Disability and Human Nature
Day of Study 2019
On Saturday, February 2, 2019 from 9:00AM - 4:00PM, the Saint Benedict Institute hosted a Day of Study on the theme Disability and Human Nature.
The rise of disability studies has given fresh urgency to the question of what it means to be human and many of those engaged in this study seem to be operating from very different principles. On the one hand, there are those who would deny that the disabled, especially the intellectually disabled, have lives worth living and, indeed, would even argue that some among them are not persons. On the other hand, there are defenders of the disabled who challenge the idea of ‘normal’ and who often explicitly or tacitly argue that traditional notions of human nature are wrong or, at least, need to be rethought. This Day of Study is meant to explore, in the light of faith, some of the questions raised by the current state of disability studies. What does it mean to be human? Is there a different meaning for disabled humans? Is there such a thing as ‘normal’ for human beings? What are the characteristics, if any, of our common human nature? Are disabilities part of creation or the Fall? Does the Christian tradition have resources for addressing the questions raised by disability studies or does the tradition need a radical re-thinking?
The day of study consisted of several papers presented by Michael Waddell, Sarah Barton, Benjamin Connor, and Jared Ortiz. Each paper was by a conversation with twenty invited "thoughtful interlocutors" from the region.
Michael Waddell is the McMahon Aquinas Chair in Philosophy at St. Mary's College and Director of the Master of Autism Studies. He is currently working on a book, Autism and the Catholic Tradition.
Sarah Barton is a Nouwen Fellow at Western Theological Seminary. She is finishing her dissertation on "Becoming the Baptized Body: Disability, Baptism, and the Practice of Christian Community" at Duke Divinity School.
Benjamin Conner is a Professor of Practical Theology and Director of the Graduate Certificate in Disability and Ministry at Western Theological Seminary. His most recent book is Disabling Mission, Enabling Witness: Exploring Missiology Through the Lens of Disability Studies (InterVarsity Press, 2018).
Jared Ortiz is a professor of Religion at Hope College and the Executive Director of the Saint Benedict Institute. His most recent book is Deification in the Latin Patristic Tradition (The Catholic University of America Press, 2019).