Nanovic Institute lecture series brings back Papal Nuncio and former Domer


Archbishop Charles Brown, Papal Nuncio to Ireland, visited Notre Dame last week to give the tenth annual installment of the Keeley Vatican Lecture Series.  The Series, hosted by the Nanovic Institute, brings Vatican representatives to campus in order to further bolster the relationship between Notre Dame and the Holy See.  The Archbishop’s lecture focused on the history of Catholicism in Ireland and the role of Pope Francis’ teaching on recent Irish history.

“While there are many ways in which we can understand the unique contribution of this Pope, I think that one relatively overlooked element in his teaching in these last two years provides us with the key to evangelization in today’s Ireland.  And that key is the concept of freedom, so central to the thought of Pope Francis,” the Archbishop said in his lecture.  “This message of Pope Francis, basic as it is, has been extremely well received in Ireland, where in the minds of many, the truth of Catholic teaching has been associated, at least in the minds of many, with control and perhaps at times even with coercion.”

Daniel Philpott, Professor of Political Science, commented to the Rover, “Archbishop Brown gave a lecture that was brilliant as well as hopeful.  He made the case that even in a country that has experienced sharp secularization in recent years, revival of faith is not only possible but is actually taking place.”

Philpott continued: “Cultural Catholicism, where the faith is embedded in history, customs, the calendar, and architecture, alone will no longer do.  It is rather a faith that is chosen out of freedom and confers the unique freedom that comes from being liberated from our sin, that appeals to the Irish today.”

Patrick Deneen, Professor of Political Science, told the Rover, “Archbishop Brown delivered a riveting lecture that helps us better understand the precarious situation of the Church in the historically Catholic nation of Ireland.  For all the differences between Ireland and America, however, he conveyed that as pilgrims in a fading Christendom, Catholic Christians in both nations now face the challenge of learning how to live the faith in the absence of the ambient culture of Christendom, and learning anew how to be a witness Church in a paganizing world.”

The Archbishop’s unique perspective on the Church in Ireland was not the only quality that drew such a large audience to the lecture.  Some members of the audience—including the sponsor of the lecture series, Terrence R. Keeley—attended Notre Dame as undergraduates with the Archbishop.

“I went because it was Archbishop Brown,” said Mary Ellen Konieczny, Professor of Sociology, to the Rover.  “I’ve known him since we were in undergrad.  I’ve talked with him before about the Catholic Church, but not since he went to Ireland.

“One of the things I was impressed about with the talk is that he actually didn’t focus on the sex abuse scandal in Ireland but focused on a lot of what’s positive that he has seen …  in the Church’s dealings with it but I think more particularly in the Irish people and in the spirit of Irish Catholics,” Konieczny continued.  “What it reminded me of is in the movie Calvary, the main character says something like, ‘we focus too much on sin.  We should be focusing on virtue more.’ And I think that’s what he did.”

The day after the lecture, the Archbishop shared breakfast with several students at Notre Dame.  Emma Fleming, an English and Spanish double major from Ryan Hall, told the Rover about the meeting.

“It was an amazing experience to share breakfast with Archbishop Brown,” she explained.  “It was so evident that he appreciated our time just as much as we appreciated his.  Full of optimism for the future of the Church and our future as students at Notre Dame, he demonstrated an amazing spirituality.

“Before now,” Fleming continued, “my knowledge of his position was limited, and it was extremely interesting to hear his words on diplomacy joined with his call to priesthood and role as Archbishop.  On a side note, how often do you get to eat breakfast with someone whose scooter was blessed by Cardinal Ratzinger, who also happens to be one of his close friends?”

“Archbishop Brown’s visit was a great success,” A. James McAdams, Director of the Nanovic Institute, told the Rover.  “It testified to how many great leaders there are in the Church today, people with both deep faith and profound vision.  Equally important, Archbishop’s return to our university is a testimony to the talent of the Notre Dame student body and alumni.  I am personally very proud that Notre Dame produces inspired and inspiring leaders, like Archbishop Brown.”

Video of the lecture can be found on the Nanovic Institute’s YouTube channel.


Abigail Bartels is a junior political science major with minors in theology, gender studies, and European studies.  She never thought she would say this, but here it is: Go Patriots.  Contact Abigail at