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When Bishops Meet


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About the Author

John W. O'Malley was University Professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University and the author of many books, including Four Cultures of the West, Trent, Vatican I, What Happened at Vatican II, and The First Jesuits (all from Harvard); The First Jesuits has been translated into twelve languages. He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the American Philosophical Society, and a recipient of the Harvard Centennial Medal as well as Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Society for Italian Historical Studies, the Renaissance Society of America, and the American Catholic Historical Association. O'Malley was a member of the Society of Jesus and a Roman Catholic priest.


This magnificent study shows how the Catholic Church has tried to reconcile faithfulness to its core identity throughout the ages. Drawing on his deeply researched studies of councils, O'Malley illuminates how the Church has moved from Trent's definitions of what was permitted and forbidden to Vatican II's attempt to articulate the Church's identity in the modern world-a plea for reconciliation between humans of all faiths and convictions. -- Charles Taylor, McGill University
A master historian shows how the churches' councils encapsulate the history of Catholicism. -- Anthony Grafton, Princeton University
In John O'Malley's When Bishops Meet-the latest of his five books on ecumenical church councils-he compares and contrasts what he has written on the three last councils and argues that there should be a new one. This is the culmination of a great project. -- Garry Wills * New York Review of Books *
Spirited...Offers a rewarding comparison of the mechanics and mandates of the last three great Councils...O'Malley traces the historical twists and turns with great skill. -- Jonathan Wright * Catholic Herald *
When Bishops Meet comes a decade after the publication by O'Malley of separate illuminating books on the three great councils that shaped the modern Catholic Church: Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II. Newcomers to Catholic history may profitably read the Essay without reading the three books. Those who have already read them will reap a harvest of historical reflection, encountering insight more than restatement. -- Hilmar M. Pabel * The Tablet *
[A] trenchant analysis of the changing roles of the councils' participants and the impact that the councils had on the church and the world. * Publishers Weekly *
O'Malley is one of the greatest Catholic Church historians of the last century...A must-read for the church historian, the theologian, or anyone interested in continuity and discontinuity in the historical tradition of the church. -- Frederick J. Parella * National Catholic Reporter *
Each of these three councils has hallmark issues: Trent on justification, Vatican I on infallibility and Vatican II on the liturgy, to name a few. When Bishops Meet pushes beyond these to what O'Malley calls 'issues-under-the-issues': What do councils do? Do all of them do the same thing? Does church teaching change? Who participated in the councils, and who had the ultimate authority? -- Kevin Jackson * America *
[A] major monograph on all three modern Catholic ecumenical councils. In this short volume, [O'Malley] distills his learning into one highly readable essay. * Anxious Bench *
Yet again, John O'Malley has delivered a scholarly and eminently accessible work on the twists and turns of the early modern and modern Catholic Church...It yields surprisingly fresh insights, and underscores the continuity and discontinuity of contemporary Catholic thought and practice with the past in thought-provoking ways. -- Shaun Blanchard * Newman Studies Journal *
The very decision to consider the three councils together yields new insights not only into the councils themselves, but conciliar history more generally...There is much to praise in O'Malley's new book. It will serve as refresher course for many on aspects of all three councils and will cause readers to look at them collectively in new ways. -- Salvador Ryan * Journal of Ecclesiastical History *

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