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Kelly Johnson

Associate Professor; Fr. Ferree Chair of Social Justice

Full-Time Faculty

College of Arts and Sciences: Religious Studies


Email: Kelly Johnson
Phone: 937-229-1336
SJH 433
Curriculum Vitae: Read CV


  • B.A., Theology, University of Notre Dame, 1986, Summa cum laude
  • M.A., Liturgical Studies, University of Notre Dame, 1987, with honors
  • Ph.D., Theology and Ethics, Duke University, 2001


Dr. Johnson’s scholarship focuses on the relationship of the supernatural end and theological virtues to social ethics, particularly on economic practices of the Church. She works at the intersections of history, theology and ethics, exploring ways the church has understood revelation and practiced discipleship, considering, for example, arguments justifying the ownership of slaves, arguments for and against devotional mendicancy and defenses of private property, notably the emergence of "stewardship."

Raised by Catholic parents in East Tennessee, Dr. Johnson has been immersed from childhood in an ecumenical context. Much of her current work is in conversation with Catholic and Reformation traditions, particularly those that see themselves called to congregational discipleship in ways that challenge nationalism and economic privilege. Her intellectual hero is Peter Maurin.

Faculty perspective

"Given my history of combining activism and scholarship, I was attracted to UD by this community's deep commitment to practical engagement informed and fed by Catholic faith. My writing these days centers on questions of ecclesiology and economic ethics. In what ways, for example, does the Church function as an economic entity? How has it done so in the past? What are its economic practices and how do those inform the way Catholics think about economics? I've pursued these questions into studies of voluntary begging, offertory collections, and intercessory prayer, and I hope to continue mining Christian history and current practice for a deeper theological understanding of property and exchange."

Research interests

  • Theological virtues and social ethics
  • Gendered virtues
  • Ecclesial ethics
  • Theology and economics
  • Voluntary poverty and mendicancy
  • Religious communities as forces in social change
  • Peacemaking
  • The catholic worker
  • Catholic social tradition