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Papal Encyclical: Caring for Creation

The University of Dayton is home to experts from many disciplines who are available to comment about the papal encyclical on the environment as well as its potential influence and impact. Our religious studies scholars have expertise in Catholic history, Christian traditions, the Vatican, religion and culture, religion and politics, faith and science, and much more. Our scholars from other disciplines are examining the encyclical through the lenses of political science, philosophy, communication, sustainability, ecology and human rights.

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.

You are welcome to contact the experts directly or the PR contact will be happy to expedite your requests. 

Click one of the topics above or scroll to view our experts.

Catholic Social Teaching, Religion, 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 Catholic teachings on social justice and politics, as well as the U.S. Catholic Church's involvement in politics and public policy. He blogs for the Jesuit magazine America: The National Catholic Review. He is author of Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture. Miller has been widely sought for his comments on the global financial crisis, the federal budget's impact on the poor, and Catholic social teaching and public policy.

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.

Quote: "That Pope Francis' forthcoming encyclical on the environment will be an important event for both the church and global civil society is abundantly clear in the very public jostling to disarm and discredit it before its release. Francis will exercise his teaching authority into a headwind provided by the profoundly skilled messaging professionals at various climate denial and neo-liberal think tanks. These will do anything to change the subject from the major theological arguments of the encyclical." from "Clues to the Encyclical: It Will be a Theological, Not a Political Argument," in America. 

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) 

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." 

Papal Documents, Encyclicals, Church History, Vatican, Vatican II

Dennis_DoyleDennis Doyle, professor, religious studies,
(w) 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. Doyle's expertise includes papal documents and teachings. He will be examining the encyclical in the context of previous encyclicals, how they have informed Church teachings and influenced change, and how its message relates to Catholic social teaching as well as traditional doctrine.

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 and, among others.

Quote: "I was struck by how the encyclical does not sound like an official document but rather as a person of faith speaking sincerely and knowledgeably to other people. The pope moves back and forth from the personal to the social without ever changing the subject. Science and faith fit together seamlessly for him. 

"Francis doesn't ask for much: just that we change the way we think, relate, behave, and so on. I fear that many of the people whom he is calling out live in such deep denial that few will be able to hear him. The encyclical is deeply touching — I am moved by the interconnectedness of his vision." 

Catholic History, Theology

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

Portier, president of the College Theology Society, is the author of numerous books on U.S. Catholicism and theology and has contributed more than 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.

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."

Environmental Justice, Faith and Science

Sr. Leanne Jablonski

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) 937-426-5388 (c): 937-356-9287,
PR Contact: Shawn Robinson, (o) 937-229-3391, (c) 937-232-2907,
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.

Quotes: 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."  

"A religious statement on the environment is drawing excitement from other Christian denominations and world religious traditions. It is seen as an opportunity for internal education of members as well as raising our collective voices for the integrity of all creation—and about the impact of environmental degradation on the economically poor and vulnerable locally and globally. – from "Promise of Encyclical Stirs Winds of Hope."

Religion and Pop Culture, American Media Framing

Joe_ValenzanoJoe Valenzano III, assistant professor, communications
PR 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: "Americans, and especially American politicians, tend to view international news in a way that places the United States at the center, as when Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum took issue with the upcoming encyclical, stating, "I’m saying, what should the pope use his moral authority for? ...I think there are more pressing problems confronting the earth than climate change." 

"These comments indicate there will be some pushback on the encyclical, and that it will cause some dissonance for religious conservatives in the U.S. who have had a somewhat rocky relationship with the leader of the Catholic Church.  How politicians choose to interpret, deflect or even appropriate the Pope's message and how the Vatican and the American bishops react to those interpretations in the context of an approaching presidential election may shed light on the evolving contours of the political landscape of the U.S. as well as potentially forecast the Church's ability to reach out to new members."

Sustainability, Energy and the Environment

Bob BrechaBob Brecha, Director of Research, Hanley Sustainability Institute
(w) 937-229-2727,
PR Contact: Shawn Robinson, (o) 937-229-3391, (c)

Brecha's expertise is in sustainability, energy and the environment. He has spent summers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Research in Germany, whose founding director John Schellnhube will be part of the press conference presenting Pope Francis' encyclical. At the Institute, Brecha works with economists and scientists investigating a more sustainable world energy system that avoids serious economic consequences while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Brecha is based in Berlin this summer.

Interviewed by: Climate Change magazine, Dayton-area media.

Quote: "Scientists must continue to enlarge our understanding of the climate system. However, the papal encyclical will emphasize the moral dimensions of the challenge to reacting to climate change, and lead the way to action based on the knowledge we already have."

Economic Ethics, Franciscanism, Catholic Church as Economic Entity

Kelly JohnsonKelly Johnson, associate professor, religious studies
(o) 937-229-1336, 
PR Contact: Cilla Shindell, (o) 937-229-3257, (c)

Johnson's expertise is economic ethics, the history of voluntary poverty and Franciscanism, and the theology of property and exchange. She is currently exploring how the Catholic Church functions as an economic entity, its economic practices and how those practices inform the way Catholics think about economics. 

Interviewed by: The Catholic Register (Toronto).

Quote: "One of the things that has made Francis such a powerful figure is that he is a truth teller. I hope that he will find other terms to use than stewardship, other moral arguments to make. He might talk about us as penitents. The damage has been done. If you’re going to be truthful about where we are now with climate change and environmental issues, then we need to be frank with each other about the fact that we have screwed up… How can we repent for what has been done?"

Human Rights and Social Justice


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

Ensalaco 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 fluent in Spanish.

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

The Global Church, Education, Cardinal Peter Turkson

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. Her various roles often take her to the Vatican, where she has worked with Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who will present the encyclical at the June 18 press conference.  

Interviewed by: National Catholic Register, The Catholic Telegraph, Catholic News Service, among others. 

Environmental Policy

Michelle Pautz

Michelle Pautz, associate professor, political science; director of the Master of Public Administration program
PR Contact: Meagan Pant, (o) 937-229-3256, (c) 937-212-2979,

Pautz's research focuses on environmental policy and regulation; government accountability; film and politics; and the administration of policy. She has a Ph.D. in public administration from Virginia Tech. She has worked with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources to develop and implement EPA compliance programs. She co-wrote US Environmental Policy:  21st Century Implementation and Practice and The Lilliputians of Environmental Regulation: The Perspective of State Regulators. 

Quote: "The encyclical, regardless of what is says, is unlikely to have any substantive impact on U.S. environmental policy. There will probably be a handful of politicians who talk about the Pope's message as yet another reason why the country should take action on climate change (presuming it says what it seems like it will), but that'll be it. We're already into the presidential campaign of 2016 and Congress is unlikely to take much action, let alone on a topic that is increasingly a litmus test for politicians."