Skip to main content
Seattle University


Fifty Years Later

Written by Mike Thee
October 9, 2012

The 2012-2013 Catholic Heritage Lecture Series kicks off this week as Seattle University welcomes Father Joseph Komonchak, one of world's leading experts on Vatican II. The timing could not be any more perfect as Fr. Komonchak (right) will take the lectern exactly 50 years to the day that the Second Vatican Council was convened. In his talk, which takes place 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11, in Pigott Auditorium, Komonchak will address "Vatican II as an Event."

What an event the Second Vatican Council was! And it wasn't-make that isn't, present tense-"just a Catholic thing." As Father Peter Ely, S.J., vice president for Mission and Ministry reminds us, "Some people call Vatican II the most significant religious event of the 20th century because of its focus on issues like ecumenism, the Church's relations to the world, and religious liberty . It was a very unique moment-2,500 bishops, theologians and observers from around the world coming together to discuss the relationship of the Church with other religions in the world."

Five decades hence "the Church is still living through Vatican II," says Fr. Ely, as its meaning and implications continue to be interpreted. Few have proven themselves more fit for that task than this week's guest. Fr. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at Catholic University of America, is a prolific writer and commentator on the subject. He edited the English edition of the five-volume History of Vatican II and is author of Foundations in Ecclesiology and more than a hundred articles in theological journals. "Joseph Komonchak is cited extensively in many of the books I've read and documentaries I've seen on Vatican II," says Fr. Ely. "He's a very engaging speaker, and we are looking forward to welcoming him to SU."

Entering its third year, the Catholic Heritage Lecture Series is now part of the newly launched Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture. As Provost Isiaah Crawford announced last month, Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos has been named the institute's founding director.

"The institute, as I envision it, will create opportunities and provide support for scholars to continue to examine the influence of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition on important issues of our days as well as invite rigorous scholarship in various disciplines to inform the continued reflection on the intersection of faith and culture, things to be shared with the Seattle University community and the broader public," Punsalan-Manlimos, says. "In so doing, it will contribute both to the wealth of the Catholic intellectual tradition and to broader cultural discourses."

And that, she says, ties in nicely with the theme for this year's lecture series: "Vatican II explicitly acknowledges the importance of faith engaging culture, of engaging the world in all its complexity, and the Catholic Heritage Lecture Series provides us an opportunity to hear from scholars who study the coming together of faith and different dimensions of cultural life.

Komonchak's historical overview of Vatican II will pave the way for the two other speakers in this year's Catholic Heritage Lecture Series. Mary Ann Hinsdale, associate professor of theology at Boston College, will discuss "Vatican II at 50: Toward a Dynamic Understanding of Conciliar Reception" (Jan. 24), followed by Peter Phan, the Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University, who will take up "What Will The Catholic Church Look Like in 2050? A Prognostication From Asia" (April 18).