Cover: When Bishops Meet: An Essay Comparing Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II, from Harvard University PressCover: When Bishops Meet in HARDCOVER

When Bishops Meet

An Essay Comparing Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II

Product Details


$27.00 • £23.95 • €24.95

ISBN 9780674988415

Publication Date: 08/20/2019


240 pages

4-3/8 x 7-1/8 inches

Belknap Press


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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

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

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

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

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

[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

A master historian shows how the churches’ councils encapsulate the history of Catholicism.—Anthony Grafton, Princeton University

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

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