Dr. Craig A. Ford Jr., assistant professor of theology at St Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, has been named the 2022 recipient of the Catherine Mowry LaCunga Award from the Catholic Theological Society of America. He is the first Black winner in the award’s 17-year history.
The news was announced during the CTSA annual meeting held earlier this month in Atlanta.
The LaCugna Award is presented each year to “new scholars for the best academic essay in the field of theology within the Roman Catholic tradition,” according to the CTSA’s website. Scholars submitted essays for consideration, which were reviewed by society representatives.
Ford’s winning essay was entitled “Our New Galileo Affair” and covered LGBT issues, his specialty as a professor and public theologian.
“Winning the LaCugna award is nothing short of an extraordinary honor,” he said in a press release issued on June 16th.
“I hope that my article… can help bring about dialogue and healing that the Roman Catholic Church needs in order to continue to be a better church on issues related to gender and sexuality.”
Ford’s new honor comes with a plaque and a cash prize, as well as the publishing of the essay abstract in the official proceedings of the year’s CTSA meeting. The society, founded in 1946, says the award is meant to “support the theological endeavors of new scholars”, disseminate their research, explore issues facing the Church in the modern world, and promote the CTSA mission.
A winning essay is said to be one that “makes a contribution to the understanding of the role of religious and Christian faith in the life of human beings, society, and the Church.”
Ford, who identifies as gay and “writes at the intersection of the Catholic moral tradition, queer theory and critical race theory,” joined the faculty at St. Norbert College in 2019 and is known for his critiques of the Church’s theology on issues of sex and gender. He was awarded the school’s Donald B. King Distinguished Scholar Award earlier this year.
Ford also serves on the faculty of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana, is on the editorial board of the Journal of Moral Theology, and has written on his specialties for Commonweal and New Ways Ministry. He was also one of over 750 Catholic signatories last year on New Ways’ statement calling for an end to LGBTQ discrimination.
In addition to his membership with CTSA—the largest theological society in the world, at over 1,300 members—Ford also participated in the inaugural meeting of the Queer Catholic Theologians of Color last fall.
In addition to honoring Ford, at this year’s CTSA meeting—coinciding with Pride Month—the society issued a position statement “in solidarity with members of the LGBTQIA+ community.”
“[We] deplore the unprecedented wave of attacks on the community across the nation,” they said in the resolution, one of just four in the society’s recent history and the second to directly mention the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“We call upon the USCCB along with local and state legislators to reconsider any policy positions that may have contributed to the current explosion of anti-LGBTQIA+ hate.”
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).