News : Pope Experts

The Catholic Church's Next Chapter

With the announcement of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis, the Catholic Church enters a new chapter of history.

The University of Dayton's internationally renowned theologians and faculty experts on the pope, the papacy, the Vatican and the Catholic Church are available to comment on this critical moment for the church. You can read their comments about the transition below or their reaction to the announcement of Pope Francis by clicking on the related link at the bottom of the page.

Theology, church history, Vatican II


Dennis Doyle, professor, religious studies
(o) 937-229-4219,
PR Contact: Cilla Shindell, (o) 937-229-3257, (c) 937-367-2889,

Dennis Doyle is a religious studies professor at the University of Dayton. He is a Catholic theologian and author of The Church Emerging from Vatican II

Interviewed by: The Associated Press, The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail (UK), Catholic News Service

Quote: "It has been said that the most fundamental theological point about Vatican II (1962-65) is that it was the first true expression of the Catholic Church as a world church.  There were bishops from throughout the world present and playing important roles. Vatican II marked the beginning of a new era in which the Catholic Church could no longer act as if it were an export company for European culture.  After almost two thousand years of being based in Hellenistic and then European culture, the Catholic Church must become truly inculturated in a global way.  The Gospel needs to be able to take root in various ways that reflect the different cultures in which the Gospel is preached and lived. 

"Now in 2013, as the center of gravity of the Catholic Church has shifted to the southern hemisphere and the world church is reality, a pope from Latin America or Africa or the Philippines has to be considered a serious possibility."

Catholic social teaching, politics and culture


Vincent J. Miller, professor of religious studies and Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture
PR Contact: Cilla Shindell, (o) 937-229-3257, (c) 937-367-2889,

Vincent J. Miller is professor and Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton. Miller is an expert on religion and politics, religion and consumer culture, the U.S. Catholic Church's involvement in politics and public policy, social justice and public policy and the moral consequences of budgetary policies. He is author of Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture and is currently working on a book on the effect of globalization on religious belief. Formerly of Georgetown University, Miller has been widely sought for his comments on the global financial crisis, Catholic social teaching and the federal budget's impact on the poor.

Interviewed by: Fox News (The O'Reilly Factor), The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Washington PostNational Catholic Reporter, Catholic News Service, Religion News Service.

Quote: "Pope Benedict XVI's statement is every bit as striking as his resignation itself. It deserves attention before talk turns to succession. This is not simply a retirement from the hectic pace of public office. Benedict emphasizes the humanity of the papacy and the demands of history. He humbly admits that he no longer possesses the mental and physical strength to lead the church as it faces rapid changes and is shaken by deep questions concerning the life of faith. Always the theologian, Benedict is carefully refining the definition of the papacy even as he leaves it."

Catholic Identity; Authority, Dissent and Community; Catholic Intellectual Life

Dan_ThompsonDaniel Thompson, associate professor and chair, religious studies
(o) 937-229-4539,

PR Contact: Cilla Shindell, (o) 937-229-3257, (c) 937-367-2889,

Daniel Thompson has written about Catholic identity and the Catholic intellectual tradition. His research and writings have focused on the challenge of dissent with church authority and how faith communities stay together in the face of change.

Interviewed by: The Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today

Quote: "The thought that the white smoke will indicate the arrival of a Church savior, an ecclesiastical strongman who will single-handedly solve the Church's problems, actually contributes to a passivity among the people of God and is, in fact, a denial that God works in and through the whole community. Every Catholic, every local church, every bishop, and every cardinal also share responsibility for grappling with the Church's problems and speaking up when the Church falls short of its mission.

"The pope does have real power in the Church, but the irony is that real papal power works best when the pope does not think of himself as the Church's savior or as the sole person through whom the real Savior works. When the pope uses his authority to create a Church where the people of God can better share responsibility and express their voices, then his office becomes truly effective."

Catholic history, theology, higher education

Bill_PortierWilliam Portier, Mary Ann Spearin Chair of Catholic Theology
(o) 937-229-4435,
PR Contact: Cilla Shindell, (o) 937-229-3257, (c) 937-367-2889,

William Portier is the author of books on U.S. Catholicism and theology and has contributed nearly one hundred articles and reviews in the areas of theology, U.S. Catholic history, and Catholic higher education. His article "Here Come the Evangelical Catholics" was chosen by the College Theology Society for the 2005 Award for Best Journal Article.

Interviewed by: The Washington Post, NPR, The Catholic Telegraph

Quote: "Obviously, the center of growth in the Catholic church is shifting to the Southern Hemisphere. Sociologically, in an environment of pluralism, where there are so many choices and alarming trends away from churchgoing in Europe and the U.S., institutions — even the Catholic Church — have to fight for marketshare. Theologically and in accordance with Jesus's command, the church and the pope must go out into the world to preach the Gospel. In any event, churches that don't evangelize will die."

The global church, education, communication

angela_ann_zukowskiSister Angela Ann Zukowski, M.H.S.H., director, Institute for Pastoral Initiatives
(o) 937-229-3126,
PR Contact: Cilla Shindell, (o) 937-229-3257, (c) 937-367-2889, 

For more than 40 years, Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, M.H.S.H. has served the church at the Vatican and around the world as an advocate for global communication. She was a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications (Vatican) 1994-2002 and received the "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" Medal from Pope John Paul II in Rome in 2001.

Interviewed by: National Catholic Register, The Catholic Telegraph

Quote: "Pope Benedict XVI's resignation has set the stage for contemplating a new perspective on Ecclesial (Church) leadership. I believe this may be one of the most significant moments for the Catholic Church in the 21st century — not just a new perspective on papal leadership but how the cardinals in the conclave reflect upon what the Catholic Church needs for prophetically leading the Church into the 21st century."

Historical perspective, women in the church

Sandra_Yocum Sandra Yocum, associate professor, religious studies
(o) 937-229-4322,
PR Contact: Cilla Shindell, (o) 937-229-3257, (c) 937-367-2889,

Sandra Yocum, president of the College Theology Society, is a well-known writer and lecturer nationally on U.S. Catholic life and thought. Her research interests include U.S. Catholic history and women in the Church, and the Catholic sex abuse crisis. She's working on a book to be published summer 2013 on clergy sex abuse. She's an associate professor of religious studies and former chair of the department.

Interviewed by: National Catholic Reporter, The Associated Press

Quote: "It remains to be seen if his action will set a new precedent for future popes, but it may have a lasting effect on the papacy. In 1870, the pope lost the temporal powers of the papacy (territorial authority) with the creation of the Vatican state. That started an era of a focus on spiritual leadership. Pope Benedict's decision to step down accentuates the human dimension of the papacy. Will we now view the papacy in a different light? Will the pope delegate more of the responsibilities of the papacy?"

Religion and pop culture, American media framing

Joe_ValenzanoJoe Valenzano III, assistant professor, communications
PR Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c) 937-212-2979,

Valenzano's research interests include rhetoric and public communication, political communication, religious communication and culture, and communication education. He has written about Pope John Paul II's death as a final homily and Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Turkey. He has a Ph.D. from Georgia State University in public communication. He teaches a course called "Priests, Preachers and Politics: Religious Communication"

Interviewed by: CNBC, Bloomberg, NPR, Catholic News Service

Quote: "The media is reporting on the election process within an American political context, using words like 'candidates,' 'campaigns,' 'front-runners,' 'endorsements.' Theologians will try to explain the election process, yet the dominant narrative will be some application of the political process. Those things just don't fit. It's like fitting a square peg into a round hole."

Theology and social media


Jana Bennett, associate professor, religious studies
(o) 937-229-4196, 
PR Contact: Cilla Shindell, (o) 937-229-3257, (c)

Jana Bennett is associate editor of the blog Catholic Moral Theology ( and writes on moral theology in relation to marriage, feminism, disability, the Internet and social media.

Interviewed by: The New York Times, National Catholic Reporter, Religion News Service

Quote: "The next pope will need to deal much more with the perceived 'lay/hierarchy' split and also the strains of globalization and what it means to be a very global and southern church. But I also think the next pope will need to be willing to take on several of the questions Pope Benedict also identified: to think through and act on the environmental concerns, what it means to be a technological generation, and the effects of a Western secular-humanist culture on people's belief in and desire to follow Christ.

"Pope Benedict XVI leaves a field of seeds he has planted, some of which have yet to come to fruition, and some that have not been well-planted and need further thought out — the church's relationship to technology; the burgeoning questions that a new generation of youth and adults have about sexuality which need more care and time. Some of those seeds need more coaxing or development — Pope Benedict's astounding legacy with environmental causes. Some seeds may need to be entirely replanted entirely — the church's Jewish-Christian relationships and global relationships."

Human rights and social justice


Mark Ensalaco, Director of Human Rights Research
(o) 937-229-2750,
PR Contact: Shawn Robinson, (o) 937-229-3391, (c)

Mark Ensalaco is an associate political science professor and director of human rights research. He is also a former member of Peace and Social Justice Advisory Committee and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. He is fluent in Spanish.

Interviewed by: Reuters, CNN en Español, Christian Science Monitor, The Associated Press

African-American Catholic history

Cecelia Moore

Cecilia Moore, associate professor, religious studies
PR Contact: Cilla Shindell, (o) 937-229-3257, (c)

Cecilia Moore is a religious studies associate professor at the University of Dayton and Associate Director of the Degree Program for the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana. Her area of specialization is U.S. Catholic history and currently she is working on the history of black conversion to Roman Catholicism in the 20th century.  

Quote: "I think African-American Catholics find what is happening to Catholic schools in the inner cities very concerning because those schools have been very important in those communities. A lot of dioceses in the inner cities have closed schools or turned them into charter schools, which creates an absence of stable institutions. The schools have been an important evangelizer in the black community. Many black Catholics have entered the faith because they were educated in Catholics schools."

"Some black Catholics may also feel that we've fallen off the page in terms of our needs, our interests and what we bring to the church. Dioceses have closed offices that served black Catholics or merged them into multicultural offices, so those things are not being attended to." 

"No one knows what the impact of a new pope will be on any of us Catholics. I think it's important for us to let things happen and see things happen."