By Kathy Schiffer
Ave Maria Radio
The new man at the helm of the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat on Doctrine and Canonical Affairs will have his hands full: Charged with serving as a resource to the bishops in clarifying doctrinal issues, Peter Ryan, S.J. will also encourage theologians and academics to help advance the goals of the New Evangelization, and will assist the bishops' Subcommittee on Health Care Issues and the Subcommittee on the Translation of Scripture Texts.
The USCCB announced on May 28 that Father Ryan, a renowned moral theologian, teacher and spiritual director, would replace Capuchin Father Thomas Weinandy who, according to reports in the National Catholic Register, had decided earlier this year to leave the position.
Father Ryan first came to the attention of Archbishop John Nienstedt, archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis and chairman of the bishops’ doctrine committee, eight years ago while working on the Vatican seminary visitations. Archbishop Nienstedt said of the new director, “I have been impressed with his scholarship, his teaching abilities and his organizational skills.”
Monsignor Ronny Jenkins, USCCB General Secretary, added his own praise for the new director: “Father Ryan’s considerable expertise on bioethical issues is vital as contemporary society addresses moral challenges inherent in biotechnology, medical ethics and environmentalism. He brings a depth of theological knowledge to these and other areas, including the study and teaching of systematic theology, that are critical to the Church today and to the strategic priorities adopted by the bishops.”
Known for his stalwart adherence to Catholic teaching, Father Ryan has signaled his intent to give special attention to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s “Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian”. That document lauds the contributions of theologians—but cautions that while there must be freedom to explore ideas, that freedom is not meant to operate independently of the faith that has been handed down from the time of the apostles.
Father Ryan is a graduate of Loyola College in Maryland, and earned a licentiate and doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and a licentiate in philosophy from Gonzaga University in Spokane. He is a member of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus.
He has been a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, serving for three years on the organization’s executive board. He also has been a senior fellow with the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person, which was founded in 1998 with the mission to renew, deepen and promote the Western tradition of moral reflection.