Being a man, being a woman

Research area: Anthropology interdisciplinary research (theology, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and law). 

Object of research: our research is focused on the human being as a differently sexuate being in his/her wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. The material object is the individual human being, while the formal object is his/her sexuate being.

Conceptual description of the project              

  1. Status quaestionis:

One of the most pressing questions of our time concerns the meaning of being a man and being a woman. The question arises not only in scientific and academic arenas, but also and above all in our own existence.

So far, the meaning of gender identity and difference has not been adequately elucidated. The answers given by female and feminist thinkers, albeit with good intuitions, have not satisfied this requirement. We are still experiencing the consequences of a double dualism: body and soul, nature and culture. As regards gender identity, the answers given take two opposite directions: the dualism is totally natural or totally cultural (gender theory). What is required is a more thorough reflection that takes into account the cultural nature of the individual, where nature and culture cannot be separated from each other.

Given the status quaestionis, the research group of the Institute intends to provide a contribution to the meaning of being a man and being a woman.

  1. Conceptual organisation (issues and internal logic)

The research work aims to gain a progressively deeper insight into the following topics:

  • gender difference in each individual; this was the topic of the first publication of the Group: “Differenza femminile” (female difference); the book sheds light onto gender differences from different angles: neuroscientific and psychological, philosophical and theological, cultural, educational, and legal;
  • meaning of corporeity; this is the current stage of our research; it is a largely positive, applicative, and educational proposal, centred on a greater understanding of the meaning of the body as a condition, as a resource, and as a place of encounter;
  • meaning of the relationship between a man and a woman;
  • meaning of motherhood and fatherhood.

Project leader: Marta Rodriguez, Director, Institute for Higher Studies on Women (Istituto di Studi Superiori sulla Donna – ISSD

Members of the research group:

Juan Gabriel Ascencio, L.C., (Philosophy), Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum

Anita Cadavid, (Philosophy), Institute for Higher Studies on Women

Alberto Carrara, L.C., (Neuroscience), Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum

Valentina Colombo, (Islamist), European University of Rome (Università Europea di Roma)

Chiara D’Urbano, psychologist and psychotherapist

Laura Paladino, (Biblical Theology), European University of Rome

Carmelo Pandolfi, (Philosophy), Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum

Giorgia Salatiello, (Philosophy) Pontifical Gregorian University

Ignazia Satta, Lawyer

Antonella Varoli Piazza, Physicist

Susy Zanardo, (Philosophy), European University of Rome

Laetitia Poliquien.

Participating entitiesInstitute for Higher Studies on Women (Istituto di Studi Superiori sulla Donna – ISSD), Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum (APRA)



 Juan Gabriel Ascencio, L.C.

Doctorate in philosophy, APRA, Rome (2008). Title of dissertation: Eterogeneità ed omogeneità in Hans-Georg Gadamer. Analisi, interpretazione e critica di alcune strutture del pensiero filosofico di Gadamer. Licentiate in theology, APRA, Rome (2003). Specialisation in dogmatic theology, philosophy of knowledge, and philosophy of culture. He is a full professor (professore ordinario) of the Faculty of Philosophy, APRA, where he has been teaching since the 1998 academic year. He is the coordinator of the anthropology specialisation of the Licentiate Degree Course in Philosophy. He has authored many philosophical books and articles on anthropology and culture.

 Anita Cadavid

Degree in educational and developmental sciences, and in religious sciences. Currently, she is attending the Philosophy Degree Course at APRA. She has served in educational institutions and has held courses for young people and couples. She sits on the committee coordinating the work of the “Being a man, being a woman” research group and related educational activities. She is a member of the governing board of ISSD.

 Alberto Carrara, LC

Professor of philosophical anthropology and neuroethics at the Faculty of Philosophy, APRA, Rome. He coordinates the Neurobioethics Group and is a fellow of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights. Moreover, Professor Carrara is a chemical-biological laboratory specialist and has a Master’s Degree in medical biotechnologies, obtained from the School of Medicine and Surgery, University of Padua.

Valentina Colombo

Degree in foreign languages and literature, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan. PhD in studies on the Near East and Maghreb from Islam to present, 8th cycle, Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples. She teaches geopolitics of the Islamic world and is a senior fellow of the European Foundation for Democracy, Brussels. She was a member of the committee on Italian Islam, Italian Ministry of Interior. She has written numerous essays on the conditions of women in the Islamic world, and on liberal thinking in the Arab world.

Chiara D’Urbano

She is a psychologist and psychotherapist. After graduating from the Pontifical Gregorian University, she specialised at SIRPIDI (Scuola Internazionale di Ricerca e Formazione in Psicologia Clinica e Psicoterapia – international school of research and education in clinical psychology and psychotherapy), and obtained a law degree from the Alma Mater Studiorum/University of Bologna. She cooperates with ITCI (Istituto di Terapia Cognitivo Interpersonale– institute of interpersonal cognitive therapy), founded and coordinated by Professor Tonino Cantelmi. Chiara D’Urbano works as a freelance psychotherapist in Rome and Chieti. She is chiefly involved in human formation in religious and priestly life, holding lectures, theoretical courses, and courses with psychotherapeutical support, in cooperation with seminaries and institutes. She serves as a contract teacher of the Master’s Degree Course in Psycho-pedagogy and Education for Consecrated and Ministerial Life, ISSD/APRA, and takes part in its study and research activities.

Laura Paladino

She is a biblicist. She obtained two degrees cum laude from Sapienza University of Rome, with a thesis on comparison and analysis of ancient versions of the Bible (Masoretic Jewish, Targum, LXX, Vetus latina, and Vulgate texts). She was awarded a PhD in ancient history by the University of Bologna, with a dissertation on mixed marriage in ancient Judaism, and attended a specialist course on biblical geography and archaeology at Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem. Since 2010, she has taught history of ancient Hebraism, as well as biblical and Judaic-Hellenistic historiography at the European University of Rome. She has investigated the themes of early Christianity, focusing on settlements in the Egyptian area and western pilgrimage routes. She is engaged in the study of the Khirbet Qumran site, jointly with Ecole Biblique et Archéologique Française of Jerusalem, and in the drafting of the Historical and Theological Lexicon of Septuagint, in conjunction with the universities of Gottingen (Germany), Strasbourg (France), and Freiburg (Switzerland). She is a member of prestigious Italian and international institutions, such as the Enoch Seminar (International Scholarship on Second Temple Judaism and Christian Origins), University of Michigan. She has authored numerous articles and scientific papers. Among her latest publications are the monographs Dire bene di Dio, dire bene dell’uomo: le preghiere di benedizione nel Pentateuco e nei Libri Storici dell’Antico Testamento (Napoli 2012); Tutelare l’identità: studi storico-filologici sulle versioni antiche della Bibbia (Lecce- Brescia 2012); and the essay La Sapienza nei testi Biblici (Roma, Carocci, 2013).

Carmelo Pandolfi

He graduated in philosophy (110/110 cum laude) from Tor Vergata University of Rome in 1987, with a thesis on La nozione di sapienza in S. Tommaso d’Aquino. He was awarded a PhD in philosophy in 1992, with a dissertation on L’essere al vocativo. L’ermeneutica nel Commento tomista ai Salmi. He also gained a Doctorate in Philosophy from APRA in Rome in 2013, with a dissertation on Kant, Hegel, Heidegger in Cornelio Fabro.  Since 1996, he has been a professor of APRA.

Marta Rodriguez

She is the founder and Director of ISSD, APRA. She graduated in educational and developmental sciences. Then, at APRA, she completed a professional master programme in existential anthropology and philosophy counselling, and graduated in bioethics and philosophy with a specialisation in anthropology. Currently, she is attending a doctorate course in anthropology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Since May 2017, she has been serving as the Director of the Office of Women’s Issues at the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. 

Giorgia Salatiello

She graduated in philosophy from Sapienza University of Rome (1974). Then, at the Pontifical Gregorian University, she obtained a diploma of religious sciences (1982), a licentiate in philosophy (1993), and finally a doctorate in philosophy (1996). She has been a full professor (professore ordinario) of the Faculty of Philosophy, Pontifical Gregorian University, since the 1992-1993 academic year. She sits on the national board of ADIF (Associazione Docenti Italiani di Filosofia – association of Italian teachers of philosophy), on the governing board of AIFR (Associazione Italiana di Filosofia della Religione – Italian association of philosophy of religion), and on the editorial committee of the journal PER LA FILOSOFIA – Filosofia e insegnamento. She cooperates with the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

Ignazia Satta

Born in Rome, she is married and has two children. She graduated cum laude in European Union law from Sapienza University of Rome. After some experiences abroad, she has been practicing the profession of lawyer in Italy, acquiring significant expertise in administrative, family, and juvenile law and, at the same time, devoting herself to research and journalism. Her research spans women’s rights, family crises, and children’s rights, taking into account the fundamental value of women within the family, civil society, and the Church. Her research is focused on the female (and male) difference as a resource and not as a limitation. Since 2013, she has been cooperating with ISSD, dealing with topics related to her research. In 2017, she published the book Maternità? A rischio. 

Antonella Varoli Piazza

Antonella Varoli Piazza, nata a Roma dove vive e lavora. Laureata in Fisica, nel 1998, con una specializzazione in Biofisica e luce di sincrotrone. Ha svolto attività di ricerca nel gruppo di Biofisica presso l’Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”, autrice di diverse pubblicazioni. Ideatrice, esecutrice e responsabile di progetti didattici sull’energia per conto di Enel.

Susy Zanardo

Antonella Varoli Piazza was born in Rome, where she lives and works. She graduated in physics in 1998 with a specialisation in biophysics and synchrotron radiation. She carried out research within the biophysics group of Sapienza University of Rome. She has authored several publications. She has designed, planned, implemented, and managed energy education and training projects for Enel.

Laetitia Pouliquen

She graduated in philosophy from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, with a thesis on Luce Irigaray e il pensiero della differenza sessuale. She obtained a DEA (diplôme d’études approfondies – troisième cycle) from Institut Catholique de Paris. She was awarded a PhD in philosophy by Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where she was a research fellow from 2008 to 2010. She taught moral philosophy in the School of Literature and Philosophy of the same university from 2008 to 2010. She also taught philosophical anthropology (2007-2008) and special ethics (2008-2009 and 2010-2011) at Istituto Filosofico Aloisianum of Padua. She is an associate professor of moral philosophy at the European University of Rome. She also teaches moral philosophy at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. She cooperates with Centro Interuniversitario per gli Studi sull’Etica (CISE – interuniversity centre for studies on ethics) of the same university, and with Centro di Etica Generale e Applicata (CEGA – centre for general and applied ethics), Almo Collegio Borromeo, Pavia.




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