Since its establishment in 2004, the Institute has supported research by some of today’s greatest living scholars, including Charles Taylor, Kathy Caveny, Miguel Diaz, Lisa Cahill, Ken Miller, John O’Malley, S.J., Margaret Archer, Stefano Zamagni, Paulinus I. Odozor, and José Casanova – resulting in a significant number of highly influential and highly acclaimed publications by leading academic publishers.

In addition to the formal scholarship it supports, the Institute sponsors programs and lecture series that explore a broad range of topics, including the intergenerational transmission of faith for Catholics, Jews, Muslims and other believers, the role of faith in economics and social justice, the critical importance of interreligious dialogue to relations between nations and communities of faith, the impact of Vatican II in the 21st century, the future of the Catholic writer, and more— that have helped establish the Institute as an independent entity with an international reach and reputation.

The True Wealth of Nations Research Project

Professor Daniel Finn, an internationally known theologian and economist, and a member of the Institute’s board of trustees, has steadily guided the now-ten-year-old research program called The True Wealth of Nations, which has, to date, produced three volumes of research, with a fourth volume—Empirical Foundations of the Common Good: What Theology Can Learn from Social Sciences, will be published later this year (all by Oxford University Press).

“This study explored these questions: what has social science learned about the common good? Would humanists even want to alter their definitions of the common good based on what social scientists say?” explains Prof. Finn. “We invited six nationally recognized social scientists—from economics, political science, sociology, and policy analysis—to speak about what their disciplines have to contribute to discussions within Catholic social thought about the ‘common good.’”

None of those disciplines directly addresses “the common good,” he continues, “but nearly all social scientists believe that their scientific work can help make the world a better place, and each social science does operate with some notion of human flourishing.”

Each of the social scientists submitted essays on the topic of “the common good,” which were examined and critiqued by two theologians, including such challenging assertions that theology is overly irenic, that it does not appreciate unplanned order, and that it does not grasp how in some situations contention among self-interested nations and persons can be an effective path to the common good.

“I am confident that this will be a valuable addition to the exploration of how to improve our world,” says Fr. Heft. “This volume, like its predecessors, will be widely read and reviewed.”

The next part of the Institute’s continuing exploration of economics and Catholic social teaching, “Agency, Self-Interest, and the Moral Legitimacy of Business in Catholic Social Thought,” presses several fundamental questions with the assistance of both scholars and practitioners in the world of business: How should we understand the role of autonomy and self-interest within a Catholic view of the person and what implications does this have for business? How does the social nature of property within Catholic social thought inform the moral foundations of business? What role does the virtue of prudence play in these moral assessments? How does Catholic social thought engage with current notions of the shareholder and stakeholder models of firms that dominant current business thinking and practice? What are the limits—legal, structural, moral, or other—that should be in place? To what extent should this analysis distinguish minimum legal requirements in a pluralistic society from stronger moral requirements for those who share religious faith?

The scholars will meet at the University of Southern California in June of 2018 to discuss their research led, again, by Daniel Finn, who will then work with the scholars to produce another volume in the excellent and acclaimed “True Wealth of Nations” series.

“Spiritual But Not Religious”?

Recently, Pope Francis announced that the theme of the next Synod of Bishops will be “Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment.” The Synod is scheduled for October of 2018. Once again, collaborating with the Vatican, the Institute is launching a research project on the increasing number of young adults of many faith traditions who no longer identify with the faith in which they were raised. They say that they “believe but do not belong.”

Scholars from many disciplines will explore this timely and important topic together, which will be led by Fr. James Heft, S.M., the Institute’s president and founder and Dr. Jan Stets, internationally known professor of social psychology at the University of California Riverside.

The quality of the research done by the Institute has been recognized by the Vatican, which has already invited the Institute to organize two international conferences, one with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and the other with the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The Institute looks forward to contributing to the 2018 Synod.


Institute Publications


Empirical Foundations of the Common Good – Daniel K. Finn

What has social science learned about the common good? Can that knowledge improve the views of the common good held by philosophers and theologians? Would humanists ever even alter their definitions of the common good based on what social scientists say? Most view the assumptions undergirding social science as inadequate to a full understanding of human life. In this volume, six social scientists, with backgrounds in economics, political science, sociology, and policy analysis, speak about what their disciplines have to contribute to discussions within Catholic social thought about the common good. Two theologians then examine the insights of social science, including such challenging assertions as: that theology too often ignores the data of everyday life, that it is overly irenic, that it neither understands nor appreciates the unplanned order arising from individual interactions, and that it does not grasp how contention among self-interested nations and persons can be a more effective path to the common good than simply advocating cooperation and brotherly love. This volume’s interplay of social scientific and religious views is a unique contribution to contemporary discussion of what constitutes “the common good.”


governance02Governance, Accountability, and the Future of the Catholic Church – Oakley & Russett

Not long after the sexual abuse crisis broke out in Boston (2002), the Yale University Catholic community wanted to hold a conference to discuss the issue and asked the Institute to provide theological considerations for great shared authority in the Church. The editors of the volume were Frank Oakley (former board member of the Institute and president of Williams college) and Bruce Russett, professor of political science at Yale. A copy of this book was sent to every bishop in the United States.

believing-scholars-coverBelieving Scholars –  Fr. James L. Heft, S.M.

This is the second volume of talks that were given at the University of Dayton, in which a major Catholic scholar was invited to prepare a speech describing how his or her faith had affected his or her scholarship, and vice versa. It is a wonderful collection of thoughts by people the Institute is designed to multiply.


distant-markets-distant-harmsDistant Markets, Distant Harms – Dan Finn

This is the third publication resulting from the True Wealth of Nations project which explores Catholic social teachings on economics, globalization and ethics. This particular volume asks participating scholars to consider the extent to which we who live in wealthy countries bear responsibility for the exploitation of vulnerable populations in the poor countries under increasing pressure to produce ever lower-priced consumer goods.


interreligious_dialogueCatholicism and Interreligious Dialogue –  Fr. James L. Heft, S.M.

This wonderful volume grew out of a series of lectures that the Institute organized and held here on the USC campus. At each of the five sessions, we got a Catholic deeply experienced in dialogue with another world religion to outline his or her version of the “state of the union” as to where the dialogue was. Then two members of the other religion being discussed were asked to critique the presentation of the Catholic scholar, who then was asked to respond to those critiques in writing.

The value of the volume is further enhanced by H.’s very helpful introduction, which reflects on the purposes, practice, and challenges of interreligious dialogue. In his response Cunninghma asks “[whether] it is possible for members of one religious community to acknowledge that the Other may have a different but nonetheless divinely willed religious encounter with the one God that leads to a distinct, evolving tradition in which the outsider does not participate and [which] possibly includes aspects that the outsider would reject’

I strongly recommend the volume to both Christians and members of other religions who wish to understand the background and current challenges for Catholics in their present dialogue and interaction with the adherents of other major faiths – Gerald O’ Collins, S.J. Australian Catholic University, Melbourne.

The title of Catholicism and Interreligious Dialogue is deliberate. The book approaches its topic as an “opening” to dialogue from a specifically Catholic position and perspective. “Opening’ suggests its generous spirit and intellectual breadth, as well as its concern for the general scarcity of theological dialogue over the previous centuries. James L Heft, S.M. begins with an admirably clear introduction, providing a starting point in the Second Vatican Council, which “opened doors officially” to Catholics for interreligious conversations – Brian P. Conniff College of Arts and Sciences University of Scranton.

This collection is well-organized and astutely introduced. Jim Heft knows whom to invite and who will listen to whom; so the commentators are superb, and his introduction masterful.

Each one is clear and cogent, but what recommends them highly is that they are all actively involved in dialogue itself and well as in reflection on it.

I have profited immensely from this work, even though I have been involved in dialogue for a quarter-century – Robin R Wang is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Director of Asian & Pacific Studies at Loyola Marymount University.


chrisis-of-authority-coverThe Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity – Lacey & Oakley

This is a demanding and searching critique of the challenges that the Catholic Church faces in our modern age in North Atlantic countries. Oakley, as mentioned before, is a historian of ideas and former president of Williams College, and Michael Lacey for many years directed the American Studies program at the Woodrow Wilson Center in DC. Very well reviewed volume.

“Assembled an excellent collection of essays, sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California. The book, with its balanced and scholarly essays, represents a sober assessment of contemporary Catholicism.

This is a book that should be widely read by bishops as well as theologians” – Thomas P. Rausch, S.J. is the T. Marie Chilton Professor of Catholic Theology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California.

This splendid collection of essays explores the problems regarding the authority for being able to say what constitutes being “Catholic.”

Charles Taylor provocatively and insightfully explores the all-too-often violated limits of magisterial authority. All these essays are insightful and excellent, but Taylor’s is a lucid and compact gem.

Each essay is clearly written and convincingly argued. The seminar at the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, founded by James Heft, S.M., that generated this volume has made a real contribution to understanding how the church – both as institution and as congregation – has not yet figured out how to thrive in (post)modern times. If the “baroque” pattern is no longer viable, what is? If jurisdiction is in severe tension with communio, where can a unifying path be found in a society that is practically godless while clothing its structures in a cover story of divine guidance?

This a model of what edited collections should be. Highly recommended for cultural critics, theologians, historians, and any interested in thinking seriously about future of the church, including bishops and bishops-to-be. – Terrence W. Tilley Fordham University.


beyond-violence-coverBeyond Violence – Heft

This was the first conference we held at USC, three years before I moved her. Our aim was to show that one of the results of people who are deeply religious can be that they work for justice and peace, and are not violent. We got two representatives of each of the three religions who presented a terrific set of papers. This book is used in several universities.

“Beyond Violence is a timely and thought-provoking challenge to those who would reduce religion to the actions of extremists and terrorists. Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders and scholars acknowledge but seek to counterbalance the ‘dark side’ of religion with studies that explore the religious sources and resources for the role of religious sources and resources for the role of religions in the promotion of peace and reconciliation.” – John L. Esposito, Georgetown University.

“Despite this variety, however, the six contributions, along with the substantive introduction by editor James Heft of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, share a common sensibility and goal. All are, in effect, attempts to argue for a construction of religious faith that defines pluralism, nonviolence, reconciliation, and cooperation as normative.

The collection’s greatest strength is that it presents a diverse collection of voices counteracting the belief, more commonly held since the attacks of September 11, 2001, that monotheistic faiths tend intrinsically towards intolerant theocracy.” – Nathan Rein Ursinus College, Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

“Reading these six essay together underscores one point: Whether it is in renouncing the right of revenge conferred by suffering, seeing glory in moral power, searching for “the moral man of the earth,” balancing power with the vision of peace, engaging in honest self-criticism, or advocating religious liberty and universal human rights, each author, in his own individual way, calls for religious people to have the courage to choose peace.” – Mahdi Tourage Visiting Assistant Professor of Islam Colgate University, Hamilton, New York.


moral-dynamics-economic-life-coverThe Moral Dynamics of Economic Life – Finn

This is also part of the True Wealth of Nation series, and is a study of the moral dimensions of economic life. This book has had a lot of influence and is recognized as breaking new ground.




passing-on-the-faith-coverPassing on the Faith – Heft

This was the second conference that we held at USC in 2005, a year before I moved here full time. The speakers (from all three religions) explored how they dealt with the challenges of passing on the faith to their kids, especially in north Atlantic countries (we had speakers from Europe, Canada and the US) where there is extensive secularism, pluralism, pornography, and consumerism. Great review of the book.

This is an important book for the crucial question it raises and its mode of response, as much as for how well it succeeds. It asks about “how to pass on religious tradition to youth in the context of the contemporary culture of the United States.”

This book resolutely eschews the typical hand-writing about the indifference of young people to religion, and their naïveté in attempting to be “spiritual but not religious,” to “believe without belonging.” Instead, it makes clear from success stories in all three traditions, that is possible for faith communities to “pass on” their faith effectively.

This is an excellent resource that should be read by anyone interested in youth and the continuity of religious tradition. – Thomas H. Groome is professor of theology and religious education at Boston College.

It is also a unique inventory of creative and thoughtful responses from churches, synagogues, and mosques working to keep religion a vital force in those lives.

Filled with real-world wisdom, this volume offers descriptions of practices developed to revitalize traditional institutions, as well as discussing broader perspectives on the future of religious beliefs and practices in our changing world. – Dialogue & Alliance Vol. 20, No. 2 ● Fall/Winter 2006

It is rare for us to openly share our anxieties, experience, and inspiration with others outside our denomination or faith community. “Passing on the Faith” represents interreligious dialogue in which we learn not only about one another but also from each other. – Thomas W. Goodhue is Executive Director of the Long Island Council of Churches.


picture1Learned Ignorance – Heft

In 2007 an international group of scholars (5 Jews, 5 Catholics and 5 Muslims) met for a week in Jerusalem to discuss how in all three religions we don’t know it all, that we will never know it all, even though we know enough to worship and lead a moral life. It is a great book against fundamentalism of any sort. My chapter, “Humble Infallibility,” now has a pope to demonstrate it!



 picture2Par-dela la violence – Heft

This is a French translation of Beyond Violence, simply because a publisher in Paris contacted us and asked if he could do the translation since he thought the papers were be helpful to especially French scholars and citizens who were having such a hard time welcoming Muslims.




picture3In the Logos of Love – Heft & Cadegan

This is our most recent publication, the result of a collaborative effort between the Institute and the University of Dayton. It is just now out to various journals for review. It tackles the particular challenges that Catholic thinkers face in our current world in balancing fidelity, creativity and prophecy.




picture4Engineering Education and Practice – Heft & Halliman

Published by the University of Notre Dame, this volume grew of out intensive faculty development work I was leading at the University of Dayton the last two years I was there before moving to USC. It has been used in a number of engineering schools in the country.

“Engineering Education and Practice: Embracing a Catholic Vision provides an overview of what engineering education in a Catholic university can be at its very best and how this vision can be integrated across both the liberal arts and the professional dimension of engineering education. This volume speaks boldly of vocation and spirituality as a foundation for a Christian’s professional life in engineering, It is an excellent guide for exploring engineering education within a university that takes its faith traditions seriously” – Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M., University of Dayton.

“This book is a superb introduction to how engineering education and research should take place in Catholic or, more generally, in Christian universities. The diverse group of contributors – mostly engineers and theologians who have pursued both teaching and research careers at Catholic universities with engineering schools – offers an appealing combination of theoretical and practical essays.” – David Solomon, University of Notre Dame.


picture5Catholic High Schools – Heft

Catholic high schools in the United States have been undergoing three major changes: the shift to primarily lay leadership and teachers; the transition to a more consumerist and pluralist culture; and the increasing diversity of students attending Catholic high schools. James Heft argues that to navigate these changes successfully, leaders of Catholic education need to inform lay teachers more thoroughly, conduct a more profound social analysis of the culture, and address the real needs of students.

“In Catholic High Schools, James Heft challenges educators to think about the moral purpose and value of education. He extends beyond now conventional arguments that Catholic schools have better outcomes than public schools because of rituals or constrained preparatory curriculum, to consider the meaning and implications of values in the educational process. Heft’s examination of the moral aspects of educational leadership should be of interest to reformers in the public and private sectors of education.” – Edward P. St. John, University of Michigan.


picture6The True Wealth of Nations – Finn

The True Wealth of Nations arises from the conviction that implementing a morally adequate vision of the economy will generate sustainable prosperity for all. It sets forth the beginnings of an architecture of analysis for relating economic life and Christian faith-intellectually and experientially-and helps social scientists, theologians, and all persons of faith to appreciate the true wealth of any nation.

“First we should acknowledge the importance of this project for serious Christian thinking about economic and political life, our gratitude to the organizers, and our appreciation of the excellence of many of the contributions. One of the great merits of the True Wealth projects is that it opens up CST to critical scrutiny by intelligent and expert scholars, very few of whom are clerics” – A.M.C. Waterman St. John’s College, Winnipeg.


picture7After Vatican II- Heft & Malley

Since the closing of Vatican II (1962-1965) nearly fifty years ago, several multivolume studies have detailed how the bishops at the council debated successive drafts and finally approved the sixteen documents published as the proceedings of the council. However, the meaning of those documents, their proper interpretations, and the ongoing developments they set in motion have been hotly debated. In a word, Vatican II continues to be very much a topic of discussion and debate in the Roman Catholic Church and beyond. The council was an extraordinarily complex reality. It is no wonder, therefore, that opinions vary, sometimes sharply, as to its significance. This volume explores these major flashpoints.