Vatican expert on child protection to deliver 2022 Keeley Vatican Lecture

Author: Gráinne McEvoy

Hans Zollner 2017 Feature

Rev. Hans Zollner, S.J., will deliver the 2022 Keeley Vatican Lecture on Tuesday (April 5) at 5 p.m. in the Eck Visitors Center auditorium at the University of Notre Dame. Titled “How is the Catholic Church Safeguarding Children? A Perspective After the Recent Developments in Europe,” the lecture is free and open to the public. 

A native of Regensberg, Germany, Father Zollner is one of the Catholic Church’s leading experts on the safeguarding and protection of minors and vulnerable people from sexual abuse. A theologian, psychologist and licensed psychotherapist, he is Ordinary Professor at the Institute of Psychology and founding president of the Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care (formerly the Center for Child Protection), both at the Pontifical Gregorian University. In 2014, he was appointed by Pope Francis to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and reappointed for a second term in 2018. 

Father Zollner has spoken in more than 70 countries about the Church’s role in combatting childhood sexual abuse, and he has played a leading role in international meetings on this issue, including the world congress “Child Dignity in the Digital World” (2017) and the summit on “Child Protection in the Vatican” (2019). At the launch of the Institute of Anthropology in October 2021, Father Zollner said “it happens far too often that we disregard the reality that we are all born with this inherent dignity given to each and every human by the hands of God.” He dedicated the institute to “a greater movement and a change in the world that goes beyond simply acknowledging what has gone on oftentimes right underneath our noses.”

“Few have been more devoted to the critical work of ridding the Church of the sin of sexual abuse, protecting the vulnerable, and caring for victim-survivors, than Father Hans Zollner,” Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said. “As one of the most tenacious and skilled advocates for safe environments and accountability for all, Father Zollner honors us by sharing his wisdom and experience in the 2022 Keeley Vatican Lecture.”

Kathleen Sprows Cummings, director of Notre Dame’s Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, Rev. John A. O'Brien College Professor of American Studies and Nanovic Institute faculty fellow, will introduce Father Zollner. “The Nanovic Institute for European Studies made a visionary choice in inviting Father Hans Zollner to deliver this year’s Keeley Vatican Lecture,” Sprows Cummings said. “He is relentless in his efforts to prevent the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults; he is also fiercely committed to demanding transparency and accountability in seeking to understand the causes of this abuse, both within the Church and throughout the world. I deeply admire his expertise and his courage.”

The Keeley Vatican Lecture, facilitated annually by the Nanovic Institute, provides a way to deepen Notre Dame’s connection to the Holy See by bringing distinguished representatives from the Vatican to explore questions surrounding the University’s Catholic mission. Established in 2005 through the generous support of alumnus Terrence R. Keeley, lecturers typically spend several days on campus, joining classes, celebrating Mass with students and conversing with faculty members.

“We are delighted to welcome Father Zollner to Notre Dame,” said Clemens Sedmak, director of the Nanovic Institute and professor of social ethics in the Keough School of Global Affairs. “This is an important visit addressing one of the most important challenges to the moral status of institutions and the credibility of the institutional Church. Father Zollner’s research focuses on prevention and protection as key pillars of safe institutions. His lecture is an opportunity to connect the Keeley Vatican Lecture to Nanovic’s special focus, as outlined in our strategic plan, on those on the margins of European life. As a scholar and practitioner, he brings a depth of expertise, insight and compassion to an important conversation about how we can protect, listen to and cherish victims of appalling abuse and neglect.”

Past Keeley Vatican Lectures have included Dr. Barbara Jatta, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Rev. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., and Ukrainian Archbishop Borys Gudziak. An archive of videos of past lectures is available here.

An integral part of the Keough School of Global Affairs, the Nanovic Institute seeks to enrich the intellectual culture of Notre Dame by creating an integrated, interdisciplinary home for students, faculty and visiting scholars to explore the evolving ideas, cultures, traditions, beliefs, moral challenges and institutions that shape Europe.

More information about the Nanovic Institute and the Keeley Vatican Lecture, is available at

Originally published by Gráinne McEvoy at on April 04, 2022.