The Church and “Gender Theory”: Theory, Rhetoric and Practice

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“Gender theory”, and the more hostile “gender ideology”, are prominent terms in Catholic rhetoric around transness, feminism and queerness. They encompass a broad range of theoretical and political developments that stake out a social transformation that many Catholic commentators see as incompatible with Catholicism – not to mention a threat to institutions such as the family and traditional sexual values.

While this rhetoric has received a great deal of attention in secular scholarship, often focusing on its wider context as part of national and international anti-gender movements, it has been given relatively little attention in Catholic academic inquiry. The upshot is that the prominence of the term within Catholic discourse outstrips the extent to which the Church itself has carefully reflected upon it, as both an analytical category and a rhetorical device.

A further implication of this unexamined rhetoric is that the Church’s stance towards various social and political phenomena, along with trans people themselves, remains shaped by the “gender theory”/“gender ideology” frame – while the implications of this framing have gone mostly unexamined.

This poses a problem for a Church that wishes to engage reflectively and reflexively with the challenging and contentious questions that arise around sex, gender, and the other issues that are folded under concerns around ‘gender theory’. In turn, this has broader implications for the practice of Catholic organisations that may find themselves asking these questions in the course of their activities, as well as for pastoral workers who need to engage with the presence of trans people in the Church and the society in an informed and reflective manner.

This online conference aims to address this deficit, featuring a range of papers exploring Catholic ‘gender theory’ discourse from a range of disciplinary perspectives.

Day 1
11.00-11.20 Get-in and welcome
11.20-12.50 Panel 1: Historical Sources
Daniel P Horan Gender Trouble in the Catholic Tradition: Examining the Need for a Renewed Theological Anthropology
Sam Fletcher The soul beyond the binary? Queer Horizons and the Eschatology of Gregory of Nyssa
David Dawson Vasquez Gender Theory and the Catholic Tradition: The Hypostatic Union and Maximus the Confessor
13.50-15.00 Lunch break
15.00-16.30 Panel 2: Doctrinal Approaches
Sarah Hansman Man and Woman We Created Them: John Paul II in Dialogue with Phenomenology, Psychoanalysis, and Queer Theory
Barbara Anne Kozee Gender Ideology and the Family: Exploring Amoris Laetitia and Familiaris Consortio
Mary Anne Case Must “Are Women Human?” Still Be a Question for Catholic Theological Anthropology in the Age of Pope Francis?
16.30-16.50 Break
16.50-18.20 Panel 3: Anti-Gender Movements
Jakub Kowalewski A phantom threat: the Catholic Church and the constitution of antagonism
Kori Pacyniak Beyond the Fear of Gender Ideology: Affirming Trans Catholics
Virginia Weaver The Vatican is Not Gender-Critical
18.20-19.20 Dinner break
19.20-21.00 Keynote panel Chair: Susannah Cornwall-Nicolete Burbach,George White, Lisa Cahil, Craig Ford
Day 2
11.00-12.00 Panel 1: Communities and Practice Craig Ford
Katie Jickling The Indian Christian Women Movement: A relational process of social change
Sean Whittle Gender theory and our Catholic schools
12.00-13.00 Lunch break
13.00-14.30 Panel 2: A More Informed Approach
Cristina Traina “Gender Theory,” Choice, and Nature
Maria Exall Title tbc
Jim McManus “Science”, truth claims and “gender theory”:  the good, the bad and the disingenuous
14.30-14.50 Break
14.50-16.20 Panel 3: Encountering Transness
Danyal Abdullah The Identity Construction of Khwaja Sira in the Post-colonial Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Adam Beyt “Gender Theory,” Judith Butler, and Nonviolent Hope
Michael Pettinger Experience, Exegesis, and Sexual Difference in Dignitas Infinita
16.20-16.40 Break
16.40-18.10 Keynote Panel Chair: Claire Jenkins – Nicholete Burbach, Chris Digwall Jones, Mallory Moore, Lake Stein
tbc Trans Perspectives on the Conference

Schedule (BST)

Bursaries are available for trans people on low income. Please contact for more information.

This conference is a joint endeavour by the London Jesuit Centre and MBI Cambridge.

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