Universities first arose in the Middle Ages as an expression of serious intellectual inquiry. The medievals believed that human rationality exercised in community and in the context of faith could come to a genuine understanding of the truth of a matter and deepen their appreciation of it.

At such universities, masters of theology, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, had three principal duties: preaching, expounding the gospel and conducting disputations.

A disputation is a probing, public examination of a controversial question. This is not to be confused with controversy as manifest by modern political pundits; rather, the questions that disputations are meant to address are current intellectual difficulties about which faithful minds may be earnestly divided, but which hold the promise of spiritual fruit if seriously addressed.

The question “Are souls gendered?” is an example of such an issue. It is one that is newly relevant today because of advances in biology and the emergence of works such as John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

Watch and participate as Dr. Robert Kennedy and Dr. Anne Maloney engage this question. The disputation is presented by the Catholic Studies Department and will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1, in the first-floor auditorium of the John R. Roach Center for Liberal Arts on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.