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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

What is 'Nature' Today in Science and Theology?

panel discussion

image of two hands

What is 'Nature' Today in Science and Theology?
Panel Discussion

Welkin Johnson, Boston College
Mark Massa, S.J., Boston College
Julie Hanlon Rubio, Santa Clara University
Andrea Vicini, S.J., Boston College
Richard Gaillardetz, Boston College (Moderator) 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Higgins Hall 300 • 5:30 - 7pm

RSVP Requested - please click here to register.

Co-sponsored with the Institute for the Liberal Arts and the Department of Theology.

Abstract: Scholars will discuss 'nature' in light of recent theological and scientific developments, including the statement from the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education on transgendered persons as well as its use more broadly in current Catholic natural law discourse.


headshot of Welkin Johnson

Welkin Johnson, Ph.D. is a professor of biology and the chairperson of the biology department at Boston College. He is a virologist specializing in the evolutionary interplay between retroviruses and their hosts, and researchers in his laboratory use evolutionary principles to design and guide experimental approaches to the study of virus-host molecular interactions. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley (B.A.) and Tufts University School of Medicine (Ph.D.). After completing his Ph.D. research on human endogenous retroviruses, he worked in the department of microbiology and molecular genetics at Harvard Medical School, focusing on the immmune response to HIV and other AIDS-causing retroviruses. Johnson joined the biology department of Boston College in 2011. 

Mark Massa, S.J.

Mark Massa, S.J. is the director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, where he is also a professor of theology. Massa received his Ph.D. in American religion from Harvard University, and is the author of seven books. His most recent book is titled The Structure of Theological Revolutions: Catholic Debates About Natural Law, from Oxford University Press, 2018. His monograph published in 1999, Catholics and American Culture: Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, and the Notre Dame Football Team, received the Alpha Sigma Nu Award for Best Work in Theology for 1999-2000. His ongoing area of research is American Catholic faith and culture of the past century.

Julie Rubio

Julie Hanlon Rubio joined the faculty at Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California after nineteen years at St. Louis University where she was Professor of Theological Studies and Women's and Gender Studies. She writes about Catholic social thought as it relates to sex, gender, marriage, and family. She is the author of four books, including the award winning Hope for Common Ground (Georgetown, 2016). She is a board member of Horizons, the Journal of Catholic Social Thought, and the Catholic Theological Society of America. Currently, she is editing a collection on love, sex, and families with Jason King and writing a book of her own called Catholic and Feminist: Is It Still Possible?

Andrea Vicini, S.J.

At Boston College, Andrea Vicini, S.J., is the Michael P. Walsh Professor of Bioethics and Professor of Moral Theology in the theology department; he is also an affiliate member of the Ecclesiastical faculty at the School of Theology and Ministry. He is an M.D. and a Pediatrician (University of Bologna), an alumnus of Boston College (S.T.L. and Ph.D.), and holds an S.T.D. from the Pontifical Faculty of Theology of Southern Italy in Naples. He has taught in Albania, Chad, France, Italy, and Mexico. He is co-chair of the international network of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church, as well as a lecturer and member of associations of moral theologians and bioethicists in Italy, Europe, and the U.S. His research interests and publications include theological bioethics; ethical issues regarding the environment, global public health, and new biotechnologies; and fundamental theological ethics.

headshot of Richard Gaillardetz

Richard Gaillardetz (moderator) is the Joseph Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College and is currently the chair of the theology department. He has published numerous articles and authored or edited fourteen books. Most recently, he published a newly revised and expanded edition of his popular book, By What Authority? Foundations for Understanding Authority in the Church (Liturgical Press, 2018). He is the editor of the Cambridge Companion to Vatican II which will be published by Cambridge University Press in the spring of 2020. In 2000, he received the Sophia Award from the Washington Theological Union for theological excellence in service of ministry and in 2018 he received the Yves Congar Award for theological excellence from Barry University. Gaillardetz served as president of the Catholic Theological Society of America in 2013-14. 

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In an article from the National Catholic Reporter, the outlet describes that on June 10, 2019, the Vatican released a document entitled “Male and female he created them.” The document, which does not carry the Pope’s signature, is meant to serve as an aid for Catholic school teachers. It was immediatley critized by LGBTQ+ Catholics as it overtly denounced the legitimacy of transgender identities. It invokes the creation story as evidence of the intended difference between men and women and suggests that such identities are firm and unchangeable. Meanwhile, the Pope has delivered contradictory remarks in regards to acceptance of gender theory. LGBTQ+ rights activists are frustrated with the church as it continues to echo sentiments that alienate them and delegitimize their identities.