The Berkley Center and greater Georgetown community mourn the loss of scholar, colleague, and friend Gerard Mannion, who passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, September 21.
Mannion was a senior research fellow at the Berkley Center and the Joseph and Winifred Amaturo Chair in Catholic Studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Georgetown University. His work was dedicated to investigating the role of the church in the world and promoting ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.
Mannion came to Georgetown and the center in January 2014. Vice President for Global Engagement Thomas Banchoff, who at the time was the Berkley Center director, and Managing Director Michael Kessler were involved in the recruitment efforts.
Kessler recalls, “Upon first meeting Gerard, his energy and dedication to public scholarship was apparent. His work on a broad range of ethical and ecclesiological concerns increased our understanding of the Church’s changing role in the modern world. His Berkley Center colleagues mourn his loss.”
A Builder of Networks
Mannion’s career is marked by his commitment to being a public scholar in every sense of the word. Much of his effort was put toward forming networks and communities of scholars in order to amplify their voices.
In 2007, Mannion was instrumental in forming the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network (EI), a hub for international collaboration in ecclesiology. The network was founded upon the principle that the church must be inclusive if it is to be relevant and fulfill its mission, and as such has supported a large number of conferences around the globe on a diverse range of themes.
At Georgetown, EI sponsored a three-day conference “Vatican II – Remembering the Future” in May 2015 that invited a diverse set of international scholars and religious leaders to explore the historical context and vision of the council, discuss the multiple new ways in which the Catholic Church engaged with the wider world through the council, and consider the role of the council in advancing interfaith dialogue and relations.
Banchoff, who introduced the conference, said of Mannion, “Gerard was a wonderful colleague and innovative theologian whose work creatively explored the historical import of the Second Vatican Council and its full contemporary implications. His death is a great loss for Georgetown, the academy, and the Church.”
Engaging Beyond Academia
Mannion served as a key organizer of the Vatican II meeting and opened the event with the observation that “what the EI events seek to do is to invite and encourage all participants to become as involved throughout the days we are together as fully as possible and not simply to speak about dialogue here but genuinely to engage one another in dialogue both during and beyond the gathering itself.”
Mannion was himself deeply committed to honoring this call to engage beyond the confines of conferences and academic gatherings, appearing in a number of public media outlets, and often pushing the Catholic Church to face and critically address its problematic past.
In 2015, Mannion appeared on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show to discuss badly needed reform efforts of the Vatican Bank. And after the Pennsylvania grand jury report documenting clerical sexual abuse was released in summer 2018, Mannion took to TIME Magazine to offer a blistering criticism of U.S. bishops and a call for accountability.
Department of Theology Chair and Berkley Center Senior Research Fellow William Werpehowski said of Mannion, “Gerard was a remarkably active and significant presence here in the department and in the university at large. He was also an astute and lively public theologian who wrote with clarity and insight.”
Pursuing Personal Passions
Mannion’s many scholarly pursuits and public engagements did not prevent him from following personal passions, and beginning about four years ago, he found a way to bring the personal and professional together in the Global Irish Studies Initiative at Georgetown University.
An Irish citizen himself, Mannion teamed up with colleagues Irene Jillson and Cóilín Parsons to build off of Georgetown’s many current and historical Irish ties in order to form an ambitious initiative designed to pioneer new research and teaching efforts focused on Irish studies.
The initiative also serves to raise the profile of global Irish studies, including high-level events, such as “A Generation of Peace: Northern Ireland, Then and Now,” which focused on the legacy and durability of the Good Friday Agreement and included reflections from agreement negotiator George Mitchell.
A Sincere Colleague
Alongside Mannion’s many public outreach efforts were his attempts to build community and foster a collegial environment at the center. Associate Director for Programs and Outreach Claudia Winkler recalls fondly how personable Mannion was:
“I still remember the first time I got to know Gerard. It was the day of the center's annual summer outing some years ago. When some staff members decided to continue their conversations at a local restaurant, other faculty members went home, but Gerard joined us, and that really struck me. He was a serious scholar, but he never took himself too seriously. He was always genuine and kind and was able to connect with people on an intellectual and a personal basis.”
Reflecting on Mannion’s passing and his role in the center, Berkley Center Director Shaun Casesy added, “We are deeply saddened and shocked by the news of the untimely death of our friend and beloved colleague Gerard Mannion. Gerard was a widely published, internationally renowned scholar who was a stalwart member of the Berkley Center faculty. We extend our condolences to his family, and we rejoice in his memory.”
A memorial Mass was held at Dahlgren Chapel on Friday, October 4 at 3:30 p.m. A reception followed in the Dahlgren Quadrangle.
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Noted Irish Theologian and Ecumenist Gerard Mannion Dies at 48
National Catholic Reporter
September 27, 2019
Theology Studies Professor Gerard Mannion Dies