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Von Hügel Institute

for Critical Catholic Inquiry

In his lecture on Law and the Human Person, Professor Lee reflects on what controversial issues, from medical ethics through to the detention of terrorists, have taught us about law, the human person and the impact of religion in society, with particular reference to the fifty years since the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Does the law still treat some of us as 'non-persons'? Why is it that political and legal campaigners seem to have focused on definitions of who counts as a human person in law, rather than on what that entails? Why do they sometimes seem to have made the law worse, even from their own perspective? What can be done through law and through other means to promote respect and dignity for the human person? In what circumstances are courts or legislatures better placed to protect and promote the dignity of the human person? How do we put the law in perspective, not only by comparison to politics but, for example, in the light of sport, the media or campaigns by faith groups and charities? Through the London 2012 Paralympics, for instance, has sport had a more beneficial impact than the law on perceptions of people with disabilities?

In conclusion, Professor Lee considers how we can respond constructively to the condemnation in Vatican Two's Gaudium et Spes, reinforced by Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae, of 'whatever violates the integrity of the human person' and how that endeavour can illuminate our understanding of both the law and the human person.

Simon Lee is Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence, Queen's University Belfast, Chairman of Level Partnerships and Chair of the John Paul II Foundation for Sport.  He was a Brackenbury Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford, and a Harkness Fellow at Yale Law School. He is a trustee of the think tank ResPublica, which is credited with influencing the development of the concepts of the Big Society, Red Tory and Blue Labour. He also writes about contemporary politics in his column for the Catholic weekly newspaper, The Universe. A Roman Catholic lay person who has led both an ecmenical university college, Liverpool Hope, and a secular university, Leeds Metropolitan, Simon Lee was awarded an honorary doctorate by an Episcopalian institution, Virginia Theological Seminary, in 2011. His books range from Law & Morals (Oxford University Press, 1986) to Uneasy Ethics (Random House, 2003) and The Z to A of Oxford Sport (AudioGo, 2012).

Professor Lee's paper is available online.

Friday, 26 October, 2012 - 17:00 to 18:30
Event location: 
St Edmund's College, Okinaga Room



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