John W. O’Malley, SJ, PhD, is one of the most important scholars in the field of Church history. A University Professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown, Father O’Malley has made unique and outstanding contributions to the intellectual life of the Catholic and global scholarly communities. He deserves the Civitas Dei Medal for many reasons, three in particular.
First, O’Malley, who earned his doctorate at Harvard, has committed more than 60 years to groundbreaking scholarship. For example, his 1993 book, The First Jesuits, marked a new beginning in the tradition of studies on the Society of Jesus. It has been translated into 12 languages.
Second, O’Malley rediscovered and gave new light to a theological tradition rooted in the Church councils held between the 16th and 20th centuries. His 2008 book, What Happened at Vatican II, reopened the debate on the Second Vatican Council in an unparalleled way during a difficult time—for both academia and the Church—in the field of conciliar studies. That publication launched a highly successful trilogy for Harvard University Press: Father O’Malley’s book on the Council of Trent followed in 2013 and, in 2018, his volume on Vatican I.
Finally, this Jesuit priest embodies the vocation of a scholar who contributes to academia, the Church and the public square as a teacher, thinker and writer able to crisscross different audiences, fields, times and places. He moves between the Renaissance and late modernity, America and Rome, theology and history, academic scholarship and ecclesial commitment. His focus is always on helping the Church better understand key moments in the Catholic tradition.
For these and other reasons, Father John O’Malley is a fitting recipient of this award. He personifies the ideal citizen in the Augustine masterpiece that lends its name to the medal.