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IADC Director among editors of new volume on Catholic theology and theological ethics in response to the abuse crisis

A pioneering new book which charts fresh territory for Catholic theology and theological ethics in response to the abuse crisis in the Church has been published.

Edited by the Australian ethicist Daniel J. Fleming, Boston College professor of theological ethics and founder of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church (CTEWC), James F. Keenan SJ, and director of the Institute of Anthropology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Hans Zollner SJ, the new volume features contributions from 22 scholars from 15 different countries spread across Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe and Oceania.

Doing Theology and Theological Ethics in the Face of the Abuse Crisis had its genesis in the spring of 2019, when Keenan and Zollner decided that the Gregorian University’s Centre for Child Protection (now the Institute of Anthropology) and CTEWC would partner to host a ‘theological laboratory’ in March 2020. The purpose of the laboratory was to provide a face-to-face setting for a deeply collaborative exchange of ideas between 80 theologians wrestling with, and seeking to respond to, the abuse crisis in the Church.

Then COVID arrived. Despite numerous attempts to reschedule over 2020 and 2021, it gradually became clear that the laboratory would not happen. Despite this, scholars were already connecting virtually and online and doing what the laboratory hoped to achieve: discussing the issues related to theology and theological ethics in the face of sexual abuse. As such, the editors decided to bring the work together in a volume: sending around a call for papers to the original laboratory participants and other interested parties.

Dr Fleming – who is head of ethics at the Australian health and aged care organisation, St Vincent’s Health Australia – said there was an urgency to the volume, which is not often reflected in works of theology or theological ethics.

“The sheer scale of the undermining of human dignity through sexual abuse that has occurred within the Church asks questions of these disciplines and scholars within them: to what extent have we been blind to these issues?” said Dr Fleming.

“Why have our efforts in theology and theological ethics been so slow to wrestle with this crisis? How are theology and theological ethics implicated in the crisis? And how might the disciplines be constructive in responding?”

Doing Theology and Theological Ethics in the Face of the Abuse Crisis brings forward a diverse range of scholars from all around the world wrestling with these and other questions. Together, the editors hope the volume will be one among other constructive and critical responses to the affront to human dignity that is sexual abuse the in the Church, and the work required to assure human dignity into the future.

Professor Keenan said it was important to the editors of the volume that the writing inside reflects the diversity of voices in the Church – across geography, age, ethnicity and gender.

“Reflecting the composition of leadership that is driving scholarship and change in this area, the volume features an equal number of women and men, a significant proportion of lay theologians and ethicists, and a number of young scholars. All contributors accompany survivors of abuse in the Church in different ways” said Professor Keenan.

Professor Zollner said the volume would be an important contribution to the safeguarding efforts that are underway in many parts of the Church.

“The Church’s theology is in the middle of this crisis and our response to it. Considering the abuse crisis as a locus theologicus means first and foremost thinking about the voice of victims, the presence of victims, the reality of people who have been harmed so grievously by the hands of clergy and other church personnel. The work of safeguarding is only possible if we understand how theology and theological ethics have contributed to the problem of the abuse crisis, and how they might be able to promote the changes necessary to transform our culture and ultimately ensure that all people are safe in our Church.”

The book’s dedication reads: “We dedicate this book to all of those whose flourishing has been undermined by any kind of abuse in the Church. We hope that it will contribute to a future in which the dignity of all who are entrusted to the ministry or care of the Church can be assured.” The timing of the book’s publication is significant, with Pope Francis’ prayer intention for this month dedicated to survivors of abuse and the concrete actions that are required from the Church in responding to this.

The book’s table of contents can be seen on the following pages.

Online, open access edition available now through the Journal of Moral Theology at

 Print edition forthcoming with Pickwick Publishing, 2023.

About the editors:

Daniel J. Fleming is head of ethics for St Vincent’s Health Australia and Adjunct Professor of Ethics in the School of Medicine at the University of Note Dame Australia. Fleming holds a PhD in moral philosophy and theology, and is the author of over 50 academic and media publications in the areas of theological ethics, health care ethics and moral education. He is an active member of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church (CTEWC), and co-chairs CTEWC’s virtual table on the topic of abuse in the Church with James F. Keenan, SJ.

James F. Keenan, S.J., is the Canisius Chair, director of the Jesuit Institute, and vice provost of global engagement at Boston College. In addition to being a distinguished scholar, with over 25 books and 300 essays published, he is also the founder of the Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church (CTEWC) network. His most recent book is A History of Catholic Theological Ethics. Receiving a licentiate and a doctorate from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Keenan has been a Jesuit priest since 1982.

Hans Zollner, SJ, is Director and Professor of the Institute of Anthropology. Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care (IADC,, at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He holds a doctorate in systematic theology from the University of Innsbruck and is a psychologist and licensed psychotherapist. He has been a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors since its inception in 2014.

Media contact:

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Professor Hans Zollner SJ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.