Identifying and Reforming Institutions in Jesuit Schools and Universities That Foster Sexual Abuse and Its Concealment


Project Description

This project is based on Pope Leo the Great’s understanding that the church is a visible, organic society on Earth. Without losing its sacramental dimension, the church runs by the same rules as other visible, organic societies. Our research begins with what has been learned about implementing sustainable reforms in the public and private sectors and applying it to the sexual abuse crisis as it has manifested itself in Jesuit schools and universities. The Nobel Prize-winning work of Douglas North, whose economic study of institutional reform has been used successfully in international development and corporate reform, is the focal point for the research. North defined institutions as “the rules of the game in society or, more formally, [they] are the humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction.” Institutional reform seeks to change the underlying norms and incentives that shape behavior in social, political, and economic organizations. Insofar as North also considered the role of beliefs in his work, the research will consider matters related to theology, church history, and pastoral care. The team will develop tools to identify institutions that have impeded reform as well as models for implementing sustainable, institutional reforms.

Principal Investigators

Dean of Graduate School of ReligionC. Colt Anderson is full professor of Christian spirituality in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University, where he served as academic dean from 2012 to 2017. While much of his work concentrates on the history of medieval reform movements and how they effected change in the face of opposition, he also has a longstanding interest in the intersections between religion and politics, spirituality and leadership, and institutional organizational psychology and pastoral ethics. He has written three books, including The Great Catholic Reformers: From Gregory the Great to Dorothy Day (Paulist Press, 2007), which won a 2008 Catholic Press Association Award, and co-edited a fourth. He has published numerous articles and chapters on reform, ecclesiology, and ecumenism for Theological Studies, Brill, Catholic University of American Press, and others.
Henry Schwalbenberg

Henry M. Schwalbenberg holds a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University and is a faculty member of the economics department at Fordham University. He is the director of Fordham University’s graduate program in international political economy and development. Over the years his published research has encompassed international economic policy, the political economy of economic reform,  emerging markets, foreign aid, Philippine economic history, and Catholic social teaching. Currently his research focuses on multidimensional measures of global poverty. Schwalbenberg has traveled widely and is the winner of Fulbright U.S. Scholar awards to Micronesia and to South Africa.


Michael Pirson

Michael Pirson joined the Gabelli School of Business as an associate professor of management systems in 2008. A scholar of humanistic management, which holds that business and commerce ought to advance human dignity and society, Dr. Pirson helped to establish an undergraduate sustainable-business concentration at Fordham. He teaches courses such as Social Entrepreneurship, Fundamentals of Management and Principles of Management, and his work spans the undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. Pirson is the social entrepreneurship track chair for the Oikos-Ashoka Global Case Writing Competition in Social Entrepreneurship. He is also a founding partner of the Humanistic Management Network, an organization that brings together scholars, practitioners and policymakers around the common goal of creating a ‘life-conducive’ economic system. In that capacity, he is the co-editor of the Humanism in Business book series, published by Palgrave-McMillan.