J. Peter Pham

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J. Peter Pham, Ph.D., (also John-Peter Pham) is Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He is also an academic fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C. [1]


Pham's "primary research interest is the intersection of international relations, international law, political theory, and ethics, with particular concentrations on the implications for United States foreign policy and African states as well as religion and global politics."

John-Peter Pham does not appear to have any documented formal training in African Affairs. After receiving a BA in economics from Chicago University, Pham's vocation was in the priesthood, and he ultimately receive a Ph.D., writing his doctoral dissertation in systematic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, on the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar.[2] In 1999, he was priest of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, writing for the Libertarian Catholic Acton Institute.[3]

During this time he also worked as a priest for a number of political causes in the United States. His October 1998 biography from a talk he gave on Free Market Economics to the Philidelphia Society reads:"John-Peter Pham, a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, is a fellow of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He is the editor of upcoming volume, "Centesimus Annus": Assessment and Perspectives for the Future of Catholic Social Doctrine, and served as the co-moderator of the International Congress on Social Doctrine in Rome (1997), sponsored by the Acton Institute and the Pontifical Athenaeum "Regina Apostolorum". He holds advanced ecclesiastical degrees in theology and canon law in addition to his prior studies in economics at the University of Chicago, where he wrote his thesis on The Declining Labor Force Participation of Older Americans since 1970 under the direction of Dr. D. Gale Johnson and for which he was awarded the Donnelly Prize for 1990. " [4]

Thereafter, Dr. Pham joined the Vatican diplomatic service, serving in Africa and Asia, before receiving an appointment as an Assistant professor in something called "Justice Studies" at James Madison University. According to an early bio at JMU:

"Before coming to JMU, Pham held various diplomatic appointments through the Vatican Secretariat of State, including serving as the interim head of the diplomatic mission mediating the regional conflict in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 2001-02. He was acting deputy chief of mission at the Vatican Embassy in the Philippines in 2000 after a five-year tenure as counselor to the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Vatican office in charge of human political, economic and social rights."[5]

More recent biographies supplied by JMU and Pham neglect to mention that he has no apparent academic training in government, international affairs, or history, but rather his doctorate is in theology.

In 2004, he published a book on the process of Vatican elections, entitled "Heirs of the Fisherman: Behind the Scenes of Papal Death and Succession". His press bio, which described him as a "former Vatican insider" at that time reads: "John-Peter Pham is a frequent writer and commentator on religious and public affairs. An alumnus of the post-graduate Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, he served as a Vatican diplomat as well as an aide to both the Vicar General of His Holiness for the Vatican and the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Dr. Pham recently joined the faculty of the Center for Liberal and Applied Social Sciences at James Madison University."[6]

After his August 2004 appointment as "Associate Professor in Justice Studies," Dr. J. Peter Pham (as he now identifies himself) became a professor of "Political Science and Africana Studies" and "Director Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs" at James Madison University. He has given testimony on topics as varied as Liberia, Taiwan/China relations, and Muslim Terror in the Middle East, despite having no formal credentials in any of these fields.[7]

One bio states: "Dr. Pham is the author of over one hundred essays and reviews on a wide variety of subjects in scholarly and opinion journals on both sides of the Atlantic and the author, editor, or translator of over a dozen books. Among his recent publications are Liberia: Portrait of a Failed State (Reed Press, 2004), which has been critically acclaimed by Foreign Affairs, Worldview, Wilson Quarterly, American Foreign Policy Interests, and other scholarly publications, and Child Soldiers, Adult Interests: The Global Dimensions of the Sierra Leonean Tragedy (Nova Science Publishers, 2005).

Another bio notes: "In addition to serving on the boards of several international and national think tanks and journals, Dr. Pham has testified before the U.S. Congress and conducted briefings or consulted for both Congressional and Executive agencies." [1]

Here is additional information on committees or boards on which he has served:


  1. 2006 World Defense Review bio
  2. 1999 bio
  3. Bio at Acton institute
  4. 1997 bio
  5. JMU Bio. This bio is different from the one he uses for his commentaries and academic work, which excludes his time as a priest.{{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], {{{date}}}. (example?) Some biographical introductions introduced him early in his career as a "former United States Ambassador to the Vatican," rather than a former (sub ambassadorial level) member of the Vatican diplomatic staff to various countries.
  6. Oxford press bio, 2004
  7. His Defend Democracy bio
  8. Principals, National Committee on American Foreign Policy, accessed September 13, 2007.
  9. Advisory Board, Institute on Religion and Public Policy, accessed June 29, 2008.
  10. Who's Involved, Save Iraqi Christians, accessed August 10, 2008.

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