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As is always the case when Church matters enter the public domain, Boston College faculty were thick among the experts who publicly considered the meaning of Pope Benedict’s resignation (the first voluntary papal departure since the administration-averse Celestine V vacated office in 1294) and then contextualized the election of Pope Francis—the first Jesuit to serve as bishop of Rome, the first New World cleric to do so, and the first pope to take Francis as his name. Among the 22 faculty and administrators who interviewed with newspapers, radio, or television, published opinion pieces, or offered live commentary during the conclave, 15 were Catholic priests—11 of them Jesuits—while one was a rabbi, another was an Episcopal priest, and yet another had the surname Pope. They came from the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) and the Lynch School of Education; the departments of theology, history, philosophy, and sociology; and Boston College ministry. Of the 79 media citations for Boston College experts collected by the Office of News & Public Affairs between resignation and inauguration, a full 25 percent referenced Thomas Groome, an STM faculty member who specializes in issues of religious education and Catholic identity filtered through an Irish brogue. Jeremy Clarke, SJ, a member of the history faculty, gets credit for the longest-distance radio interview, a chat with Radio Australia. Along the political spectrum, STM’s James Bretzke, SJ, a moral theologian, strolled furthest out on the left, speaking with the Revolution Radio Network, while Fr. Robert Imbelli, of the theology department, whose Bronx tonalities some of us find as sonorous as Groome’s County Kildare enunciations, instructed viewers of Fox television. In addition to the faculty, 16 students were cited, mostly by Boston television stations and newspapers, on the question of how they felt about a Jesuit pope. They felt very good.
Read more by Ben Birnbaum