Meghan Clark, Ph.D.
St. John's Theology Professor Serves As a ‘Bridge between Generations’
Meghan Clark, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at St. John's University, was still in high school when she decided to become a theologian. Dr. Clark found her inspiration while attending one of the Vincentian Chair of Social Justice lectures held during the University's annual Founder's Week celebration.
Her father, Charles Clark, Ph.D., Professor of Economics in The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, is a Senior Fellow of the University's Vincentian Center for Church and Society. He and his daughter often attended the lectures together.
One talk spoke to her in a profound way. As a high school freshman, she was taken to hear Mary Ann Glendon, J.D., LL.M., a Harvard Law professor and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See. Glendon shared her experiences as the Holy See’s representative to the 1995 United Nations Women's Conference in Beijing. “At the end,” Dr. Clark recalled, “I turned to my father and said, 'That's what I want to do.'"
Dedicated to the “Mission and Complexities” of Catholicism
That desire evolved over the years but essentially never changed, said Dr. Clark. "It was a concrete moment when I realized it was possible to engage issues of social justice in a different way. As a Catholic moral theologian, I get to do that to a degree no other field would allow."
After receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Theology at Fordham University in 2003, she went on to earn her doctorate in theological ethics from Boston College in 2009. Dr. Clark joined the faculty of St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences last year.
Recently, Dr. Clark was appointed to the Board of Directors of America Press, Inc., which oversees America magazine, the national Catholic weekly. She also was asked to serve as a consultant to the Domestic Justice Engagement Development Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Dr. Clark believes that, in both instances, she was chosen partly to provide a more youthful voice to the formation of policy. "I'm there as somebody from a new generation (of Catholics) and as a theologian committed to the mission and complexities of Catholicism."
In those capacities, Dr. Clark often finds herself "the youngest person in the room." Yet she is helping to teach the next generation of Catholics — as well as many non-Catholics with little exposure to the faith. "It's a huge honor and responsibility to be a bridge between generations," she stressed.
Traditions Rooted in Justice
A moral theologian who specializes in social ethics, Dr. Clark focuses on human rights and its solidarity with Catholic social teaching. She also is interested in medical ethics and economic justice. "All of it is about individual human dignity and the common good," she noted.
Dr. Clark especially enjoys giving her students new perspectives on ethical questions. "I teach the Moral Theology of Health Care course in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. It’s based on a Catholic and Vincentian perspective, which is very different from the way other schools approach medical ethics or healthcare."
As a result, she added, students “have to look at a very practical field in a very different way. The concern for the patient is integrated with the role of the community, the common good and responsibility to one’s neighbor — it’s a much more holistic approach that I hope serves students well.”
Educated in the Jesuit tradition, Dr. Clark sees parallels between it and St. John’s Vincentian mission. "Yes, there are differences,” she said. “But both approaches are about going out into the world, living the Gospel and engaging people who are suffering. Both use education as an essential part of what they do."
At its best, Dr. Clark said, Catholic social tradition stands on the side of those whom the rest of society fails to recognize. "We have this rich, intellectual tradition of being able to say that (doing what is right) is not only deeply rooted in our faith but in reason. It's about living a faith that does justice."