An Associate Professor of Theology at Villanova University, Suzanne Toton holds both a B.A. and an M.A. from Temple University (1970 & 1972), and an Ed.D. from Columbia University‘s Teachers College (1978). She has long been on the faculty of Villanova’s Center for Peace and Justice Education (CPJE), an interdisciplinary program that offers students both a major and a minor in the study of “social justice and peace.”
Professor Toton has taught a course called “Global Poverty: Liberation Theology & the Struggle for Justice,” dedicated to: “examin[ing] from a Christian ethical perspective: (a) the structural and systemic linkages that produced wealth for one region of the world and poverty for the other; (b) the phenomenon of globalization and its potential to promote or set development back further; (c) the responsibility of the affluent to reshape the global order into one that is more just, compassionate and peaceful; and (d) what the Christian churches and the Roman Catholic church in particular are doing to address global poverty.”
Professor Toton’s allegiance to the tenets of liberation theology, which views Marxist-Leninist ideology as a secular form of the Christian gospels, informs her teaching curriculum. In her course “Service and Education for Justice,” for example, the writings of Latin American liberation theologians have served as the basic texts.
Toton also has taught a course titled “Christian Ethics and Global Poverty,” which, according to a description in the university’s course catalog, (a) aims to help students “become familiar with the Catholic Church’s social teaching on global poverty and how it finds concrete expression in the mission and work of Catholic Relief Service”; (b) exposes students to “the work of key theologians who continue to wrestle with the challenge of how to speak of God in a world that seems indifferent to human suffering”; and (c) gives “special attention … to international development through the lens of gender, gender-based violence, and peacebuilding.”
In addition to her teaching duties, Toton was once an advisor to Villanova’s chapter of Bread For The World (BFTW), a politicized movement for “citizens” seeking “justice for the world’s hungry people by lobbying our nation’s decision makers.” During the 2000 election season, BFTW graded every U.S. congressional representative, giving each a numerical score between 0 and 100, depending on the percentage of times he or she had voted in a manner that was politically to BFTW’s liking. Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus consistently earned scores of 100, the highest rating possible, while conservatives commonly registered scores of zero. In 2004, Toton was one of thirty activists honored at BFTW’s 30th anniversary celebration.
In February 2003, Toton participated in an anti-war rally in Philadelphia, in opposition to the then-impending U.S. invasion of Iraq. “Nobody in our government — not our President or our members of Congress — is listening to us,” said Toton. “People have to take to the streets and make them listen.”
Toton once served as Villanova’s contact for the Justice Union of Students, Staff and Teachers, which was part of the Peace and Justice Consortium of Colleges and Universities in the Philadelphia area. This consortium was dedicated to sharing information “on events and resources with member schools for the purpose of involving faculty, staff, and above all students in a process of educating, mentoring and modeling for social change.”