How We Started
In 2013 (19-20 September), the Pontifical Council for the Family and The Union of Catholic Jurists cohosted an International Conference, in Rome, entitled The Rights of the Family and the Challenges of the Contemporary World.
At this conference, Professor Jane Adolphe of Ave Maria School of Law, co-hosted the session on The Family from the International Political Perspective and later presented its outcome action points to the plenary session. One of which was the establishment of a website presence to compile, store, and share resources with other non-governmental organizations, and activists working within international and regional human rights systems on issues pertaining to family, life, and religious freedom.
A website was launched under the auspices of The International Center on Law, Life, Faith and Family (ICOLF) the following year, at the United Nations in New York, during the Twentieth Anniversary of the International Year of Family, in 2014.
From 2014 to 2021, ICOLF slowly developed into an international forum for Catholic jurists and scholars to study pertinent issues of the day touching on law, life, faith, and family:
- persecution and genocide of Christians;
- the nature and meaning of equality and non-discrimination;
- the global compacts on migration and refugees;
- the nature and meaning of international human rights; and
- Clerical sexual misconduct.
Over the years, numerous international expert meetings and strategy sessions have been held at Ave Maria School Law in Naples, Florida or at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University, in Warsaw. Outcome initiatives have included the publication of books and the creation of expert coalitions and related initiatives.
In 2021, the name of ICOLF was changed to The International Catholic Jurists Forum (ICJF) to better reflect its principal work of providing a meeting place for Catholic jurists and scholars from around the globe.
What We Stand For
The International Catholic Jurists Forum (ICJF) was established to produce, compile, and share resources on fundamental human rights under attack in the regional and international human rights protection systems. It operates as a forum for Catholic jurists and scholars to study, research, and discuss important issues of the day related to attacks on the rights of the family, life, and religious freedom.
This mission is inspired by the Holy See’s document The Charter of the Rights of the Family, which articulates fundamental principles, rights and duties knowable by right reason as illuminated by faith. Founded on a natural law perspective of human rights within the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, the Charter promotes and protects, in particular: a) the right to life, from the moment of conception to natural death; b) the rights and duties of the natural family, based on marriage between one man and one woman; and c) the rights and duties of parents to educate their child in accordance with their moral and religious beliefs.
Key Service Objectives
- To flesh out the meaning and application of the Charter of the Rights of the Family
- To defend human life from the moment of conception to natural death
- To promote the natural family based on marriage between one man and one woman as the fundamental unity of society
- To safeguard the rights and duties of parents to provide moral and religious education to their child
- To advance the protection of children, and vulnerable adults from sexual exploitation and abuse and prevent the same abuse in trust relationships
- To develop an understanding of the rights and duties of the child, the elderly, and persons with disabilities within the context of the family
- To advance a natural law foundation of human rights
- To promote freedom of religion and conscience and combat the persecution and genocide of Christians
- To study international and regional human rights protection systems and the human rights language advanced within them
Who We Are
Jane Frances Adolphe
Dr. Adolphe is a Professor of Law at Ave Maria School of Law (AMSL), in Naples, Florida (2001 – present), and an Adjunct Professor of the University of Notre Dame, School of Law, Sydney. She has worked as an external and internal legal advisor for the Holy See, Secretariat, Section for Relations with States and writes in the area of international law and the Holy See.
Adolphe is a civil lawyer holding degrees in common law and civil law (B.C.L./LL.B) from McGill University and is qualified to practice law in the State of New York and the Province of Alberta. She holds a doctorate in canon law (J.C.L./J.C.D) from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, in Rome, Italy. Her doctoral thesis is entitled: A Light to the Nations: The Holy See and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Adolphe established the International Catholic Jurists Forum (ICJF), in 2014, which has organized multiple international expert meetings, some resulting in books that she has co-edited: Clerical Sexual Misconduct: An Interdisciplinary Analysis (Cluny: 2020); Equality and Non-discrimination: Catholic Roots, Current Challenges (Pickwick: 2019); The Persecution of Christians in the Middle East: Prevention, Prohibition, Prosecution (Angelico Press: 2018).
Another notable book is St. Paul, the Natural Law and Contemporary Legal Theory (Lexington: 2012), which is co-edited with Dr. Robert Fastiggi. It is the outcome document of a speaking series between theologians from Sacred Heart Major Seminary and AMSL law professors. Held during the “Year of St. Paul,” declared as such by Pope Benedict XVI, the book responds to a specific request to AMSL President and Dean, Bernard Dobranski, for a conference on the natural law. That request had been made some years earlier by Pope Benedict in his capacity as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.
She began her legal career clerking with the Court of Appeal and Queens Bench in Calgary, Alberta, and the law firm Bennett Jones Verchere, then prosecuted criminal cases for the Alberta Crown Prosecutor’s Office, and later worked as a legal consultant to a law firm in Rome, and to non-governmental organizations lobbying at United Nations’ conferences, before participating as a member of various delegations of the Holy See at international meetings.
Publications (BePress): https://works.bepress.com/ProfessorJaneAdolphe/
Michael Arthur Vacca
Michael Arthur Vacca, a devotee of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is a licensed attorney in Michigan and holds a B.A. in Political Philosophy and English Literature from Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, MI. He holds a Juris Doctorate from Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida. He has a certification in Catholic Healthcare Ethics from Catholic Distance University and the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and is a certified spiritual director. From 2010-2012, Michael served as a legal advisor for the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome, Italy, wherein he advocated for the defense of human life, religious freedom, and the natural family on the international, regional, and national level. Michael is a widely publicized legal scholar that has written on the natural moral law, human life, natural marriage, religious freedom, and bioethics issues. Michael serves as the Director of Ministry, Bioethics, and Membership Experience for Christ Medicus Foundation CURO. He is blessed to be married to his best friend Sarah.
IT SUPPORT AND WEB DEVELOPER
Brian serves as IT support and web guru for ICJurist.org. He is the President and Lead Developer for Arbor Web Guru LLC, a web development business he started in 2017. He is also an instructor for IT related college courses at Eastern Michigan University. Brian obtained a JD from Ave Maria School of Law in 2010 but later decided to pursue his interest in computers. He holds a Masters in Science in Computer Science from Eastern Michigan University and is a PhD candidate at Eastern Michigan University College of Engineering and Technology.
Marissa Ann Eckelkamp
Marissa Ann Eckelkamp is a licensed attorney in the state of Florida. She holds a Juris Doctor with a concentration in the Natural Law from Ave Maria School of Law and holds a B.A. in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. During law school, she interned with the Thomas More Society in Chicago and The Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and Specialized Agencies in Geneva. Prior to law school, she was a representative of the International Solidarity and Human Rights Institute at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations Headquarters. She is currently working on a publication entitled The Development of the Holy See’s Ostpolitik: Poland as a Case Study. In addition to her work as a Fellow, Marissa is in charge of social communications and certain media projects.
Kathryn L. Allen, Esq
Kathryn L. Allen is an associate attorney primarily practicing first party property litigation at Vernis & Bowling in Fort Myers, Florida. She was born in Melbourne, Australia and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She graduated from California University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. After college, Kathryn worked for The Bank of New York Mellon where she held various positions in Investment Services and Control Management. She later attended Ave Maria School of Law where she earned her Juris Doctor. While in law school, Kathryn was a member of the Federalist Society, Lex Vitae Society, and St. Thomas More Society. She has planned and organized numerous events furthering Catholic culture and evangelization. Kathryn is President of the Legion of Mary presidium, Immaculate Conception.
Ryan T. Anderson
Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., is the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and the Founding Editor of Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, New Jersey. He is the author of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment and Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom. He is the co-author of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense and Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination, and the co-editor of A Liberalism Safe for Catholicism? Perspectives from “The Review of Politics.”
Anderson’s research has been cited by two U.S. Supreme Court justices, Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas, in two Supreme Court cases. He received his bachelor of arts degree from Princeton University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude, and he received his doctoral degree in political philosophy from the University of Notre Dame. His dissertation was titled: “Neither Liberal Nor Libertarian: A Natural Law Approach to Social Justice and Economic Rights.”
Anderson has made appearances on ABC, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and Fox News. His work has been published by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, the Harvard Health Policy Review, the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy, First Things, the Claremont Review of Books, and National Review.
He is the John Paul II Teaching Fellow in Social Thought at the University of Dallas, a member of the James Madison Society at Princeton University, and a Fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America.
For nine years he was the William E. Simon senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, and has served as an adjunct professor of philosophy and political science at Christendom College, and a Visiting Fellow at the Veritas Center at Franciscan University. He has also served as an assistant editor of First Things. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanTAnd and for his latest essays and videos you can follow his public Facebook page.
Rev. Dr. Brian T. Austin, F.S.S.P., J.C.D., Ph.D.
Father Austin is a member of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter and a part-time professor of canon law at Saint Paul University in Ottawa and Emory University School of Law in Atlanta (under the aegis of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion).
He holds degrees from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD (B.A., Liberal Arts), Saint Paul University / University of Ottawa (J.C.L. / M.C.L., Canon Law), and the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium (J.C.D., Ph.D., Canon Law).
He is a specialist in penal law whose work focuses on questions of legality, due process, and the equal protection of rights. He has served on various committees of the Canon Law Society of America and is a regular contributor to Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, Studia canonica, and The Jurist.
José-Luis Bazán is a legal advisor for Migration and Asylum and Religious Freedom and Secretary of the COMECE Working Group on Migration and Asylum.
Dana J. Becker
Dana J. Becker is a real estate attorney. She specializes in commercial real estate matters, including the acquisition and disposition of properties, mortgage and mezzanine financing, loan and real property portfolio transactions, condominium and co-op conversions, and retail and commercial leasing. Dana was the founding director of education for the World Youth Alliance Foundation and has served as a board member for the Catholic Education Institute since 2014. She has also served as a consultant to the Holy See Permanent Mission to the United Nations regarding the 45th Session of the Commission on Population and Development on Adolescence and Youth since 2012.
Professor Bonner began his legal career at the U.S. Department of Justice and served in a variety of capacities there for more than 25 years, including Assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Resident Legal Advisor in Moscow. For 10 years, he directed the investigation and prosecution of high-profile federal cases involving international and domestic terrorism. He subsequently joined the U.S. Department of Treasury, where he held the position of Senior Advisor and Chief of Staff to the Undersecretary of the Treasury for Enforcement. Prior to coming to Ave Maria, Professor Bonner served as a Senior Advisor in the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Office of International Affairs, where he oversaw the Department’s activities within the Group of 8 (G8) countries. He also taught as an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center for 13 years.
Fulvio Di Blasi
Fulvio Di Blasi is an attorney, a legal mediator, and a philosopher expert in St. Thomas Aquinas, ethics, bioethics, and natural law theory. He has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Law and did post-doctoral research at the Internationale Akademie fuer Philosophie in the Principality of Liechtenstein. He is the Director of the Thomas International Center for Philosophical Studies (USA), and serves as Scientific Coordinator, Professional Mediator, and Professor of Mediation credited by the Italian Ministry of Justice, of some mediation companies.
He is former Research Fellow for the Italian National Council of Research (CNR), the highest governmental research institution in Italy, Research Associate at the Jacques Maritain Center, University of Notre Dame, Director of Ethical Research at Novarete, Director of the Tommaso d’Aquino Research Center of the ARCES University College, Creator and Director of the European STEP project. He also taught Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame (USA), Philosophy and General Theory of law at LUMSA Law School (Italy), Bioethical Aspects of Law at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome), and Action Theory at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (Poland).
He has been a lead organizer for international conferences and has given lectures in many leading universities both in Europe and the US. He founded bioethics and mediation journals, and served as contributor, reviewer, editor, and board member in several other philosophical journals and book series. He has more than 200 publications including books, essays, editorials, and encyclopedia entries related to ethics, law, and philosophy.
Dr. Robert Fastiggi
Dr. Robert Fastiggi, Bishop Kevin M. Britt Chair of Dogmatic Theology and Christology, has been at Sacred Heart Major Seminary since 1999. Prior to coming to Detroit, he taught at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas from 1985-1999. Dr. Fastiggi received an A.B. in Religion (summa cum laude) from Dartmouth College in 1974; a M.A. in Theology from Fordham University in 1976; and a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Fordham in 1987. He has done private research in Paris and Montréal, and he took part in a study-tour of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain sponsored by the National Council for U.S.-Arab relations. During his time at Sacred Heart, Dr. Fastiggi has taught courses in Ecclesiology, Christology, Mariology, church history, sacramental theology, and moral theology. He is a member of the Society for Catholic Liturgy, the Mariological Society of America, the International Marian Association, and a corresponding member of the Pontifical Marian Academy International (P.A.M.I).
He served as the executive editor of the 2009-2013 supplements to the New Catholic Encyclopedia and the co-editor of the English translation of the 43rd edition of the Denzinger-Hünermann compendium published by Ignatius Press in 2012. He also revised and updated the translation of Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma for Baronius Press in 2018.
Dr. Maria Fedoryka is associate professor of philosophy at Ave Maria University in Florida, and an Associated Scholar with the Hildebrand Project. She lectures and publishes in both academic and popular fora in the field of the philosophy of love, examining issues spanning from the centrality of love in the being of God, to its role at the center of creation, to its meaning for marriage, family, sexuality, and gender. Her research also includes questions related to human affectivity, as well as issues in the philosophy of psychology related to the development of the human person. Among her popular publications are “Gender: What is it and Why Does It Matter?” in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, and a booklet published by the CTS in the UK titled The Gift of Woman. Among her academic publications are “‘God is Love’”: Personal Plurality as the Completion of Aristotle’s Notion of Substance and Love as the Absolute Ground of the Divine Being” (Proceedings of the ACPA), and “Human Sexuality: Battle for the Human Soul” in Clerical Sexual Misconduct: Challenges and Theological Considerations (ed. Jane Adolphe).
Dr. Mary Healy
Mary Healy is professor of Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and an international speaker on topics related to Scripture, evangelization, healing, and the spiritual life. She is a general editor of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture and author of two of its volumes, The Gospel of Mark and Hebrews. Her other books include Men and Women Are from Eden: A Study Guide to John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and Healing: Bringing the Gift of God’s Mercy to the World. Dr. Healy is chair of the Theological Commission of CHARIS (Charismatic Renewal International Service) in Rome. She serves the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian unity as a member of the Pentecostal-Catholic International Dialogue. In 2014 Pope Francis appointed her as one of the first three women ever to serve on the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
Roger Kiska is legal counsel at the Christian Legal Centre in London. He is both a Solicitor for England and Wales and a member of the Michigan State Bar. He has extensive experience before the European Court of Human Rights and has litigated at the Court of Justice of the European Union. Kiska frequently appears on television and radio including the BBC, Sky News, ITV, RT, LBC and Channel 5. In 2012 he was the recipient of the Scandinavian Human Dignity Award. He has served as an elected member of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency Advisory Panel. He has also published numerous scholarly articles and chapters in academic books.
Kiska earned his J.D. in 2003 at Ave Maria School of Law. He has a B.A. in Religion with a minor in History from the University of Manitoba in Canada in 1997. He also received an M.A. in History of Christian Thought at Vanderbilt University in 1999. Kiska is admitted to the State Bar of Michigan and also passed the Solicitor’s Bar examinations for the United Kingdom. He resides in Bratislava, the capital city of the Slovak Republic.
Rev. Msgr. Piotr Mazurkiewicz
Rev. Mazurkiewicz is a priest from the Archdiocese of Warsaw (Poland), ordained in 1988, and a Professor of Political Science at Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw (UKSW), where he directs the Institute of Political Science and holds the Chair of Social and Political Ethics in the Department of Historical and Social Studies.
He is a specialist in European studies, political philosophy, Catholic social teaching, social and political ethics, and a member of the Research Council of the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences and a member of the Board of the European Society for Research in Ethics “Societas Ethica”. He serves the Polish Bishops’ Conference, as a member of the Advisors’ Group on the European Union and a member of the Council for Social Affairs.
In 2008, after collaborating with Commission of the European’s Bishop Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), on many projects, including the report to the COMECE Bishops entitled: The Evolution of the European Union and the Responsibility of Catholics, he was elected General Secretary of COMECE, in 2008, by the member Bishops of COMECE, with agreement of the Holy See, for a three year mandate. In 2002, he presented his post-doctoral dissertation entitled: The Europeanisation of Europe: Europe’s cultural identity in the context of integration processes at the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 1996, he presented his doctoral thesis at the Department of Ecclesiastical, Historical and Social Studies of the Academy of Catholic Theology in Warsaw. It was entitled: The Church in an open society: Dispute about the Church’s presence in Polish society during the transformation period.
Theresa Okafor holds a PhD in Education from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. She has served as a member of the Holy See delegation at the United Nations in New York (2013-2015).
Theresa is a promoter of pro-life and pro-family values at national and international levels. She also works closely with government officials, United Nations delegates, pro-life and pro-family organizations to protect the dignity of the human person, faith, marriage, children, quality education and the family from all who seek to undermine them. She has lectured and presented at the Catholic University of America, the University of Wisconsin, Lagos State Conference on Education, Catholic Bishops Conference on Education and Seminaries in Enugu, Onitsha and Nsukka.
Theresa has been featured in EWTN, NTA, Voice of Africa and in documentaries such as Humanum.it and the Power of Mothers. She is the recipient of four awards: The Natural Family Award by the World Congress for Families 2014; Rhodes Youth Forum Award (Greece 2010) for active participation; the Flynet Award (Nigeria, 2009) for educational promotion and a merit award from the National Association of Catholic University Students (Nigeria, 2008).
She is a member of the international advisory board of the Integral Economic Development Management (IEDM) program run by the Catholic University of America. She is a Director of the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage (FACH), a Director of the Quality Assurance and Research Development Agency, Nigeria (QAARDAN) and the CEO of Life League Nigeria. She is a member of the Governing Council of Wavecrest College of Hospitality Management, Lagos Nigeria. and the African representative of the World Congress for Families. She served as a board member of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) from 2009-2011 and is a founding member of the African Quality Assurance Network (AFRIQAN).
President of the Global Liberty Alliance, Jason I. Poblete practices international and national security law at Poblete Tamargo LLP in Alexandria, Virginia. He is one of the co-founders of the Global Liberty Alliance, where he serves as its President. A long-time defender of fundamental rights, Mr. Poblete was involved in the successful release of two Americans from Iran and is representing Americans unlawfully detained in other nations. On September 16, 2020, the James W. Foley Foundation gave Poblete the 2020 Hostage Freedom Award for his work to help free several Americans unlawfully detained in Iran and Venezuela. Prior to starting Poblete Tamargo LLP in 2010, Poblete practiced law at Reed Smith, and served as a senior staff member in the U.S. Congress. He has provided expert testimony on a range of legal and foreign policy matters, including on sovereignty and self-determination, export controls and economic sanctions, before the United Nations, the U.S. Congress, and foreign courts. In 2017 Jason co-founded a legal defense fund, the Global Liberty Alliance, to empower and train lawyers, reporters, and civil society leaders who work in nations struggling with rule of law issues. Born and raised in South Florida, he is a first-generation American whose family fled Communist Cuba during the Cold War.
Dr. Puppinck is the Director of the European Centre for Law and Justice, a non-governmental organization based in Strasbourg (France) with special Consultative Status with ECOSOC-UN.The ECLJ advocates for the protection of religious and conscientious freedoms, family, life and subsidiarity within various human rights institutions. The ECLJ is involved in most of the important cases in the field of bioethics, religious freedom, and state-church relationships before the European Court of Human Rights. Grégor Puppinck also serves as an expert at the Council of Europe for the Holy See and as an adviser to several Member States of the Council of Europe. He frequently provides expert briefings before various national, European and International bodies. He teaches human rights and advocacy at the Law School of Strasbourg. From 2003 to 2009, he taught human rights, international law and constitutional law. After earning his Master of Law from the Law School of Pantheon-Assas (University Paris II), he graduated from the “Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales” (IHEI). He holds a Ph.D. in law with a dissertation on the elaboration of the norms in the field of bioethics and is the author of numerous academic articles. He is Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great and Cavaliere della Repubblica of Italy.
D. Brian Scarnecchia
Brian Scarnecchia, M.Div., J.D. is an Associate Professor of Law at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida where he has taught Property law, Origin of the United States Constitution, Criminal law and Bioethics. He is the author of Bioethics, Law and Human Life Issues: A Catholic Perspective on Marriage, Family, Contraception, Abortion, Reproductive Technology, and Death and Dying (Lanham, MD, Scarecrow Press, 2010) and co-author of The Millennium Development Goals in Light of Catholic Social Teaching (New York, C-Fam, 2009). Brian has also worked as the Director of the Legal Studies program and of the Human Life Studies program at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville and as an Assistant County Prosecutor for Jefferson County, Ohio. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Society of Catholic Social Scientists (SCSS) and is their main NGO representative to the United Nations. He is also the founding president of International Solidarity and Human Rights Institute (ISHRI), a non-governmental organization (NGO) in consultative status with the United Nations. Brian has also served as an expert on life and family issues for the Catholic Inspired NGO Forum (CINGO), which works in close association with the Pontifical Council for the Family and Secretariat of the Holy See.
An international human-rights lawyer for over thirty years, Nina Shea joined Hudson Institute as a Senior Fellow in November 2006, where she directs the Center for Religious Freedom. Shea works extensively for the advancement of individual religious freedom and other human rights in U.S. foreign policy as it confronts an ascendant Islamic extremism, as well as nationalist and remnant communist regimes. She undertakes scholarship and advocacy in defense of those persecuted for their religious beliefs and identities and on behalf of diplomatic measures to end religious repression and violence abroad, whether from state actors or extremist groups.
Shea was appointed by the U.S. House of Representatives to serve seven terms as a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (June 1999 – March 2012). During the Soviet era, Shea’s first client before the United Nations was Soviet Nobel Peace Laureate Andrei Sakharov. Since then, she has been appointed as a U.S. delegate to the United Nation’s main human rights body by both Republican and Democratic administrations. She also served as a member of the Clinton administration’s Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad. In 2009, she was appointed to serve as a member of the U.S. National Commission to UNESCO.
Shea played a leading role in building grassroot support for the adoption of the International Religious Freedom Act (1998). For seven years ending in 2005, she helped organize and lead a coalition of churches and religious groups that worked to end a religious war against non-Muslims and dissident Muslims in southern Sudan. In 2014, she initiated and helped lead a coalition of hundreds of prominent American religious leaders to issue The Pledge of Solidarity for Persecuted Iraqi, Syrian and Egyptian Christians and Other Minorities, which was released by a bi-partisan Congressional panel on May 7. In summer 2014, she met with Pope Francis to discuss the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
At Hudson, she has organized conferences for Nigerian schoolgirls and others who survived Boko Haram attacks, Christian converts formerly imprisoned in Iran, Coptic bishops from Egypt, Catholic bishops from China and the Gulf, Muslim scholars, and many others. Shea advocates in the nation’s capital on behalf of a broad range of persecuted religious minorities around the world; and, for such work, was honored by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA with the Community’s inaugural “Ahmadiyya Muslim Humanitarian Award.”
She has authored and/or edited four widely-acclaimed reports on Saudi state educational materials that promote extremist views and in 2011 had an opportunity to travel to Saudi Arabia and speak directly about her findings with the Ministers of Education, Justice and Islamic Affairs. Her reports include: Ten Years On: Saudi Arabia’s Textbooks Still Promote Religious Violence (2011), Update: Saudi Arabia’s Curriculum of Intolerance (2008), Saudi Arabia’s Curriculum of Intolerance (2006), and Saudi Publications on Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques (2005), all of which translated and analyzed Saudi governmental publications that teach hatred and violence against the religious “other.”
She is the co-author of Silenced: How Apostasy & Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide, with a Foreword by Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid, the former President of Indonesia and head of Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim organization (Oxford University Press, 2011). Her most recent book, which she also co-authored, is Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2013). She regularly presents testimony before Congress, delivers public lectures, organizes briefings and conferences, and writes frequently on religious freedom issues. Her writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, CQ Researcher, Weekly Standard, National Review Online, CNN, Fox, The Daily Beast, HuffingtonPost, and RealClearWorld, among others.
For the ten years prior to joining Hudson, Shea worked at Freedom House, where she directed the Center for Religious Freedom, an entity which she had helped found in 1986 as the Puebla Institute.
She is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia. She is a graduate of Smith College, and American University’s Washington College of Law.
Pia de Solenni
Pia de Solenni is a theologian who formerly served as the chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in California. Solenni is an alumna of Thomas Aquinas College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Arts-Great Books, and of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum, where she earned a Bachelor of Sacred Theology. Subsequently, she earned a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome; for this work, she received the 2001 Award of the Pontifical Academies, presented by John Paul II. Dr. de Solenni has worked at the Family Research Council. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and National Catholic Reporter, and she has appeared on CNN, ABC News, MSNBC, Hardball with Chris Matthews, The O’Reilly Factor, and other television programs.
Geoffrey Bedford Strickland
Geoffrey Bedford Strickland, J.D., J.C.L., serves as International Associate and Rome Office Director for Priests for Life/Gospel of Life Ministries and as collaborator with the Pontifical Council for the Family. His research and publications pertain to the state of the family in the modern world and the dignity of human life in all periods of its existence. In his role as Rome Office Director and International Associate, he provides research and analysis of canonical and international legal themes pertaining to family and life issues. In his role as collaborator with the Pontifical Council for the Family, he has provided research and analysis regarding legal issues pertaining to the family and human dignity in the modern world, compiling an international legal database (organized by topic, region, and law), focusing upon areas pertaining to the family, human life in all periods of its existence, demographics, and gender ideologies. He assists in language related work (translation and interpretation) of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Arabic, as well as in English language media efforts.
Dr. Marcela Szymanski
Dr. Marcela Szymanski lives in Brussels, Belgium, where she has been a public affairs consultant and an EU+NATO news correspondent (CNN en Español). She holds a BA in Communications, an MA in Economics and a PhD (abd) in International Politics from Georgia State University. She is an affiliate researcher with both the GSU and the University of the Americas in Puebla (UDLAP) writing on political change and democratization. Her public affairs clients have included not only industrial and financial concerns, but also Catholic Church foundations as they support the Church in countries at war, political prisoners, and non-Western countries suffering from substantial human rights violations by external actors. Since 2015 she is the Editor of the report “Religious Freedom in the World” for the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (her academic publications can be found online).
Elizabeth S. Westhoff
Known for her dedication to the Faith along with her humor and wit, Elizabeth is a strong believer that the Church should use every communications tool available to evangelize and share the beauty and truth of Catholicism. Elizabeth has a Master of Arts degree in English and American literature. A strategic marketing and communications executive who has served the Church for over 20 years, she is passionate about creating strong brands that communicate key messages, help inspire confidence, and take organizations to a new level. Known for her ability to craft effective messaging that resonates with both Catholic and secular audiences, Elizabeth has built brand recognition across Catholic and secular media, both nationally and internationally.
Elizabeth currently serves as Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, FL, collaborating with various departments and faculty members to promote the law school’s mission as a Catholic, conservative, competitive school of law that is founded in the Catholic intellectual tradition. Prior to her arrival at Ave Maria Law, Elizabeth served as Press Secretary to His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.
Elizabeth is the recipient of the Catholic Press Association Awards: First Place, Best coverage of the Year of Mercy, the Catholic Press Association Award: First Place, Best newspaper story and photo package, the Catholic Press Association Award: Honorable Mention, Best in-depth news/special reporting in a diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Academy of Communications Professionals: Gabriel Award for New Media Campaign of the Year, Hermes Creative Award for Video Production: Gold Winner and Honorable Mention, the Archdiocese of St. Louis Women’s Visionary Award, the St. Louis Business Journal’s Thirty Under 30 Award, former President and Vice-President of the National Communications and Development Section for Catholic Charities USA, host of several long-running Catholic radio shows on EWTN affiliate stations, a contributing author and speaker for Women In the New Evangelization, a regular guest and guest host on various Catholic radio networks, M.C. and speaker for various Catholic and secular organizations, and serves as a judge for the Catholic Media Awards in the areas of video production, social media campaigns, radio production, and blog production. Elizabeth is a Daughter of St. Francis de Sales in the Association of St. Francis de Sales (formerly a tertiary order) and a Dame of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.