Inauguration Lecture Examines ‘Making Human Rights and Religious Friends’

Aug 29, 2011
          World-renowned human rights lawyer Rev. Frank Brennan, S.J., will discuss the quandary of fighting for human rights while trying to preserve or form friendships among apparent foes at the Inauguration Lecture on Tuesday, Sept. 13, which is one of a series of events commemorating the inauguration of Rev. Kevin P. Quinn, S.J., as The University of Scranton’s 25th president.

          A much sought-after speaker throughout the Pacific Rim who has also lectured across the United States, Father Brennan will present “A Jesuit Perspective on Making Human Rights and Religion Friends, Not Foes.”

          “Human rights and religion can only enhance each other when studied and lived in a vibrant Jesuit university committed to learning, service and research. Friendship can be cultivated even in the midst of culture wars,” said Father Brennan, professor of law at the Australian Catholic University and chair of the Australian National Human Rights Consultation Committee.

          “Having known Father Quinn at Georgetown and at Santa Clara, I am delighted to come as a visitor and to honor him at his inauguration … by reflecting on human rights and the contemporary challenge offered by Father Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., superior general of the Jesuits,” said Father Brennan, who was a Fulbright scholar at the Georgetown University Law Center when he first met Father Quinn. Father Brennan added that Father Nicholas “has urged Jesuit universities to promote depth of thought and imagination, re-discovering universality, and being places of learned ministry which mediate between faith and culture.”

          Father Brennan believes the difficulty with much human rights discourse stems from it too readily being reduced to assertions narrowly focused on individual rights and non-discrimination. He believes human rights discourse needs to be more subtle when it involves a conflict-of-rights situation or when the law has to consider the public interest or the common good, as well as individual liberties. He believes that in the public square, human rights discourse is usually conducted against a backdrop of presumed atheism and without much serious consideration for the rights of religious freedom and conscience.

          In his lecture, Father Brennan will outline the challenge to the contemporary Jesuit university: that of providing a truly Catholic ambience where every intellectual idea about human rights can be examined from all sides, espousing human dignity in the light of the Church’s tradition.

          In addition to serving as a professor of law at Australian Catholic University, Father Brennan is an adjunct professor at the Australian National University College of Law and National Centre for Indigenous Studies and, in the United States, has served through various academic appointments at Boston College, Georgetown University and Santa Clara University. He has written books on Aboriginal rights, refugee rights, civil liberties and the relationship between law and religion.

          Father Brennan was the founding director of Uniya, the Australian Jesuit Social Justice Centre. He serves as advocate-in-residence for Catholic Health Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. He has served on various international Jesuit committees for the social and intellectual apostolate.

          The Inauguration Lecture, which is open to the public free of charge, will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 13 in the Rev. Bernard R. McIlhenny, S.J., Ballroom of the Patrick and Margaret DeNaples Center.

          For a full listing of inauguration events, visit


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