Canisius Professor of Theology, Boston College

Fr. James Keenan, SJ, is the Canisius Professor at Boston College. He entered the New York Province of the Society of Jesus in 1970 and was ordained a priest in 1982. He attended the Gregorian University in Rome, where he studied with Klaus Demmer for a licentiate (1984) and with Josef Fuchs for a doctorate (1988).
He was Consultant to the National Catholic Conference of Bishops for the Revision of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Institutions (1988-1995) and a Group leader of the United States’ Surgeon General’s Task Force on Responsible Sexual Conduct (2000-2002). He has been on the Editorial Board of Theological Studies since 1991 and the Board of Directors of the Society of Christian Ethics (2001-2005). He was the editor of two book series, “Moral Traditions,” at Georgetown University Press and the Boston College Church 21 series at Crossroads/Herder and Herder.
His earlier works include Goodness and Rightness in Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae, Virtues for Ordinary Christians, Commandments of Compassion, Jesus and Virtue Ethics (with Dan Harrington), Moral Wisdom: Lessons and Texts from the Catholic Tradition, Toward a Global Vision of Catholic Moral Theology: Reflections on the Twentieth Century, and The Works of Mercy: The Heart of Catholicism. He has three new books A History of Catholic Moral Theology in the Twentieth Century: From Confessing Sins to Liberating Consciences; Paul and Virtue Ethics (with Dan Harrington) and Ethics of the Word: Voices in the Catholic Church Today.
He edited Practice What You Preach: Virtues, Ethics and Power in the Lives of Pastoral Ministers and Their Congregations (2000) which won the Catholic Press Award for best work in Pastoral Theology and Catholic Ethicists on HIV/AIDS Prevention which won the best work in ethics from the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu, (2003). With Jean Bartunek and Mary Ann Hinsdale, he edited Church Ethics and its Organizational Context: Learning from the Sex Abuse Scandal in the Catholic Church (2005).
He is the chair of the international committee, Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church and helped host the First International Cross-cultural Conference for Catholic Theological Ethicists in July 2006 in Padua, Italy. He subsequently edited Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church: The Plenary Papers from the First Cross-cultural Conference on Catholic Theological Ethics (Continuum, 2007) which has appeared with publishing houses in New York, Buenos Aires, Bologna, Bangalore, Sao Paolo, and Manila.
He has published over 300 essays, articles and reviews in over twenty-five international journals. He has been a Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at The University of Edinburgh (1994), the Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton (1995, 1996), and the Instituto Trentino di Cultura (2007, 2008). He has been adjunct professor at the Gregorian University in Rome (2000, 2002), Loyola School of Theology in Manila (2001, 2003), and Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram in Bangalore (2007). He held the Tuohy Chair at John Carroll University, Cleveland (1999) and the Gasson Chair at Boston College (2003-2005).
In 2010, he hosted another international conference of theological ethicists in Trento, Italy. He edited the papers from that conference; the volume is entitled, Catholic Theological Ethics, Past, Present, and Future: The Trento Conference (Orbis, 2011). His most recent book is University Ethics: How Colleges Can Build and Benefit from a Culture of Ethics (Rowman and Littlefield, 2015). He is presently writing another book, A Brief History of Catholic Ethics (Paulist Press).


  • –present
    Professor of Theology, Boston College