Setting the World Aflame: Divestment, Ethics, and Jesuit Identity at Boston College

  • Maura Lester McSweeney Boston College


This paper seeks to determine whether Boston College’s decision to keep its investments in fossil fuel companies is consistent with the ethical responsibilities of a Jesuit university. A student group that advocates for the university’s divestment
has had a troubled relationship with the school’s leadership. The main obstacle has been that the divestment group claims that Boston College’s refusal to divest does not align with the ethics to which it subscribes as a Jesuit and Catholic university.
This inconsistency is particularly striking as Boston College itself has a historical precedent of divesting from a sector of the economy for moral reasons. The Apartheid divestment movement catalyzed the university to develop ethical investment guidelines to ensure that the school’s finances were consistent with its Jesuit mission. Moreover, canon law requires Catholic universities to adhere to Church teaching in all of its commitments and activities. by investing in fossil fuel companies, the University defies the teachings of the encyclical laudato si’, which is an infringement on canon law. This paper is an abridged version of the senior thesis completed for the Perspectives Honors sequence.

Author Biography

Maura Lester McSweeney, Boston College
Maura McSweeney graduated from Boston College in the spring of 2017. She was a perspectives major with a minor in International Studies with a focus on Global Ethics. While at Boston College, she served on the executive board of the Organization of Latin American Affairs and was a leader in BC’s Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassadors group for three years. She was awarded the Archbishop Oscar Romero Scholarship, the Mer Zovko and Paul Chebator Ever to Excel award, and the Finneran Commencement Award during her time at Boston College.


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How to Cite
Lester McSweeney, M. (2018). Setting the World Aflame: Divestment, Ethics, and Jesuit Identity at Boston College. Elements, 13(2).