Georgetown Bioethicist Tapped for Vatican Advisory Post

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JULY 18, 2014—Kevin FitzGerald, PhD, SJ (new window), a Jesuit priest, Georgetown bioethicist and cancer researcher, has been appointed by Pope Francis to serve as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Culture (new window).

FitzGerald, a research associate professor in the department of oncology and the Dr. David P. Lauler Chair for Catholic Health Care Ethics at Georgetown University Medical Center (new window), began his five-year term July 1 as one of 13 newly appointed consultors from around the world.

Established in 1982 by Pope John Paul II, the Pontifical Council for Culture is one of 12 councils (new window) established to study a variety of issues deemed of importance to the Catholic Church, and to provide guidance to the Pope on such matters.

FitzGerald will be advising the Council on areas of growing global scientific interest, including bioethics, genetics, neuroscience and transhumanism, which refers to a movement that seeks to transcend the human condition through technology, artificial intelligence and other related concepts.

Religion and Science

As both a Jesuit priest and a scientist, FitzGerald says he is fortunate to sit squarely “at the intersection between science and the Catholic tradition.”

“Although many people think that religion and science are fundamentally at odds with one another, the Catholic perspective is that they are not at all. They are both essential lenses for viewing the important issues of our time,” he says.

This appointment, FitzGerald says, builds on his decades of work to improve global understanding of the important interconnections between science, religion and culture. He has served since 2005 as a corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, which is mainly focused on research into bioethical issues as they pertain to human life.

“Science and religion touch all of us in some way. Whether you are Catholic or not, the goal is to work towards a greater synergy for the good of all people,” FitzGerald says.

Strong Messages to the World

Besides making himself available for consultations as needed, FitzGerald will be asked to participate in international conferences and research publications on topics of interest to the Vatican that fall within his areas of expertise, according to Richard Rouse, an official to the Pontifical Council for Culture, based in Rome.

“It’s not just the scientific expertise that Fr. FitzGerald brings, but also the ability to translate that knowledge into language that is accessible to the people around the world that the Church is trying to reach,” Rouse says.

“It’s also very forward looking. We want him to help us identify those issues that are, not just important now, but about to be very important,” Rouse continues. “The Council brings forth recommendations that send strong messages to the world.”

An Appreciated Interlocutor

John Borelli, PhD, special assistant to Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, PhD, for interreligious initiatives, served for 17 years to another of the Church’s advisory bodies—the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Borelli, who has met with FitzGerald to discuss the recent appointment, says he is still welcome in Rome, “as an old hand and appreciated interlocutor who understands the issues and the goals of these councils and commissions.”

By Lauren Wolkoff
GUMC Communications