Skip to main content

Margaret Ford Kieran collection of John C. Ford, SJ papers

Collection BC-1995-063: Margaret Ford Kieran collection of John C. Ford, SJ papers


  • Creation: approximately 1910-1995
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930s-1980s

Scope and Contents

This collection documents 20th century American Jesuit moral theologian John C. Ford, SJ through materials kept by his sister, Margaret Ford Kieran. The bulk of Ford's papers are held by the Jesuit provincial archives, but he shared correspondence, manuscripts, articles, sermons, newspaper clippings, awards, and photographs with his sister during his lifetime, and she received a small number of personal items, including his medals, after his death. Ford's speeches and writings discuss Catholic morality in relation to strategic bombing, contraception, and alcoholism. His papers also include original popular and liturgical music written by him. In addition to materials created or collected by Ford, his sister kept condolence letters, clippings referencing his theological work, and memorial items from his funeral.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

John Cuthbert Ford was born in Boston, Massachusetts on December 20, 1902 to Michael Joseph and Johanna (Cuthbert) Ford. His siblings included Margaret (Ford) Kieran and Anne Ford. He attended Boston College High School.

Ford entered the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew-on-Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York on August 14, 1920. After moving back to New England for his juniorate at Shadowbrook and philosophy and theology studies at Weston College (A.B., 1928, S.T.L., 1933), he was ordained in 1932. He received a doctorate from Gregorian University, Rome, in 1937 and a degree in civil law from Boston College Law School in 1941.

Ford was Professor of Moral Theology at Weston College 1937-1948, with an intervening year at Gregorian University from 1945-1946. He was Professor of Ethics and Theology at Boston College 1948-1951, following which he returned to Weston College for 1951-1958, Catholic University of America 1958-1966, Weston College 1966-1968, and was made professor emeritus in 1970.

Ford was one of the founders of the journal Theological Studies (1940) and creator of its regular feature "Notes on Moral Theology," to which he regularly contributed for the first six years of the journal. He published multiple books, including The Validity of Virginal Marriage (Worcester, Mass.: Harrigan, 1938). Depth Psychology, Morality, and Alcoholism (Weston, Mass.: Weston, 1951), and with Gerald Kelly, SJ, a two-volume set Contemporary Moral Theology (1958 and 1963).

In September of 1944 Ford published the article "The Morality of Obliteration Bombing" in Theological Studies, condemning the United States and United Kingdom's use of this strategy in World War II, and his work was endorsed by The Second Vatican Council. Ford also served on the Pontifical Commission for the Study of Population, Family, and Births, and was a leading defender of the Church's policy on birth control as described in Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae. Despite the contention raised by this issue, he defended it through the end of his career, co-publishing an article in his retirement commemorating the tenth anniversary of Humanae Vitae. A recovered alcoholic, Ford also focused much of his scholarship and pastoral work around sobriety.

Ford received the Catholic Theological Society of America Cardinal Spellman Award in 1956 and the Cardinal O’Boyle Award for Defense of the Faith from the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars in 1988.

Ford also composed popular songs and liturgical music. John C. Ford, SJ died in 1989.


Genilo, Eric Marcelo O. John Cuthbert Ford, SJ: Moral Theologian at the End of the Manualist Era. Georgetown University Press, 2007.

Obituaries, Box 1, Folder 24, Margaret Ford Kieran Collection of John C. Ford, SJ papers, BC.1995.063 John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Pidel, Aaron. "Ford's Foundation: The Consistency and Compassion of a Pastoral Theologian." America: The Jesuit Review, 2014 March 31.


2.5 Linear Feet (3 containers)

Language of Materials



This collection documents 20th century American Jesuit moral theologian John C. Ford, SJ through materials kept by his sister, Margaret Ford Kieran. These include Ford's correspondence, medals, photographs, and typescripts, as well as clippings, condolences, obituaries, and prayer cards received by his sister after his death.


Arranged in two series: I. Papers and II. Memorial. Each series is arranged alphabetically.


Gift of Margaret Ford Kieran in 1995.

Related Materials

John C. Ford, SJ papers, New England Jesuit Province Archives, College of the Holy Cross Archives and Special Collections.

Other collections on ethics and morality at John J. Burns Library:

Boston College collection of Jones I. J. Corrigan, SJ, BC.2005.105, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Eugene G. Laforet faculty papers, MS.1992.032, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Description of Ford's childhood can be found in the draft memoirs of his sister: Anne Ford papers, MS.1995.027, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Margaret Ford Kieran Collection of John C. Ford, SJ papers
1910-1995 (bulk 1930s-1980s)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023 July: During processing, the title was changed from John C. Ford papers to reflect provenance.

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States