Philosophy professor Therese Cory appointed to Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas

Therese Cory

Therese Cory, a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, has been named a member of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas by Pope Francis. Cory, the John and Jean Oesterle Associate Professor of Thomistic Studies, is only the third woman in the Academy’s 141-year history to be nominated.

Cory is a specialist on medieval theories of mind, cognition, and personhood, and especially of Thomas Aquinas. She also studies the transmission of ideas from Arabic to Latin, and between Muslim, Jewish, and Christian thinkers from the Middle Ages. Cory is currently working on two books, Knowing is Being: Aquinas’s Metaphysical Model of Mind and Mind in World: A Medieval Metaphysical Approach. She also serves on the executive committee of the “Aquinas and the Arabs Project,” an international working group from Marquette University.

While her work centers on the nature of consciousness, the relationship between imagination and intellect, and the history of the self, other Pontifical Academy members study disparate strands of Aquinas’s research.

“The group is so international, which opens up aspects of Aquinas’s thought I don’t typically examine,” Cory says. “Cross-disciplinary collaboration is also hugely important in order to share research among Aquinas experts who approach the same texts with different kinds of questions.”

She explains, “Because it’s a Vatican institute, there is a special valence to the research and scholarship on Aquinas because we are working on live topics: salvation, how we live our faith, how grace transfers, and what the sacraments are actually doing.”

The Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas dates to 1879 when it was created by Pope Leo XIII to encourage research, defense, and the promotion of the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas. The group is also encouraged to show “how philosophical thinking contributes in fundamental ways to faith and theological learning” (Fides et Ratio).

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI expressed the importance of St. Thomas Aquinas in modern culture when he said, “The relationship between faith and reason is a serious challenge to the currently dominant culture in the Western world, and for this very reason our beloved John Paul II decided to dedicate an Encyclical to it, entitled, precisely, Fides et Ratio, Faith and Reason.…St. Thomas Aquinas, with farsighted wisdom, succeeded in establishing a fruitful confrontation with the Arab and Hebrew thought of his time, to the point that he was considered an ever up-to-date teacher of dialogue with other cultures and religions. He knew how to present that wonderful Christian synthesis of reason and faith which today too, for Western civilization, is a precious patrimony to draw from for an effective dialogue with the great cultural and religious traditions of the East and South of the world.”

Cory will hold a lifetime appointment to the Academy. Notre Dame philosopher John O’Callaghan is also a member.