague initially had two universities, the Jesuit University and the Carolina, the old university founded by Charles IV in 1345. These had been amalgamated in 1623 by Ferdinand II and were now known as the Carolo-Ferdinandea. Under Ferdinand's decree, it was stipulated that the rector of the Jesuit college should also be the chancellor of the combined universities. Archbishop von Harrach disputed this, maintaining that he should be chancellor, and the controversy dragged on for years. The noted pamphleteer Gaspar Schopp published an anonymous piece attacking the Jesuit fathers. In 1634 Wadding replied with his Brevis refutatio calumniarum quas Collegio Societatis Jesu Pragensi etc. In this publication he outlined the history of the controversy and condemned Schopp for his attack on the Jesuits. Schopp's work was condemned in Rome and burned by the public hangman in Madrid, and he was later expelled from Austrian and Roman soil. (The controversy over the combined colleges was not finally resolved until Ferdinand III took an active part in deciding the issue.)
Wadding later published a major theological work on the subject of the Incarnation, Tractatus de Incarnatione (Antwerp, 1634). In 1637 he preached the sermon at the funeral obsequies for Ferdinand II in the Metropolitan Church in Prague. He later presented Ferdinand III with an address of welcome, published as Oratio Pragae dicta in Ferdinandi III (1637).
In July 1641, with the controversy over the chancellorship of Prague still raging, he was ordered by his superiors to go to Gratz, where he taught canon law. He published his second theological work entitled De contractibus in 1644. He died in Gratz 13 September 1644. The letters that he had sent to Bischop were still extant, and were later published in Dutch as Twee brieven van den gelerden Peter Wading in sijn leven Jesuit tot Antwerpen (Amsterdam, 1649). Other works, which were published using a pseudonym, were Carmina varia et alia spectantia ad disciplinas humaniores and Tractatus aliquot contra haereticos. The universities at Prague and Gratz (in Styria, Austria) later commissioned portraits of him. There is a collection of his papers in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, which includes over thirty manuscript treatises.