Seminar on theology and disability – UKU / UCLille – Fall semester 2022


« Disability theology is the attempt by disabled and non-disabled Christians to understand and interpret the gospel of Jesus Christ, God, and humanity against the backdrop of the historical and contemporary experiences of people with disabilities. It has come to refer to a variety of perspectives and methods designed to give voice to the rich and diverse theological meanings of the human experience of disability . » In this research seminar nine renowned lecturers from several theological disciplines will give a comprehensive insight in how disability theology can help make sense of a decisively shaken world. « Disability theology » is a recent field in theological enquiry that changes – at times quite radically – the way (Christian) theologians perceive God and the way believers experience faith. But can it also bring about societal change in a war-struck country? Can it be like leaven in the construction of God’s Kingdom (Lk 13, 21)? Theology definitely has a role to play in constructing paradigms, identifying processes of accommodation, justifying conflicts, promoting change, and driving understanding – what role might ‘disability theologies’ have in this? In this seminar, students are invited to formulate responses fueled by the insights of disability theologies.

[1] John Swinton, « Disability theology » in Ian Mcfarland, David Fergusson, Karen Kilby, et al. (éd.), The Cambridge Dictionary of Christian Theology, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011.

[1] Talitha Cooreman-guittin, Armand Léon Van Ommen, « Disability theology: a driving force for change? », International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church  (2022/0), Routledge, p. 1‑4.


The seminar will be entirely on-line. Each session consists of :

  • 50 minutes lecture
  • 20 minutes debat in full groupe
  • 30 minutes exchanges in break-out rooms

Students will be required to read six articles that will be commented during the course. The list of articles will be published in September 2022.



In June 2022 the Faculty of Theology of the Université Catholique de Lille was asked by the UKU to ensure the pedagogical continuity of the Faculty in Lviv, some of whose teachers had fled the country or gone to the front.
Our Faculty took up the challenge. In June, Prof. Cathy Leblanc gave a four-hour seminar in human rights philosophy on the issue of war trauma. The Ukrainian students and colleagues were very attentive and found answers to what they were experiencing. These exchanges helped to identify how the students were experiencing the war. An imperative quickly emerged: to keep busy in order to escape phobia and fear exhaustion. In this sense, these courses and seminars contributed to the students’ survival.
Then, in July, Cathy Leblanc proposed a week-long summerschool with two hours of classes in the morning and two hours in the afternoon over five days, on the theme of « Genocide and crime against humanity ». Three of the interventions, including that of Prof. Talitha Cooreman-Guittin (UCLille) and that of Prof. David Pettigrew, an American colleague from Southern Connecticut State University, allowed for broader exchanges. The rest of the sessions were provided by Cathy Leblanc. The students were very loyal even though there were bomb threats. A bond was forged through these classes and lectures. It reveals our common humanity. Cathy Leblanc took part in a colloquium in Bucharest on the dialogue with the East, to develop the experience lived through these courses and seminars. She was able to invite the Dean of the Faculty of Theology of Lviv. A new theory of the actuality of Nazism emerged.
In addition, during the first semester of this academic year, Talitha Cooreman-Guittin (MC) gave a weekly interdisciplinary research seminar « Disability theologies: insights for a shaken world » which was attended by about fifteen Ukrainian students and some students from other European and French universities. Twelve professors of international renown (UK, USA, France, Italy) took turns to share with the students the challenges of disability theologies for a world in crisis. The program included reflections on the moral value of a scar, on a Christian approach to acquired disability, on a theology of hope, on trauma-theology, on mental health in times of war, etc.

The sessions of the seminar were held at the rhythm of the war in Ukraine: during bombings the sessions had to be postponed, there were interruptions of the meetings during black-outs, it had to be admitted that sometimes the students were too tired to be able to exchange – but what marked above all the speakers (Westerners in countries at peace) was the incredible fidelity of the students, punctual, interested and so grateful. Over the weeks, a real relationship of trust has developed. The students and the speakers carry each other in prayer and hope that the bonds established will continue to be nurtured.
There is one thing that everyone has witnessed: in the midst of the horrors of war, something beautiful has been born. Something of the Reign of God broke through in the weekly meetings, showing that love and trust will forever resist hatred and violence. Edith Stein wrote: « The reign of God came about in a way that the Psalms and the Prophets did not imagine. The Romans remained masters in the land, and the high priests and scribes continued to hold the poor people in their thrall. But invisibly, those who belonged to the Master possessed in him the kingdom of heaven. Their earthly sorrows were not taken away from them, on the contrary, others were added to them, but a strength carried them which made the yoke sweet and the sorrow light. »
Carried by this strength, Ukrainians continue to resist. In the Université Catholique de Lille continue to carry them in prayer.

Cathy Leblanc
Talitha Cooreman-Guittin

Selected bibliography


  • Brian Brock, John Swinton, Disability in the Christian Tradition: A Reader B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2012 ;
  • Devan Stahl, « Reimagining the Healing Service », Theology Today 77 (2020/2), SAGE Publications Ltd, p. 165‑178 ;
  • Bethany McKinney-fox, John Swinton, Disability and the Way of Jesus: Holistic Healing in the Gospels and the Church, 1 edition, Downers Grove, IVP Academic, 2019 ;
  • Gordon Temple, Lin Ball, Enabling church: a Bible-based resource towards the full inclusion of disabled people, 2012 ;
  • Cristina Gangemi, « For The Wonder of Who I Am, I Praise You! », Journal of Disability & Religion 20 (2016/4), p. 352‑360 ;
  • Pia Matthews, God’s Wild Flowers: Saints with Disabilities, Gracewing Publishing, 2016;
  • John Swinton, Finding Jesus in the Storm: The Spiritual Lives of Christians with Mental Health Challenges, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2020;
  • Talitha Cooreman-guittin, « Could Adam and Eve Have Been Disabled? Images of Creation in Catholic Religious Education Textbooks in France », Journal of Disability & Religion 22 (2017/1), p. 89‑95.