For his distinguished scholarship that includes a groundbreaking examination of Vatican II, La Salle University presented an honorary degree to John W. O’Malley, S.J, a professor of Theology at Georgetown University.
A native of Ohio, Fr. O’Malley earned his bachelor’s degree in classics and his master’s degree in history from Loyola University Chicago and his doctorate in history from Harvard University.
His book The First Jesuits, published in 1993, received both the Jacques Barzun Prize for Cultural History from the American Philosophical Society and the Philip Schaff Prize from the American Society for Church History. Other subjects of his research and scholarship include Jesuit history and culture, the works of Erasmus, a history of the Popes, and, most recently, Vatican II.
Almost 50 years ago, in October 1962, Pope John XXIII opened the first session of the Second Vatican Council, which would become the most significant religious event of the 20th century. Most Americans followed the work of the Council through news reports, but Father O’Malley was actually able to observe the work of the bishops and theologians who had been charged with “opening the windows of the Church” and examining its relationship with the modern world.
In 2008, Father O’Malley’s book entitled, What Happened at Vatican II, was published and has been described not only as “a thorough and detailed history of [the Council],” but also as “a gripping account of the drama of Vatican II”; “one of the best and most needed books about the Second Vatican Council”; “an insightful. . . account that brings Vatican II to life in all its complexity.” The book is widely used in college and university classrooms and is helping us to gain a better understanding of the Council and its place in the larger history of the Church.
In January 2012, John O’Malley was honored by the American Catholic Historical Association for his “sustained contribution to our understanding of Catholic history.”
“Few historians are able to receive awards for their work on the Italian Renaissance, the early Jesuits, and Vatican II–topics that span several centuries,” said Dr. Margaret McGuinness, Chair of La Salle’s Religion Dept., who sponsored O’Malley for the degree. “John O’Malley’s ability to do this means that he is able to see the big picture when it comes to the history of the Catholic Church. As a result, his contributions to the discipline are extraordinarily valuable.”
La Salle University President Br. Michael J. McGinniss, F.S.C., bestowed the honorary degree on O’Malley with these words:
“Father O’Malley, your remarkable lifelong commitment to scholarship and your sharing of your important work through classroom teaching, professional lecturing, and the written word are admirable. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, your insights on this significant event in Church history will continue to guide us as we seek to clarify and strengthen the relationship between the Church and the modern world.
“Moreover, you have clearly made significant contributions to your field of study, to your professional colleagues, and to your students. We at La Salle University value your dedication and your generosity of spirit. Therefore, I am very pleased to confer upon you the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa.”