Germain Grisez is the Flynn Professor of Christian Ethics at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Emmitsburg, Maryland, a chair he has held since 1978. His doctorate in philosophy was from the University of Chicago (1959). He is a past president of the American Catholic Philosophical Association. Working with Joseph Boyle and John Finnis, Grisez has developed and extensively applied, not least to life issues, the theory of natural law sketched out by St. Thomas Aquinas. He is author of Beyond the New Morality: The responsibilites of Freedom.
By John Keown, Ph.D., member of the 2005 Ramsey Award nominating committee: Professor Grisez, formerly a professor at Georgetown University, but now at Mount St Mary’s at Emmitsburg Maryland, has been largely responsible for the renaissance in natural law philosophy in the last quarter of a century and for formulating an intelligent and informed Christian response to a range of important ethical dilemmas. He has reminded society that Christian ethical reflection is based on a secure intellectual foundation, one which is accessible to non-believers. Through his life and work he has displayed a courageous and humble personal witness to the defence of Christian truth, and of human life and dignity from conception to natural death.
His scholarly contribution to philosophy, theology and bioethics has been immense, and can only be illustrated here. One of his earliest works Abortion: The Myths, The Realities and the Arguments (1970)- review by Richard Doerflinger – was a magisterial interdisciplinary work which examined and refuted the arguments which were deployed in favour of the legalisation of abortion. It was so far ahead of its time that it still repays study in the context of current debates about stem cell research. It can reasonably claim to be the most impressive work on the subject ever written. More recently, he has published a multi-volume work The Way of the Lord Jesus. Many, from philosophers to practitioners to patients, have derived great benefit not only from its philosophical and theological depth, but from its practical answers to real-life ethical dilemmas.
Not only has his scholarship been prolific, but his influence has been international. His work has inspired colleagues and students alike to look afresh at a philosophical approach which, despite is pedigree in Western and particularly Christian thought, had been sadly neglected. He has revived reflection on the contribution which natural law can make to the resolution of moral dilemmas both in bioethics and beyond. His intellectual influence is clear in the growing literature on natural law, such as Alfonso Gomez-Lobo’s Morality and the Human Good, and Alban McCoy’s An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Christian Ethics. Germain Grisez would, in short, be widely acknowledged to be a towering figure in Christian bioethics. He is an eminently suitable recipient of the 2005 Paul Ramsey Award.
John Keown is Professor of Christian Ethics at Georgetown University, Washington and Visiting Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Bioethics in the Institute.
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