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The Mount Marks the Passing of Germain Grisez, Ph.D.

Germain GrisezEMMITSBURG, Md. (February 2, 2018) – Mount St. Mary’s University professor emeritus Germain Grisez, Ph.D., died yesterday at the age of 88. Spending 30 years at the Mount, he held the Rev. Harry J. Flynn Chair of Christian Ethics, teaching generations of undergraduates and seminarians, and continuing his prolific writing career.

Before the Mount, Grisez taught at Georgetown University, the University of Virginia and the University of Regina (Canada), as well as held a position at the Archdiocese of Washington as a special assistant to Archbishop of Washington Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle, the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C.

Grisez’s early experiences studying and leading graduate courses on moral philosophy and ethics, discussing material from St. Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle and Kant, helped guide him to feel personally called to dedicate his life to intellectual work in service of the Church.

It was in 1979 that Grisez came to the Mount, where he continued his work teaching and writing on morality, ethics and service to others. In his four-volume work, Grisez covered moral theology, community, truth, character and responsibility, among others.

He received numerous awards, most notably from Pope Paul VI, when both he and his wife Jeannette were honored with Pro ecclesia et pontifice medals in recognition of their service to the Church (1972). He also received the Aquinas Medal, the highest honor of the American Catholic Philosophical Association (1984) and the Paul Ramsey Award from the Center for Bioethics and Culture for outstanding contributions to the field of bioethics (2005). Additionally, he received awards from the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, the Catholic Medical Association, and the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

He often participated in international theological meetings and provided help and advice on many occasions to various offices of the Holy See, to bishops and to others, as well as gave the Aquinas Lecture at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. He is especially remembered for defending Church teaching in areas including contraception and abortion, and developed a distinctive approach to natural law theorizing which inspired significant disciples and critics.

Grisez’s influence has extended to bioethics, pastoral formation and jurisprudence. His work has inspired symposia, books and conferences, which have been held at Georgetown, the University of Notre Dame, Princeton and other universities. His ideas continue to be influential in legal and political theory, especially through his prominent students John Finnis (Oxford and Notre Dame) and Robbie George (Princeton).

In the spring of 2009, Mount St. Mary’s marked his 30-year career by recognizing him as professor emeritus and conferring on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity. Grisez lived in a house on the Mount campus until 2016, when he moved to Pennsylvania to live with family.

Originally from Ohio, Grisez studied philosophy in college and later earned a doctorate at the University of Chicago.

His wife and intellectual collaborator Jeannette, whom he married in 1951, died in 2005.

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