Science and the American Priesthood: The Legacy of Fr. John A. Zahm, C.S.C., for Catholic Ministry Today – Sept. 13, 2019

As its final community-wide event, the grant facilitated a “Science and the American Priesthood” panel and discussion on September 13, 2019. This event focused on how not just Catholics but specifically Catholic priests have engaged science in the pastoral context of the United States. Dr. John Slattery, Senior Program Associate at AAAS, spoke about this new (and timely) book, Faith and Science at Notre Dame: John Zahm, Evolution, and the Catholic Church (Notre Dame University Press, 2019). Fr. John A. Zahm, CSC (1851-1921) was one of the first American priests to write extensively on evolution and theology. Dr. Slattery began with a lecture, “Evolution and the Church Then: The Case of Fr. John A. Zahm, C.S.C.” Fr. Steven Avella, Professor of History at Marquette University and priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, responded with a closer examination of Zahm’s place within U.S. Catholic history and the so-called “Americanist Controversy” (especially Milwaukee’s key role in the debate). Dr. Slattery further outlined the theological development of Catholic thought on evolution in a subsequent lecture, “Evolution and the Church Now: From St. Thomas Aquinas to Pope Francis.” Responding to this second presentation was Fr. James Kurzynski of the Diocese of La Crosse, who graciously agreed  to return to Sacred Heart to share his own pastoral experience in addressing the topic of evolution. A lively Q&A for the panel followed. Fr. Kurzynski additionally presided at a concluding solemn vespers.