Media Tap UST, Seminary Professors for Help in Covering the Vatican

You would be hard-pressed in recent days to find a newspaper, television news program or online news site that hasn’t carried something about what is going on in Rome.

The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the process underway to select the next pope has captured the world’s attention. In addition to announcements by the church itself, reporters assigned to cover the story frequently turn to experts … including university and seminary professors … for help.

University of St. Thomas faculty members have a long tradition of helping the media with stories related to business, politics, science, psychology, health, law, sociology, social work, education, history, climate change and more.  The St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity and St. Thomas … with its Department of Theology and the oldest and largest program in Catholic studies in the United States … provide reporters with a resource for stories related to theology, ethics and the Catholic Church.

Four university and seminary professors in particular have been helping reporters locally, nationally and even internationally with stories on the papacy:

  • Dr. Don Briel, the Koch Chair in Catholic Studies and founding director of the university’s Center for Catholic Studies;
  • Dr. Charles Reid Jr., a School of Law professor with a background in both church and civil law;
  • Father Andrew Cozzens, assistant professor of sacramental theology at the School of Divinity;
  • Dr. Massimo Faggioli, a member of St. Thomas’ Theology Department.

    Dr. Don Briel

    Dr. Don Briel

Briel, who holds a doctorate in theology from the University of Strasbourg, has been at St. Thomas for 32 years.  He is former chair of the Theology Department, former director of the Catholic Studies program and helped launched the Center for Catholic Studies in 1996.

A frequent visitor to Rome and the Vatican, Briel was there during Benedict’s final week as pope. While he has a long history of assisting reporters, locally and nationally, Briel was interviewed less often than usual last week because he was overseas.

He was, however, interviewed for this March 4 story about what popes “do” that appeared in Christian Science Monitor and other publications.  And soon after returning to St. Thomas, he was interviewed by the Catholic Spirit newspaper and the Minnesota News Network, a service that provides news to radio stations around the state.

Dr. Charles Reid Jr.

Dr. Charles Reid Jr.

Reid, a member of the St. Thomas law faculty since 2002, holds a law degree and license in canon law from the Catholic University of America as well as a Ph.D. in the history of medieval law from Cornell University. He writes on topics related to religion, law and politics; a featured blogger for the Huffington Post, his recent “The Last 20th Century Pope” essay was circulated widely across the Internet.

Locally, Reid was interviewed about Benedict on the Fox 9, KARE 11, KSTP 5 and WCCO 4 television stations. He was interviewed by CNN Online and for half an hour on the nationally syndicated Jim Bohannon radio show. Other interviews were conducted by stations in Tennessee, New York, Connecticut, Los Angeles and even Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (they wanted to talk about chances for a Canadian pope).

Father Andrew Cozzens

Father Andrew Cozzens

Cozzens, on the School of Divinity faculty since 2006, received his doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He was a student there four years and was in St. Peter’s Square to witness the “white smoke” that announced the selection of Benedict as pope.

Cozzens appeared on the Fox 9 Sunday morning program March 3 to discuss Benedict’s resignation.

Faggioli, who is 42 but could almost pass for half that, is a native of Italy. He joined the St. Thomas Theology Department in 2009 after completing a research fellowship at the Jesuit Institute at Boston College.

Dr. Massimo Faggioli

Dr. Massimo Faggioli

Faggioli holds a doctorate from the University of Turin and specializes in contemporary Catholicism, religion and politics. He is the author of four books, including Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning and True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium, both published in 2012.

As a former staff member at the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies in Bologna, Faggioli was granted credentials to conduct research in the Vatican’s principal archive from 1998 to 2005 and still visits there regularly.

He writes frequently for journals, magazines and newspapers, including regular articles for the Rome-based newspapers Europa and L’Unita. On March 2, his article assessing “the impact of Pope Benedict’s departure on the mystique of the papacy” was the cover story on the widely read British Catholic journal, The Tablet.

While he has recently conducted interviews about the papacy with Huffington Post, the national Fox News network and Italian public radio, closer to home he was an in-studio guest or was interviewed by KARE 11, WCCO 4, KSTP 5 and Fox 9. At the time of Benedict’s resignation, he woke up early on two consecutive mornings to appear on KARE 11’s “Sunrise” program. “It is fortunate I do not need a lot of sleep,” he said.

When asked if he had any predictions on who will be selected the next pope, he said he tries to avoid that question but added, “there are no front-runners.” He did say, however, that based on how long cardinals have taken in the past to select a pope, the world likely will know who is selected on March 18 or 19.