Barbara F Bradley (MA, MTh)

Thesis title: Gratia Plena: The Catholic Feminist Possibilities of the Immaculate Conception Dogma


Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

MA (Merit), University College London, Medieval and Renaissance Studies

MTh (Distinction), University of Edinburgh, Theology in History

BA (magna cum laude), Auburn University (USA), History of Art, English Literature

Undergraduate teaching

Bible in Literature, spring 2023

Popular Religion, Women, and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe, autumn 2021 and 2022

Research summary

In 1854 Pope Pius defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in Ineffabilis Deus declaring that Mary “was preserved free from all stain of original sin.” This negative formulation tells us what Mary is not rather than what she is as immaculate. In my thesis I propose framing Mary as gratia plena (“full of grace”) by combining John Duns Scotus’s theology of the immaculate conception with Thomas Aquinas’s categories of grace. After establishing the premise of my gratia plena mariology, I use a tripartite anthropology of Mary’s mind, heart, and body (dedicating a chapter to each) to analyze Marian verses in the gospels to consider the extent to which grace affects Mary in her earthly life. In the last chapter I draw on the long history of Mary’s place as a role model for Catholic women. I then offer specific examples of how my feminist framing of the immaculate conception can promote women in the Catholic Church based on instances in Mary’s life discussed in earlier chapters.

Current research interests

Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Marian art and popular devotion, Vatican II, Female Doctors of the Church (especially Catherine of Siena and Theresa of Avila)

Past research interests

Madonna lactans icons, history of the Dominican Order, Roman vestal virgins

Conference details

UPCOMING Spring 2024: "Pierced: Comparing the Mystical Hearts of Mary and Teresa of Avila," Centre for Marian Studies Research Seminar

UPCOMING Spring 2024: "Gratia Plena: The Catholic Feminist Possibilities of the Immaculate Conception Dogma" (thesis overview), School of Divinity, History of Christianity seminar

"Embodying the Virgin: How Embracing Mary's Physicality Can Promote Women in the Catholic Church," Female Corporeality and Religion, KU Leuven (summer 2023)


2022 School of Divinity Postgraduate Colloquium

Modern Believing, "Mary Joan W. Leith, 'The Virgin Mary: A Very Short Introduction'" (upcoming)

Expository Times, "Peter Morris, 'Mary and Her Seven Devils'" (upcoming)

Religion Journal, "Chris Maunder, 'Mary: The Founder of Christianity'" (January 2024)