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Massimo Faggioli, PhD - Villanova University. Villanova, PA, US

Massimo Faggioli, PhD Massimo Faggioli, PhD

Professor of Theology and Religious Studies | College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Villanova University


Massimo Faggioli, PhD, is an expert on the history and administrative inner workings of the Catholic Church and of the papacy.



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Areas of Expertise (7)

Pope Francis American Catholicism Church History Religion Catholicism and World/European Politics Historical Theology and Ecclesiology History of Christianity


Massimo Faggioli, PhD is a leading authority on the history and administrative inner workings of the Catholic Church with specific expertise in the papacy, Vatican II, the Roman Curia, liturgical reform, new Catholic movements and on Catholicism and global politics. Frequently featured in the national and international media, Faggioli can comment on a diversity of theological, religious and Church-related issues ranging from the historical to the contemporary.

Education (2)

University of Turin: PhD

Università di Bologna: MA

Select Accomplishments (4)

2018 Catholic Press Association Award (professional)


Third place for the book "Catholicism and Citizenship: Political Cultures of the Church in the Twenty-First Century” (Collegeville MN, Liturgical Press, 2017) in the category “Faithful Citizenship / Religious Freedom”

Honorary Degree: Doctor of Theology, honoris causa (professional)


Received an honorary Doctor of Theology degree, honoris causa, from Sacred Heart University, during a Special Academic Convocation.

Jerome Award of The Catholic Library Association (professional)


The Jerome Award, established in 1992, is presented by the Academic Libraries, Archives, and Library Education Section through the Jerome Award Committee. Named after St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church (331-420), patron of librarians, it is awarded in recognition of outstanding contribution and commitment to excellence in scholarship which embody the ideals of the Catholic Library Association.

2015 Excellence in Publishing Book Award (professional)

Association of Catholic Publishers for the book Sorting Out Catholicism: Brief History of the New Ecclesial Movements (Collegeville MN: Liturgical Press, 2014), first place ex aequo in the category “General interest”.

Affiliations (13)

  • Contributing Writer, Commonweal Magazine
  • Columnist, La Croix International
  • Huffington Post Columnist
  • American Academy of Religion (AAR)
  • American Catholic Historical Association (ACHA)
  • America Catholic Historical Society (ACHS)
  • American Historical Association (AHA)
  • Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA)
  • Associazione Teologica Italiana (ATI)
  • Società Italiana per la storia dell’età moderna (SISEM)
  • Società Italiana per lo studio della storia contemporanea (SISSCO)
  • Rete Ricercatori Archivio Segreto Vaticano (Ricercatori ASV)
  • Staff writer, Il Regno (Italy

Select Media Appearances (16)

Pope Francis Has a Blind Spot on Sexual Misconduct—and It Begins With His Own Advisory Council

Mother Jones  online


When Pope Francis said last week that he would summon leading Catholic bishops to Rome for an unprecedented summit on the clergy sex abuse scandal, the Vatican included a superficially innocuous detail in the announcement … Massimo Faggioli, a professor of historical theology at Villanova University, said Francis may be inclined against disciplining Pell so as to not unnecessarily influence his criminal case. “It’s a fundamental rule of caution,” he said.

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Francis summons world's bishop presidents to Rome for meeting on clergy abuse

National Catholic Reporter  online


Massimo Faggioli, a professor of historical theology at Villanova University, said that Francis' calling of the presidents of the conferences to Rome was a "change of course" from how his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI had considered the national entities.

Under the previous pontiffs, said Faggioli, there was "more emphasis on the individual bishop's authority and less on the bishops' conferences."

"The abuse crisis has changed this," said the theologian. "This rebalancing is one of the effects of the abuse crisis on Catholic ecclesiology."

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Forced removal of Pope nearly impossible — despite call for resignation from within Vatican

Canadian Broadcasting Company  online


Child sex abuse allegations have prompted pointed accusations of a cover-up within the Catholic Church but also intense scrutiny over the actions of Pope Francis, with a former Vatican ambassador to Washington calling for his resignation … Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, said that John Paul II was incapacitated in the last months of his life, and it was well known that his personal secretary was making decisions on his behalf.

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Pope Francis Embraces Silence as Calls Grow for Response to Allegations

The New York Times  online


The notion of the pope as the embodiment of church orthodoxy emerged only in the 19th century, according to Massimo Faggioli, a professor of historical theology at Villanova University and a contributor to liberal Catholic journals.

Conversely, Pope Francis, he said, “is not doing anything to stop” theologians. Mr. Faggioli argued that, as a Jesuit, Francis wants to foster debate so a spirit of discernment can lead people to the truth. “Francis had encouraged in the church an openness of opinions,” he said.

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Here Are the Catholic Church Politics Behind That Letter Calling on Pope Francis to Resign

TIME  online


Massimo Faggioli, a theology and religious studies professor at Villanova University, says the charges in Vigano’s letter are motivated by a personal vendetta on behalf of conservative American Catholics. “People are especially upset with the fact that Francis is opening the church on sexuality and homosexuality,” Faggioli tells TIME. “So, here you have a very cynical alliance with a cynical agenda that has nothing to do with the sex abuse crisis.”

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Who is Carlo Maria Vigano, the man accusing Pope Francis of covering up sex abuse?

The Los Angeles Times  online


“This letter has everything to do with factions in the church that are vying for power and influence,” said Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology at Villanova University who studies the Vatican. “You have a convergence of interests that is making this a huge mess in the U.S. Catholic Church.”

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The 'coup' against Pope Francis

CNN  online


"This is a coup operation against Pope Francis," said Massimo Faggioli, a professor of Catholic history and theology at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.
"It is a stunning convergence between the personal agenda of Vigano and the theological agenda of those who do not like Pope Francis."

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Faggioli: a great power vacuum has been created in the U.S. Church

La Stampa  online


“The abuse scandal and delegitimization of the episcopate has created a great power vacuum in the Church” in the United States, where there is “a corporate mentality that sees the Pope as the CEO and his bishops as managers he can simply fire”. Massimo Faggioli, professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University in Philadelphia explains in this interview with Vatican Insider .

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The Pope’s letter on abuse

PRI's The World  radio


Pope Francis issued a letter today addressing a mounting crisis in the Catholic Church surrounding the sexual abuse of children by priests. Francis used the word "crimes" to describe what has gone on over many years, but he offered no details about accountability. The World's religion reporter Matthew Bell has the story.

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Vatican Expresses Sorrow, Calls for Accountability After Pennsylvania Report

The Wall Street Journal  online


A Vatican spokesman on Thursday expressed “shame and sorrow” about the allegations of abuse by more than 300 Catholic clergymen in Pennsylvania over 70 years that were detailed in a grand jury report released Tuesday … Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University, gave Pope Francis credit for doing “a number of things that his predecessors never did, like firing bishops. And Rome is no longer a safe haven for those who are accused. That’s new.”

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Vatican Calls Abuses by Pennsylvania Priests ‘Criminal and Morally Reprehensible’

The New York Times  online


Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor at Villanova University, said that he saw in Thursday’s coordinated statements that the seriousness of the crisis appeared to be creating emergency alliances among the bishops, who have been divided over the past five years into pro- and anti-Francis factions, largely along liberal and conservative lines.

“This is worse than 2002, and they know that,” Mr. Faggioli said. “They know that the future of the U.S. church is not clear. Because if you look at the rage that there is out there, you don’t know what kind of trust there is left between the people and the leaders. And this is not something that can be played according to the usual rules.”

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Washington cardinal entangled in two sex-abuse scandals

The Associated Press  online


Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, is facing a storm of criticism and calls for his resignation after becoming entangled in two major sexual abuse scandals roiling the church that he has served with distinction since 1966.
“The US Catholic Church is very close to becoming a decapitated Church,” tweeted Massimo Faggioli, a relatively liberal theologian at Villanova University in suburban Philadelphia. “What Napoleon and Stalin couldn’t do, the hierarchy of the Church itself did.”

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Why is the Pope still silent about damning sex abuse report?

CNN (picked up by more than 30 outlets nationwide)  online


The Vatican has declined to respond to an explosive grand jury report detailing decades of sexual abuse and cover-ups by priests and bishops in Pennsylvania, refusing even to say whether church officials in Rome have read the damaging documents … "The silence from the Vatican is disturbing," said Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. "I don't think the Pope necessarily has to say something today. He needs time to understand the situation. But someone from the Vatican should say something."

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Francis & the ‘Religious Left’ It Won’t Be an Easy Match

Commonweal  online


By Massimo Faggioli
The victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Catholic Latina from the South Bronx, in the Democratic primary of New York’s fourteenth congressional district has added to the growing excitement about a possible resurgence of the “religious left.” Some hope a twenty-first-century version of the Social Gospel will save the United States from Trumpism and American Christianity from a thinly veiled theology of ethno-nationalism.

There are, to be sure, some striking similarities between the platform of Ocasio-Cortez and Pope Francis’s message (especially in Laudato si’ and in his official messages to the participants of the “World Meetings of the Popular Movements”) about the social and economic ills of our system. But “Pope Francis Catholics” who want to create a connection between the present pontificate and the “religious left” must deal with some serious obstacles—besides the obvious fact that this pontificate might not last long enough to help their political movement take off.

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The loudest opponent of Italy’s new anti-migrant policy? The Catholic Church.

The Washington Post  online


In a small church in central Italy, a priest told his congregation one recent Sunday morning that the motto of Italy’s highest-profile politician — “Italians First” — was antithetical to Christianity itself. Farther north, another parish priest said that supporters of the country’s new governing hard-line anti-migrant party “cannot call themselves Christian.” On the island of Sicily, an archbishop speaking in a public square took an even broader swipe, criticizing politicians who drive “their own miserable success” by exploiting fear about migrants.
“It’s really unprecedented that the official voices of the Catholic Church are so squarely opposed” to an Italian government, said Massimo Faggioli, a Villanova University professor who studies Catholicism and European politics. “That hasn’t happened before. The Catholic Church is the opposition, basically.”

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Forum looks at pope’s first 5 years, ponders his vision for church

Catholic Philly  online


A conference featuring 60 speakers from around the world met April 13-14 at Villanova University to assess the impact of Pope Francis, now five years into his pontificate.

ope Francis’ interpretation of Vatican II “is the most important event in church history in the last four centuries,” said conference co-organizer and Villanova professor Massimo Faggioli, who has written extensively on the pope since his election.

Rather than rolling back Vatican II, the pope believes it is essential to orient the Catholic Church “in the world of today,” and to recover “the missionary dimension of the church,” Faggioli said.

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Research Grants (2)

Faculty Development Center

University of St. Thomas 

Research on the history of the Roman Curia.

Faculty Development Center

University of St. Thomas 

Articles on the reform of the Roman Curia.

Select Academic Articles (5)

Evangelii Gaudium as an Act of Reception of Vatican II Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism: Evangelii Gaudium and the Papal Agenda

Massimo Faggioli


Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism is the first and most in-depth study of the most important teaching document from Pope Francis to date: Evangelii Gaudium. It explores the key components of his vision and agenda for the church - ecclesiological, social and dialogical - drawing together a range of globally and disciplinary diverse voices from leading experts in the field. Contributions explore Francis' distinctive style of papacy as well as the substance of his ecclesial revolution and reforms. Chapters engage with the most pressing challenges for the church in today's world and Francis' debt to key influences from John XXIII and Vatican II to Liberation Theology. The global context and contributions to the dialogue of this papacy are assessed and discussed in-depth.

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The Liturgical Reform and the “Political” Message of Vatican II in the Age of a Privatized and Libertarian culture Worship

Massimo Faggioli


The 1928 Presidential Campaign: Toward a Transatlantic and Institutional Approach to Catholic Histories American Catholic Studies

Massimo Faggioli

Vol. 126 n. 2 : 1-21

The New Elites of Italian Catholicism: 1968 and the New Catholic Movements The Catholic Historical Review


After the Second Vatican Council, new movements arose within the Catholic Church. In Italy this phenomenon crossed paths with the movement called 1968 and spawned a new elite not only in the Catholic Church but also in Italian Catholicism. These movements reacted to and participated in 1968 in Italy in different ways, marking the development of a deeply rooted diversity within Italian Catholicism. These Catholic movements represented an initial step in the ongoing replacement of old clerical elites in Catholic Europe.

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Vatican II: The History and the Narratives Theological Studies


The author discusses the relationship between historical studies and the hermeneutics of the Second Vatican Council. He seeks to develop a critical understanding of the two-sided debate about how to understand and assess the event of the council by showing how one side argues not on the basis of historical understanding of the council but on the basis of “narratives,” which are constructs governed more by ideologies than by historical research and analysis.

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