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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


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 (24)

The chaplain of the U.S. House ‘cast out all spirits of darkness’ in his chamber prayer amid racism fight

The Washington Post  online


The chaplain of the House of Representatives said in his opening prayer Thursday that he would “cast out all spirits of darkness from this chamber,” reflecting the dramatic moral terms in which many Americans see our political climate. “Right now, if people listen to Conroy, they don’t dismiss him as a crank. They’re like: ‘Maybe he’s getting something right,’ ” said Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor and church historian at Villanova University. “That’s the difference. Twenty or 10 or five years ago, people would say: ‘Oh, he just had a bad day.’ ”

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‘The Church of the abuse scandal is the only Church we know'

La Croix International  online


Cardinal Pell, once the third most powerful man in the Vatican and Australia's most senior Catholic, was sentenced to six years in prison after being found guilty of child sexual abuse. St. Augustine is quoted as saying that "one learns by teaching" — docendo discitur. This has never been more true for me than during this past semester when I taught an undergraduate university course on the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.

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Pope Francis issues new rule for accountability in reporting instances of abuse

Al Jazeera  online


The Catholic church has issued a new law to try and crack down on sexual abuse. Pope Francis issued the decree which makes it compulsory to report cases or cover-ups of sexual abuse. Priests and nuns will be required to declare any abuse to their superiors, but not to civil authorities. … Massimo Faggioli is a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University and joins us live now from Philadelphia.

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Pope Francis Set To Make Historic Trip To Arabian Peninsula

National Public Radio  radio


Pope Francis arrives in the United Arab Emirates tomorrow. He'll be the first pope to set foot on the Arabian Peninsula. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports that he'll visit Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, for an international interfaith event. He'll also celebrate an outdoor mass for Catholics, most of whom are migrant workers from other countries. … Massimo Faggioli, professor of theology at Villanova University, says, over Skype, that a key aspect of the visit will be how Francis relates.

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Catholic bishops delay votes on steps to combat sexual abuse crisis

FOX News  online


It was anything but business as usual for American bishops meeting in Baltimore, Maryland on Monday for their bi-annual conference. At the last minute, the Vatican inserted its own authority, subverting the planned movement on two crucial proposals dealing with the abuse crisis. … "We ... are seeing now the most consequential and deepest crises in the history of U.S. Catholicism, which is part of a larger crisis in global Catholicism,” said Dr. Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religion at Villanova University.

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Resurgence Of Cleric Scandal Invigorates Critics Of Pope Francis

NPR  radio


The man who won the election for Pope a few years ago faces some resistance. Conservative American Catholics do not agree with Pope Francis’s remarks on migrants or refugees or capitalism. … Now there is no shame in launching attacks that were unthinkable during the pontificate of John Paul II or Pope Benedict. Massimo Faggioli is professor of theology at Villanova University. Speaking by Skype he said only a handful of American bishops defended Francis against Viagno’s vitriolic attack.

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How Pope Francis’ critics in the Catholic church are using the sexual abuse scandal to undermine his authority

i-News UK  online


When Pope Francis took a tumble as he was walking home to his apartment inside the Vatican, officials were quick to dismiss concerns about the 81-year old’s wellbeing. “Don’t worry, he’s OK,” chief spokesman Greg Burke assured the media … Massimo Faggioli, professor of historical theology at Villanova University in the US, says the Ouellet letter underlined the “partisan and ideological” nature of the Viganò claims and the dramatic polarization that has taken place, particularly within the US.

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Accusations heap pressure on a stressed Church

Irish Catholic  


“The Catholic Church is facing its most serious crisis in 500 years.” So, at any rate, claims Villanova University’s Prof. Massimo Faggioli in an article for the prestigious Foreign Affairs magazine entitled ‘The Catholic Church’s biggest crisis since the Reformation’.

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Voice of the Faithful convenes to discuss church reform in abuse, finances

National Catholic Reporter  online


While held amidst crisis, the date for the Voice of the Faithful conference here Oct. 6 couldn't have been better … Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology at Villanova University, told the Voice of the Faithful conference that there is a vacuum of authority in the church created by the crisis, which he called the most serious the church has faced in the 500 years since the Reformation.

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Top Vatican cardinal says coverup accusations against Francis are a ‘political plot’

The Washington Post  online


In a combative letter, a highly placed cardinal on Sunday mounted the Vatican’s first direct response to accusations that Pope Francis knew about and covered up the alleged sexual misconduct of a U.S. prelate, describing those claims as a “political plot that lacks any real basis” … “It is clear this [McCarrick case] had its origins in 1980s, 1990s, early 2000s,” said Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University.

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Pope Orders New Inquiry Into Abuse Accusations Against McCarrick

The New York Times  online


Pope Francis has ordered a deeper investigation into the accusations of sexual misconduct against Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, the Vatican said Saturday, including a “thorough study” of archival documents to determine how he climbed the church hierarchy despite allegations he had slept with seminarians and young priests … Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University, said that Vatican officials “know this may reflect badly on John Paul II or on Benedict” Francis’s predecessors.

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Catholic churches move to name molesting priests, but victims say it's too little, too late

LA Times  online


Over the last two decades, Roman Catholic dioceses across California have paid out massive settlements to parishioners who say they were molested by priests; acknowledged institutional breakdowns that facilitated abuse; and wrestled with followers who said they had lost faith in church leaders … Because of the church’s once-pervasive practice of reassigning accused clerics rather than removing them from ministry completely, it is difficult — if not impossible — to know the full extent of the national web of abuse, said Massimo Faggioli, a professor of historical theology at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

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US Catholics' confidence in Francis shaken

Catholic News Agency  


A recent poll has shown a drop in popularity for Pope Francis in the United States over the past year. The poll suggests that many Americans increasingly disapprove of how the pope has handled the abuse crisis … Villanova University Professor and Church historian Massimo Faggioli told CNA he believes there are “many factors” influencing American perceptions of the pope, including the “tragic moment of crisis” gripping the Church in the United States, as well as cultural, political, and ecclesiastical issues.

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Why I cannot even think about leaving the Catholic Church

La Croix International  online


By Massimo Faggioli, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University: I am one of those Roman Catholics who had never heard or imagined that there were abusive priests sexually preying on children. Neither could I have imagined a clerical system that protected abusive priests rather than their victims; a system that perpetuated the suffering of those abused. Before moving to the United States in 2008, I spent more than 30 years of parish life in the mid-sized city of Ferrara in northern Italy.

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The silent Popes: Why Francis and Benedict won't answer the accusations dividing their church

CNN  online


"He knows that he has made big mistakes on this, and he realizes that they were bad judgments, and now he wants to be cautious about not making the same mistakes," said Massimo Faggioli, a professor of church history at Villanova University in Philadelphia. "I believe that Francis is trying to do something bigger than defend himself," Faggioli said. "He is trying to save the church. "The problem is that the real person who should respond to Vigano's letter is not Francis," the professor continued. "It's Benedict."

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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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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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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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Research Grants (2)

Faculty Development Center

University of St. Thomas 

2014-15 Research on the history of the Roman Curia.

Faculty Development Center

University of St. Thomas 

2012-2013 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


Massimo Faggioli


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

American Catholic Studies

Massimo Faggioli

2015 Vol. 126 n. 2 : 1-21

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

The Catholic Historical Review

2012 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

2012 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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