News : Catholic Experts

Papal Visit Experts

University of Dayton experts in religious studies — especially U.S. Catholic history — and other disciplines are available to comment on Pope Francis' historic visit to the U.S. 

Their expertise includes theology, the U.S. Catholic experience, Catholic history, Christian traditions, the Vatican, religion and culture, religion and politics, and many more. The world's media turned to many of them for insight on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and transition to Pope Francis. Visit "The Catholic Church's Next Chapter" and "Habemus Papam" and "Caring for Creation" for their commentary on the papal transition as well as the environmental encyclical. 

For satellite TV interviews, University of Dayton media relations usually works through ThinkTV, which is 10 minutes from campus, and will try to accommodate other arrangements in Cincinnati or Columbus, which are 60-75 minutes away.Click one of the topics above or scroll to view our experts.

Theology, Church History, Pope and Papacy, Vatican and Vatican II


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

Doyle 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, Al Jazeera America, Los Angeles Times, National Catholic Reporter among others.

The Associated Press talked to Doyle in August, 2015, about the pope's comments on divorce: "'He's (Pope Francis) not saying anything goes. He's saying that we've got to look at this through the eyes of the small children,' Doyle said. 'He wants this situation to be addressed in a pastoral manner that is open and welcoming. I don't think it's possible to say exactly what policy will come out.'"

Catholic Social Teaching, Politics and Culture


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

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. 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, among others.

Catholic History, Theology, Catholic 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)

Portier, president of the College Theology Society, is the author of books on U.S. Catholicism and theology, including Divided Friends, Portraits of the Roman Catholic Modernist Crisis in the United States (2013). He has contributed nearly 100 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. In 2015, he received the American Catholic Historical Association's Distinguished Scholar Award. He is a member of the National Board of the Lilly Fellows Program Network. He frequently comments on aspects of pop culture and religion. 

Interviewed by: The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, The Catholic Telegraph, The Associated Press, among others.

Quote: "Pope Francis has created a new interactive genre of papal teaching — the papal interview. He talks about God and Jesus and the church in language ordinary people understand. The pope is such a ubiquitous part of the daily news cycle you’d think he was a Kardashian.

“The most important thing for Americans to remember about Pope Francis is that he's not from the United States. His world is not defined by our cultural divisions over such issues as marriage and the environment. He might just be able to teach us how we and our way of life look from what he calls the periphery. If he can do this, at the same time showing real appreciation for our gifts, he will prove himself a more formidable holy man and religious genius than I already think he is.”

Theology and Social Media, Marriage and Family


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

Bennett is co-editor of the blog, where she writes on a wide range of issues in contemporary Catholic life, from sexual ethics to consumer culture to the intersection between politics and religion. Bennett maintains academic research in the following areas of Catholic thought: feminism, marriage, singleness, disability, technology use, and generational shifts in practicing the faith. She is currently writing a book called Single Life and the Christian Life under contract with Oxford University Press, and another book on hearing loss and the importance of contemplation.

Interviewed by: The New York Times, National Catholic Reporter, Religion News Service, The Washington Post, among others.

Quote: "The pope's visit to the U.S. is likely to set off some explosions for Catholics. In his encyclical Laudato Si', Pope Francis made no secret of disliking the kind of consumerist, dollar-driven lifestyle that comprises much of the way we live here in the West. I think the pope's visit will bring American Catholics more starkly face-to-face with the disparity between our lives and the lives of our Catholic brothers and sisters elsewhere in the globe.

"This pope has, again and again, connected family life to Catholic social teaching about economics and politics. Sexual ethics and social ethics can't be separated. Expect Pope Francis' September visit to the U.S. to highlight the disarray of families in the Western hemisphere as connected to our consumerist lifestyle. Expect the pope's focus on his U.S. tour also to be a large part of Synod discussions in October."

Religion and Pop Culture, American Media Framing

Joe_ValenzanoJoe Valenzano III; interim chair, assistant professor, communications
Media Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c)
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 teaches a course called "Priests, Preachers and Politics: Religious Communication."

Interviewed by: CNBC, Bloomberg, NPR, Catholic News Service, among others.

Quote: "Pope Francis' first visit to the United States as pontiff will certainly be a media frenzy.  Many in the US will try to politicize his message for their own gain, especially given the fact the presidential election cycle is heating up.  Those on the left will try to depict the pope as more socially liberal than all his predecessors, while those on the right will look to his staunch opposition of abortion.  This pope, however, is the most media savvy since Pope John Paul II--perhaps more so-- and will make every effort to stay out of domestic politics while still advocating on behalf of those on the margins of society.  At the end of the day, the Pope will be contending with an enormous field of presidential candidates in the fight over how his message will be interpreted."

Environmental Justice

Sr. Leanne Jablonski, S.M.

Sr. Leanne Jablonski, FMI, scholar-in-residence for faith and environment, Hanley Sustainability Institute; adjunct professor, religious studies; coordinator of the University's Sustainability, Energy and Environment learning-living community; director, Marianist Environmental Educational Center (MEEC)

(o) 937-429-3582, PR Contact: Cilla Shindell, (o) 937-229-3257, (c)

Jablonski, a Marianist sister with a Ph.D. in plant physiological ecology and global climate change, directs the 100-acre Marianist Environmental Education Center and focuses on ecological restoration through research and service-learning, bridging the faith and science communities, spirituality, and environmental justice. She also serves as the Ohio Coordinator for the Catholic Climate Covenant, is past chair of the environmental justice section of the Ecological Society of America, and environmental team coordinator for Nuns-on-the-Bus Ohio. 

National Catholic Reporter highlighted her work in teaching key Catholic principles about the environment.Interviewed by: National Catholic Reporter, The Columbus Dispatch and The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

Quote: "Pope Francis' encyclical is built on sound science, interweaving an understanding of ecosystems, climate change, pollution realities and the impact of humans on biodiversity with a call to become ecological converts who heed the cry of the poor. Highlighting solutions — reducing deforestation, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources — Pope Francis invites scientists, people of faith, elected officials and all humankind to make personal choices and to find public policy solutions. Like Noah, he says, we can play an important role in saving creation by taking action in a time of need."  

Divestment, Aligning Investments with Catholic Mission

Paul Benson

Paul Benson, interim provost, professor of philosophy
(o) 937-229-2295,
PR Contact: Cilla Shindell, (o) 937-229-3257, (c) 937-367-2889, 

The University of Dayton is the first U.S. Catholic university to divest coal and fossil fuels from its $670 million investment pool. As interim provost, Benson has been integral to the initiative, which brings the University's investments into alignment with its Catholic, Marianist mission. The new investment policy was announced in June, 2014, reflecting the University's commitment to environmental sustainability, human rights and religious mission.

Interviewed by: National Catholic Reporter, 

Quote: "Divesting from fossil fuels is going to be very high priority for Catholic institutions. The University of Dayton's decision-making process was rooted in a clear sense of our mission and identity. We weren't starting from ground zero – our investment policy has long reflected our Catholic values.

"For the divestment decision, we needed a deep understanding of what Catholic social teaching had to say about care for the Earth and a healthy discussion about what fiduciary responsibility means to a Catholic institution. It takes strong resolve at the front end and considerable time to allow a deliberative process that will build a strong consensus." 

Historical Perspective, Women in the Church

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

Yocum, past-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 has published articles in encyclopedias and several journals including Theological Studies, Horizons, Church History, U.S. Catholic Historian. She co-edited American Catholic Traditions: Resources for Renewal with William Portier. 

Interviewed by: National Catholic Reporter, The Associated Press,, Los Angeles Times, Voice of Russia, among others.

Quote: "Those who are trying to understand Pope Francis might put aside the labels: left and right, liberal and conservative and consider Francis's long formation under the tutelage of the Jesuits.

"Those teachings proclaim that all in this world is gift from God, that every aspect of life, however joyful or sorrowful, is gift, an opportunity to grow in love of God, and that one's whole life ought to be an ever-growing love of God that manifests itself in the daily actions of everyday living. Imagine yourself in prayer before Christ on the cross, and asking 'What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ?'  These 'Spiritual Exercises' of the Jesuits are what has shaped Francis in his life and his ministry."

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)

Ensalaco is also an associate political science professor who specializes in political violence and terrorism. He is a former member of Peace and Social Justice Advisory Committee of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the Catholic Relief Services' Scholars in Global Solidarity. He is a former member of the Ohio attorney general's trafficking in persons study commission and a co-founder of the local anti-trafficking group Abolition Ohio. He is fluent in Spanish.

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

African-American Catholic History

Cecelia Moore

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

Cecilia A. Moore graduated magna cum laude from Sweet Briar College with an A.B. in history and religion and from the University of Virginia with a M.A. and a Ph.D. in American Religious History. She has taught at the University of Dayton in the Department of Religious Studies since 1996 and at Xavier University of Louisiana since 1998, where she currently is an an adjunct faculty member of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana.

Her area of specialization is U.S. Catholic history and she is currently working on the history of black conversion to Roman Catholicism in the 20th century. In addition to publishing in numerous scholarly and popular journals, Dr. Moore co-edited Songs of Our Hearts and Meditations of Our Souls: Prayers for Black Catholics published by St. Anthony Messenger Press in 2006.

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)

For more than 40 years, Zukowski 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, Catholic News Service, among others.