Doctor of Laws honoris causa conferred on Prof John Finnis


Notre Dame News Story
University of Notre Dame Australia Vice Chancellor Prof Celia Hammond, Prof John Finnis and Chancellor Terry Tobin.

The University of Notre Dame Australia conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws on Prof John Finnish FBA at the Sydney Campus on Wednesday 6 July 2011.

Born in South Australia, Prof Finnis graduated in law from the University of Adelaide, becoming the 1962 South Australian Rhodes Scholar recipient for University College, Oxford, in the UK.

Having only recently retired from his Personal Chair, Law and Legal Philosophy, at University College, he remains as Emeritus Professor.

Prof Finnis graduated D.Phil (Oxford) on completion of his thesis on the idea of judicial power, with special reference to Australian federal constitutional law.

He served at a number of eminent universities such as the University of California, University of Malawi and Boston College of Law for several years.

Since 1995, Prof Finnis serves as the Biolchini Family Prof of Law at the University of Notre Dame in the US.

Known for his work in moral, political and legal theory, as well as constitutional law, Prof Finnis has also served as a Governor of the Linacre Centre for Health Care Ethics, as a member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Joint Committee on Bioethical Issues, on the International Theological Commission and the Pontifical Council for the Justice and Peace.

He is presently serving on the Pontifical Academy Pro Vita and is regarded as a thinker of the utmost distinction in the fields of Philosophy, Law and Bioethics.

An audience including federal and state judiciary, Members of Parliament, the Executive Council of the University and family and friends, joined to honour Prof Finnis and celebrate his life of achievement.

Following the celebration of Mass at St Benedict’s Church on the Sydney Campus, Prof Finnis responded by delivering the inaugural Michael O’Dea Oration.

He discussed a leading precept of justice often formulated as ‘treat like cases alike’, adding a significant caveat that ‘different cases should be treated differently’.

Prof Finnis explained the basis of the grounds offered in support of our principles of equality and equal concern. His Oration went on to explore laws and social policies that pursued equality by selectively prohibiting direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, vilification and offence.

Prof Finnis’ reference to a number of contemporary moral problems, ranging from the nature of our responsibilities for refugees to questions about the preference we might justifiably show towards our own loved ones engaged and stimulated an appreciative audience.

The inaugural Michael O'Dea Oration

The Michael O’Dea Oration was instituted at the Sydney Campus of The University of Notre Dame Australia on Wednesday 6 July 2011 in honour of Michael O’Dea and his service to the professions.

The inaugural Michael O’Dea Oration was delivered by eminent philosopher of law John Finnis, upon conferral of the degree of Doctor of Laws honours causa.

Mr O’Dea, a solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW and High Court of Australia, has served on a significant number of community organisations including St Vincent de Paul Society, Christian Brothers Provincial Advisory and St Margaret’s Hospital.

He was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1992 and awarded a Papal Knighthood in 2008.

In his introduction, Chancellor Terry Tobin said the lecture marked the university’s commitment to the promotion of values, which are those of a profession and not a bare occupation.

“Michael O’Dea has been an exemplar of those values both within the law and the community,” Chancellor Tobin said.

“The Hebrew words for justice and mercy share a common linguistic root.

“They reciprocate, they temper and shape each other, they find expression in the Hebrew Bible and the Gospels, and they remind us of our duty of common humanity: to act justly, to help the sick, to proclaim liberty to the captive and to set the down-trodden free.

“These are ideals which Michael has lived out and which in their varied ways all professionals must, if they are true to their callings.”

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