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Fr. Paul Mankowski remembered as defender of orthodox teaching

Paul mankowski
Courtesy of Lumen Christi Institute
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Jesuit scholar, affiliated with Catholic center at University of Chicago, dies suddenly at age 66.

He worked in a steel mill to help pay for his college education and was on the boxing team at Oxford. Later, he got himself arrested. After he became a priest, he gave away all the money he had received as ordination gifts.

By the time he died this week at age 66, Jesuit Fr. Paul V. Mankowski was one of the most highly regarded thinkers in the Catholic Church.

Fr. Mankowski suffered a brain hemorrhage while waiting to see his dentist Thursday. He was rushed to a hospital in Evanston, Illinois, where he was pronounced dead.

Tributes poured in across Catholic media and social media. Tony Abbot, the former prime minister of Australia, penned a tribute in First Things, in which he recalled meeting Fr. Mankowski at Oxford in 1981.

“He was a Jesuit scholastic, two years into Latin and Greek philosophy at Campion Hall; I was a politics and philosophy freshman at The Queen’s College. We met through the Australian priest and doctoral student John Honner,” Abbot recalled.

“Paul was the first contemporary I’d found who was both an utterly committed Jesuit and a ‘normal’ human being,” wrote Abbot, who was Australia’s prime minister from 2013-2015.

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, commented on Facebook, “We have lost a brilliant scholar of ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern languages and texts, an acute, if acerbic, and always insightful commentator on contemporary religion, politics, and culture, and for many of us a dear friend. The Church has lost a dedicated, faithful priest — at a time when she can ill afford to lose such men.”

At the time of his death, Fr. Mankowski was scholar-in-residence at the Lumen Christi Institute, a Catholic intellectual center at the University of Chicago.

“Over the years, he served our campus community and the wider Chicago area through courses, sacraments, and spiritual direction,” a note on the institute’s website said. “Fr. Paul would regularly gather with students from the University for quarter-long seminars on topics ranging from books of the Bible to the fiction and poetry of Catholic authors. He had an impact on countless students and laypersons. He was known for his dry sense of humor, tireless devotion to the care of souls, depth of intellect, and his broad humanist interests.”

For the past few months, he had been leading a monthly seminar on Shakespeare for young Catholic professionals and leading a small weekly Greek New Testament reading group for university students, said Mark Franzen, Program Coordinator.

According to an obituary on the website of the Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Mankowski was born on November 15, 1953, in South Bend, Indiana. Before entering the Society of Jesus, he earned an AB in classics and philosophy from the University of Chicago.

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