Life Lessons


University of San Diego professor Emily Reimer-Barry, PhD delivered a plenary address at the annual convention of the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA), which was held in Pittsburgh from June 6-9. The address was titled, “Another Pro-Life Movement Is Possible.”

The presentation generated a buzz in the room that is rare for theological conferences, according to those in attendance. Reimer-Barry, chair of USD’s Theology and Religious Studies department, sported a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt and began by bringing up examples of how the pro-life movement of the past has often fallen short. “We can and must do better,” she said, pointing to ways that women in vulnerable situations continue to be left without support.

Drawing on the teachings of Pope Francis, recent feminist theologians and a “consistent ethic of life framework,” she made the case for an expanded pro-life movement — one capable of addressing the complexity and interconnectedness of today’s problems.

University of San Diego professors Maria Pilar Aquino, STD (left), and Emily Reimer-Barry, PhD (right), at the annual CTSA conference in Pittsburgh.

Laudato Si expands our vision of what it means to be pro-life,” Reimer-Barry said. In his 2015 encyclical, Pope Francis took on urgent issues of the day — climate change, consumerism, homelessness, abortion, war and unemployment — recognizing how they are interrelated. For example, he noted his belief that the protection of nature is incompatible with the justification for abortion. He called on the church to join together with all people of good will to go beyond current paradigms, politics and borders in a shared effort to address humanity’s urgent challenges.

In this spirit, Reimer-Barry’s talk outlined a pro-life movement that is transformed by “listening to women, changing our political strategy, providing robust structural supports for women and children and attending a wider range of ‘life issues.’” The new movement would seek to accompany women with unplanned pregnancies, shifting the emphasis from the political battlefield to personal experiences.

The talk, which was fittingly wide-ranging, addressed issues that are not only urgent, but also likely divisive. Reimer-Barry believes that listening to the stories of women will build the common ground necessary to cross political divides and enable new approaches and alliances.

“The work will not be easy, but it will be more coherent, and more just,” she said. “It is an opportunity to show all women that their lives matter.”

Theology and religious studies professor Karen Teel, PhD, also presented a talk at the convention titled, “Can We Hear Him Now? Cone’s Enduring Challenge to White Theologians”.

The end of this year’s event also saw a USD professor take up a leadership role: Professor Emerita Maria Pilar Aquino, STD, began her tenure as CTSA president of the board of directors for 2019-20.

With more than 1,300 members, CTSA is the largest professional society of theologians in the world. The purpose of the CTSA is to promote theological research in the Roman Catholic tradition that is attentive to contemporary problems faced by the Church and the world. — Daniel Telles

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