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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Being a Priest in the Public Square: The Experience from Down Under

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

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Frank Brennan, S.J.
Australian Catholic University

Date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Time: 12:00-1:15 PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road
RSVP Required (


Abstract: We live and work in societies where there is no philosophical agreement about the basis for, or the limits of, state power interfering with personal autonomy. We are members of faith communities and churches without any theological consensus about the relationship between human rights and human dignity. So how can we authentically and usefully contribute to the development of laws and public policies which enhance human flourishing, and perhaps even counsel a social striving for perfection? What can we learn from those in countries with diverse constitutional arrangements (such as the United States and Australia) about how best to resolve disputes about law and policy relating to contested moral questions? Fr. Brennan, who chaired the Australian National Human Rights Consultation in 2009, will reflect on his role in debates in Australia in relation to: whether a bill of rights is desirable; same sex marriage; physician assisted suicide; migration and asylum policy; and indigenous rights.


Frank Brennan, S.J., is the 2014-2015 Gasson Chair at the Boston College Law School, a professor of law at Australian Catholic University and adjunct professor at the ANU College of Law and National Centre for Indigenous Studies (NCIS). He was the founding director of Uniya, the Australian Jesuit Social Justice Centre, and is presently the advocate in residence for Catholic Health Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. His books on Aboriginal issues include The Wik Debate, One Land One Nation, Sharing the Country and Land Rights Queensland Style. Brennan was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1995 for services to Aboriginal Australians, particularly as an advocate in the areas of law, social justice and reconciliation. In 1998, the National Trust classified him as a Living National Treasure during his involvement in the Wik debate. In 2009, he chaired the Australian National Human Rights Consultation Committee. He holds a B.A. from the University of Queensland, a B.Div from the Melbourne College of Divinity and a L.L.M. from the University of Melbourne.

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