Symposium - Speakers

2020 Keynote Speakers

Ross Douthat

Ross Douthat

New York Times

Talk Title: “The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success”

Ross Douthat joined The New York Times as an Op-Ed columnist in April 2009. His column appears every Tuesday and Sunday, and he co-hosts the Times Op-Ed podcast, “The Argument.” Previously, he was a senior editor at The Atlantic and a blogger on its website.

He is the author of “The Decadent Society,” forthcoming in March 2020. His other books include “To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism,” published in 2018, “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics” (2012), “Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class” (2005), and a co-author, with Reihan Salam, of “Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream” (2008). He is the film critic for National Review.

He lives with his wife and three children in New Haven, Conn.

Mary Rice Hasson

Mary Rice Hasson

Ethics & Public Policy Center

Talk Title: “Modern Idolatry: The Barren Self-Creator”

Mary Rice Hasson is the Kate O’Beirne Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. She also directs the Catholic Women’s Forum, a network of Catholic professional women and scholar. Hasson has been a keynote speaker for the Holy See during the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women for the past three years. Her most recent book is Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child From Public School Before It’s Too Late (Regnery: 2018) with co-author Theresa Farnan, PhD.

She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Notre Dame Law School. Mary was the recipient of the 2019 Humanitarian Award from the Siena Symposium of the University of St. Thomas, and in 2015, Mary and her husband, Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson, the parents of seven, were the recipients of the 2015 Saint John Paul II Award for the New Evangelization.

Robert Louis Wilken

Robert Louis Wilken

University of Virginia

Talk Title: “The Law of Nature and the Laws of Cities”

Robert Louis Wilken is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Emeritus Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, past president of the American Academy of Religion, the North American Patristics Society, and the Academy of Catholic Theology. He is chairman of the board of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, the publisher of First Things. His most recent book is Liberty in the Things of God: The Christian Origins of Religious Freedom (Yale). Among his other books are The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity (Yale) and The Christians as the Romans Saw Them (University of California Press). He has taught at the Lutheran Theological Seminary (Gettysburg, PA), Fordham University, the University of Notre Dame, the Institutum Patristicum (Augustinianum) in Rome, the Gregorian University also in Rome, and Providence College. He and his wife Carol live in Washington, D.C.

It is often said that there are parallels between the challenges Christians face in contemporary American society and the experiences of Christians in the Roman Empire. On marriage, for example, the "laws" of Christian churches in the Holy Scriptures (Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31) are at odds with current laws in the United States. In the Roman Empire, when Christians refused to participate in the public rituals, which were at once civic and religious, they were considered stubborn and obstinate. If you want to live in our midst, they were told, you must observe the things “all of us” do. In the early third century Origen of Alexandria, the most original Christian thinker in the early centuries, wrote a large work defending Christian practice. In religious matters, he wrote, we observe the “divine law”, not the laws of the cities and believe that “it is not wrong to form associations against the laws [of the cities] for the sake of the truth.”

Nikolas T. Nikas

Nikolas T. Nikas

Nikolas T. Nikas is co-founder, president and general counsel of Bioethics Defense Fund (BDF), a public-interest organization that creates winning arguments for life to benefit lawmakers, courts, students and citizens across the United States and abroad. Nikas and BDF co-founder Dorinda C. Bordlee address bioethics issues including abortion, healthcare rights of conscience, human cloning/embryonic stem cell research, and end of life matters.

Nikas is known for clearly integrating the principles of natural law and political theory with the facts of science and medicine as the foundation for dynamic educational speaking events, and the development of model legislation and litigation strategies.

Nikas is a dynamic speaker, having lectured on the full range of bioethics topics at leading medical schools and law schools, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, Cornell and dozens of others. He has lectured internationally at legal and medical conferences, including the Rome conference of Matercare, and legal and medical symposia throughout Europe, Australia, Asia and the Caribbean.

Among other cases, Nikas has litigated ballot initiatives regarding human cloning and embryonic stem cell research, healthcare rights of conscience, clinic regulations and state-passed limits on late-term abortion. Nikas has organized and participated in the oral argument preparation for attorneys arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court addressing the issues of partial-birth abortion, Stenberg v. Carhart (2000), and free speech for peaceful sidewalk counselors, McCullen v. Coakley (2014).

In the realm of model legislation, Nikas has consulted with policy leaders and lawmakers in state legislatures, along with members and legal staff of the President’s Council on Bioethics in Washington, D.C. during the Bush administration.  He has testified before the U.S. Senate on abortion and First Amendment rights.

Nikas received his B.A. (1979) and M.A. (1981) in government and international relations from the University of Notre Dame, with his masters focusing on political theory. He received his Juris Doctorate, magna cum laude, in 1986 from Arizona State University College of Law. He and his wife Melinda, the parents of five grown children, live in Phoenix, Arizona.

Also Featuring

Fr. Robert Imbelli

Fr. Robert Imbelli

Boston College

Talk Title: “Idolatrous Formation and Christic Transformation: God's New Creation in Christ”

Father Robert Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, studied in Rome during the Scond Vatican Council. He is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus of Boston College. He is the author of “Rekindling the

Christic Imagination” and the editor of "Handing on the Faith: the Church's Mission and Responsibility. In addition,his numerous articles and reviews have appeared in “Communio,” “Theological Studies,” “America,” and “Commonweal.”

Drawing upon Charles' Taylor's "A Secular Age," the presentation will highlight several negative features of modernity. It will then offer a vision of salvation in Christ that is transformative by incorporating believers into the new reality that is the Body of Christ.

Fr. Antonio López

Fr. Antonio López

John Paul II Institute

Talk Title: “Without Beginning: Human Freedom and Divine Omnipotence”

Rev. López is Provost/Dean and Associate Professor of Theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute. He teaches and writes in the areas of Trinitarian theology, metaphysics, theological anthropology, and marriage. He is the author of Spirit’s Gift: The Metaphysical Insight of Claude Bruaire (CUA Press, 2006), Gift and the Unity of Being (Wipf & Stock, 2013), and Rinascere: La memoria di Dio in una cultura tecnologica (Lindau, 2015). He has edited Retrieving Origins and the Claim of Multiculturalism (Eerdmans, 2015) and Enlightening the Mystery of Man: Gaudium et spes Fifty Years Later (Humanum Academic Press, 2018). He serves as editor of Humanum Academic Press and of the English Critical Edition of the Works of Karol Wojtyła / John Paul II, forthcoming from CUA Press.

This paper will seek to address the following questions: What conception of power allows for an adequate and free relation between God and man? How can we conceive divine freedom so that God may enter into relation with what he is not, without losing his transcendence? How are we to conceive human freedom so that our relation with God is neither coercive nor merely optional?

Deborah Savage

Dr. Deborah Savage

University of St. Thomas

Talk Title: “Redeeming Woman: Secular Feminism and Fall of Man”

Deborah Savage is a member of the faculty at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota where she teaches philosophy and theology and also serves as the Director of two Master’s Degree Programs: the Masters in Pastoral Ministry and the Masters in Religious Education. Dr. Savage is a student of St. Thomas Aquinas with a particular interest in investigating his thought in light of contemporary questions. She is a recognized scholar of the work of Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II and has written and presented or published several papers on how his philosophical anthropology informs his body of work as Pope, his understanding of human work, the complementarity of man and woman, and of the dignity and vocation of women.

It would be difficult to dispute that secular feminism is one of the “idols” of our age. There seems to be an unquestioned assumption in contemporary culture that women are without real power – and must therefore fight to wrest a measure of it away from power-hungry men. Feminist activists decry those who might dare to express an alternative viewpoint, especially one that includes an affirmation of the significant role that men have played and continue to play in our civilization. Only a courageous few have the temerity to contradict this newly arrived “strong god.”

The purpose of this session is to explore a distinctively Christian contribution to our understanding of the nature of man and woman. I will demonstrate that, ironically, only the Catholic Christian can be a truly radical feminist - for only an explicitly Catholic feminism can affirm woman qua woman, for only the Catholic intellectual tradition possesses the philosophical and theological tools needed to articulate such an account. We will expose the fundamental flaw at the center of secular feminism: that women must operate like men in order to be considered human on the mistaken though unspoken assumption that the male of the human species is somehow normative for the species.

We will see that, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, man and woman represent two ways of being human in the world, equal in dignity, yet different.  I will demonstrate that woman’s power is manifest only when she accepts the gift of who she truly is and is called to become. Only then does she assume her rightful place in the order of creation, making her free to exercise that power in the service of humanity – which is her responsibility and sacred task. Only then can woman and man together fulfill their mission – to create, not only human families, but human history itself.

Mary FioRito

Mary FioRito

Ethics & Public Policy Center

Talk Title: “Love in the Ruins: The Prophetic Examples of Dorothy Day and Caryll Houselander”

Mary Hallan FioRito is the Cardinal Francis George Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the deNicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame. She is an attorney, public speaker, and commentator.

She received her Juris Doctor degree from Loyola University School of Law Her more than 28 years service to the Church, included serving as the Director of Pro-life Activities for the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s first female Vice-Chancellor and Executive Assistant to the late Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

She is the contributor to two books: Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves, edited by Helen M. Alvare, and Promise and Challenge: Catholic Women Reflect on Complementarity, Feminism, and the Church, published by the Ethics and Public Policy Center. In 2000, Newsweek magazine selected her as one of the “Women of the New Century,” highlighting her contribution to the nation’s conversation about abortion law and policy.