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Notre Dame philosophy professor appointed to Vatican academy of Thomas Aquinas

| Friday, September 20, 2019

Last spring, Notre Dame philosophy professor Therese Cory learned she had officially been named a member of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas by Pope Francis. The John and Jean Oesterle Associate Professor of Thomistic Studies is currently one of 50 members, and is only the third woman in history to be made a member.

“It was really exciting news, because the Pontifical Academy of Thomas Aquinas is the body that considers Aquinas Aquinas thought for the Vatican, right in the heart of the heart of the Church,” Cory said. “And so that was definitely a very exciting moment and a big honor.”

Cory was told in early 2019 she had been nominated for the membership by others in the Academy. The nomination had to be approved by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cory said.

“Spots open up when somebody passes away or retires,” Cory said. “So then [current members] go through a list of people who are working on Aquinas and decide who to nominate.”

John O’Callaghan, an associate professor in the philosophy department, is also a member of the academy, and was appointed in 2010. 

Cory, who has been working at the University for four years, specializes in Aquinas and the philosophical traditions that connected Muslim, Jewish and Christian thinkers in the Middle Ages. 

“I work on medieval theories of mind and the human person — focusing especially on Thomas Aquinas and his Islamic sources,” Cory said. “So I’m really interested in the 13th century as a place where multiple strains of philosophical thought from different traditions are intersecting from Augustine and from the Islamic world and from Aristotle. But I’ve mostly been looking at Aquinas as a kind of Nexus for all of those different streams to intersect.”

At Notre Dame, Cory serves on the executive committee for the Aquinas and the Arabs Project. In 2014, she was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship, and in 2017, she won a National Humanities Center fellowship. Cory is currently teaching an ancient and medieval philosophy course — a requirement for philosophy majors — and is writing a book on Aquinas’ theory of intellect. 

As an academy member, Cory was able to attend the annual meeting in Rome this past June. 

“I can say that one of the most exciting things about attending the academy conference this June — this was my first time attending — was being able to talk to all of scholars from around the world,” Cory said. “But also it was pretty exciting to be able to go past the the Swiss Guards post into the Vatican and be on Vatican grounds.”

Cory will be the second woman currently in the academy, and the third in its history. 

“In the past, a lot of scholars who worked at Aquinas have historically been priests,” Cory said. “And I think one of the things that the Academy’s been trying to do in the past is open up to more lay people, scholars from around the world and also to include more women. So it has certainly been an exciting thing to have this trailblazing role.”

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About Mariah Rush

Mariah is a senior majoring in American Studies and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She is from the great city of South Bend, and was the Managing Editor of The Observer for the 2020-2021 school year. You can find her always on Twitter at @mariahfrush.

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