Aidan O'Neill, Queen's Counsel, Edinburgh and London; LAPA Fellow

Politics, Power and the Papacy: Challenges for Catholics in a Democratic Age

Date: 
Mon, 02/18/2008
Location: 
4:30 - 6:00 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall

Join us for a lively discussion of Aidan O'Neill's paper, "Politics, Power and the Papacy: Challenges for Catholics in a Democratic Age." Philip Pettit, Laurence S.Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values, will comment. Hard copies of Mr. O'Neill's paper will be available in LAPA's lounge area on the 4th floor of Robertson Hall one week prior to the seminar. This event is free and open to the public; no reservations or tickets are required.

Aidan O'Neill writes: I want to look at the question as to if, when, and how, clergy should seek to exert their influence within the political sphere. In particular, I wish to consider whether the bishops of the Catholic Church should seek to use their ecclesiastical authority (over the faithful) to oppose or promote changes in the laws which apply to all within our society and/or to influence the way we might vote. I want to examine the implications that the use of such ecclesiastical authority may have for the democracies we live in. This is a big and complex area. It involves the interplay of politics and theology; of private and public morality. It touches on the role of teaching office of the Catholic Church and the assent (and possibility of dissent) on the part of the faithful. It takes in questions of conscientious objection and unjust laws. It concerns individual conscience and the hope of salvation. It is about voting and sinning. It is about judging, and being judged.

Aidan O'Neill is a Queen's Counsel (QC), Edinburgh and London, and he will be the inaugural University Center for Human Values (UCHV)/LAPA Fellow in Law and Normative Inquiry. O'Neill is qualified to appear as counsel in Scotland, as well as in the courts of England and Wales. He practices law in both jurisdictions, and over the past twenty years has established a public law/commercial practice involving a significant element of legal advice and court appearances on issues of European law, particularly in the fields of human rights, private international law, commercial contract, and employment and discrimination law. He has appeared as senior counsel before the European Court of Justice, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the House of Lords, the Court of Session (Inner and Outer House), and the High Court of England & Wales. Since taking silk in Scotland in 1999, he has maintained a strong profile in discrimination and employment law issues, while his practice has continued to develop in the area of judicial review, (notably in relation to prisoners' rights) as well as in issues of constitutional law post-devolution. He has a particular interest in the inter-relationship between EU law, human rights law and domestic law. While at Princeton, he will be concerned with topics involving more general normative inquiry and, reflecting on his experience in legal practice, will conduct research into the interaction between law, politics and religion, and will concentrate, particularly, on the relationship between Christianity and democracy and on the law-morals debate/divide. For more on Aidan O'Neill, see his LAPA profile page.

Philip Pettit is Laurence S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values. He works in moral and political theory and on related, background issues. His recent single-authored books include Republicanism (OUP 1997), A Theory of Freedom (OUP 2001), Rules, Reasons and Norms (OUP 2002). He is the co-author of Economy of Esteem (OUP 2004), with Geoffrey Brennan; and Mind, Morality and Explanation (OUP 2004), a selection of papers with Frank Jackson and Michael Smith. A new book, Made with Words: Hobbes on Language, Mind and Politics is forthcoming with Princeton University Press and he is currently working on a book on Agency Incorporated with Christian List, LSE. In 2006-07 he will be on leave as Senior Scholar in Ethics, E.J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics, Harvard University. In 1990 he published Not Just Deserts: A Republican Theory of Criminal Justice (OUP) with John Braithwaite and he maintains his interest in this area. He is currently working on a book on group agents, to be called Agency Incorporated, with Christian List, LSE. Common Minds: Themes from the Philosophy of Philip Pettit appeared from Oxford University Press in 2007, edited by Geoffrey Brennan, R.E.Goodin, Frank Jackson and Michael Smith. For more on Philip Pettit, see his LAPA profile page.