Vita Institute 2020 Webinar Series

Vita2020 Advert Slide

The de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture will present the 2020 Notre Dame Vita Institute, its annual intellectual formation program for pro-life leaders, as a series of five free webinars the week of June 15–19, 2020. The presentations will offer an in-depth examination of issues surrounding human dignity at the beginning of life.

The dCEC's annual Vita Institute normally brings together leaders in the national and international pro-life movement for a week each summer at Notre Dame for an intensive interdisciplinary training program that extends and deepens their breadth and depth of understanding of the subjects most essential to building a culture of life, including biology, philosophy, law, theology, and social sciences. This year’s online webinar series will allow a wider audience to sample the exceptional teaching of the traditional on-campus event.

These lectures are aimed at a general audience, and are meant to equip all participants to be more effective in their work on behalf of the unborn and their mothers, whether at home, work, or in the classroom. It is presented free of charge.

Registration has now closed. Video of each of the presentations is linked below, and on this page.

Schedule of Presentations:

Monday, June 15 at 8:00 p.m. (EDT):
"Abortion: The Philosophical Arguments" by Francis J. Beckwith (watch archived video via this link)

     Francis J. Beckwith is professor of philosophy and church-state studies at Baylor University, where he also serves as associate director of the graduate program in philosophy and resident scholar in Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR). With his appointment in Baylor’s Department of Philosophy, he also teaches courses in medical humanities, political science, religion, and church-state studies. He received his M.J.S. from Washington University School of Law and his M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from Fordham University. Professor Beckwith is the author of over 100 academic articles, book chapters, reference entries, and reviews. Among his nearly twenty books are Never Doubt Thomas: The Catholic Aquinas As Evangelical and Protestant (Baylor University Press, 2019); Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007); and Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (Cambridge University Press, 2015), the winner of the American Academy of Religion’s prestigious 2016 Book Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in Constructive-Reflective Studies.

Tuesday, June 16 at 8:00 p.m. (EDT):
"When Does Human Life Begin? The Scientific Evidence" by Rev. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P. (watch archived video via this link)

     Rev. Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, O.P., currently serves as Professor of Biology and of Theology at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. He is also a research fellow at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines, and founding director of His NIH-funded laboratory at Providence College uses yeast as a model organism to interrogate human disease. Fr. Austriaco is a bioethics consultant for the Catholic bishops’ conferences of the United States and of the Philippines.
     Fr. Austriaco completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Bioengineering, summa cum laude, at the University of Pennsylvania, and then earned his Ph.D. in Biology from M.I.T. He completed his Pontifical License in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, and a Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.) at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. He earned his M.B.A. from Providence College in 2020.
     Fr. Austriaco has published over fifty peer-reviewed papers in biology, philosophy, and theology, and two books, including Biomedicine and Beatitude: An Introduction to Catholic Bioethics, which was recognized as a 2012 Choice outstanding academic title by the Association of College and Research Libraries. A second edition of the bestselling book is expected in 2021.

Wednesday, June 17 at 8:00 p.m. (EDT):
"U.S. Abortion Law and Policy" by O. Carter Snead, Notre Dame Law School (watch archived video via this link)

     Professor Carter Snead is the Director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, Professor of Law, and Concurrent Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. He is one of the world's leading experts on public bioethics – the governance of science, medicine, and biotechnology in the name of ethical goods. He is the author of What It Means to be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics (Harvard University Press, October 2020).  Additionally, he has written more than 50 journal articles, book chapters, essays, and commentaries in such publications as the New York University Law Review, the Harvard Law Review Forum, the Vanderbilt Law Review, Constitutional Commentary, Quaderni Costituzionali (Italy’s premier journal of constitutional law), the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law and Ethics, the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, and Political Science Quarterly. He is also the editor of two book series for the University of Notre Dame Press – "Catholic Ideas for a Secular World" and "Notre Dame Studies in Bioethics and Medical Ethics."
     In addition to his scholarship and teaching, Snead has provided advice on the legal and public policy dimensions of bioethical questions to officials in all three branches of the U.S. government, and in several intergovernmental fora. Prior to joining the law faculty at Notre Dame, Snead served as general counsel to the President’s Council on Bioethics (Chaired by Dr. Leon R. Kass), he has testified in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Texas state House and Senate, and regularly serves as an expert witness on bioethical matters before federal courts. Professor Snead also led the U.S. government delegation to UNESCO and served as its chief negotiator for the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, served as the U.S. government’s Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee on Bioethics, and in 2008 was appointed by the director-general of UNESCO to a four-year term on the International Bioethics Committee. 
     He is a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the principal bioethics advisory body to Pope Francis, and an elected fellow of The Hastings Center, the oldest independent bioethics research institute in the world.

Thursday, June 18 at 8:00 p.m. (EDT):
"Feminism and Abortion" by Jessica Keating (watch archived video via this link)

     Jess Keating directs the Notre Dame Office of Life and Human Dignity in the McGrath Institute for Church Life. In her role, she leads the Institute’s research, education, and outreach efforts around life and human dignity issues, and spearheads the Institute’s development of pro-life curriculum and resources.
     Jess originally hails from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.  She holds undergraduate degrees from St. Joseph’s University in Philosophy and Sociology. She taught high school theology for five years on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, after which she completed her Masters of Divinity from the University of Notre Dame in 2013. She has directed the Office of Life and Human Dignity since 2013, and in addition to her work with the Institute, she is pursuing her Ph.D. in Systematic Theology.
     Jess is a regular conference presenter and her writing has appeared in publications such as America Magazine, Church Life Journal, and The Imaginative Conservative, as well as in the volume of essays Dante, Mercy, and the Beauty of the Human Person


Friday, June 19 at 8:00 p.m. (EDT):
"Resisting A Throw-Away Culture" by Rev. John Paul Kimes (watch archived video via this link).

     Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Rev. John Paul Kimes graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1995. After completing his priestly formation studies in Rome, he was ordained a priest for the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles in 2000. He obtained a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in 2005 and served as an Official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 2009 through 2019. He is the Raymond of Peñafort Fellow in Canon Law of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture and joined Notre Dame Law School in Summer 2020 as an Associate Professor of the Practice.