IACS Trustee Spotlight: Michael P. Moreland

By IACS staff

A renowned constitutional law and religious freedom scholar, Michael P. Moreland is university professor of Law and Religion and director of the Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at Villanova University.

A lifelong Catholic, he earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame, a master’s degree and Ph.D. in theological ethics from Boston College, and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. He began teaching at Villanova in 2006 and has held visiting positions at Princeton University and Notre Dame.

Before coming to Villanova, he served as associate director for Domestic Policy under President George W. Bush at the White House, where he worked on a range of legal policy issues, including criminal justice, immigration, civil rights and liability reform.

A longtime member of the IACS Board of Trustees, he was elected chair in April 2021.

His wife, Anna Moreland, Ph.D., is a theologian and the Anne Quinn Welsh Endowed Chair and director of the honors program at Villanova. They have four children, including Juan Pablo, a sophomore at USC.

In the Q&A below, he discusses the IACS and its future.

How did you first become involved with IACS?

I was aware of the project to create IACS back when I was in graduate school at Boston College in the 1990s. I was a research assistant for Fr. Michael Buckley, S.J. who was part of the group that met with Fr. Jim Heft, S.M. to explore creating a Catholic institute for advanced studies along the lines of the storied institute at Princeton. Then in 2017, a friend from graduate school, Dominic Doyle (an IACS trustee and a theology professor at Boston College) recommended me to Fr. Heft as a candidate for the Board of Trustees. Fr. Heft and I had lunch in Washington, D.C. and he invited me to join the IACS board, which includes people drawn from a variety of backgrounds, including academics like myself. I was honored by the invitation to serve on the board and readily accepted. In 2021, I was elected vice chair of the board and in 2022 I was elected chair.

A photo of IACS trustee Michael P. Moreland and his wife, His wife, Anna Moreland, Ph.D.,

What is your vision for IACS?

My hope for IACS is to be a home for cutting-edge research in important fields inspired by the Catholic intellectual tradition based at one of the country’s leading research universities, the University of Southern California.

What are your priorities as board chair?

In many respects, IACS is still an entrepreneurial organization, and we’re aiming to build an institution that is unique in the landscape of American higher education and American Catholicism. As the Board of Trustees continues an international search for our Institute’s next president, a top priority will be selecting a new leader who will work toward achieving our long-term goals related to our strategic vision, programming and fundraising.

IACS is still an entrepreneurial organization, and we’re aiming to build an institution that is unique in the landscape of American higher education and American Catholicism.

What challenges does IACS face?

I would highlight three challenges. First, we live amid a culture that is becoming more secular, particularly in academia. It will be important for IACS to articulate the relevance and importance of religious perspectives — particularly the riches of the Catholic intellectual tradition — to various fields of inquiry. Second, we live amid highly divisive times in the Catholic Church and in politics. IACS can be a place that brings people together from across those divides, but that work will always be challenging. Finally, IACS needs resources to do all of this, and while we have generous benefactors and a small endowment to support some of our programs, we need more support if we are to realize the vision of a research center in the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Why is supporting IACS important?

There are questions and problems facing the world to which the Catholic intellectual tradition can provide a set of compelling answers, but doing so requires building Catholic institutions to support scholars undertaking the research needed to supply those answers. IACS is poised to be such an institution.