Vatican Stem-Cell Expert Joins Campus ‘Century of Science’
Benedictine College welcome Msgr. Tomasz Trafny, Director of the Science and Faith Department at the Pontifical Council for Culture, to its Atchison, Kan., campus on Sept. 15. Msgr. Trafny was in the area to deliver a keynote address at a major medical conference at KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan. He took the time to travel to Benedictine to offer a quick presentation on “The Stem Cell Challenge: Medicine and the Culture of Life.”
“It is very unique, what we (Pontifical Council for Culture) do, and we’ve been doing it for approximately eight years,” Msgr. Trafny said. “We are searching for discoveries in natural sciences, from cosmology to genetics, trying to figure out what impact, on a medium or long term basis, they will have on culture. Which means our main duty is to provide a cultural analysis of the development of the natural sciences.”
The Vatican official is the latest speaker in the campus’s yearlong celebration of the Century of Science. The college began offering science degrees in 1916, built a new Science Hall 50 years later and this fall breaks ground on a new state-of-the-art science facility.
Msgr. Trafny said scientists tend to look at their research from a very narrow perspective, not thinking about philosophical or theological implications. On top of that, he said that much of the world is not Catholic or Christian, and scientists with that background don’t even have the same religious framework. He noted that scientists are often surprised when his office contacts them, because they had no idea they were potentially crossing moral or ethical lines.
He said it is important for them to engage with the scientific world and he was quick to point out that engagement did not mean approval, it just opened the door for dialogue. He also noted that scientists today are often working on only one part of a research project, rather than developing the entire project as was customary in the past.
“Sometimes they (scientists) are developing only pieces of something they don’t even know how it will be used, or by whom, when and where,” Msgr. Trafny said. “This is a very profound change that occurred in the last few decades.”
President Minnis sees advancement in STEM disciplines as central to the college’s faith-based mission.
“At Benedictine College, we believe faith, morality and ethics are just as important in the sciences as in every other part of our lives. They cannot be separated,” he said. “That is why it is so important to train future doctors, engineers and scientists at a place like Benedictine College that understands the essential role of faith, morality and ethics in the sciences.”
Msgr. Trafny was born in Darłowo, Poland in 1970. He completed his studies in Philosophy and Theology at the Catholic University of Lublin and was ordained a priest in 1996. He served as a parish assistant for the Archdiocese of Lublin, and then as a chaplain at the Medical University of Lublin and the Hospice for Terminally Ill. He continued his post-graduate studies in Philosophy at the Catholic University of Lublin and the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
He has served on the Pontifical Council for Culture as head of the Science and Faith Department and as executive director of the Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest (STOQ) Project and as director of the STOQ Research Series. In 2013, he became Secretary of the Scientific Committee of the Science and Faith Program at the STOQ Foundation and in 2014 he became a member of the Advisory Board of the John Templeton Foundation.
He is a co-author of the book The Healing Cell: How the Greatest Revolution in Medicine is Changing Your Life with Dr. Robin Smith and Dr. Max Gomez. The book was released in the United States in 2013. His focus is on matters related to the wide-ranging dialogue between science and religion, especially cultural analysis of scientific advancements, but his interests also include philosophy and theology of nature as well as environmental and climate change issues.
Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.