Timothy O'Malley
Timothy O'Malley
" Journalism —religious or not — should raise questions. It should be an eruption of seeking truth.

" Timothy O’Malley Notre Dame professor and keynote speaker for July 6 at the Catholic Media Conference in Portland
To help retain and bring people to the church, Catholic communicators ought to present the truth and avoid propaganda. That’s the view of Timothy O’Malley, a professor at the University of Notre Dame and an expert in disaffiliation — people leaving or staying away from the church.

O’Malley will give the keynote address for July 6 at the Catholic Media Conference in Portland.

He is director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life and academic director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy.

Mass attendance has dropped over the years and plummeted during the pandemic. It has yet to return to pre-2020 levels. People often ask O’Malley what is happening.

“The temptation is to think about disaffiliation as reducible to a problem of communication,” he says. “If we only more clearly articulated all the doctrines or restored the integrity of the church in the public sphere, everything will be okay. But this ignores the wider social and cultural changes linked to institutions as a whole.”

In his talk in July, O’Malley will point out those social changes and suggest how journalists might engage in a process of social and cultural renewal that will enable the church to flourish anew.

“I suspect the best thing that Catholic journalists can do is to pursue the truth,” O’Malley says. “Institutional distrust is so high right now, often because rather than seek truth, institutions engage in the production of propaganda. This is what so much journalism has become. We only focus on our tribe, our ideas, whatever comforts us. Journalism —religious or not — should raise questions. It should be an eruption of seeking truth.”

O’Malley said that Catholics need not fear the truth, since Jesus is the Logos, the truth become flesh.

“The more that we pursue the truth, the more we conform ourselves to Christ,” says O’Malley. “And that, in the end, is attractive.”

O’Malley is a cradle Catholic who says he has fallen more in love with Catholicism over the years. But he has observed young people become more and more suspicious of the church. In his course on marriage, which draws almost 300 students, he takes their concerns seriously.

O’Malley’s dream for the church is that it pursue holiness, but not in a sectarian way, cut off from the world. He dreams of a holiness “that enters into every crack and crevice of the cosmos.”

O'Malley, originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, is married and has two children.

He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Notre Dame, majoring in theology and philosophy. He holds a master’s in liturgical studies also from the University of Notre Dame. He completed a doctorate at Boston College in theology and education, focusing on an Augustinian approach to liturgical formation.

He is the author of a number of books, most recently “Off the Hook: God, Love, Dating, and Marriage in a Hookup World” (Ave Maria Press, 2018) and “Lift Up Your Hearts: Liturgical Formation in the RCIA” (Liturgical Press, 2019).

O’Malley loves to hike and will likely find some good paths in Oregon. He’s loyal to Notre Dame sports and, beware Yankee fans, all the professional sports teams of New England.